NYC, What Is It about You?

etler and I went to New York for a few days to celebrate Angela Lansbury in A Little Night Music being married for six months. Which, for the record, went by really really fast.

It was a very busy, very delightful weekend -- we saw three shows (two on Saturday and one on Sunday), went to a party of a bunch of my college friends, ate tasty nibbles and drank delicious cocktails at a number of excellent establishments and even managed a bit of shopping (we went to the Prada store in SoHo, which was a totally surreal experience... worth visiting even though we had no intention of actually buying anything). Oh and we serendipitously met up with ternarybits and guardmisfit at Serendipity for coffee in the middle of the night and had lunch the next day with eisenbud at a tasty place in KoreaTown in between acquiring tickets to West Side Story and actually *seeing* West Side Story.

It was an awesome, awesome trip... and it got me to thinking about efficiency. NYC runs nonstop and it does it well (provided subterranean transit is your thing. But even if it's not, there's always walking, and the city is very flat and very compact). I was less tired on fewer hours of sleep than I generally am here in CA, and some of that, I think, is because of the palpable energy, the hum of 8 million very busy people all going about their lives... but also because I don't waste energy fighting against a feeling that I'm supposed to be asleep at a certain time and awake at a certain time and focused at certain times and unfocused ... I can follow the schedule of my body's clock with few if any repercussions. It's very relaxing.

As I sat down to write about it, though, it began to dawn on me that I am often guilty of calculating time in terms of the time it takes to commute. Since my daily commute is 45 minutes if I drive and don't run into traffic or 75 minutes on public transit in each direction, I tend to assume that if I don't have a full, unscheduled hour in which to work at something, it's simply not worth doing or must be done later. It also leaves me totally exhausted, because, aside from periods of hyper focus, my attention span, like that of any adult, really only lasts for about 45 minutes at a stretch.

So I feel guilty of unproductivity and guilty of poor time management and, guys, all that guilt is exhausting.

I made a decision, somewhere along the flight home or a couple days after, to simplify and organize my life. To acknowledge that commuting exhausts me and, therefore, to set limits for myself. I am allowed to be too tired to go to the South Bay on days when I've also had to be in Berkeley. I am allowed to acknowledge that commuting takes a lot of time and energy and therefore I will only cross the bay four days a week. I am allowed to leave for work at 10:30 or 11 am if I know I will have to stay late to collect data. Boundaries are good.

I am adding shelves and drawers and cabinets to my life because, while clutter doesn't bother me per se, it can intimidate me and definitely distracts me. (It doesn't distract me in an "I need to clean this" way... more a "OOH! PROJECT!" way)... And it seems to accumulate more when there are large, flat surfaces nearby because I tend to use those surfaces as shelves. Which results in a visually disorganized environment. And I don't actually have time for disorganization right now. I'm honing in on writing a dissertation, and even if none of these resolutions last, I need an environment that allows me to feel rested and focused.

I also may have decided that when I graduate, I'm going to the Ecuador and the Galapagos and Machu Picchu... because the world is always getting smaller. And I want to see them while I am young and fit enough to enjoy them and before they get so overrun with tourists that they stop being what they've been for so many centuries.

When I graduate... it's scary to think of how much work there is between here and there, but it's also kind of delightful to realize that finally, graduation feels real, tangible... like I can imagine the workload and map out a road for myself and do some real work toward getting there.

collecting moments

Bits and pieces, life here, there and everywhere

Most of my writing, lately, has been going to my knitting blog, which has left rather a dearth of writing energy and therefore entries here at livejournal.

I think I like writing somewhere that has a set focus. Occasionally it's harder to think up a topic, but more often than not, I worry a lot less about whether what I have to say is interesting to anyone but me.

That said, I've also been busy lately. Really busy.

I spent a lot of February getting my bearings after a long trip and two weeks of intensity that involved a can can performance and rehearsals for and filming of a short film. It kind of amazes me that 2 8-hour days of pretty intense work (not counting all of the rehearsals beforehand) are probably going to translate, all told, into 2-3 minutes of film. It's a very different mindset than stage performances, where it's a lot of work and rehearsal time for 3 minutes on stage but those 3 minutes, well, they come and they go quickly and they are what they are... but the prep work often has an opportunity to last a lot longer.

I also managed to settle on plans for an experiment and get some ideas about where I'm heading with the new experimental architecture and collect a bunch of data. I started taking a Lindy performance class which has, I think, been good for me. Very different from Ballroom. I designed and knit an awesome pair of knee socks. I'm about halfway through writing the pattern which I'll be sending off for testing and putting up for sale hopefully soon. I'm kind of awed that apparently, a lot of people liked it.

March crept in quietly and has been ramping up steadily in terms of workload and so on. I don't think I've seen very many people on a social front -- a substantial quantity of sleep debt makes me somewhat unfit for human consumption. But, I managed to get an experiment up and running, and get some knitwear designs submitted (and accepted! Pattern to be published through The Sanguine Gryphon in June) and collect some data so I'm feeling a lot better about my life as a scientist and as a knitter and so on.

I think I've finally made peace with the idea that I probably won't have a Career in the traditional sense, but that I'll have something more piecemeal -- some teaching, some editing, some writing/designing/pattern-producing -- but that such a path is right for me (at least for the next while). I love travel, I love dance and I love creating and crafting and I find that it really matters to my health and sanity that my life allow me to do all of those things and be mentally and physically and emotionally present with and for my friends and family. I need something that lets me do that without a perpetual guilty feeling of "I'm not working hard enough." But, at least realizing that that is what I want, really want, has helped me stop swimming in circles, attempting to make peace with a set of sacrifices that I'm not sure I ever could have made (or for that matter, asked Sam to make).

Life is good. Busy sometimes, maddening sometimes, stressful sometimes... but the general trajectory is forward and forward toward somewhere interesting.


A Quiet Time of Year

Four years and two days ago, I awoke to a voicemail telling me news that I knew was coming but didn't want to hear.

I've thought more and less in different ways at different times as the years have passed, always marking the anniversary of my mother's death, and noticing the way that my feelings have changed. I've been sad and I've been okay, and I've thought I was "over it" and realized that I'll never really be "over it," because losing her changed me fundamentally. It changed how I see the world and how I see life and how I see people.

My feelings about her death change, too. I spent my first two years seeking to replace what I'd lost, seeking to find the one person who could see and understand me as she did, better than anyone else. In the time since, I've come to realize that no one can be that person... and, perhaps more importantly, I don't want anyone to be that person.

I think it's opened me, in a way, and let me love and appreciate others more, both for the things I thought could exist only between me and my mother and for all the new experiences and viewpoints that I can see when I'm not busy seeking out the approval and guidance of one particular individual all the time.

I've discovered that what I missed at first were pretty big things. Coming first to someone. Being seen. Being understood. Being silly. Being spiritual. Being taken care of, even when my stubborn, independent little self fought the caregiving. Taking care of someone. The things I miss now are little... things like finding each other in a crowd by whistling songs from obscure musicals or banter and wordplay. But, not always looking to one source to find those things, I discover that I have a life full of people with similar sorts of quirks. Not the same, not replacements, but the sorts of things that fill those funny voids that, for the most part, I don't see until I notice them being filled.

It feels odd, in a way, to be married to a man she's never met and likely never will meet... but less weird than I expected it would. (Not the marriage part... just the part about two people who are so essential to my life not knowing each other). My wedding day was a day filled with love and joy and I discovered that I am so incredibly lucky to have an amazing biological and emotional family. I expected to feel a huge void, a gaping hole where my mother should have been... and I didn't. (I did feel that, at times, during the planning stages and resented that I didn't have a mother to say "I know it's scary and a ton of work and men totally don't get it, but it's really going to be fine, now here, which of these invitations do you like best?") ... But on my wedding day, I remembered her, but it was a loving, happy memory... one that fits with my other cherished memories of the day.

I learned three important things from her (and particularly from her dying)... the first was that one must cultivate joy, and from that many good things follow. The second was that it is just as important to let people love you as it is to love them. The third was that what you get to keep forever are the memories that you make with other people. The investments you make in them and the ones they make in you and the relationships you build together... and I believe that those, really, are worth anything and everything.


Just something quick

It's 2010. Woah.

This is quick, because I'm (still) in New Zealand, more in love with the country than ever, having a fabulous honeymoon which I think I might write about later when the internet isn't going out every few minutes.

I'll be here for another week and a half(ish). It seems long and yet, not long enough. I'm storing up things I want to do on my next visit. I know there will be one.

2009 was a blur. Dance competitions on the opposite coast, a mess of weddings (also on the opposite coast), conference presentation, thesis planning (figuring out a plan for researching and disstertating), finally making it to London -- probably good to visit after I'd planted myself quite firmly elsewhere; I might never have left if I'd made it there earlier, wedding planning, family illness, family death, getting married, more travel, more family drama, a lot of emotional and mental anguish and exhaustion the last couple of months.

Glad to be far from everything investing time and love in my partner and my relationship -- doing cool things, yes, but mostly just BEING WITH EACH OTHER. Reading bedtime stories. Drinking wine. Sharing meals at which we're really present.

I have a few goals for 2010, but only one resolution... something simple and hard all at once.

Two words: Cultivate Joy. (I think pretty much everything else falls out of that, one way or another).


Wedded bliss

I love being married. And not just because it means I have free time again -- time to read, time to think, time to knit and spin and craft and think about social things in a way that isn't just "gee, can I possibly squeeze this into my overscheduled life?" I love all of those things, of course, but there's something different than that.

I've been asked the same question by many friends and family in many ways. "Do you feel married?" "Was there some sort of emotional crash after the wedding, you know 'Best day of a woman's life' and all?" "Did anything change?"

It's a tricky question to answer. No, there wasn't any sort of emotional crash... but then I never really bought into the idea that the day of my wedding would be the best or most important day of my life. A very special day, a memorable day, an amazing day, sure. But I have always, at least in my adult life, when I've had the mental space and energy to consider what marriage meant, considered it a beginning, much like my baptism was. Marrying etler meant telling all of our friends and family, publicly, how we feel about each other and how we feel about them. Having done that does make us different. It makes us a family... something we were emotionally long ago, but now we have rituals and symbols and pictures and a piece of paper to support it. I actually believe that ritual, in that way, is necessary. We as human beings create rituals in our lives, large and small, as a way of reminding us about things that matter, something we can always return to when we lose sight of them.

It's a small shift and a giant leap all at the same time. I don't think there are really words to express what it feels like, other than to say that the kind of certainty I have now, of having someone to go home to, who loves me inside and out and loves me so much as to have stood up in front of his family and mine, emotional and biological and said so makes me more able to enjoy both our time together and our time apart. (I realized this yesterday... because I was taking a spinning class in Berkeley in the evening, we were on our own for dinner.

I took the time to spend being with myself (I went to a restaurant and ordered wine and sat for a while, sipping my wine and reading a book) and as I did so, I realized that perhaps paradoxically, marriage has made me more able to enjoy both my time with myself (and my time with etler). Something about really knowing that you're a partnership and a family that partnership transcends being two people who love each other very much in a relationship. Maybe I'm still riding the crest of being a newlywed, but I have a feeling I'll still be saying this for a long time in the future.


A ranty semi-apology for wedding brain

I haven't written much, lately. This was pointed out to me recently and because I am as I am, left me thinking "Hm. That's true. I wonder why..."

A lot of this is because the state of my brain lately can best be described as weddingweddingweddingOH.THERE IS SOMEONE ELSE IN THIS CONVERSATION.I SHOULD PAY ATTENTION TO THEMweddingweddingweddingwedding...

I'm not convinced that anyone really wants to read about that.

(Having said that, it's equally possible that people aren't interested in my ramblings of self-reflection

I'm very very grateful to the people who nod graciously and listen to me rant about such things as the cost of catering, how excited I am that I managed to find a site to order paper for my invitations for a moderately extortionary price instead of a price that says "well, gee, if I want to actually, you know, invite people to this thing, I'll have to live on ramen for the next six months," how much work it all is and how I keep telling myself it will get better but in reality it probably won't... The people I asked to keep me (relatively) sane during this process... you're doing a really good job and thank you so much for being patient with me. If I start to veer too much toward Bridezilla land, feel free to slap me.

I have a feeling my general state will be "trying to do too much" from now until October. Granted, that's a pretty general state for me, but it is now more true than ever. I have begun answering questions lately with "oh, I'm not thinking about that yet. That's on July's to-do list. I am not allowed to think about July's to-do list until I have accomplished everything on June's to-do list."

(No, I don't tend toward a Type A personality, why do you ask?)

All rants and temporary cases of sticker-shock and wedding-induced anxiety aside, I am enjoying the process. I feel good about every decision we've made and I'm beginning to have faith that one way or another, things will come together into a lovely event.

There's nothing like a wedding to make one think about all of the lives I've been a part of, and all of the people who have been a part of mine. It's pretty amazing, really, though it makes narrowing the guest list really a challenge. I'm not in the habit of ranking people in terms of their roles in my life -- my views on such things are more big-picture oriented than that -- and yet, planning a wedding and creating a guestlist tends to encourage that sort of thought. It's surprising me, at the end of the day, how much of the decision process isn't rational. It's almost entirely driven on emotions and instincts and... some days it makes my logic-driven brain very worried.

I'll spare you a full description of the neurotic cycle.

I'm pretty sure I'll get to the end of 2009 and wonder where the year went. It's flying by so far and only seems to be passing faster and faster each day.


Travelogue (or at least a bit of it)

I do not have either the time or the mental presence, tonight, to write down all that I want to say about London and Wales and Brussels.

My trip was, on paper, incredible and full and exciting and delightful. I saw shows in the West End (after dreaming of it for ten years or maybe more). I had delightful French wines and Belgian chocolates and wandered down ancient streets taking pictures of grand old architecture. I visited a very old department store in London that is famous for its printed fabrics. I had proper afternoon tea. I ate the best pub food I've ever had with a creamy dark ale in a rugby pub in Cardiff.

I took a train through the Heart of Wales which I'd chosen for the beauty of the line and found myself in a single, tightly packed carriage, squashed between a window and a charming, chatty Welsh foursome on holiday who were tremendously kind and warm and genuine and had cut fat slices of homemade corned beef pie and poured cups of wine (and later vodka) for Sam and me before we had any chance of playing at the social nicety of polite refusal.

I rode a steam powered train through a vibrant green valley on a perfect summer day and took a beautiful hike to the bottom of a waterfall (and back to the top, of course)... and another along the coastal cliffs of the Cardigan Bay.

I visited Brussels and took time to enjoy the atmosphere and a slightly less frenetic pace of life than the one I generally tend to follow as I ate chocolates and sipped cappucinos. Sam and I visited a men's clothing shop and found that, at least in Belgium, the formal vest or waistcoat is not just something one finds in the window of formalwear shops one vists to rent tuxedos. The store had many, in a delightful range of colors and patterns... Sam found The One, in fancy dress terms, that he will wear for our wedding.

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ETA: Comments now and in the future shall be screened on public entries to protect the privacy of those wishing to write.


Luck of the Draw

Nationals was the weekend before last. Steve and I danced well, I think... overall the dancing is getting better -- ours and, sadly, everyone else's.

We got cut at the quarterfinal in prechamp, frustrating after placing seventh last year. We could have danced better, I think, but we also had the misfortune of having our heat stacked against us. The first group to dance the quarterfinal (ours) was much, much stronger than the second group. And as professional as judges can be, ballroom dancing is always an exercise in subjective comparison judging. So, amidst a week heat, we look pretty good. Amidst a strong heat, we look much weaker than we actually are.

Pity, that.

At least we left with dancing that we felt good about, with moments we really really loved, and with a clear sense of our goals (even if they mean we have a lot to work on).

I'm also proud of us for making the time to practice amid very busy lives and complicated schedules. We don't practice as much as I'd like, in a perfect world, and we certainly don't practice rounds as much as I'd like, but it's always good to have something to shoot for. Hopefully we'll be able to start Thursday rounds again once or twice a month now that tax season is coming to a close.

In other news, I put down a deposit for a wedding gown, and I'm thinking about invitations and finalizing a guest list and starting to gear up for full force wedding planning. (Things are happening in fits and starts, but I'm easily distracted by more pressing deadlines). Though that really should wait for another month or so until the present insanity has passed.

To Do lists are becoming very good friends.


Simple pleasures

A year ago, when I had to be up early for work every morning, Sam got into the habit of making me tea to help me wake up. This is awesome on many levels, starting with it helps me get up at a reasonable hour (especially important when the demands of work were dragging me out of bed on little sleep and under lots of stress that only made my body want to sleep more). That and I thought then (and still think now) that it's a nice way of making me feel taken care of.

Then we moved in together and he has to get up for work somewhere on the order of hours earlier than I do and while I would still appreciate the thought of a steaming mug of tea, I think I'd prefer sleeping to actually getting up on his schedule just to drink some tea.

So, we have a new way of making this work for us. It took a while to get there, but the rhythm seems to have settled on his leaving my thermos (which, I might add is adorably decorated to look like a penguin who we have proceeded to name Chester) filled with warm tea on my desk... or in my backpack on days like today with a little sticky note attached about what sort of tea he happens to be carrying. The notes make me smile every time I read them. As does the personality Chester seems to be developing day by day.

I am glad for the playfulness that seems to have reinserted itself into our relationship recently. (For other things too, of course, but play is not always so easy to find and very very important to me).