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I don't know which way to go. Any advice?

Archive for January 2010

How to be a stay-at-home girlfriend

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The past week has brought on a shift in mine and Mike’s relationship. This is how the last three years have gone down:

We both had jobs.

He became a stay-at-home boyfriend, while I continued working.

We both entered the dismal world of unemployment.

I got a contract job; he went back to being the stay-at-home boyfriend.

He’s working, and I am now (*shudder*) a stay-at-home girlfriend.

I know that there is at least one person reading this who’s thinking, “Gee, that actually sounds nice.” But the thing about being the one at home while your other half is out in the world is that a. you are bored and b. you are expected to do stuff, like domestic stuff.

Let’s look at this a bit more closely: One might suppose that if you’re bored, the natural thing would be to keep yourself busy with said “domestic stuff.”  It’s completely logical. Only it doesn’t work that way (at least not for me). Instead, you consciously avoid cleaning, cooking, errands, and then, then the guilt sets in. Now you’re not only bored, you’re lazy and guilt-ridden. And it’s really dawning on you why your parents always told you how important it is to establish your independence, particularly as a woman.  And you’re thinking that you never thought you’d be here at 26, but you’re like, “Where did I think I’d be?” And the truth is you have no idea, because you never really thought this far ahead. And then you might, if you’re in a particularly sad mood, start wondering if you’ll ever be able to get married or have children, because right now it doesn’t seem like your life will ever provide you with the stability, financial or otherwise, to make either of those things logistically possible.

It’s a classic case of the I-Suck-Spiral .

Only this particular spiral is a tad schizophrenic, because in the next minute you decide to blast your iTunes and have a solo dance party in your living room just because you can. And you think, I am alive.  And you think, what does stability provide me anyways? A false sense of security? And you’re reminded of the Madeline L’Engle quote you heard last night:

“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability . . . To be alive is to be vulnerable.”

So maybe you already are the grown up you’re simultaneously terrified of becoming and not becoming. And maybe you need to get off your ass, get dressed and go through the motions of living until you get it down. And while you’re at it, try forgiving yourself because at least you are aspiring, which is more than you can say for most people, and remind yourself that you are loved. You are lucky.

There is still hope for you, yet.

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Written by ditheringmiss

January 27, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Lauren v. Mess

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Are any of you completely overwhelmed and amazed by the effort it takes to keep your home in order? I grew up in a very orderly and clean home. It was cluttered as hell, but grime was wiped away promptly, high tread areas of carpet were vacummed multiple times a day, and regardless of how many growing piles might be accumulatng, my mom always knew where everything was and kept things completely organized.

Now I have my own home, and I’m haunted by ants in the kitchen, dust in the living room, and mildew in the bathroom. It’s like Lauren v. Mess around here. Somedays I feel like I’m fighting the fight of my life, and I’m always one step back and one man down. The thing is, both Mike and I are actually pretty clean people (some of us more so than others), and yet, it feels like there is always, without exception, something that I should be cleaning.

Another problem: I detest clutter of any kind. I’m sure this is a result of my childhood home, which as I mentioned, is infested with excess. See, my mom grew up with seven siblings and a motley crew of foster kids and step-siblings roaming the house — there was never enough to go around. In response, she keeps her home, well (uh, how should I put this?), like it’s a Costco. Twelve bottles of Hidden Valley Ranch, eight bottles of Newman’s Own Ceasar Dressing, three French’s Mustard, five Best Foods, twenty-five packets of Chicken ramen, two bottles of Tapatio, dozens upon dozens of canned soup, I can’t even talk about the number of cereal boxes without getting shudders. There’s also an entire cupboard devoted to extra bozes of ziploc bags (in every size), plastic wrap, and tin foil.  The three-car garage fits one car (snugly) and a few hundred rolls of toilet paper, dozens and dozens of boxes of tissues and an innumerable amount of paper towels. Last time I was home the refrigerator broke because, according to the repairman, the freezer was “packed to three times of what it should have been.”

“Get an outside freezer,” the guy told me.

“We already have one,” I said.

Have you seen Hoarders? Okay, it’s not that bad. And like I said, it’s actually extremely clean and hygienic. But . . .

It’s no wonder I can’t stand clutter. I don’t allow more than one toothpaste, box of tampons, or shampoo and conditioner. When they run low, I buy new ones. You get the idea. My mom doesn’t.

“But what if you run out before you have time to get a new one?”

“Then I don’t brush my teeth that night.”

“How do you live on the edge like that?”

“I’m wild, Mom. I’m a real rebel.”

The truth is, I am no rebel. I just want things clean, without, you know, cleaning every day. Why is this so hard? As a kid I pretty much got that there were certain things in adulthood that would be difficult: working, marriage, kids, crazy relatives, having enough money, etc. . . But no one ever mentioned just how difficult it is to keep house. Is it a. that our incredibly hardworking, working mothers made it look so easy that we didn’t actually get the effort it must have taken? b. because we only actually care now that it’s our own home? c. I’m just lazier than a person who wants a clean house should be? or d. none of the above.

Yea, I picked ‘c,’ too. 

Related topics of interest: Pack Rat Syndrome; Intervention; Why Mike Doesn’t Care About This Shit And I do (Damn The Patriarchy)

Written by ditheringmiss

January 19, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Beginnings

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I spent last night working through my entire book collection reading the first line or paragraph of every novel on my shelves. Why? you must be wondering. I’ve read so many books throughout my life, yet, when it comes to writing my own I am completely flustered, panicked and overwhelmed. How do people do this? And well, too?

I am an organized person by nature and for me, free form writing is for blogs and notebooks, not novels. Alas, my own’s lack of structure is completely distressing. Particularly, this: Where do I start? Literally.  So I took to the shelves. What I found from this completely scientific and analytical process (ahem, cough) was that the most compelling openings are those that put you directly into the story or the protagonist or narrator’s psyche. Something my own does not do.

Take for example, Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred: “I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm.”  Wow, if I hadn’t read this, I’d totally want to now.

Or Jeffrey Eugenides Middlesex: “I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. ” An entire story created in one line!

And in Barbara Kingsolver’s Pigs in Heaven something less dramatic, but no less compelling: “Women on their own run in Alice’s family. This dawns on her with the unkindness of a heart attack and she sits up in bed to get a closer look at her thoughts, which have collected above her in the dark.”

I am absolutely certain my own first line(s) will not be so masterful, but at least it’s clear where I’ve gone wrong, and that, my friends, is a start.

Written by ditheringmiss

January 13, 2010 at 9:00 am

Blog Fright

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I think I have blog fright. Lately, every time I even think about posting to my blog, I start to feel irrationally anxious. What do I have to say that’s even remotely interesting? Am I being to negative? Am I not being genuine enough? Will I offend someone? Having spent an embarrassing amount of my life dealing with fear and anxiety,  I know it’s when I most worried about something that I need to confront it head on. So here I am.

I’ve been overthinking things as of late. When I think too much, I can’t write. All I can do is think about writing and it’s terrible. As a friend of mine recently described it, it’s like “self-imposed writer’s block.” When I find myself in this situation I find that one of the most motivating excercises is to read through old pieces of work. Although it’s usually a reminder that I have a long way to go in my craft, it’s also a good way of remembering that I have the ability to be creative.

To that end, I found the *experimental* piece that follows while undergoing this process today. I’ve mostly kept my fiction writing off this blog (and the Internet in general) a. because I don’t want anyone stealing something I might try to publish one day and b. because my fiction writing somehow  feels even more personal than this personal blog of mine. But the piece I’m posting here is not one I will ever try to publish. It was actually an excercise for a class I took a year ago and it’s more of an effort in the unconventional than any kind of representation of my “typical” style, so I suppose that makes it feel a bit safer, too. 

Like I said, when fear grips, it’s time to dive in head first.

L.O.V.E

1. Quickly and vigorously mix one cup of obsession with equal parts expectation and lust until just smooth. It should be the color of poppies with the glossy sheen of a television screen. Dip your pinky in, and place a drop or two on the buds of your tongue. That’s satisfaction.

2. In a separate container, whisk together a third of a cup desperation, one and a half cups of childhood trauma — including, but not limited to, fear of being abandoned, unjustifiable need for attention and affection, tears of the mother — two tablespoons damaged tissue and plucked heart strings, and two servings of ego, lightly beaten. Keep a close eye out for shards of self-esteem; they will be round and black, like small pebbles. Remove and toss (or can be saved for later use).

3. Combine both mixtures using broad strokes. Be sure to beat out any lumps or distinguishing traits. When thoroughly combined, the resulting mix should be dependent, elastic, and lost, looking like two bodies in the throws of a passionate sexual encounter in a dark room on any old Saturday (Tuesday) night. Give it a good sniff; you should be able to pick up strong scents of disappointment and determination with a tangy hint of passive aggressive non-confrontation.

4. At this point the mixture can be refrigerated until later use, slowing the process indefinitely, but resulting in the same final product, nonetheless.

5. Finally, turn up the heat in your apartment as high as the thermostat will go. If you do not have heater, stand in your bathroom with the door shut and the water on as hot as possible. Once you can no longer bear the heat, and your skin aches and pulses with bursts of sweat and stick, use both hands to cup the mixture. Rub it into your body, into every follicle, crevice, orifice. And onto every shadow, freckle, scar, and wrinkle. Squish between each toe from big to little, and behind the ears, in the ears. Smash into your eye sockets until your eyes burn.

6. Let dry.

7. Using fancy body wash that smells of ginger and lilacs or maple syrup wash the mix off your body. Don’t be afraid to touch yourself; find new places you’ve never even heard of before. Sing a Beatles song or Phil Collins. Tell your knee caps that you love them, and your knuckles, too. Lick the last bits slowly off your fingers. Rinse and repeat if necessary.

Written by ditheringmiss

January 12, 2010 at 7:34 pm