Monday, July 30, 2007

Sunday, July 29, 2007's it going?

This is a strange time in my life. Married, but living alone. Three hours away from family, but struggling to find visiting time. Happy to have my own place, but a little lonely.

I'm working hard to be mellow about it all, because otherwise it just terrifies me. The health insurance questions -- the joys of having a preexisting condition in America. The brink-of-broke budget. Everything from career to where we'll live next, in question. When I let it get to me, like I did today, I wind up on the couch, crippled with psychosomatic nausea that's dogged me since childhood. Today's trigger? The new addition to my family.

I've talked about getting a cat for awhile, and for the last few months I have carefully planned it out. Found an ideal kitty, acquired the necessary supplies, made sure I found an apartment I could be in for awhile. Marlowe came home today. If ever a cat deserves to be cranky, he does -- and he's not. A little vocal? Sure. Anxious? Definitely. But sweet, terribly sweet, and already looking like he might be able to call this place home.

He lived in the shelter for two years. A family adopted him six months ago, then dumped him the following week. He wasn't outgoing enough. Have I mentioned how long he lived in that shelter? Or the fact that he is partially blind? Or that he appears to have spent the first four years of his vision-impaired existence fighting it out on the streets?

So, why the nausea now? Because suddenly, it's not just my life I'm gambling with. I'm terrified I'll do something wrong: miscalculate the budget, screw up my job, hell - anything I can imagine - and it will be both of us out in the cold. I'm afraid that maybe I'm not going to be good enough for Marlowe. I work a lot. I'm not always around. I couldn't get a second cat, both for financial and logistical reasons (no more than one cat per apartment). We will be moving at least once, maybe two or three times, in the next five years. There are old cat smells on the carpet from a previous tenant. What if he starts marking in response, or if he cries all night, or if he's never happy because he can't go outside? What if I can't do it, and I become another person who dumps him again? What if I fail him?

See what I do to myself?

I can't shut it off. It's like some women-only sickness that afflicts everyone I know: you contemplate every possible outcome, every worst case scenario, just so you know how to react if it happens. You lie awake at three a.m. wondering what the hell you'd do if you had to move somewhere that the cat, or the tortoise, would have a hard time following. If you're like me, you get so frustrated by your own what-ifs that the mounting anxiety escalates the whole thing. All the little fears you harbor rise and swell like high tide: the loneliness you feel on a Friday night, the weariness after working 13 days straight, the financial and health-related worries, the constant reevaluation of your own decisions. Until you're on the couch, wishing you could just get sick and get it over with -- but you can't.

So, I'm doing the only other thing I know how to do. I'm coping. Accepting. The novel has to wait. The big career dreams need to pause, just for a little while; this imperfect but decent job is fine for the time. Right now, I miss my husband, and I don't really understand what this period in my life is supposed to accomplish. So, I don't think about it. I just live day-to-day, finding pleasure in little things: walks, cooking, Marlowe's fascination with the front window (and his already noticeable tendency to walk across my keyboard, rather than around it). Sometimes, I think that means I'm settling. Most of the time, I think it means I'm surviving. And you know? That's good enough for me, right now. Frankly, it feels like a big accomplishment.

Monday, July 23, 2007


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Being grown up isn't half as fun

Dang blurry camera. Sorry. I have clear pictures on CB's camera, which I'll upload as soon as he sends them. (Hi honey! I know you need to sleep and eat and work and all, but could you just stop worrying about feeding yourself and send me a bunch of photos for my all-important blog? Thanks!)

Things I like about the new* car:
1. Paddle shifters
2. Awesome mileage
3. High safety ratings
4. Ridiculous carrying capacity
5. Air conditioning
6. Functioning speakers
7. No more "Hey, you're going 60 -- I think I'll sputter and die!" moments
*Yes, it's new. No, generally brand new cars make no economic sense. We had two days to find a new car after the old one imploded, so our options were limited because I do not buy used cars without doing thesis-level homework. We should pay it off early, and we plan to drive it until the damn thing dies; hence, it should actually be worth the cost.

Things I dislike about the new car:
1. Payments
2. Did I mention payments?
3. Caring about scratches
4. Caring about muddy shoes
5. Having to remind myself that I no longer need to hope someone steals my vehicle to get it off my hands
6. Driving it to work

Oh my god, I feel like a caricature of an American right now. Get a new job? Buy a new car! *shudder* My British friends will mock me forever if they find out about this.

Seriously, after years of biking, walking, and bussing everywhere, the fact that I have to drive is painful -- but there's no way around it. My commute is 11 miles one-way. It takes 20 minutes by car; 45 to 55 by bus. I live alone, so all that laundry, cooking, running, and writing requires every last minute of my time. Adding an extra hour a day to my commute? Not really optimal for quality of life. I could bike that distance, but there's the matter of the bridge between where I work and where I live, a bridge so frightening to cyclists and pedestrians that even my bike club-crazy coworkers refuse to use it unless the weather is f'ing perfect. If you don't get blown off into the Columbia by high winds, you slip and slide to your death on bird doo, or some errant gravel flies off the back of a semi and rearranges your face. So yeah. I drive...and even though this car embarrasses me because I love it so, I still feel very, very wrong. I'm the kind of person people on bike boards hate. Hell, I'm the kind of person *I* disdain. I'm thinking about offsetting my emissions with TerraPass, despite harboring mixed feelings about carbon offset programs. Still, it's something, right?

It also beats my current method of alleviating guilt, which is to ferry as many co-workers around as I possibly can. See, if I'm carpooling, then I'm helping the environment. It does make work a little awkward, since I've basically started acting like a drug dealer:

Me: Need a ride home?
Jack: Um, actually, I was going to take the bus--
Me: It's really no problem.
Jack: You don't even live near me. Aren't you on the other side of the city?
Me: Aw, c'mon, it's brand new! You know you want to.
Jack: Really, I don't think I do.
Me: That new car smell? Smell that? Like a goddamn baby.
Jack: It's nothing like a baby.
Me: Just get in the car, Jack!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Feeling strangely fine

If I'd had any idea how content an unpacked apartment would make me, I would have finished sooner.

I'm trying hard to be more Spartan. No more piles of useless papers, or random junk purchased on a whim. I might not be able to control it all, but I can at least try thinking about how much I really want to carry around another set of mugs on our next move. This way, I have a living room I actually want to spend time in, which is key to helping me save money in an activity-oriented neighborhood that just screams "Spend It!" Despite the crazy schedule, I'm determined to be better about keeping things clean. I wonder how long it will last...

I love funky buildings, quirks and all. The cabinets in the dining nook here make me happy, even if none of the doors close on a hot day.

I'd include pictures of the deck -- my primary reason for renting this place -- but a certain husband hasn't had time to send them from his camera. The guy's trying to move across Oxford without a car, so I can't really give him a hard time. Yet.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bound to make you crazy if you let it

Man, I just have a knack for positioning myself Current job (aka "Paying My Dues") goes something like this:

8:30 Get to work after terrifying drive through Portland traffic. Contemplate biking, then think about the 17 near-misses one has had since 8:15. Decide to continue driving and to increase auto insurance.
8:45 Check email. Feel frightened by size of inbox.
8:47 Email interrupted by request from co-worker for some aspect of the project you've never heard of until now.
8:51 Continue reading email until other entry-level person comes in, since she's the only one who can tell you what the heck the first person meant.
9:01 Rapidly assemble packet of materials for an afternoon outreach presentation that no one remembered to tell you about until now.
9:17 Rapidly dissemble packet after being told this one wouldn't look quite like the others.
9:24 Rapidly hurl packet through vacuum-sealed office windows after finding out about yet another change.
9:32 Hold head in hands.
10:14 Chase all three levels of people needed to approve changing "freeway" to "highway" in a document which approximately four people will read.
10:51 Discover you are scheduled to work every weekend from July 21 to September 4. Give up on finishing novel until sometime in the spring of 2011. Also give up cooking, long workouts, and personal hygiene.
11:05 Realize you never followed up on that first co-worker's request. She has now had to do it herself. And she hates you.

It's actually not that bad -- although my schedule is about that crazy, the fantastic, supportive coworkers help quite a bit. Nevertheless, it is definitely making me think that a career in government/private industry is not what I want to pursue. For months, I've had the idea of returning to school to become a librarian, and now I'm leaning even more in that direction for a multitude of personal and professional reasons. Still, I don't want to give up on environmental policy just yet, even if what I'm doing isn't as related as I'd hoped. Fortunately, until CB returns, I'm here doing this. So, by my estimation, I have at least 7.21 minutes to contemplate my life's work between now and when he graduates next winter. That should be plenty.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Be good and don't you miss me

We stood in the far corner of the departures terminal at SeaTac, rooted fast into the tiles while a sea of people parted to either side. I might have seen their faces if I'd been looking. I crushed my cheek against his chest, the side where the ridge from a bad collarbone break nestles against my jaw like they were part of the same bone. I thought about holding on, screaming, begging, doing anything that might make people suspicious enough to kick us out together. Instead, we slowly peeled apart, my arms relinquishing their grip like sand slipping between toes at ebb tide. I watched him turn and join the flow, while I remained, waiting, a lonely piece of driftwood cast ashore.

The drive back to Portland felt twice as long, with that empty seat beside me.

Soon, there will be blogging and new adventures. A fully unpacked apartment. Stories about a job I don't love but need to keep. Dreams. Maybe even that novel, waiting quietly at the sidelines until I can clear my head. Tonight, though, it's just me and this city and three weeks of memories I'll turn over and over until they're worn smooth.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

so tonight that I might see

We are in the car, the new car, the one with the clean interior and the shiny paint, the one we purchased last weekend after the Jetta decided to die at 60 mph on I-5. It's midnight in Portland, and we're waiting at an intersection while the light changes for phantom autos. The stereo is cranked to eleven, and we are rolling, rocking the whole damn car with our self-parodies as a bad hip-hop song makes the seats shake. At the corner, three slouching hipsters in carefully torn denim cast kohl-rimmed gazes in our direction. They look at us with pity, we two painfully adult, painfully un-hip people on the late side of twentysomething. And we look back and laugh, because we are so in love, and we only just remembered how beautiful the moonlit streets can be.