blog panic

I’m writing here tonight to try and break through some blog panic, which has gone on all week.  This year I started a new blog as part of a personal project.  I want to write, and I want to learn, and I want to remember the places – emotionally, physically, intellectually – that I visited in my twenties. As I come in on thirty, I want to feel like it’s been worth it, and that I have something to contribute.

And I think I’m getting somewhere! I have started a new blog, Define Well-Being, that I hope will be a platform for me to integrate and explore. I signed up for twitter (@definewellbeing), and generally got plugged in with history and health communities. I haven’t generally been that excited for social media – including blogs – in the past, but now that I have a niche, I’m loving it. Suddenly I see how I can create an e-world that caters to me, and there are tools out there to help me  store and organize sources and thoughts (most important in this venture: Chrome. Amazing). I have been loving it.

Having centered this project in a broader web, however, of learning and questioning and endless inputs, right now I’m just spinning my wheels. I thought blogging might be a good way for me to nudge myself through my tendencies of endless rumination, a way to get me writing every day and engaging with ideas that interest me.  Instead I’m just seeing the vast expanses of things I don’t know. Last night I considered blogging about Syria, as I’d been hearing conversations on NPR all day with Syrians huddled indoors as their homes and neighbors are attacked. Honestly, I hadn’t been paying attention before. But I got online and fell into this internet rabbit hole that started with what I know about Syria (answer: nothing), touched the current conflict, wound through the development indicators of the country and others in the region, before leaping to the American Revolution and back again to World War II (did you know about 4% of the world’s population died in association with that morass?). In the end I was trolling Wikipedia lists of human tragedies and learning about serial killers and mass murderers. I can’t wait for the FBI to come knocking. The point, anyway, is that I see emotional and academic connections in these things, but to draw them together in any way that makes sense would take more than the few hours a week I was thinking to devote to this.

Meanwhile, without these tools, I’m nervous that I don’t know anything.  I’m no expert in, well, any field; moreover, I’m not good at having opinions. I frankly don’t see that we all need to have them about everything. But with neither fact or brashness on my side, what could I possibly create that is worthwhile? At current count I am following 159 people on twitter, and I feel fairly certain that all of them know more than I do.  They’re paid to, or they’re studying to. Or..what? There must be a third option. I suppose that’s the one I’m looking for.

So, now that that’s out there, I should start soon…with something less complicated, I suppose. I’m not even going to revise this before posting. You’ve been warned.

a good dog

Copeland the black dog

It's hard to take pictures of a black dog.

This is Copeland, the sweetest dog that ever was.  As you can see, his interests involve putting his head on your lap for pats, and wagging his tail.  His other hobbies include smelling and trotting.  In the evening he likes to kick back with a  good bone.

For several years he’s been struggling with Addison’s Disease, an adrenal disease that explains his somewhat neurotic and sluggish behavior as an adolescent.  Two years ago it was diagnosed, and it’s been under control.  His medicine does include the side effect of diminished hair growth, which combined with his annual summer haircut explains (or at least partly explains!) his inverse mohawk. He’s been working hard to grow it back.  Really his weird hair just makes him more charming.

Copeland is a good boy and stays near the house, so he gets to go out by himself.  When he’s done with his sniffing and trotting, he’ll come peer in the window to the living room, which has a pretty good view of most of the house.  He’ll stand there, his furry black head silhouetted, until someone waves at him.  Then he’ll trot down the hill around to the front door.  Through the other windows, just his tail is visible, curled over his back and wagging as he comes to meet you at the door, as previously arranged.

The only thing he ever asks from you is a belly rub as you walk by.  He rolls over and thumps his tail.  Please?  The only time he ever talks is when it’s time for a walk.  Then he leaps and yelps like he’s being killed while I put his leash on his buddy.  He still gets to roam free and sniff as always, but as a team he thinks it’s just the best.

It’s hard when pets die, I hear, because they are so innocent and perfect.  So when Copeland wouldn’t wag his tail last week, and when he went to the vet, and died there overnight, my feelings were not complex.  This animal who’s brought so much joy to my life just by being around… it’s impossible for him not to be around.  It’s impossible for him to have died alone on a concrete floor.  it’s impossible for my parents to have brought him home in a black trash bag, and for us to bury him that day with his bed.  It’s impossible that the jingles I hear aren’t his collar and the black shadows I see aren’t him coming up for a greeting.  It’s impossible that our other dog doesn’t have anyone to help her beg, anyone to bump up against when she’s just too excited to walk straight; impossible that already she’s stopped waiting for him at meal times.

It would be easy to just think of him as not home if I had not patted his head and shoulder and rump through that bag after we lowered him into the ground. The ability to imagine him down the hill, near the big rock, curled up under the soil helps me remember that he’s somewhere else now, and that is an ability I dread and treasure.  I told him he was a good boy, and threw dirt on his grave. He was a good boy, through and through.  What better can you say about a dog?

This is my room.

I took this picture a few weeks ago when I finished moving in.  It was a Big Deal.  And as much as I rail against the culture of neatness (who cares if I made my bed?? I’m just going to sleep in it again tonight!), it really does make me feel good when my room is neat and clean.    The flowers are from the market and make the place additionally lovely (especially since this bouquet used basil as filler, yum!).  The funny part is many months ago I was having a psycho night, cleaned my room, bought flowers, and took a picture just like this except it was nighttime so it was darker and my lamp was glowy.  I took the photo on my phone and sent it to my friend who had helped talk me through the crazy, and it stayed on my phone so I would remember the peace of the place and also the simplicity of just doing what’s in front of you.  So it seemed like a good picture to blog with tonight.

It’s because I’m crazy today.  The instigator du jour was one of my roommates, who can be a little nutso.  She is a good woman and I like her well enough but her particular bad habits can really drive me mad.  A mutual friend pointed out that I’m right, but I’m way overreacting.  Roomie’s behavior is dumb and unreasonable, but I was about to have a coronary over this thing today.  In fact, don’t even wonder about what the thing was.  It’s not even fun.  It’s just typical roommate bullshit with a little dash of passive aggression tossed in there.  Not much actual drama at all.  But she pushes my specific buttons and I was livid.  And then I went through this other series of emotions while my friend talked me down (she’s a work friend and she drives me home, and this was all in a response to an email I got during work shh.  anyway there was plenty of time to go over it).  And it was horrible.

And it came to this:  I can deal with it or I can move.  I have a whole set of horrible horrible emotions that go along with this (mostly along the line of sheer frustration because it’s not my fault and it’s not fucking fair) but those emotions don’t really change anything for me.  I may have the moral upper hand, but that doesn’t really mean anything in terms of my life.  All there is, is this:  I deal with it, or I move.  There’s just no way around it.  And once I accepted that, things got better.  I don’t feel good about the whole thing, but once I realized I had two choices, and these were they, everything seemed manageable.  What’s the worst that could happen?  I have to move.  And I realized that didn’t sound so bad.  I love where I live but it’s by no means the only place I could live.  In fact if I moved, there’s a whole world of opportunity that opens up to me.  I came home and looked at craigslist.  Now, I’m not seriously considering moving, but it’s nice to know it’s there if I need it.

Alternatively I can deal with it, which will blow.  I mean, I can put my panic aside and problem-solve.  And I dread it and it will be difficult but in the end things will be better.  I think that’s another note on the bedroom pic — I can fight cleaning all I want to but I know I feel better when it’s done.  So I might as well do it now and not spend so much time and energy dreading it.

And I guess this is what settling in is.  I don’t know why I have such a hard time with this topic.  I guess I never knew what the hard parts would be, or even that there would be hard parts.  What’s so hard about staying in one place?  That should be awesome, right?  And I think this is a lot of what it comes down to.  If I can deal with it or move, I’ve always chosen moving.  Or known that it was on the horizon so I could manage for a short time.  And it’s not that I haven’t had to deal with stuff, I have, but I definitely could freely exercise the option to ignore.  So, yeah.  It sounds so simple but it’s kind of a big deal.

In related news, here’s my list of goals-for-my-house that I wrote in October:

  • Be neat-ish
  • Go to the farmers market
  • Cook
  • Do yoga
  • Run
  • Go to museums, cultural events, hangs
  • Read books
  • Walk
  • Go to trader joe’s
  • Window shop
  • Write
  • Make art
  • Light candles
  • Go for walks
  • Play music
  • Make my bed (sometimes)
  • Color-coordinate
  • Drink coffee or tea in the mornings, over breakfast, before I leave for work
  • Make challah french toast
  • Garden
  • Wake up before 10 on weekends
  • Get out of the city

YAY!  So that means time for a new list.  Soon.

checking in

Update: On October 25th I posted a list of things I would do in my new home that I would enjoy and would make me a better person.  I’ve now been in my new home nearly three months (!) so let’s see how I’ve done!!  This is kind of a gap analysis and also a tool to help me focus on the positive.  All I’ve been seeing lately are the gaps between where I want to be and where I am, and it’s important for me to look at where I am now compared to where I used to be.  Because I can’t have it all right now.  I shouldn’t.  That would be boring.  But I hope this will make me feel less crazy.  🙂

  • Be neat-ish

I have not really been that neat.  the problem is I don’t have a closet and it has taken a while to get all my proper systems in place.   I haven’t yet.  Also, I am messy by nature.  but once I get my bookshelf finished and my laundry basket empty, that will help a lot.

  • Go to the farmers market

Nope, not here either.  The Farmer’s Market ENDS at 10am.  10am Saturdays are when I’m still lying in bed feeling happy!  Some day.  Maybe in spring.

  • Cook

Yay!  I love cooking!  I don’t do it as much as I’d like to but I like to have lunch to take, and I’ve been experimenting with foods (quinoa!) and it’s cheaper and fun and wholesome.  also my roommates like to have dinner so sometimes we all cook together and it’s very charming.

  • Do yoga

There is a yoga studio 2 blocks from my house and I LOVE IT!  I haven’t gone recently because passes are expensive (but worth it) AND I’ve been training for a race, but once I get my tax refund I’ll start going back sometimes.  It makes me feel sooooo good.  Also I have my own mat so if I could figure out how to do a home practice, that would be good too.

  • Run

YES!  I signed up for the 10-mile Cherry Blossom Race in April because I am crazy.   Also, it is awesome!  It’s in DC and goes through all the monuments and stuff, and when all the cherry blossoms are out.  I’m scared because there’s a time limit which will require me to keep a 14-minute mile pace for 10 miles, which I currently cannot do.  But it makes me feel really good to go out and run and see how I’ve grown and I think in 3 months (omg 2 and a half!) I will be ready to go!  It’s the first time I’ve worked for a time goal.  Also I’ve got friends training for it so that really helps, too.  This is a current source of joy in my life.

  • Go to museums, cultural events, hangs

My excuse for this is I was dating a boy who took up all my extra time.  Also, by the time I work a full week, weekends are for laziness.  I will have to really work hard to motivate to do these things because of allllll the awesomeness around here!

  • Read books

YAY!  I have a library card for 3 area libraries.  I’ve been working my way through the books I’ve bought previously and never read.  Oh it feels so good.

  • Walk

The definition of this one was more about walking to get places.  Old Town Alexandria is very walkable and that was something I really really wanted.  It makes me feel more connected to my life, and also helps keep me moving.  And I’ve done it!  I walk to the metro every morning as part of my commute, and even when the weather is horrible, it makes me feel good.  Also, very close to me are my coffee shop and my yoga studio and allll the little shops and whatnot.  I’ve got grocery stores and pharmacies in walking distance.  Basically the only places I drive are the gym (ironically) and Target.  I love the freedom of just going.

  • Go to trader joe’s

I finally lost my Trader Joe’s virginity!  I’ve only been once but it is a wonderland.  Generally speaking, I’m getting much better at grocery shopping.

  • Window shop

The key is to not go inside.

  • Write

So far I’ve just been journaling, but that is a wonderful thing that makes me feel good and helps me work out the kinks in my life.

  • Make art

I haven’t yet.  I don’t know what kind of art it would be.  but I feel like, with the writing, this would be easier with a sanctuary, which means…. clean room!

  • Light candles

I don’t think I’ve lit candles just for fun but I did light my menorah for most of Hanukkah when I was home, and that was very nice.

  • Go for walks

These are walks for health, not for transportation.  I have done some of it! I will do more when it’s better weather.  But they are are lovely.  Old Town is beautiful and, well, old.  I love it.  The other night I had a lot on my mind and decided I wanted cake.  But I didn’t have cake at home!   So I could have driven to the store to get cake (it was cold and dark). Instead I bundled up, walked to Whole Foods, looked at the cake, and got flowers instead.  It felt like a very healthy thing.  Yay progress!

  • Play music

I’ve played music for sure, but the idea behind this one was to use it to set an atmosphere, which I haven’t yet done.  I think this is related to two things – one, the whole room-as-my-sanctuary thing that I haven’t yet established.  also, I haven’t bought music and ages so my mp3s are getting a little worn out and don’t really function as mood music for me.

  • Make my bed (sometimes)

It really does help.

  • Color-coordinate

Not yet although I have some Christmas money that was specifically designated for my home so I may invest in new curtains and sheets YAY!

  • Drink coffee or tea in the mornings, over breakfast, before I leave for work

This often makes me late for work but I love it.  I would be a morning person if I didn’t love sleep so much.  So now I’m a mid-morning person who’s always running late.  Oh well, work doesn’t care.

  • Make challah french toast

Mmmm.

  • Garden

I considered planting tulip bulbs in November but didn’t get around to it.  I look out into our little back yard and envision making it a wonderland.  Depending on my financial situation in springtime, it would be a really fun thing to do.

  • Wake up before 10 on weekends

Not always, but usually!  If I’m awake before 10 it means I can laze around in bed, then get up and putter around with coffee and a newspaper or whatever and still have a day in which to do real things.

  • Get out of the city

Doing this kind of makes me nervous, in the sense that I don’t know how to approach it.  Really I guess I should just do it.  I went out hiking and canoeing with the Brit in September and it was WONDERFUL to be out in nature doing stuff.  Also, I was really struck when I was back in Colorado for Thanksgiving by all the wide open space.  Even on the trip back from the airport, I was amazed how much nothingness there was.  Rock Creek Park in DC is really beautiful, and there are little parks all over, and I see tress all the time, but it’s just not the same.  So I guess the idea is to venture out into Virginia more often.  Part of what holds me back is money (I’d love to make weekend trips but can’t really afford it right now), and not really having anyone to go with.  also, laziness and fear of the unknown.  🙂  Weekends I just want to relax!  so I need to continually remind myself to kick my own butt and keep moving.  But I will also lay off of myself on this one until springtime.

Yay! I feel good.  Yay for happiness and for goalsetting and coping mechanisms.