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When I was single, I didn’t have a car. I walked everywhere, and loved it. Now I’m a suburban mom, and I’m doing the same thing.
It’s a bit different this time around.
Follow my serial, Everything That Happens When You Walk: A Commuter’s Memoir by email.
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This serial is scheduled to begin soon. When it does, all new posts will be listed here.
This is my first winter with three children, and here is what I’ve learned about the mathematics of coats.
To find the total square footage of your home that you will need to devote solely to winter wear, use the following equation.
For each child in the family, add two lightweight jackets or sweatshirts, one point five heavy coats, one snowsuit, one rain suit, plus gloves, boots and hats.
For each adult in the family, add five to ten lightweight jackets or sweatshirts, one fancy coat, one rain jacket, one heavy coat, plus gloves, boots and hats.
For each adult bicyclist, motorcyclist, skier, scuba diver or other athletic type, add one pair of specialty pants and one point five specialty coat per sport. Because the volume of each of these items is almost double the average volume of other items, multiply this number by two.
Thus, if your family has five members (as mine does), you will need approximately eight thousand items of winter wear in your collective wardrobe.
After determining the total number of items, measure the square footage needed per item. This will vary depending on how much space between items you require to access them. Now multiply this number by your number of items.
If you did the math right, you will likely come up with a figure that will make it necessary to buy a second home. Or at least a Pod.
Seriously, though. Our coats take up two entire closets right now. And my kids are still tiny.
Summer, please come back soon.
(I’m off to buy a Pod.)
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1. Men don’t freak out over criticism. The other week, my babysitter quit. She said our parenting style was too “laid back.” (She was being nice, of course. She could’ve said my kids are brats.) After I read the email, I consulted with two friends at length, seeking ways to validate my choices and to work through my embarrassment. My husband, on the other hand? He read the email, made a single statement (which I won’t repeat here), then placed it all in a file and red-stamped it. Case closed.
2. Men are willing to take a backseat. My husband’s greatest joy in life is his mostly happy, mostly loving family. The role he chooses to play in keeping it that way is to support my parenting decisions as well as my self-care. He helps in any way he can, and doesn’t micromanage. Most of all, he realizes that the one who makes the plans is the one who gets to decide how to carry them out. (For more on gender differences in family decision making, see Tara Parker Pope’s discussion of household management in For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed.)
3. Men deeply appreciate real women’s bodies. Men love fat women, thin women, tall women, short women, beautiful women, plain women, dressed-up women, casual women, Barbie women, Martha Stewart women, soft women, angular women, curvy women and everything in between. Their tastes are much more wide-ranging and forgiving than the women they love often realize. (For evidence, see A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the Internet Tells Us About Sexual Relationships by Ogi Ogas.)
4. Men are Zen. I once saw a video recording of a spiritual conference in which the audience was mostly made up of women. During the question and answer session, one of them asked the speaker if women are more spiritually evolved than men are; after all, they’re the ones who come to these events the most. The teacher responded that there may have been good reason that more men weren’t there. “Maybe they don’t need to read as many books and go to as many conferences, since they’re already practicing these principles without realizing it.”
I, for one, think she was right. If Zen is define as living in the moment, appreciating the little things and not obsessing over the bad, men as a whole are way more Zen than women are.
5. Men are great conversationalists. I love girl talk. Mom talk, especially. But I also can’t live without a weekly debate regarding philosophy, news and/or politics. And for that, my dad, husband and other male friends are my go-tos. With them, it’s not personal. I can be as opinionated as I want to be. Friendly debates really feel … friendly. (I have had a few girlfriends who don’t mind the inevitable disagreements that come up, but not many.)
6. Men are honest. I like the emotional support I get from my girlfriends, but every once in a while, if I’m full of shit, it’s better just to be told straight up. One of the greatest compliments I’ve even received–maybe the very greatest–came from my husband, who said, “You have the best personality of anyone I know.” If this had come from a girlfriend, I would’ve deeply appreciated their kindness. But since it came from a person who as far as I know has never, ever lied to me–even a so-called ‘white lie’–I will treasure it forever. (I’d give you a few great examples of his brutal honesty, but that probably isn’t necessary. Just trust me.)
7. Men communicate clearly. Here’s a typical scenario: my husband and I in our living room, cleaning up after our dinner guests. “Did you catch that comment?” I say. “The one about the laundry?”
“Maris was hinting that Niles didn’t appreciate her. You didn’t see it? Oh, I love you, Hon. You’re so great.”
When I tell my husband, “I’m stressed out. I need a break,” he gets it. When I say, “Will you do the laundry?”, he says yes or no. However, when I say, “I hate everything right now,” he has no idea what that means, or what to do. This is a major advantage in our relationship. David teaches me how to be direct. (I’m not all the way there yet, though. Only been with him for eight years. These things take time.)
8. Men appreciate the beauty of silence. When I was in high school, my dad opened a window into male psychology for me–a small one, but it let in a surprising amount of light. He said, “The person you can sit with, and say nothing, but still understand each other–that’s the person you want to marry.”
But I love talking, I thought. I want to marry a great conversationalist. Later, though, I understood what he meant. Men love talking sometimes, too. But what they truly need is respectful, peaceful, loving, companionable … quiet.
Like I said: a window.
9. Men are sexy. Enough said.
10. Men are smart. Obviously, women are every bit as talented and intelligent as men are. But it’s been a while since I’ve heard someone say, “Men have done so much good in the world, haven’t they?” A similar comment about women comes my way every three hours or so. So let’s all take a moment to acknowledge the many achievements of male-kind, even if you don’t appreciate every single one of them. (Personally, I’m not a huge fan of cars. But the birth control pill and sidewalks? Two thumbs up.)
BONUS #1: Men are funny first, serious as needed. My husband plays with my children differently. And his discipline style is often more lighthearted than mine. A common caution of his is, “It seems like you need tickles. Do you need tickles?” It’s beautiful. Humor is one of the most helpful conflict management strategies I know.
BONUS #2: Finally, when people use the term “white men” or just “men” in a negative context, men don’t usually complain. Often, they even welcome it. Some even consider themselves feminists. They like us women that much.
Much, much love to the men in my life who have debated with me for hours, told me the unvarnished truth, and shown me how neurotic I (occasionally) am.
P.S. Happy birthday to my amazing older son, who turns five very soon. Could not be prouder.
P.P.S. Kudos to Philadelphia for celebrating International Men’s Day today.
So, it occurred to me today that I have no idea what Jesus would do. Ever. This may be due to a lack of information or just my inability to synthesize the available information. However, after reading just a couple of books on monks of various times, places and faith persuasions (The Wisdom of the Desert by Thomas Merton and Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda both leap to mind), I have a decent feel for what they would do in most sticky situations. (Hint: It usually involves a wan smile and a non-committal retort such as “Is that so?”)
And so, I’m going to have my own bumper sticker made. It’s going to say “What Would a Buddhist Monk Do?”
This super cute gal, Jennifer Casolary, is the creator of a law of attraction app called Subliminal Vision Boards. Genius, right? Currently, it’s available for IOS and Android. If you’re a skeptic, try it anyway. Prove it doesn’t work, or make your dreams come true. Win-win.
Here’s a true law of attraction success story about an experience Casolary brought into her own life.
All my life I’ve wanted to really make an impact on the world. I’ve learned that in order to do this, it’s best to trust my gut, let my heart lead the way and be open to signs. I’ve always felt guided and I trust the path in front of me, which has made me a powerful manifestor. My dad used to say, “How do you do it, Jenn?” I’ve had unhappy jobs and unfulfilling and unhealthy relationships like we all do but I learned that it’s okay to want more, and it’s okay to act on that desire.
In that frame of mind, I went to hear motivational speaker Tony Robbins. I sat in an aisle seat in hopes that I could somehow give him one of my Subliminal Vision Boards App business cards, and within the first two minutes of the show, he stood right in front of me. I kept thinking, “Oh my gosh, he’s right in front of me. How do I do this?” Then, even though there were bodyguards around him, I held my hand out to him with the card in it.
At first, since he was speaking over me, he couldn’t see it. So I raised my arm slightly, and suddenly he looked down and said, “Oh, you want me to have this?”
Speechless, I shook my head yes. Then, into his mic going out to over 4,000 listeners, he read the card.
“Subliminal Vision Boards App.”
He made a spooky-like finger gesture, and everyone laughed. He kept looking at me, so I said, “It’s cutting edge. It will change your life.”
“Okay, I will take a look at it,” he said. Then he put it in his pocket and carried on with his show.
What a magical moment this was for me.
This is just one of the manifestations I’ve experienced while using this app.
The next morning I went to meet one of the powerful and inspirational speakers at the same conference, Jason Tyne, to learn about his new streaming app called New Tycoon and his book, 52 Words. I showed him the app and he said, “Oh, you’re the girl who gave Tony the business card. All the other speakers backstage were in awe that he took it from you because he never takes anything from anyone.”
You know, it isn’t just the experience of connecting with Tony Robbins that I loved. It was realizing that I have a lot more courage and capacity to change people’s lives than I was aware of before.
Something different for you today: a poem I wrote during my first year of being a mom.
We expect our children to share everything they own. But do we share everything we own?
We expect our children to enjoy sleeping alone. But do we enjoy sleeping alone?
We expect our children to realize they’ll be okay immediately after falling down. But do we realize we’ll be okay immediately after we fall down?
We expect our children to let other people decide what they will wear, what they will eat and where they will go. We expect them to always eat their vegetables and to go to school for eight hours a day. We expect them to sit still, play quietly, contain their excitement and never, ever show they’re mad. But are these things always such a good idea?
We parents don’t always go to bed on time. We don’t always manage our money wisely. We often argue, or even refuse to work out our disagreements at all.
We don’t always keep our rooms clean, stick with our first decision or get ready on time. We don’t always do the math right.
We don’t always follow the rules.
We expect our children to behave like adults while so often, we behave like them. Maybe, then, we should expect a little less of our children—and a great deal more of ourselves.
1. Would I rather have clean carpets but constant carpet maintenance and a strict no-shoes, no dirty feet policy … or would I rather have stains on my carpet and a lot less hassle? (Or is there another solution, like dark brown carpet?)
2. Would I rather have a clean house with constant maintenance … or would I rather have a messy house but be able to let my kids do arts and crafts inside; let kids get head-to-toe dirty outside then track it in; not have to nag about chores all day; get less annoyed by kids being kids; let kids learn how to prepare their own food; let kids learn how to feed themselves; and not to mention spend a lot less time cleaning. (Or is there another solution, like teaching kids to do chores and exchanging chores for privileges?)
3. Would I rather have a nicely manicured lawn that I have to maintain weekly … or would I rather garden and rake when it brings me pleasure and exercise, and have lots of pine cones, leaves and dead grass in my yard, all of which are pretty in their own way? (Or is there another solution, like moss and clover instead of grass?)
4. Would I rather keep all bugs out of my house at all times but have to constantly nag the kids to shut the door … or would I rather leave the door open all day in the summer without a screen so that the kids are encouraged to go outside more often throughout the day? (Or is there another solution, like a screen with a magnetic closure that automatically closes behind you?)
5. Would I rather save time on cooking by going to a restaurant, then spend time driving, parking, ordering, waiting, paying, and driving … or would I rather spend the effort to throw together something at home, then linger after dinner at the table with the family?
6. Would I rather spend $30 extra for a restaurant meal … or spend $20 for an extra hour of housekeeping or nanny time?
7. Would I rather spend $1,000 on French doors for my patio … or use that money to buy 50 hours of household or nanny help?
8. Would I rather spend $3-5,000 on a family vacation to Mexico for a week … or $1,000 on a nice staycation for a week that includes long evenings with kids at the babysitter’s?
9. Would I rather buy and store a gas-powered lawnmower … or would I rather use a small push mower that I rarely need to sharpen and never have to buy gas for, and is much quieter and more pleasant to use and gives me some exercise?
10. Would I rather have a large variety of appliances that make various tasks easier and faster … or would I rather have a smaller kitchen with less cluttered cabinets and save time and hassle finding what I need?
11. Would I rather have a large, expensive house with high heating, cleaning and repair costs … or a house in a prime location with just enough room for the family to live closely and with less stuff?
12. Would I rather have three kids and spend more quality time with each … or would I rather have four kids and bring another life into our family and the world?
13. Would I rather make sure my kids go to several sports, clubs, or classes each week … or would I rather let my kids figure out how to overcome boredom on their own at home?
14. Would I rather clean up the food my kids spill under the table and move on to the next thing more quickly … or would I rather teach them how to clean up after themselves by taking away their food and waiting for them to clean it up before their next meal?
15. Would I rather drive my kids to the library … or would I rather walk them there?
16. Would I rather let my kids have three hours of screen time per day … or would I rather sit with them in the living room while they play and I read a book, not allowing them to interrupt me unnecessarily?
17. Would I rather buy a new fire truck for my child … or give him a box of recycled materials and help him make one?
18. Would I rather pick up all of the toys one by one when I need to clean the floor … or sweep them all into the corner with a push broom?
19. Would I rather spend an hour a week driving to and from a playdate that I don’t particularly enjoy … or would I rather find an activity for my kids that is within walking distance?
20. Would I rather pack the kids up in the car and take them to the park every day … or would I rather sit in the backyard for an hour to encourage them to join me?
21. Would I rather commit to doing a favor that doesn’t feel good to me … or would I rather take the opportunity to practice saying no?
22. Would I rather buy the new furniture that we supposedly need … or would I rather let the kids continue to destroy the old stuff and wait to get new stuff when they’re older?
23. Would I rather leave my cell phone in the bedroom till evening and miss a few messages … or would I rather be tempted to check my messages or to-do list several times per hour during family no-screen time?
24. Would I rather prepare all my kids’ food every day and prevent messes and wasted food … or would I rather teach them how to open the fridge, get a cup, pour the milk and put it away, then help them clean up the mess later?
25. Would I rather continue to change poopy diapers every day … or deal with potty misses a few times a week?
26. Would I rather help my kids resolve their every argument … or would I rather help them only when they ask me to and they are choosing to use their words?
27. Would I rather keep the family on a strict bedtime schedule and hectic morning routine in order to get them to school … or would I rather homeschool them and keep the schedule we choose?
28. Would I rather make my young kids do homework every night at the expense of family and free time … or would I rather let their grades slip a bit and let them play more?
29. Would I rather keep everything in my garage that I may need someday … or would I rather risk having to rebuy an item–either a new one or a just as good or better used one off Craigslist–in a few years?
30. Would I rather stand underneath my children on the monkey bars every time … or would I rather relax on the bench and let them fall once in a while?
These are just some of the ways I have rethought my cultural upbringing in the years since having children. Just an off-the-top list; I’m probably missing some big ones. The important thing isn’t how I answer these questions, of course. The important thing is that I ask them.
This is a book I am proud of. Here, a review I just got an hour or so ago (from a stranger, in case you were curious) on Smashwords:
“Although this is one woman’s journey to understand mediation’s place in her own life, you’ll swear she is describing you. Honest, sometimes raw, and always down to earth, throughout the entire book I felt as if Mollie Player was the one friend who would truly understand: the struggle, the wonderment, the confusion, and the joy of finally touching the subtle but profound shift in approach to…everything. As well as the frustration of inconsistently sustaining it. The Power of Acceptance is itself a practical mediation. Honestly, if you even paused at the title, let alone read this far, this book is definitely for you. Pull up a cozy mug, curl deeper under that blanket, and join Mollie in an applicable, spiritual conversation that helps you level up your life: we don’t need to seek through meditation — we already are. Meditation practice is what allows us to accept this, and the magic starts happening from there.”
Byron Katie does it. Seth Godin does it. And you could probably name several others who do it, too.
They give away at least one of their books for free.
I read Purple Cow by Mr. Godin recently, and it inspired me in so many ways. It changed my perspective on business, on marketing, and even on life. (A little.) One of my main takeaways: Consider carefully if the primary goal of your art is to make money or to … well, do art. I mean, of course you can do both, but how likely is it, really, that you will make a good living with ebooks?
Marketing writing? Yes. Technical writing? Definitely. And I have enjoyed doing both. But right now, it’s all about the art. Or, more accurately, about the communication.
I want more people to actually read my stuff.
So today, a big announcement: I have decided to make all my ebooks available for free. Not 99 cents. Not a penny. Not a newsletter sign-up.
I’m starting with the first book in my spirituality memoir series, You’re Getting Closer, and following it up with each and every one of my ebooks in the months to come.
I doubt this decision is permanent. But right now, it feels like the right thing to do. And who knows? Maybe I’ll like it enough to keep it this way forever.
Thanks to a hunch and a great title, I purchased Sex, Drugs and Meditation on Amazon–and liked it even more than I expected I would. So I wrote the author, Mary-Lou Stephens, to ask if I could share a true law of attraction success story from the book on this site. She kindly agreed.
Here is the story of how Mary-Lou got started in her long, fulfilling radio career after years of playing in bands. It begins when she runs into an acquaintance, Chris, just after her band broke up.
“I knew Chris, one of the announcers, would be [at the event]. He’d interviewed me about my music a few times and occasionally played my songs on his program. We had formed a friendship.
“He was pleased to see me, even in the circumstances, and suggested we meet up for lunch while I was in town. Later that week we ate and talked about life and death. I poured my heart out about the band breaking up. I told Chris how it had left me devastated and unsure of what to do next. Even though . . . my troubles seemed trivial, it still hurt . . .
“When I finished he paused, looked at me and uttered one life-changing sentence. ‘Mary-Lou, you want to be in radio.’
“I knew he was right. It was a pure light bulb moment. I could feel the glow above my head.
“‘I do.’ It was astounding. ‘But I didn’t know that until right now. How did you know?’
“‘Because I know radio and I know you. It’s a perfect match.’
“It was true. I came alive when I was being interviewed in a radio studio. I loved the sense of performance. I’d performed all my life in one form or another. Radio condensed performance down to one person, one microphone, one listener. A pure connection. I’d almost forgotten that I had presented a show on community radio in Hobart when I was in my early twenties. It was supposed to be an arts show. I interviewed musicians and bands. My natural curiosity was given a legitimate outlet. But when I left Hobart for acting school in Melbourne I never gave radio another thought.
“I stayed in Hobart for a few more days and caught up with a friend. She suggested we check out the short films being shown at the AFTRS graduate screenings. AFTRS was the most prestigious film and TV school in Australia and she was keen to see what the new young filmmakers were doing. During the intermission the dean talked about the school.
“‘The Australian Film, Television and Radio School . . .’ he began. And that’s when I stopped listening. Radio school? It was always called the Film and TV School. I knew people who had studied there. I’d even been to the campus in Sydney, and no one ever mentioned a radio component. Until that night I’d never realised the R in AFTRS stood for radio.
“This was too close to be coincidence, only days after Chris had told me I should be in radio, this was a sign.
. . .
“Within a week of arriving back in Sydney I bumped into Simon. He and I moved in the same circle of musicians and artists.
“‘I’ve been trying to track you down,’ he said. ‘I’m now the program director for a new aspirant public radio station.’
“‘What’s that?’ I heard the word radio. The rest was unfamiliar.
“‘We don’t have a full licence yet but we’re working towards it. At the moment we broadcast in two to four week blocks whenever we’re given a frequency. I was hoping you’d present a show for us. Are you interested?’
‘”‘You want me to do a radio show?’
“‘I think you’d be great. What do you say?’
“Within a week of discovering my true vocation I was being offered a gig on air. Another sign. A miracle! I said yes.”
For more information on this law of attraction author and story, see:
Oh, the infamous law of attraction. We’ve all heard about it, and have potentially practiced it. There are some people who believe in the law strongly, while there are others that think it’s absolutely ridiculous.
I’ve had amazing experiences practicing positive thinking with the intent of manifesting my goals, but sometimes the greatest beauty comes in the little gifts that we receive from the Universe. Life is made up of moments, not extraordinary events, and the sycronicity that I notice in my day-to-day life is, honestly, what keeps me consistently in awe. Reading about elephants as a commercial comes on about elephants, receiving a call from a friend I was just about to reach out to, sitting next to someone on a flight who’s just as into quantum psychics as I am–these are not coincidences, these events are the law of attraction bringing the frequencies that I emit back into my physical existence. As I’ve become more spiritual, and have ultimately developed more of a direct connection to Source, I’ve seen more and more of this happening. My divine journey IS the destination, and tuning into my higher self allows for my third eye to notice even the most quaint of destined circumstances. I know that it is the grand manifestations, though, that are more sexy–and I’ve had my fair share of those as well.
Three months prior to my 21st birthday, I made the decision to move to Colorado to embark on the biggest adventure of my young life. I didn’t have any friends there, any family, a job, a place to live; heck, I’d never even visited the place before. But what I did have was a strong determination and unwavering faith that I was following my heart, my intuition, and the spiritual place where my guides speak to me. I knew it HAD to work out.
So, a month prior to leaving I flew out with my mother to find a place to live. I had my list of apartments with a perfectly calculated route to optimize our time there. Three days flew by, and . . . nothing. I felt discouraged as we began to accept the fact that our trip was failure.
Then, on our way back to our hotel, we passed a leasing company. I toured a beautiful apartment in Denver’s affluent Wash Park area that just so happened to be right in my price range. I was approved without a job, and made the big move a weekend after I turned 21. I then found an amazing job within two weeks of my move, and have had the opportunity to work with many inspiring start-up companies. My plan was live there for a year, but it took four years for my adventure to come to a completion in the beautiful state of Colorado. I would not be the person I am today without having made that move.
Six months after moving back to the state of Texas, I decided to take another leap of faith and quit my corporate job to launch my own marketing start-up company, The Auzenne Agency, which has allowed me the freedom to live my life according to my own terms. It has allowed for more time with family, the means to travel when I please, and to also truly make a true impact on other start-up companies.
Thinking positive thoughts emits positive energy which brings about the intuitive guidance for inspired action to achieve all that your heart desires.
On a cold Friday the 13th in January over a decade ago, I signed the mortgage agreement for my first home. And I wasn’t scared about it at all. Though I wasn’t exactly rich–I’d decided that waiting tables was my true calling, at least for a while–I believed that by saving every dollar I could and paying at least a little ahead on the mortgage each month, I just might be able to pay off the house in ten years. With that goal in mind, I took in renters and saved every dollar I could. I didn’t drive a car, for instance. And sometimes I even passed up the bus, deciding it wasn’t worth that $1 fee.
Five years later, I was nowhere close to my goal, but I didn’t worry about that–I just kept making payments. Something in me told me that it would all work out as it should.
I married my first husband, and worked as much as I could, using most of my earnings for the house. Then I divorced and married my husband, which gave me another big edge. Still, the goal was pretty far away. Then the year before having my second child, I got a great job, and started paying in big chunks. Finally, the day came when my husband gave me the approval to take the twenty grand out of our savings account and pay our very last installment.
In the February nine years after signing the mortgage, I made the final payment on the house–nearly one year ahead of schedule.
I believe in hard work. And planning, and being careful with money. But I also believe in the power of setting an clearly defined intention.
Tonight, I stood outside on my balcony and looked at the trees. The air smelled good. It was nice. Every time I do something like this—every time I stop and just stare at the sky or trees or at the moon, for no other reason than the pleasure—I remember the time I spent alone. I remember how much I used to appreciate the sky and the trees and all the beautiful things in the world.
And how I felt, every day, like they were mine.
Being lonely inspired me. It made me think and feel everything more strongly. It made me believe that the world was full of possibilities.
It made me deep.
In his book Bluebeard, Kurt Vonnegut described one of his characters who had just arrived in New York City for the first time. He said it was like he had just been born. It was like it was his first day out of the womb and into the world.
And that is how I used to feel every day.
Tonight, I didn’t feel like I’d just been born. But, after a couple of years of trying to live more the way I really want to live, of being open to new things and new people and all of the different emotions, even the bad ones, I am feeling more of what I used to feel again.
I am feeling inspired.
Even though I live in the suburbs. Even though, someday, I will probably get a car.
Because, after all, I can still take walks. And I can still not buy things I don’t need and not be materialistic. I can still be romantic. I can still write poetry.
I can still refuse to get old.
Anyway, in many ways, what I feel now when I’m by myself is better than what I felt before. I don’t just have hopes anymore; now, I have goals. The things I want to do are the things I will, someday, actually do.
I’m a real adult now, after all. Not just a person in college.
I have power.
I am not only thinking about all the things I want to do in life.
One day, soon after Thanksgiving, I decided to put on some Christmas music—and I enjoyed it. Before that time, I didn’t really like music and I never really had, and, until that time, I thought I probably never would. Anyway, even if I did, I figured, I would never really be good at it; catching up on everything I missed would take way too long.
I have my limitations, after all.
So, instead of trying to pretend to like something just to sound cool, I decided to do the opposite, but with the same result: I’d be proud of not liking music. I’d tell everyone as soon as I got a chance. I’d admit I was a dork, which, to me, was a different kind of cool.
And so, I did. And after a while, it became part of who I was, and part of who I wanted to continue to be.
That day, though, as I listened to the Christmas music, I realized that I could like it. I could be a person who likes music—even sappy music—if only I wanted to be.
I could be something new. I could change my idea of myself.
I can be anything I want.
Now, I like Christmas music and all kinds of unlikely things, and I’m glad I like them, even if at first I didn’t want to. And it’s little realizations like this that make life new every day.
I’m just a baby, really.
And that is the way I like to think of it. I like to think of myself as if I am one year old, and my life is just beginning, and I can be anything I want.
If I want to love someone, I can love them. If I want to be with someone, I can be with them. If I want to go to church, I can—and will—go to church. There is nothing in the way except tradition.
And tradition, we know, is negotiable.
David and I never got married. We call each other husband and wife, but really, that is not what we are. One day, after getting pregnant and deciding I didn’t want to have a different last name from my baby, and I didn’t want David to, either—we are a family, after all—I went to the courthouse and changed it.
I don’t know when we will get married and I don’t really care.
There was another thing I learned in my second and third years with David that went along with that, and it was: how to be more secure.
When David and I first got together, I obsessed about my looks. I wondered if I was pretty enough for him and whether he would stay attracted to me after our initial infatuation wore off. Then one day a couple of years after we got together, I looked in the mirror and realized something: I liked the way I look.
It surprised me.
Before that, when I would see myself in the mirror, I wouldn’t think I was very pretty. I have a big nose and a round face and that isn’t very feminine at all. (I look like my dad.) But that time when I looked, I thought, My face is intelligent. It is serious.
It is a great face and I would not change it at all.
Anyway, if I were prettier, I may have married earlier, I realized. That would have been bad. Also, I may have had an easier childhood. That would have been tragic. I would not be here right now.
Sometime during the second year of my relationship with David, I went out of town. I was gone for about a week.
It was the longest we’d ever been apart.
The people that were renting my house had just moved away, so I had to go home to do some repairs. I didn’t mind leaving, though, and I didn’t mind the work. I wanted to remember what it was like to be there again, living in the house that I was so proud of for so long, and to remember what it was like to be alone.
I took the train into town, then took a bus the rest of the way. When I got there, it was about five in the morning and I was tired, so the first thing I did was to put some blankets on the floor. Then, I fell asleep. A few hours later, I woke up and there I was in my house again, just like old times.
I was alone, and yet, it wasn’t like it used to be.
As I worked on the house that week, I kept trying to figure out what had changed. I tried to remember what it was like when I lived there before, when I was still lonely, and writing a lot of poetry, and feeling strong and independent for living in my own house that I bought all by myself and that I loved. I remembered how I used to tell myself to never get married because if I did, it would change me forever and I’d become like everybody else.
Was I right? I wondered as I painted and hammered and cleaned. Maybe I was. I have a wonderful boyfriend, and I am rarely lonely and I love being this way so much. But I’m not the person I used to be.
These days, I’m almost like everyone else.
Then, the realization: This is the very beginning of middle age.
I never believed it would happen to me.
But I don’t want it to, I thought. I want to keep growing.
I need to find a way to keep growing.
The repairs went well and I worked hard. After the week was over, on the way back to Seattle, I made a decision: I would not live only for David anymore. Instead, I would do what I wanted to do, too.
I would be more of me.
And so, that is what I did. I started working harder than before. I started doing more of the things I loved. On my next trip to my hometown, I visited my mother and slept alone again for the first time in a long time and, that time, I enjoyed it more than I had before. I enjoyed having the bed to myself, and staying with someone other than David, and waking up to them instead of him, too.
For the first time in a long time, I was glad to be alone.
It felt like a betrayal.
It reminded me of a story by Albert Camus called The Adulterous Woman. She was married, but she didn’t cheat on her husband.
She just took a walk alone at night.
When I came back from that trip, David and I lay in bed for a while talking. He said he really missed me when I was gone, and I said I really missed him, too.
“But you don’t normally miss people,” he said. “You never missed your husband after he was gone.”
“That’s true,” I said. “But it was different. With him, if I ever did want him back, I could just remember the bad things and change my mind. With you, though, there wouldn’t be any bad things to remember.”
But the truth is, I am sure I would think of something.
Of course, I wouldn’t be as happy without him as I am now. And I’d probably start looking for another man again eventually. But not right away. I’d need time—probably a lot of time—to get over it.
The last thing that David and I have learned while being together I want to tell you about is this: let the other person change you—and let them change, too.
Ever since I have known David, he has wanted to have kids. When we first met, though, I did not. He is the one that made me change my mind.
That happens, I guess, when circumstances change along with it.
As I told you before, I was married for nine months. With my ex-husband, I never considered having a baby. I went to the doctor and asked to have my tubes tied, but he said no.
Even then I could tell that he was a kind and good man.
At that time, I was still depressed. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to handle having children, though I didn’t realize it was because I was depressed. I just thought I didn’t want them because it wasn’t my style, and I wanted to do other, more important things instead.
I told the doctor this, but he didn’t believe me. He gave me an IUD instead.
I will be grateful to him forever for that.
Later, after my divorce, when David and I talked on the phone for the first time, he asked me why I didn’t want to have kids. I had told him this in an email already, and he had told me that he definitely wanted kids and we agreed that our relationship was probably doomed.
On the phone that day, though, I explained my thoughts on the matter. I told him that I didn’t want kids because I wanted to do other things and I didn’t think I could do both. He asked me what things I wanted to do.
It was a good question.
In the moment before replying, which lasted under one second, I made a decision. I decided that someday, I might want to have kids after all.
That is how things change.
Of course, I didn’t tell David that. Not right then. I just told him I didn’t know. Then later, a few weeks into our relationship, we talked about it again.
We were in bed. It was during one of the many all-night conversations that we had when we first started dating when he didn’t have a job and I was only working part-time, and when we would go over all of the things you would want your soul mate to know about you forever, and a lot of inconsequential things as well.
At one point, late that night, he put his hand on my stomach.
“Why are you doing that?” I asked.
“I like it,” he said.
“Why do you like it?” I said.
“Because that is where the babies come from.”
“Aw,” I said. “That’s sweet.”
We lay in silence for a few minutes. Then I said, “I might like to have babies someday.”
“Really?” he said, looking at my face.
“Yes,” I said. “Baby kitties.”
I laughed. He hit me playfully, saying not to joke about such things. But I told him I was just kidding.
I wanted human babies after all.
On Christmas morning—the second one that David and I spent together—we woke up at my mother’s house. No one was home, and since we had celebrated at my sister’s the night before, there was nothing to do, and no presents to open.
There was just me and David.
And that was okay. Presents are nothing to me anymore, I thought as I looked at my husband in his pajamas and made him an egg. Everything I have the right to ask for in this life is already here.
The other secret that David and I have had for the whole time we’ve been together is this: We don’t nag.
And we don’t nag not because we don’t want to, but because of something much more effective: We don’t need to.
My mother—an otherwise very sweet, very competent, very beautiful woman—used to nag my father, and I was always scared I would, too. So, from the first day David and I lived together, we had an agreement: I would do all of the cooking and all of the housework, and wait on him hand and foot, and David would work more than me and pay more than his share of the bills.
So revolutionary, I know. So original.
And so, every morning, I make the bed and pick the clothes up off the floor. During the week, I clean the bathrooms, do the laundry, wash the dishes and vacuum the floors. I make all of our meals.
And I love it.
I don’t love cooking, but I like cleaning and I love living in a clean house, and—more than all that—I like taking care of my husband. And David, of course, likes it, too.
The second year David and I were together we learned even more about fighting.
One day, we were both feeling a little annoyed with each other though neither of us really knew why. Then, suddenly, while we were in our office sitting next to each other and reading or working or something, I realized, I don’t want to be annoyed with him anymore.
And I don’t have to, either.
Later, when he said something to me that seemed a little short, I said, “Honey, please me nice to me, because I am tired.” I said it in a little girl’s voice and he hugged me really hard and said, “Okay.”
And after that, whatever it was that had been bothering us was gone.
Later, we discovered a similar technique that we have used ever since. One evening after work, David was acting kind of grumpy and I said, “Honey, are you okay?”
He said, “I am grumpy.”
I said, “What can I do for you?”
He said, “Just a hug.”
I said, “Okay.” Then we hugged.
I didn’t get mad. And because I didn’t, it meant that I would get my turn to be grumpy later.
It’s a system that works pretty well, and I am proud of us for having it.
We are happy. We don’t wake up in the morning wondering if we are going to have a fight that day.