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Apr. 9th, 2013

Early Marital Happiness

"Early marital happiness is one of the best predictors for later marital success." - Iris Krasnow, The Secret Lives of Wives.

The above fact made reading the whole book worth it, although, to be fair, the rest of the book was pretty good, too. But the above just allowed me to breathe a huge sigh of relief. I kept fearing that maybe being so happy in my marriage was just "beginners' luck," kept thinking that everyone is happy in the first couple years of marriage, but who knows when the other shoe is going to drop. But I know that in many cases, the opposite is true, too -- that people's early years of marriage are the hardest, as they adjust. Ivan and I have definitely had our "adjustment" moments in the past year, but nothing that feels insurmountable or calls into question the decision we made.

Last night, I mentioned to Ivan the statistic I've carried around since I read about it back in college -- that the chemical process that causes people to feel "in love" can physically only last from 6 months to 3 years. If you still feel love for someone after that, then you can feel confident that there's something deeper in place. I teased Ivan that I was afraid I'd wake up the morning after January 9 and we wouldn't love each other any more (last Jan 9 marked 3 years since we met). (And although I was teasing, there was this little part of me that was really afraid of marrying Ivan while I was still potentially in the zone for my brain chemicals to get the better of me.) Ivan said, "If anything, I've loved you more since we've been married."

It was so unexpected that my breath stopped for a moment. I felt the same way, except that I've never articulated it, only hoping that the feeling was mutual -- in spite of the occasional bouts of crying, disagreements over sex, and crankiness over housework. I was so relieved to know that, in spite of all the less flattering bits Ivan sees now that we're married, he still must see more good. And my feeling deep down that, overall, this really seems to be working, is valid.

I told him that I felt the same way and that I hoped the trend continued, but I was too caught off guard to really articulate how much his saying that meant to me. Back when we were dating, I was wary of telling myself that certain issues would be "smoothed over" once we were married. I didn't want to believe that marriage would be a magical "cure" of any sort. But in many ways, it has been. Many of the issues we had when we were dating simply *don't* exist now that we're married, and I think that's why our relationship has only flourished since then. I think when we were dating, we both yearned deep down for a time when we could just *be* together, something that wasn't quite possible in the somewhat artificial framework of dating. There's no more tension over what we will and won't do sexually; there's no more tension about who travels to see the other more; there's no more tension about whether we give each other enough time and attention when we are together, because there are so many more opportunities to be together. Sometimes I look back at our time dating and all the bumps we we encountered, and I feel so grateful that we held on in spite of it -- because things really are much nicer on this side.

Dec. 22nd, 2012

The World Spins Madly On

Well, it's December 22, 2012, soon to be Dec 23, and we're all still here.

It's strange that I was more scared about the 2012 apocalypse in 2008 than I was this week. This week was so full of the regularity of life -- feeding pets, driving to work, forgetting to make the bed, that it was hard for the apocalypse to really set in. At one point when I was doing something mundane (so mundane that I don't even remember what it was anymore), I remember thinking, Is this how I'd want to spend the last days of my life?

Of course, I didn't really believe in it anymore. Or maybe I just didn't fear it.

On Thursday night, snow was drifting and Mom tried to coax me to spend the night in Marshall rather than drive back to Sioux Falls. But I was thinking, if the end of the world comes tomorrow, I want to be with Ivan. So I went home. On the drive, I thought how strange it was, that I wanted to be with this person I've known less than three years over the people I've known my whole life. But I guess all of life is really a preparation to eventually live apart from your family, and now that transition is complete.

Even back when we were setting our wedding date, I remember thinking that if the world did end in December of 2012, at least I'd get to be married to Ivan first.

A few nights ago, I couldn't sleep because I was stressing over whether I should quit my job in Marshall or not. The drive is starting to get to me. I kept telling myself I didn't have to make a decision in the middle of the night, but my mind kept going anyway. Ivan was turned away from me, so I wrapped my arms around him so that my hands were at his chest. In his sleep, he found my hands and held them. When I told him about it the next morning, he confirmed that he hadn't been awake.

He's told me that I do the same thing; that if he snuggles up against me when I'm sleeping, I mold myself perfectly to him, just as I do when we're still awake and getting situated. Sometimes I still can't believe that I'm married, that I have a husband. What's realer to me than that is this subconscious, primordial thing that pulls us together, even when or especially when we're most vulnerable and furthest from the world. I can't understand it or name it, but it's the best thing in the world.

Dec. 10th, 2012

Holy Toledo, Where Does the Time Go?

It snowed over the weekend; my sister and my parents lost power up in Minnesota and got to play post-apocalypse, but all we got were covered cars and a beautiful white lawn. I love the snow. I don't even mind that it's below zero this morning. It makes me feel oriented, rooted in the right time of year. I am not a fan of freakish, spring-like winters in the Midwest. Last year when spring came, it didn't feel like the payoff it usually is because the winter had been so mild.

Ivan and I went couch shopping yesterday, which I was a tad bit nervous about because I've heard that couch shopping can be a real spot of tension between couples. Luckily, we were able to pass that test with flying colors. We were pretty much on the same page and neither of us had to convince the other about which one we would ultimately get. It's a futon, so that we'll have a bed option for guests. Once it's delivered and placed in the basement this Friday, the "basement project," and thus, the house, will be complete. I'm looking forward to finally crossing "finish basement" off my to-do list. (Next to-do: PAY for basement ...).

It feels so good to finally have all my boxes unpacked, to have everything in its proper place, to fully live here. It gives me such satisfaction that I find myself feeling reluctation to ever make any changes to it. Not to move to a bigger house, not to add on, not to make room for a child. Just to hunker down and enjoy this.

I've often felt this way shortly after settling into a new place. I know it's because it's so much work that once it's done I abhor the thought of doing it all again. But, as I've heard happens with childbirth, over time you forget how overwhelming it was, when the urgency of change pushes harder than the desire to stay put. But there's snow outside, a Christmas tree twinkling and a dog curled up in the living room, a cat on the window ledge and a life and home built with the love of my life. Why wouldn't I want to stay put?
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Sep. 19th, 2012

In November, I got your letter

A few days ago, I had this strange feeling of disconnect that I couldn't quite place. I wondered whether I was entering the next newlywed phase -- maybe the excitement was wearing off a little for me to start feeling homesick for my old life, or to feel doubt about whether we're properly navigating this marriage thing, or to sober up over the idea that this is forever. Now I think the feeling came from the fact that the season is changing, and I don't have any memories in this place to anchor me. Usually, the changing of each season serves as a good time for me to reflect upon my life, for me to remember where I've been when those first cold days have started in years past. This year, the arrival of autumn isn't calling up memories of autumns past -- I think maybe because I haven't totally integrated my new life with everything that came before it yet. There's still a bit of a dividing line old life/new life that I think will eventually blur together into just, my life. It reminds me of when I first left Duluth, and I was almost too shocked to really miss it, even though I was dreaming about endless bodies of water all the time. It took me a good six months to really start to miss it. The marriage is on five months now. By next autumn, I'll have memories of being here -- but this year, I may have to feel this sense of being adrift with each changing season.

I'm not sure I can wrap my head around the idea of marriage any more now than I could before the wedding, even though I've entered into it. There are still times when forever seems so overwhelming that I have to take a step back and remember that forever is built just one day at a time. Most days it's much easier than I dreamed it would be; adjusting to living with Ivan was remarkably easy. And I think that's part of what's made it hard for me to really comprehend the idea of marriage. Instead, I feel as though I've simply started living with the man I love. "Oh, look, you're here again! And again! And tomorrow, too!" It doesn't feel like there's some official document somewhere that keeps us together, that we've entered into something that will be very painful and difficult to ever extract ourselves from, that what's going on here is somehow of interest to all of society and not just the two of us. And for the most part, I think that's a good thing -- to feel like we're doing this because it's really a lovely thing to do and not because something external keeps us together.

Back when I was engaged, I read a lot of pre-marital and marital self-help books. One of them was I Do But I Don't: Why the Way We Marry Matters by Kamy Wicoff. It was a feminist examination of our culture's wedding rituals, interpreting the rollercoaster of emotions brides often feel as a result of them coming up across hardcore societal pressure to act a certain way "as a bride" and thus subvert their individuality. It was fascinating stuff. Through the course of the book, Kamy finds a way to make peace with it -- although I do remember thinking at the end that she didn't offer much in the way of solutions or coping methods for the future, something women could do to make that transition in a less tortuous way. I do remember that the last chapter was called, "The Rest of My Life is Never Long Enough," which was, as you can imagine, her ultimately deciding that everything was worth it for her to be with her beloved, Andrew.

The book was published four years into their marriage. Four years later, they got divorced. Turns out forever was too long after all. Turns out even eight years was too long. Kamy writes about the divorce here, painting a very different picture of Andrew than the one we see in the book.

This devastated me far more than the divorce of someone I didn't know should have. I had to talk it through with Ivan. Then I talked it through with Katrina, who also read the book. I know part of why it shook me up so badly is that I had identified with Kamy in a lot of ways; and if she could make peace of it all and everything turned out okay, then it could for me, too. Except, it didn't turn out okay. And that's not the kind of ending I want for my story. And I'm so much in the shallows of wedded bliss right now that I can't even wrap my head around being with someone for eight years. So it's back to one day at a time.

I think the hardest part has been learning what the appropriate level of together time vs. apart time is. Ivan needs more social time with friends than I do; I need more alone time than he does. In theory this works out, because he can go hang with friends while I take the time to be alone. And there have been some times when it really does play out this way -- he does his thing with his buds, I do my thing alone, and we both feel a little rejuvenated and more ready to be together after it all. The tension comes in the insecurities -- my thoughts insinuating that he would rather be with his friends than me, that he needs his friends as an "escape" from me. Although he's never said as much, it would be easy for him to have similar insecurities -- why would I rather be alone than with the love of my life? Why would I want him to "go away"? (Well, so I have time and peace and quiet to write an entry like this one, for example). I have to learn to let go of whatever Ivan is doing when he's not with me. There's got to be a certain level of privacy and space in a marriage; I think that's what's made my parents' marriage work so well. And I'm a person who needs my independence, and Ivan is too, so there's this pull between our needs for autonomy and our commitment to building a unified life. Marriage is as much a lesson in letting go as in holding on.

Dec. 21st, 2011

books

Decluttering, or dismantling an intricate masterpiece? (Year 30, Day 190)

I saw a book come across the desk at the library called "Throw out 50 Things" and it was so tempting to me even though I've made a resolution not to check out any more books until after the wedding. But when I saw that we ALSO carried the audiobook version, I was like full speed ahead. I was so excited that I could "read" it after all (since my rule doesn't apply to audiobooks).

So at the end of my shift I marched over to pull the audiobook off the shelf ... only to discover that it was abridged. Back on the shelf it went. I don't do abridged audiobooks.

The irony of it struck me, though -- it's a book about decluttering, and yet I rejected the "decluttered" version of the book.

I've culled down my CD collection pretty significantly, and even made a little money doing it, and that feels SO good. Next, I'm sliding a calculating eye toward my books. I used to have this rule that I wouldn't get rid of ANY book I hadn't read, even if the book didn't seem like something I'd EVER be interested in. I got over that and now can get rid of books I was never interested in, but still have trouble getting rid of books I haven't yet read that don't interest me much now just because they interested me once. But the real collection I've been pondering the most is my collection of retellings.

It started as a collection of King Arthur books. Then it grew to encompass other retellings -- mainly fairy tales, but Biblical retellings, too. While I get rid of most books after I've read them, I haven't gotten rid of any of the retellings because they were part of the "collection." But lately, I've been pondering culling down that collection, too -- and getting rid of all the retellings I've read already that I didn't really like. And there are a LOT of them.

I'm not really sure what the purpose of the collection is, to be honest. I like the idea of saying, look at how many different ways there are to look at Snow White! And the main joy the collection brings me is that I like the "treasure hunt" for retellings at booksales and used bookstores. But I can still have that joy while getting rid of the retellings I don't really like. And then I wouldn't resent all these books sitting on my shelf that I never really liked beyond their initial concept. 

I don't know. I'm thinking about doing this in stages -- maybe boxing up the ones I've read but didn't really like as a first step, to possibly get rid of them later down the road. But the idea of a "quality" collection taking the place of my "quantity" collection is appealing. And since I've written book reviews of most of the retellings in my collection that I've read, I still have a sort of "collection" of what's out there in my mind and in my reading history and on my "virtual" shelves. And maybe that's enough.

If anyone wants to argue for or against the dismantling of the collection, I'd love to hear from you. Ah, the things that keep me up at night!

Nov. 10th, 2011

Stormer

Writer's Block: Hand me a tissue, please. (Year 30, Day 252)

When was the last time you cried?


This isn't what I came to LJ to write about, but this prompt intrigued me enough that I actually read about a page of other LJ'ers responses. It's interesting to see what makes people you don't know cry. I noticed that almost everyone who answered it had cried within the last week. That made me wonder whether recent cryers were more likely to remember the last time, and thus more apt to respond, or whether it's true that most women cry about once a week. (I read once that women, on average, cry five times a month. I did that research shortly after I started crying again after years of being stopped up emotionally. And I haven't stopped since!)

I choked up today watching North Country, but the last time I cried "for real" was last Monday night. I was writing in my paperjournal about how Ivan took time off work early in the morning rather than at lunch because I wouldn't be able to stay until lunch time. He didn't tell me ahead of time that he was doing it, just showed up as I was packing my suitcase. I thought I had said goodbye to him before he left for work, and I had a "hard deadline" for leaving and hadn't showered yet, so I told him I had to even though I wanted to spend the time with him. He spent over an hour at home with me, configuring his Android tablet so I could take it with me to Florida this weekend and (hopefully) get some writing done.

You may be wondering why writing about this made me cry. It's because positive emotion makes me cry more than negative emotion does. Kindness reduces me to tears. Writing about it drove home that it was a loving, considerate thing for him to be doing, and somehow it's really hard for me to let myself feel, deep down inside, that I'm loved. Writing about seemingly mundane moments like this drives it home to me, and then I can't contain the emotion. I also cried through church one morning after I'd blown up at Ivan for something, and he'd responded totally calmly; to know I'd shown him one of my least flattering moments and that he was still there astounded me.

I spent so long emotionally stopped up inside that I actually feel really relieved every time I have a good cry, because it reminds me that I am still in touch with what's happening inside me, and that I'm working through it presently rather than have it pop up in ugly, subconscious ways later. 

---

What I meant to write about was this conversation I had with a teen at the library today:

Him: "Hey, Lacey, do you know anything about the Hunger Games movie?"

Me: "Yeah, it's coming out in March. I'm excited about it. Are you?"

"Yeah, when I found out about it I sent Ashley a message on Facebook to see if she might want to go to it with me, but she said a group from the library is probably going. Is that true?"

"Well, we haven't talked about it yet, but I think it would be fun to get a library group together to go."

"What other movies are out right now?"

"Puss in Boots, In Time, The Immortals."

"I sorta want to go to a movie with her. I don't know why."

----

Ah, young love. <3 I recommended that he take her to Puss in Boots because she loves animals. Thank you, Facebook, for helping people fall in love!

Oct. 15th, 2011

both ways

Year 30, Day 224 (I Think)

Conversation between Some Scruffy Guy and Me while I Was on My Way to the Gas Station

"Hey, do you know where 11th street is?"
"Yeah, it's back the other way a couple blocks." <points>
"What about Duluth? I'm supposed to be at the intersection of 11th and Duluth."
"Duluth is up the hill." <points again.>
"OK, thanks." As I start to walk away, "Hey, are you a fellow Yankee?"
"What?"
"It sounds like you have a New York accent. Are you from New York?"
"No."
"I just moved here from Manhattan yesterday."
"Welcome to South Dakota."
"Thanks."
I begin to walk away again. Then what I had a feeling was coming: "You don't happen to be single, do you?"
"No."
"Oh ... all right."

----

For a moment, it was just like being in Central Hillside again.

I was in Duluth again last week, from Wednesday to Friday. I was there for a work thing, so it was the first time in a year that I'd been there without Ivan. I stayed with my friend Ginga, who I hadn't seen since the move -- two years. We quickly developed a rapport that was closer and easier than the one we'd had when we lived down the hall from each other. The conference was at the DECC, which meant I spent a lot of time in Canal Park and downtown. My old 'hood. As I left, I felt a sort of longing sickness for Duluth that has been at bay since I first moved. I think it was staying downtown, visiting all my old haunts in the name of showing people around, and being there without Ivan, that made me so nostalgic for the old days. With Ivan there, I was never able to fully sink into who I had been up there, because he could only ever see a glimpse of that. But Ginga? She saw that when she saw me. That's the only me she knows, and I so rarely have that reflected back to me. It's like this missing piece now that I'm back amongst my family and incorporating the new identity of being someone's partner. Overall, it was lovely and therapeutic and probably just what I needed as I prepare to transition to marriage, even if it was a bit sad. 

Apr. 10th, 2011

Year 30, Day 38: It's Not What You Think

Poem #6

I.
I dream better without you
if Rumplestiltskin and mermaids
mean anything at all.
You can bathe my brain
in warm milk or else
my hand can just find my center
beneath the blankets
when I need a burst of pleasure.

II.
At midnight, he asked for the moon
and I wrapped it tightly in my secret
and sent it back.
Then I wrapped myself in cool sheets,
rolled over
and dreamed.

III.
Perhaps if I banished sugar,
laziness, rain, and blizzards,
then I could give you up, too.
Beneath my lids my eyes dart and flutter
but my heartbeat slows.
Thump.
Thump.

Once They told me
another would do just as well.
And my hands shook
Knives pounded in my temple
I crouched on a cold linoleum floor
rocked and sobbed and scribbled
waited one week and then
picked up the phone and begged Them
to give you back.

IV.
I promise I didn’t mean
for all those miles to come between us
or to notice what I always forget
when I don’t forget you.

My dreams are better without you
but my sleep quivers always
at the sharp edge of dawn.
So I know, I know
tonight I will hold you in my hands
close my eyes
and swallow you down, down.
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Apr. 8th, 2011

Writer's Block: It's cold outside

I live in Minnesota, so it's funny to hear people in places like California complaining about the cold. What temperature is too cold for you?


Livejournal ate my poem about winter. :'(

Apr. 6th, 2011

Thanks, Adrienne

Tonight No Poetry Will Serve
by Adrienne Rich

Saw you walking barefoot
taking a long look
at the new moon's eyelid

later spread
sleep-fallen, naked in your dark hair
asleep but not oblivious
of the unslept unsleeping
elsewhere

Tonight I think
no poetry
will serve
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