Tag: Personality

24Sep

Love’s Interest

I encountered my first personal miracle on a crystalline December afternoon nearly five years ago. It snuck like whispered lightning into the suitcase-sized booth at Coney Island Hot Dogs where I was sitting with my boyfriend of one month, our knees kissing quietly under the table. We had reached the silent place in conversations where eyes start filling in the unsaid words, and I was thinking despite my best intentions…

Dating was not new territory for me, even though only one of my previous boyfriends could stomach the meager commitment of being called such, and then I was the one saying, “Oh, let’s not use labels.” In fact, the dating mantra was simple: Girlfriends are to be touched and not heard. I eventually clued into the fact that the guys in my life so far had been… well, something impolite to say (hint: starts with “jack” and ends with “asses”), and decided to become a nun.

Then I met Dan. Technically, we met the first day of Stupid English when he started whispering to me without realizing I was the tutor… and I oh-so-graciously shushed him. But I blocked don’t remember that particular incident. I do remember him coming over to see my roommate, me telling him she wasn’t in, and us suddenly realizing we had been talking for three hours. And then realizing we still had more to say.

I suppose that a relationship between two people who are preemptively opposed to the idea can only start as a series of small accidents, like falling deep into a conversation without realizing how. Like ending up on a movie date after all your other friends back out. Like listening to your own thoughts grown from a different soul. Oh, we convinced ourselves that we weren’t attracted, that our conversations were like Scotch tape that could be pulled off in an instant. Even after the awkwardness of knowing set in, we played it off as the stress of school.

After our third date (thought I was kidding about the denial factor?) and two solid hours of whispering, Dan finally admitted–as much to himself as to me–that he was falling for me. You would think after three dates, I would have come to the same conclusion, but my ego was clinging tenaciously to the idea that I. did. not. like. him. Even though it was already 3 a.m., I stayed up with my journal, trying to untangle a barrage of sticky emotions from the crevices in my brain. However, all I could come up with were two words: “It’s him.” I wrote them on a sticky-note and then threw the sticky-note away.

A week later, after I decided from a purely-intellectual standpoint to “officialize” our relationship, I very intellectually started freaking out. Nothing in my entire life has ever scared me as profoundly as holding Dan’s hand for the first time. I still don’t know why. After all, I adored our times together–how he challenged me, how he encouraged me, how he made me laugh. He emanated the kind of unassuming strength that I could lay the fragile bits of my heart open on. Plus, he had the cutest butt I’d ever ogled seen.

I guess I fell squarely within the cliché of women scared senseless by the prospect of true love. I wanted to keep emotion out of the picture. I wanted the safety of distance. I wanted desperately to break up before our hearts had a chance to intertwine. I knew I was hinging each day on irrationality, and I’m sure that Dan knew it too, but his endless patience provided just enough of a tether to keep my irrational, confused, terrified heart from tearing away.

So, despite my efforts to remain unattached, I wound up in a tiny Maryland town for Christmas break, meeting The Parents, putting up Christmas decorations, and walking through the snow with my fingers contentedly tangled in Dan’s. And, of course, sitting in a tiny restaurant booth trying to process the short history of our relationship. I looked up from my thoughts, straight into Dan’s smiling eyes…

…and in that instant, I fell in love.

Old Couply Pictures

One month later, I was dizzy from the sparkling significance of a new diamond ring. Six months after that, I was falling asleep curled in my new husband’s arms. And 4-1/2 years after that, I’m missing him ridiculously after only a few days apart. Of course we don’t always feel romantic–sometimes, we don’t even feel much like friends–and it’s easy to let familiarity dull our appreciation for each other. But love has a knack for expanding the treasures of memory, like money temporarily forgotten in a bank, and every time I revisit them, I realize I am richer than I ever thought.

30Aug

All That Time

So you don’t currently have a job; what do you do with all that time?

8:00a – Wake up. Wonder why I feel like a poorly-engineered hybrid between a whale and overcooked spaghetti. Wonder also why my internal organs feel as though they’ve been through a 40-round boxing match. Have the vague sense that I used to have abdominal muscles, but can’t quite remember where I put them.

8:03a – Remember I’m 7 months pregnant. Ah.

8:15a – Set table, pour juice, get out vitamins, cut bananas for cereal, gather napkins from afar… and realize husband and daughter have already finished breakfast. Feel horridly motherish.

8:45a – 10:25a – Clean up from breakfast, sweep house, primp, re-sweep house after Natalie procures fresh dirt from her secret stockpile, run two loads of laundry, water flowers, sing forty-five verses of “Old MacDonald” (including the ever-popular elephant and kangaroo variations), dress Natalie, wipe Natalie’s nose 5,142 times (how did she manage to catch a cold in August?), clean Natalie’s room, wipe Natalie’s nose another 4,916 times, and sing on demand “the Elmo song,” “the Ernie song,” “the Bert song,” “the Barney song,” “the tomato song,” and “the broccoli song” (guess how many of those I actually know?).*

10:26a – 11:45a – “Mommy, you want to read a story?” Translation: “Mommy, I want you to read me every story we own, and then some more, until your vocal chords start making horrible grating noises. And then just one more, pleeeeeeease?”

11:46a – 12:35p – Let MP3 player take over Sesame Street Sing-along duties. Channel my inner Martha and prepare an unrecognizable form of chicken for lunch, using things like capers and fresh rosemary from my little balcony garden. Feel very impressive and Ratatouille.

12:36p – Wonder why I’m melting into puddles of sweat, steaming like a teakettle, and then evaporating when such pleasant, mild breezes are blowing through the windows. Wonder also why I find myself on the brink of starvation just half an hour before lunch. Fight the urge to consume a pre-lunch snack of everything in our cupboards. Conclude death is imminent.

12:40p – Remember I’m 7 months pregnant. Right.

12:45p – Put deliciously clean, sunshine-scented sheets on beds. Fight the overwhelming urge to nap for an hour or four (see above).

1:02p – Suddenly realize gourmet chicken contraption has been in oven for… a while. Discover it burnt, of course. On cue, polenta explodes all over stove and grievously injures my finger. Feel not so much like Martha Stewart, more like Mr. Bean.

1:15p – Welcome husband home for “Blackened Chicken Medley” and “Firecracker Polenta.” Enjoy lunch despite itself. Bravely conquer dishes despite wounded finger, and feel a little like William Wallace.

2:15p – Finally collapse onto lovely clean sheets to nap.

2:45p – Can’t.

2:50p – Dan, getting ready to go back to work, invites me to go with him to the electronics store tonight. Fondly reminisce about last night’s trip to the electronics store in which I inadvertently set off the store alarm and, in my consternation over our bus being 15 minutes late, left our bag at the bus stop, giving Dan the unique opportunity to run frantically through town in the dark to rescue our new telephone, which turned out not to be in its box in the first place. I opt to stay home.

3:00p – Settle onto couch with laptop and aspirations of grandeur. Nothing will stop me from writing this afternoon!

3:01p – Natalie wakes up crying and rubbing her head. Soothe, kiss, and put her back to sleep. Wonder mildly if she could have head lice.

3:10p – Wish I knew what lice looked like. Resist impulse to reawake Natalie and search every pore on her scalp.

3:14p – Start to feel terrified of couch, bed, own hair, and every other soft substance in our house. Wonder where one goes to buy industrial-strength gasoline in this town.

3:18p – Reflect that if bugs are found occupying heads of anyone in a 20-mile radius, I will surely die.

3:19 – 3:26p – Shudder violently.

3:27p – Tired, tired, tired from all this worrying. Doze off despite my newfound phobia of pillows. Firmly resolve to be up by 4:00. I will write this afternoon!

4:00p – Press snooze.

5:15p – Wake up. Stare at ceiling during that buffer zone between waking up and getting up in which I closely resemble the undead.

5:20p – Get up, though still a zombie. Snack: brains. I mean, popcorn.

5:30p – And coffee yogurt, because I’m adventurous like that. (And also because, despite the widely-known fact that coffee and yogurt should never mix, it’s spectacularly yummy.)

5:35p – And wafers, which are basically crisped air with vanilla creme filling, yet snacks nonetheless.

5:40p – Natalie: “Mommy, my head hurts!” (Rub, rub, rub.) Me: “Why does your head hurt?” Natalie, shrugging: “I don’t know anymore.” Call husband to see if the internet knows whether Natalie has lice or not.

5:55p – The internet isn’t sure but can tell me how to save 15% or more on my car insurance. So helpful.

6:10p – Give Natalie shampoo of the century. Remind her 46 times to stop drinking the bathwater (a favorite pastime of hers since her very first bath).

6:40p – Peel off her scalp and dissect it with the finest-toothed comb in modern history. Find nothing growing on it but hair. Rejoice!

6:50p – Wonder why else Natalie’s head would hurt. Can only think of leprosy. Feel slightly like House, M.D.

6:55p – Natalie starts chanting, “PLAYGROUND! PLAYGROUND! PLAYGROUND!” Am amazed that she remembers my promise of a trip to the playground from 9 hours ago, while I cannot seem to remember why my own stomach looks like a watermelon. Revisit fears that other moms will criticize, ostracize, and possibly throw gravel at me for not speaking perfect Italian.

7:00p – Look at Natalie’s bright, expectant little face, suck up my fears, and walk with her to playground. Natalie surveys the 803 other children running amok around all the exciting equipment and opts instead to sit in a pile of gravel already occupied by a little girl, her mother, and a plastic shovel (“I help play!”). Ask the mother if it is OK for us to join them, and she briefly says yes without looking up. Awkward silence ensues. Feel like a trespasser. Quite certain of being prosecuted.

7:15p – Hear mother speaking to daughter in… well, not-Italian (something closer to a coughing fit actually). Realize that I might not be the only foreigner in Italy. Realize that I might not be the only woman at the playground afraid of talking. Realize I’ve been wretchedly pathetic.

7:20p – 8:00p – Start a conversation with the other mother. Help Natalie make a new friend. Relax. Feel like Wonder Woman.

8:01p – Dan returns from non-disastrous (i.e. – wifeless) trip to electronics store, and we settle into our evening together. Am happy to be.

10Aug

The Cowardly Lion Learns Success

I’ve known for months that once I moved to a new country and had the daily shopping responsibilities all to myself, I would quickly need to become a Brave Woman. Now that I’m here, I feel instantly disqualified for two reasons:
1. Brave Women do not lie in bed in the morning wondering if they can push the snooze button just 599 more times.
2. Brave Women are not afraid of the grocery store.

I feel like I ordered a side order of change, but when I wasn’t looking, someone added a combo meal with extra fries and super-sized the whole shebang. Now, I’m enveloped by a newness that I expected only in a fuzzy, theoretical kind of way.

It’s harder than anything to be patient with myself, a life-long perfectionist thrust into surroundings where trial-and-error is the only option. However, I’m slowly learning the vital lesson of how to appreciate each day by its small successes:
Drying three loads of laundry on a clothesline…
Ordering lunch meat at the deli next door…
Lighting a gas stove without horrendously burning myself, passing out from the fumes, or destroying more than two matches…
Chatting for five minutes with another mom at the park…
Recognizing our bus stop…
Learning how to say “Don’t throw the gravel!” like a good Italian mamma…

I wish I could write more about the whole experience, but time seems to be slipping away in erratic bursts. These first days have managed to be ridiculously short and impossibly long at the same time, leaving me with twenty-four misshapen hours to navigate each time. Plus, the combination of jet lag and internet withdrawal has me in a very woozy state of being.

Now, to get Natalie out of bed (where she put herself, by the way… What mother has to forbid her two-year-old from napping before lunch?) and to sweep up the inch of high-quality Italian dust that magically appears on our floor every hour, on the hour. Another [completely, utterly, and exhaustively] new day is underway!

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