Lukewarm

Although I’ve thrown my hands up about the whole religion issue, there are several Bible verses that stick with me. One of them I use when I am borrowing trouble and worrying about what will happen tomorrow and the next day and the next. One is the second half of Matthew 6:34 in the KJV rendering: Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

And then there’s Revelation 3:15-16: I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

I feel so lukewarm. And by that I don’t mean that I am apathetic (although lately I’ve been having spates of apathy). I mean that in so many ways I have completely competing desires, and I find myself flailing in the middle.

  • Ethically, I would far prefer to be a vegetarian. But I don’t find a vegetarian diet satisfying; it’s much harder to plan meals; and then there’s chicken, which I love love love. My wishy-washy solution to this is to eat only chicken and, very rarely, some fish. The fact that I don’t eat mammals (or ducks) is probably not a lot of comfort to chickenkind.
  • About that not eating mammals. I do wear/carry leather. I guess at least the animals’ sacrifices are much more long-lasting than a meal, but OTOH, do I need to have a leather purse? Shoes are harder — you can’t find many comfy, breathable, decent-looking non-leather shoes in 10WW. Still.
  • I wish with my whole heart I’d been born and raised in Europe — the UK or France for preference, but anywhere in the EU really.  I can’t read accounts of people who get to move there (unless this is pre-WWII stuff), because it breaks my heart in pieces. I tried to move once and failed miserably and I became discouraged. That was 24 years ago. Now I am firmly ensconced here, with a secure job and a house and animals, and if someone handed me an EU passport tomorrow I would be paralyzed with fear and might not even go. This is my biggest “I want two mutually exclusive things” issue.
  • For a long time, that’s where I was with religion — part of me wanted to be a pious Roman Catholic or Orthodox Christian, while the rest of me was an extremely liberal feminist. At least I’ve finally given up that struggle.
  • I struggle between believing in Fat Acceptance and saying, “I’m me; get off my back” and applauding people who embrace their lives and bodies…and wishing I weighed 130 pounds. The last time I weighed 130 pounds I was ten. It’s never going to happen.

Of course I have normal conflicts like “I wish I were a morning person so I could get up, have coffee and breakfast before I leave instead of rolling out of bed 12 minutes before I’m in the car,” “I really should get up off the couch, off the computer, and do something around here,” and “I should go to the farmer’s market and get locally grown, cheaper stuff, but the time window for that is so small and the grocery store is open until 11 PM.” But that’s not the same thing, because I don’t really want to get up early, do chores around the house, or…well, maybe the farmer’s market one works.

I’m really not sure what to do when I want two completely mutually exclusive things, especially when both choices are equally attainable. With the Europe thing, I should probably just learn to live with staying in the United States, since one choice is my current reality and the other is seriously difficult to get (even if I could get over my paralysis).

Somehow I think I thought by the time I was this age I’d have more things figured out. My bedroom seems like an apt metaphor for this — when I was growing up, parents’ bedrooms looked like something out of a hotel or, at least, a motel. Neatly made bed, a dresser or two, nothing strewn about, only actual tasteful framed stuff on the walls. My room? I never make my bed, ever — never have. My dresser has random stuff dotting it. My nightstand is piled with books, and the floor next to my bed has more books, whatever purse I’m carrying, and a laundry basket on it. Often the rocker has clothes tossed over it. I do have only framed art on the walls, but one corner has no art on the walls, a big mirror propped against the wall, a chair, a foot pedaler, and a big floor fan. It looks like the room of a twentysomething.

Yeah. It’s an apt metaphor. Now if only I moved and looked like I was still in my twenties!

 

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Get Your Pre-Monday Right Here

Ye gods and little fishes, it’s Sunday night again.

My current job assignment has sent me to the doctor twice in four months for stress-and-anxiety-related stuff. Tomorrow I have to go for something else, and I am so miserable with work that there is an awful voice inside half-wishing it were something serious because then I might get a break. How terrible is that?!

I am looking for ways to have some energy in the evenings, so that I don’t end up in bed at 7:45 after being gone from 6:15 to 6:15. So far I’ve come up with: Have a cool shower as soon as I’ve fed the cats, to invigorate me and help me stay vertical; have a cup of espresso; do some gentle yoga. I know exercise is supposed to be good but the walking I have recently incorporated into my days has actually made me more exhausted at night (I know that’s just short-term adjustment). Having said that, when I go abroad I walk everywhere and it wears me out, so I need to do more of it here in order to be in some semblance of shape then!

Still…this is one hellish rotation for this here introvert with general anxiety!

Today has been a day of knitting, reading, a lot of black coffee, and The Day I Saw Your Heart. Is it just me, or does Mélanie Laurent look like a cross between Scarlett Johanssen and a young Rosanna Arquette? It was a good movie, and I caught quite a bit of the language, which makes me happy, but a bit wrenching as well. Nonetheless it was good to spend ninety minutes in France this afternoon.
And now I think I am going to be a totally irresponsible person and get fast food for dinner. If I were in France I might go to the local brasserie — like the one at Place de la Nation where I had my last lunch in Paris in 2012, the yummy Alsatian butter noodles and chicken — but since I’m not, and since I have not got cooking mojo today, I’m defaulting to lowest common denominator here.

Next Year in Budapest

…and Vienna, and of course Paris.

Finally I can see my way clear to getting on an international flight. Whew. April 2015, I am outta here for three weeks. First call will be Budpest for four days, then a train to Vienna for a four-day stop, and then on to France for the remainder. I know, I know. On the one hand, I think I should explore other places. On the other hand — France!

Having said that, I’m going to take some pages from Ina Caro’s From Paris to the Past, and get out of the city at least a few times. If I’m going to be there for about ten days, I have time!

Until then, I have to attempt to save my vacation time, which is difficult, given my hellish current work assignment, which is wreaking havoc on both my mental and physical health; and also my money, which is difficult because what with the crappy work situation, retail therapy beckons. But I have to simply bear down, grit my teeth, and do it.

 

 

 

 

Space (the Elbow Room Kind)

I was talking with a friend of mine recently. He’s as much of an italophile as I am a francophile; he hopes to retire to Italy one day. (I think he has a better chance of doing it than I do of retiring to France, but we shall see.) To make ourselves feel better, we made a list of things we actually prefer about the United States, since we can both go on all day long about what we prefer about Europe in general and our favorite countries in particular.

The biggest thing, no pun intended, was space. He and his partner have a big house and I have a pretty darn big condo and while homes of these sizes do, indeed, exist in Europe, they’d be way, way, way, way out of our price range, or possibly very far into the countryside (or both).

Tonight I was watching Rachel Khoo’s Little Paris Kitchen show (I bought the cookbook on my Powell’s jaunt last June). I am amazed by what people in tiny kitchens can do —  I saw it in action in 2012 at my friend S’ place in Paris as well. I was just looking at her web site, and she says her entire apartment is 21 square meters. That’s 226 square feet. My condo is 1752 square feet, or almost 163 square meters.

So, yeah. Space.

Having said that, I have always had a secret dream of paring everything down and living in a totally efficient and cozy tiny place. My problem would be my books, although again my friend S squeezes tons of books into every corner of her Parisian apartment, so maybe I’d just have to be creative!

Besides the fact that it’s, well, in Paris, I’m also envying her kitchen tile, seen in the photo here. I am considering whether I could do something like that under my cabinets. Another thing to add to my maybe-to-do list!

Caturday

Yesterday was a lovely, perfect day. I woke up amazingly early for me — 8.45 — and spent the day reading (I finished Autoportrait, about which more another time), putting Post-Its in my new Christmas-gift cookbooks (What Katie Ate, Smitten Kitchen, and Homemade Winter), knitting, blocking finished knitting, watching a little tv, drinking tea, and watching my housemates be this relaxed:

 

comfy alexander

I also had some assistance with the blocking:

 

feline blocking assistance

It was pretty much my ideal day.

Square Peg

…which is always the first thing I think of when I think of Sarah Jessica Parker.

And it doesn’t exactly describe me, but I’ve been thinking about this sort of thing lately. I remember as a teenager reading magazines and I’d stress over them trying to pigeonhole their readership into things like athletic (no); studious (yes); romantic (sure); and various other slots. I never fit into any of them and it drove me nuts. I was insufficiently sophisticated to say screw it, these don’t apply to me.

That kind of thing segued into my “almost, but not quite” era. I went to a great women’s college — but unlike almost every other student there at the time, I didn’t live on campus. Unlike almost all the other commuting students, I lived with my parents.

Later I worked in Silicon Valley during the dot-com bubble — but I was paid less than anyone save the receptionist (maybe); I was certainly not buying houses or sports cars, and though I was married at the time, I was not honeymooning in Italy or sporting a big ring. Boy, did I not fit in there. (When we did buy a car — the cheapest model Corolla — people asked me “What does your husband drive?” Uh…the cheapest model Corolla. That Corolla.)

These days, it’s morphed again. I think about how my pretty traditional theological views clash with my very liberal politics; my deep-rootedness in the United States clashes with my visceral, painfully passionate desire to live in France, Belgium, or the UK; my loneliness clashes with my love of solitude; my firebrand feminism with my longing to be housewife.

To turn some of this tension to good account, I’m using this theme for my NaNoWriMo project. While I wish I could just freaking wholeheartedly commit to something already, I know I’m not the only one who is ambivalent about things, even important things. It’s at least something that gets under my skin, so I won’t be at a total loss on November 1. Which is Friday. Oy!

This Right Here

Is why it breaks my heart I can’t live in Europe.

I feel about this roughly the same way an infertile couple who desperately wants children feels when they see pregnant women. Yes, I know there are Americans who live in Europe, and even Americans who live in Europe who aren’t married to Europeans. But I never managed to find a way to do it, and now I’m a homeowner with a secure job here in the US and my only hope is retiring there, since I won’t need to work by then.

And my current life is not being made to seem more attractive by the news in the following post.

 

Change

I really prefer most change to come all at once, all of a piece. If I walk out of a room that is white, for instance, and when I walk back in later it’s yellow, then I notice and appreciate the change, and something shifts. If, as is the current case with my kitchen, the room is being painted in slow and piecemeal fashion, the change is too gradual to prompt that shift of feeling. Each yellow bit gets slowly incorporated into The House as I Know It, and when the last stroke is painted the kitchen will only be a little yellower than the day before.

It’s akin to how you can chop off your hair and go from Lady Godiva to pixie overnight — but not the reverse.

(She says, scrutinizing her mid-length curls.)

On the other hand, something like exercise should probably be snuck in stealthily, added in droplets, to one’s routine so one doesn’t notice enough to flee the scene prematurely.

And this is the sort of thing I think about when I should be doing something else.

Done. Not shown: anteroom to the left, also done.

Done. Not shown: anteroom to the left, also done.

 

Not done.

Not done.

 

Maybe never done.

Maybe never done.

 

 

Parisian Transit Geekery

Recently I was asked to describe a place where I feel content, happy, peaceful. Being the weirdo that I am, I said:

Riding Line 2 of the Paris metro from the terminus at Nation. I have often made this journey when I am in Paris and want to sit down in the A/C, daydream, and people-watch. I go to the terminus so I can get one of the single seats on a waiting empty train. I love the hot-metal-and-good-perfume scent of the metro; I love the deep warning sound for the closing doors; I love the open windows on non-air-conditioned trains. I sit and enjoy a flood of relief up from my feet; my muscles relax and my always-overheated self cools down. The rocking of the train and the rumbling tranquilizes me. (I almost fell asleep once — that never happens in public.) Pulling into each station I have a feeling of happiness and excitement as each name is announced over the PA.  The eastern stations on Line 2, particularly, are fraught with history and there is always the sense that adventure could await outside. (Yes, I know some of Line 2’s neighborhoods aren’t the best; I stayed in one. It was fine.) Then the sound goes, the doors close, and the train rumbles off into the dark tunnel, while I settle back in my seat, comfortable and content, joyful to be back in Paris and happily speeding under its streets.

This is perhaps not what the person who asked was quite expecting.

Rush hour, line 2, September 28, 2013

Rush hour, line 2, September 28, 2012

Taken from my single seat on the left, across from a girl about ten years old, who solemnly pulled out a book and read.

Must. Get. Back. To. Paris. Next. Year.

ETA: “I have often… when I’m in Paris” probably sounds snotty, and/or like I’m there every season or something. I wish. But although I have not been there that often, I have done this ride more than once on the last two trips. It’s a great way to chill out for awhile, literally and figuratively, and all for one metro ticket. Also — and this not just on Line 2 — it’s cool to hear how complicated station names are pronounced, like my very favorite, Barbès-Rochechouart.

Whirlwind to LA

Two weeks before I went to PDX to binge on books, I went to LA to stay with a friend from college. I needed to get out of town, out of the house, out of my rut and routine.

It was awesome (pics to follow tomorrow, most likely). I flew from SFO to Burbank early Saturday morning. A picked me up and we dropped my stuff off at her lovely book-and-art-filled home. Then we went to have brunch, because I’d been up for way too many hours without breakfast, after which we went to the Getty Center. It was hot outside and lovely inside; we wandered and then had dinner at the cafe. That night, we went to the Farmer’s Market for a decadent dessert; I want to go back during the day when more of the shops are open, but the store filled with French items was open and I got the Opinel knife I’d been wanting. Then we wandered around The Grove, which is essentially a small Disneyland for adults (or shoppers of most any age).

After going back to her house and talking for awhile, we hit the sack, and got up the next day to go to the Getty Villa, which was having an exhibition of Greek art in Sicily. First, we stopped at A’s Beverly Hills office so I could print my boarding pass, which engendered two feelings in me: Wow, that I should have a friend who has a great job in a place like this and Wow, my office is absolutely nothing whatsoever like this.

After the museum and lunch, we got my stuff and she dropped me off at the airport early, as she had a work event to attend that night. Burbank is such a tiny airport that from the time I presented my ID and ticket to the first TSA guy to the time I was putting my shoes back on on the other side, no one but me went through security. Once through, there was a corner turned into a kind of kiosk for aspirin and magazines and the like; a bathroom; a Peets; and a bar. That was all. I read and had iced tea and sat and mused.

Though I was very happy to go to the museums and to go back down to LA for the first time in over ten years, I went mostly to get away in the psychological/emotional sense. It was perfect for that.

A is about as different from me as you can get in many ways — all of them good. She’s a happy extrovert — she truly likes people in general although she is very opinionated and probably even more liberal than I am.  She does not suffer fools but she is gracious and friendly and as long as the fool is not evil she doesn’t get too bent out of shape. She is not prone to serious depression. She’s a lawyer, though she  works in the entertainment industry not practicing law; she is also the nicest lawyer I’ve ever met and possibly the most unpretentious one in the state of California. (I do have other lawyer friends who are great people, but she’s just completely the antithesis of what you’d think “attorney in LA” would be like.) Whereas I have kneejerk “throw up my boundaries/defenses” reactions, she has “oh, this person may be interesting” reactions. She probably doesn’t get irritated when people in an empty bathroom choose the stall next to hers like I do. (I’ve been known to sigh semi-audibly, “Really? With all these stalls open?”) She chatted up one of the Villa security guards who told us stories about how J. Paul is buried on the property and one of his wives comes and leaves flowers on his grave every year. Had I been alone I’d have just smiled at the guy and walked on. That sort of thing. She’s stayed in touch with a huge number of people we went to college with — close touch, so she will travel across the country to a birthday party or other event to see some of them, and is privy to the everyday workings of their lives, rather than just their Facebook statuses. I have not done that. I am FB friends with several Mills alumnae, but A is the first one I’ve seen in many years. And I live one freeway exit from Mills.

Damn, there was another point I wanted to make, but the heat/carpool commuting during the BART strike/getting to work at 6:30 AM/etc. has apparently taken its toll and it’s completely slipped my mind.

Anyway, being with her made a certain problem that has been nagging me, depressing me, and making me cry, sort of dissolve away, at least for the weekend. Since she’s from my college past, it was also a reminder of a happy time when I was young and full of potential — and when I was surrounded by women who were passionate about ideas and full of confidence. We hadn’t been beaten down yet, and A still isn’t. Since I’ve been home I’ve tried to channel my inner A sometimes, and while it takes effort on my curmudgeonly, introverted, homebody bookworm part, it often turns out well. It was definitely good medicine for a tired spirit, in any case! I will never be quite like her, but copying some of her happy traits can only be a good thing.