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!

 

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!

Hypnotherapy

So. Remiss. In. Writing.

But anyway.

From the mid-August through the end of September, I did six weeks of hypnotherapy. I wanted to stop being overwhelmed by the desire to EAT ALL THE THINGS. It wasn’t just that I have a big appetite (though I do) or that I like fattening things (ditto)… it’s that there were times when it was like I was possessed by something that drove me to quickly eat things in large quantities even if it made me ill (like how for some reason cheap chocolate gives me a headache) and even if I was consciously thinking, “This isn’t good for me; I shouldn’t do it.”

And for the most part, it worked. From the very first session I have not raided the snack cabinet at work once, though it is filled with Reeses Peanut Butter Cups and my favorite crackers. (Oh, so good.) Not once, not even a nibble, when I used to eat half a cracker package in an afternoon. The other people who use the snack cabinet are mystified because there’s so much food in there, going so slowly. I have not told them why.

I am also better in general about hoovering up all available edibles. Sometimes it’s been difficult because I can’t decide if I’m hungry or if I just want to eat, and I have to sit and think about it for awhile. Sometimes that backfires and I get really hungry and it’s a little harder to eat mindfully. But it’s so very, very much better. I need to keep doing some self-hypnosis at home to keep it going.

It’s not like I’ve lost a bunch of weight, although I think I have a little — some things are just not so snug anymore. I’m certainly not gaining any, which had been a problem since the advent of the snack cabinet. I knew I couldn’t ask them not to have it anymore just because I couldn’t control myself, and anyway that obsessed feeling overtook me elsewhere sometimes as well.

I do feel more in control, like I can actually decide what and when to eat instead of being totally overcome by a passionate drive I was at the mercy of. This is a good thing.

I’m going back for three sessions on writer’s block. I grew up intending to be a writer. I told my mom stories before I could write and she’d transcribe them for me. I wrote and wrote and wrote throughout childhood, and then I got to high school and started reading really good writers, which gave me pause. I still wrote well enough to win an NCTE award (though they don’t seem to give the exact one I won anymore) but by the time I got to college I was utterly stymied. I could write papers, but my ability to write fiction was gone. I think the last story I finished was for a creative writing class during my brief stint at UC Davis. I was 19.

But as part of an ongoing life project, I’m going to do NaNoWriMo this year, and I’m going to finish, and I’m going to keep writing. Thankfully, though we live in a world that over-values the accomplishments of the young, writing is still something a person can do, and excel at, at any age. I have wasted half my life being intimidated by really good writers,  worrying if someone will get mad at me for what I write, or feeling over self-conscious as I write. I’m going to do it. And if the result of the hypnotherapy on my compulsive eating is any guide, it will really help here. I finish the last session on November 1, the first day of NaNoWriMo. Good omen!

 

Figuring Out Morning

So here I am in the Comfy Chair, contemplating soon going to bed, which in turn will all-too-soon segue into the dreaded morning.

I have a few issues with morning. In brief (well, sort of):

  • During the day, I build up defenses against the world. I’m an introvert, and shy, and have the odd anxiety attack. I need those defenses to get on BART every day and go to work and in general get adult stuff done. Depending on the situation, I use humor, or detachment, or going inward and daydreaming, or what have you. But when I first wake up in the morning, all those defenses have been stripped away, and emotionally/psychologically I’m like a naked baby. Hence an overwhelming desire to burrow back down under the covers.
  • Physiologically, I am simply not a morning person. My night-owl-hood has been stripped away to an extent; since I get up between 6 and 6:20 every weekday, I can’t stay up til 3 AM. But it’s a rare day when I am asleep much before midnight.
  • And I need between 9-12 hours of sleep to feel rested. You do the math there.
  • When I have a panic attack, it almost always starts around, say, 4 or 5 AM. It wakes me up, but only enough to mar the end of my sleep. It’s really frustrating, because in that state I neither want to get up or stay in bed.

So those are the main problems I have with morning. On the weekends, I can get enough sleep, but the other problems remain. Ditto on vacation — there were mornings in all three cities this year where part of me was yelling, “Self! You’re in Europe! Get up!” and the rest of me was mumbling, “Bwa? Wha? Pillow. Oh soft quilt. Geddup later… Zzzz.”

And to be fair, it was vacation and a little R&R didn’t come amiss; that’s why I spent the first day in Paris sleeping in and then slowly meandering to the Cluny museum. Still, it would be nice if I didn’t have to fight to get up even when technically I want to get up!

I have a programmable coffee maker in my room and need to start using it on weekends so there is a pleasant lure to getting up. I will still have to take the mug into the kitchen for sugar but the scent should help.

Otherwise, I must confess I’m at a bit of a loss. Once I am actually upright and moving, it’s okay, usually. It’s the becoming upright part that is difficult — it actually kind of hurts physically, though I find that hard to describe. You know when your heart is broken and you feel almost literally as if someone had ripped something out of the middle of your body? It hurts in a similar way to that.

I am kind of thinking this is one of those times when a version of “I feel much better now that I’ve given up hope” might come in handy. If I just accept that I am a natural night person constrained by circumstance to live against my body clock, and when I wake up at least cut out the part where I feel guilty about feeling bad, maybe it will be a gentler experience. Maybe?

I’m also thinking the yoga and meditation that is also on the list may help a little.

Otherwise, I guess it’s just waiting those 6107 days to retirement, when I can stay up til dawn and sleep til midday! (And no, I don’t expect my body clock to change. My mom was a night person who needed a lot of sleep until she died at 72; my aunt likewise until she died at 73. I expect the summer of 2029 to be one long sleeping-in extravaganza!)

But if anyone has any ideas, I am all ears.

Monday Night Already?

Hmph.

Tonight I had a friend over and I made Clotilde’s gorgonzola/pear/walnut madeleines (where gorgonzola = local bleu cheese). I was a little unsuccessful with the prettiness coming out of my madeleine molds, but they were very yummy and I would unhesitatingly recommend them to anyone for a fairly quick hors d’oeuvre. I did cheat and use oil-and-flour spray instead of buttering the molds, but there you go. With grapes to go with and some (frozen and thawed, not homemade) Belgian cream puffs to follow, it was a nice little mini-meal.

We also split a bottle of Côtes du Rhone and I am happily buzzing a little. This is good inasmuch as it’s anesthetizing me from another work week starting in twelve hours, but bad because I wanted to throw together a stew tonight for dinner tomorrow night (letting it sit overnight usually improves it). I am considering making it when I get home tomorrow but eating it Wednesday.

I really want to be the person who cooks for real on weeknights. I know working mothers who do it, so you’d think a single woman could pull it off. On the other hand, having someone to cook for helps. I need to prioritize some real cooking, though, even if it’s just on weekends and I have salads and pasta during the week.

Relatedly, I made a list of Things to Work On When I Get Home when I was in the taxi between de Gaulle and my hotel. To wit:

Figure out morning (by which I meant, how to not have anxiety in the mornings and how to get out of bed at a reasonable hour when work is not an outside force making me do so)

Yoga (as in — take another class? start doing it seriously at home?)

Writing

Meditation

French

Cooking

Budget

Nails (meaning, do something with them so they do not break and peel down to the quick constantly, which both looks and feels like hell)

And an end note: Remember your vacation fatigue. Work to make that easier next time. (ie, get into better shape!)

This last week, with jet lag/heat wave and a couple of other things, was not conducive to dealing with any of this, but I must begin to do so this coming week. In fact, I am going to try to at least brainstorm/write something on each topic on a separate days this week.

So tomorrow will be trying to figure out what to do with the mornings. God, if anyone has any suggestions about this, it would be great. So many things are suggestions of what to do once you’re up that will make morning nicer. For me, it’s the actual getting self out of bed that’s the issue. Once that’s done, I’m usually pretty okay! I’d rather go to back to bed, but once I get moving I can usually keep moving relatively well.

Maybe I will have a cup of coffee and at least set up mise en place for tossing together the stew tomorrow (Nigella Lawson’s coq au Riesling, minus the ham).

 

Luxurious Weekend

Although I sprained my right index finger cracking my knuckles, so there’s a bit of discomfort and awkwardness about, too.

I’m on the balcony wearing my new cheap sunhat (it fits my head!!) in the sunshine. Today is an at-home day, and since it’s functionally a Friday, leaving me with two days to myself following, that’s cool.

I have a new laptop, a MacbookPro, and am still getting used to it. Things that have become second nature in my twenty years of owning PCs no longer work, so it’s a learning curve. And because of my gimpy finger, setting up the printer may be a challenge later on. (Also, I need to get paper.) I was defeated by the Time Capsule backup  thingie, because I only want to use it as an external hard drive, not a router, and my brain seems unable to parse the instructions in order to make that work. I will either try again or wait til I can pay my niece to do it. I fear I may turn into one of those older people who freak out and get utterly confused by technology, but I figure as long as I can use it correctly, it’s okay if I get someone else to do the nitty-gritty stuff if I can.

The driveway is finished! I no longer have to go round and round the block looking for parking, or carry heavy packages a couple of blocks home. I went and got my tree-filthy car washed last night in celebration. She is pretty again now.

The last couple of lazy evenings, I read this book. I wasn’t sure how I’d like it but it was very cute, there was a lot of catitude, and the drawings and paintings were quite lovely.

I’ve also started some casual packing, of things I either have only for travel or won’t need in the next ten days or so. I’m thinking my suitcase is too big, but at least it’s on wheels. And it’s not so much that I take so much stuff as that I want room to bring things back. Specifically, I am a inveterate Buyer of the Catalog to the Exhibit or Museum. Those suckers get bulky en masse. And in Paris I will of course hit Fnac, and no doubt come home with some books from there. No, I haven’t read all the ones from last year — I buy books beyond my current level of French reading comprehension because it’s not every day I’m in France — but that’s beside the point!

So yeah. Suitcase space is key.

And speaking of, this bag in eggplant is, I think, going to be my plane purse. It was recommended to me initially as a knitting bag (and see where I got it), but it will also make a great purse to have by my side for eleven long hours. I am eager to try the premium economy class for the first and probably only time, but it’s still going to be eleven hours on a plane! Followed by four at DeGaulle and then another ninety minutes or so to Amsterdam. I have a feeling I will be very happy to see my bed that evening in the Netherlands!

My only concessions to effort today are going to be making some chicken chili for dinner and doing laundry. Otherwise, I aim for slugdom. So far I’m meeting my goals!

LinkedIn Memory Lane

This morning I got a LinkedIn request from an old friend, which led to me flicking through the people they thought I might know. That was a trip — I have people from college, who are doing all sorts of things all over the world; people from my time in publishing who are still working in that world; people from my time at Excite who are doing all sorts of entrepreneurial and Internet-based things or, in one case, working for the State Department in Jerusalem; and people from my time at The Company of Doom (no link; what are you, crazy?) who are either still there or still working, mostly, in benefits administration. Talk about a wide-ranging cast of characters.

Reading some of them is sort of like reading an expanded version of the class notes from my alumnae mag. It makes me veer between inspired and daunted, because in the former case, there are so many Mills alums who do things like win fellowships and end up living in Italy permanently, or living on a ranch and writing, or what have you. (Of course, if you’re living in your hometown and working as a cashier or a secretary or an office manager, you’re less likely to write in about your adventures.) I used to joke that there was a gene for that sort of thing that was missing from my DNA — I started thinking that when a high school friend, who came from a similar socioeconomic background to mine, went to Sweden our junior year, then went to Cornell, where she was somehow able to afford to join a sorority. My reaction was pretty much, “Wha –? How’d she do that?”

In the LinkedIn case I think it’s the Chutzpah Gene, or something similar. I was reading the self-descriptions of a couple of my former Excite bosses and though I think that I would be bored senseless by a lot of  what they do (anything that could ever be covered in an MBA course is soporific to me), I am amazed at their energy, guts, and confidence. How else can you develop, lead, and create in that arena  without a lot of confidence? It’s one thing to do it at an accounting firm, where the parameters are well defined, but in a creative milieu it takes another animal altogether.

Then there is another of my former Excite bosses, who is …  a librarian! GO HIM! I actually laughed in joy when I saw that.

The whole review made me thoughtful about my career path, if you can call it that. It certainly didn’t take any sort of predictable path! And while I suppose I could feel bad that I didn’t end up living in Italy* or on a ranch or as an executive at a cool company, I’m really quite happy being a civil servant. It’s much less fraught with anxiety than either Silicon Valley or the Company of Doom, it pays well, and I go home at the end of the day and don’t spend the evening worrying about it. That’s actually priceless.

*Okay, yeah, the living in Italy people still make me sad.