Blog Archives

Flexing the Brain Muscle

Today I got off work around 2:30 in the afternoon for my break between shifts. As I waited at the bar for my cash out, I struck up a conversation with a guy sitting there. We ended up chatting for a half an hour about politics and religion (yes, in a bar!) — but not the way you think.

You see, we spent a half an hour discussing the ways people approach these things through their own respective biases. Our conversation rarely showed any red or blue, crosses or crescents, or any other indication of our own views. We discussed the way people think about politics based on their own religions. How the inherent irony in works like The Terminator and my current read Robopocalypse manifests itself — like how the technology we have all come to rely on so fully eventually turns against us and thinks for itself.

We discussed books, and how his favorite six-book collection of Winston Churchill’s recollections of the Second World War is loved in part because of the coffee stains on some of the pages. We discussed quantum physics and string theory and how physicists sometimes consult philosophers as they reach their arms toward the upper echelons of the universe’s mysteries.

I realized something profound as I left my restaurant to spend my couple hours at Starbucks blogging and reading.

I miss learning. I miss my brain.

I miss learning languages and struggling to meet each threshold of understanding. I miss conversations like the one I had today, where two or more minds just talk about life and history and science and evolution and faith and religion and all those subjects. I miss the stimulation of being surrounded by others who push my mind in new directions, who force me to analyze and evaluate instead of regurgitate and accept.

I don’t have any funny quips or bits of wisdom to offer. Only a yearning to find that kind of camaraderie again. I have so many interests, from microbiology to art to String Theory to philosophy. Language. Not just my own.

As I walked in the discordant warm December rain, I found my life wanting. I love my husband. I love our home. But I think if you were to ask him, he’d say something is missing as well. Neither of our careers are where we want them right now, and though I can usually get through a day or a week or a month chugging away paying my dues, today reared its head to show me that change is coming soon, and soon indeed.

This isn’t to say I’m foretelling my imminent success as an urban fantasist. This is not even to say I’m foretelling my imminent piddling attempt at urban fantasy. What I am saying is that no matter what my writing career holds in terms of the c-word (career), something must change soon.

Whether it means I go back to university and hire a Caterpillar to dig me into another mountain of debt to get my Ph.D or start building a freelance career in non-fiction isn’t the issue. One of those things will probably happen.

About the future I know three things:

1. I want to move to Scotland and raise a family with my husband.

2. I will write no matter what I do to pay the bills.

3. If I am to have a long-term career, it must be an intellectually stimulating one.

Those are evident in my every day life. While I have the occasional enlightening moment with my tables as I wait on them, it doesn’t change the fact that Sunday when a guest was looking for me to order dessert, she couldn’t so much as describe me by my fiery red hair. To most of the people I serve on a daily basis, I am faceless. Nameless as soon as they walk out the door. No amount of cooing over their babies will change that for many of them. As much as I love the regulars who do treat me like a worthwhile person, I know this isn’t my place forever.

And so I find myself today contemplating the future and what it might hold.  I know I’m getting close to something big, but I feel that it lies just around the bend in the mountainside. It’s coming, and I don’t know what it is.

If I were to be run off the road on the way home, what would I regret?

I would feel like I was being a bit wasted where I am. I can do more than waiting tables, I know I can. This is not to be down on people who do this for a living — I chose this job. It didn’t choose me. There are aspects I enjoy, but ultimately this job does not challenge me.

I would feel like I got stuck somewhere that wasn’t the end goal. I would wonder why I didn’t try just a little bit harder to do what I want to do with this life.

Could I die today and be content? No. I couldn’t. There would be that something missing.

In one area of my life I am fulfilled, and that is love. I could not ask for a better family, a better husband, or better and truer friends than the ones I have. In this one area, I know that I am content.

But the others need some work.

I will close with a quote from one of my all-time favorite authors, a man who helped me discover epic fantasy and showed me that it doesn’t have to be high prose full of doom and gloom — that you could build a fantastical world full of humor and laughter and real people who eat and sometimes discuss bathroom breaks. David Eddings passed away two and a half years ago, shamefully outside my notice. His passing did not make headlines that reached my eyes. I thought of him just the other day and wondered how he was getting on. The question got answered much by accident.

This man will not be forgotten, and I will ensure that his words endure, if only in a tiny library owned by a redhead writer.

This is what I was talking about earlier when I suggested most aspiring fantasists will lose heart fairly early on. I was in my mid-teens when I discovered that I was a writer. Notice that I didn’t say “wanted to be a writer.” “Want” has almost nothing to do with it. It’s either there or it isn’t. If you happen to be one, you’re stuck with it. You’ll write whether you get paid for it or not. You won’t be able to help yourself. When it’s going well, it’s like reaching up into heaven and pulling down fire. It’s better than any dope you can buy. When it’s not going well, it’s much like giving birth to a baby elephant.

-David Eddings, from The Rivan Codex

Wedding, ZOMG*

*I reserve the right to use such an acronym once every bajillion microseconds. Which is to say, every so often when it suits me.

My wedding is in two and a half weeks. Hence the ZOMG. There is so much going on — I don’t even know where to start.

The details are worked out, the cake is ordered, the awesometastic cake toppers are sitting atop our microwave, and there is a mossy little basket perched on our coffee table. My dress is at the tailor, my ring is in it’s box on it side. There is a box full of stinky flowers in our spare room. It’s all coming together, except for the bit where I can wrap my brain around it.

I have a feeling that it’s going to creep up, pounce, and then disappear into memory. Then we’ll just be married and start our lives the best way we know how. I’m awfully happy that we have several remarkable photographers coming to prove to us that it happened.

The wedding is a day to celebrate. I’m excited about it, to see friends and family and feast and be joyous. To walk down a grassy aisle barefoot and surrounded by loved ones. Pretty special.

I know I’m going to be stressed and fussier than I normally am…either that or completely apathetic. Probably the latter. I think others will do my freaking out for me. I have some people assigned to awkward duties and others there just to make sure I stay calm. Regardless, stuff is going to go wrong, so my main focus at this point is just to put on blinders and chill.

The main part I can get really, really pumped about is the honeymoon. John and I are doing something I’ve never done before — we’re going to Discovery Cove to swim with dolphins. I cannot wait. We’re going to be big old kids and go to the Harry Potter park at Universal, for which we have set aside an entire day. I am so excited. I want to drink butterbeer (no matter how many calories it entails) and get my own wand at Ollivanders. I just might pee my pants. We’re also going to do a water park and get massages and generally relax and do things we never get to do. It will be the first real vacation I’ve had since Scotland last year, and the first John and I have taken just the two of us…well. Ever.

But yeah. Wedding. 18 days. It’s close enough to be measured in days…ZOMG.

I just might post some pictures here, gentle viewers. We shall see. Maybe just to post some of the quirk involved with our wedding — because there will be plenty. Cake toppers are just a taste of it. (Shhhh, it’s a secret!)

I can’t wait. I also can’t quite believe it yet. Right now I feel extra surreal because I have a fever and don’t feel well. At least I’m getting sick now instead of later, right? Eeek.

On Language and Languages

I am of the minority in the country in which I reside. That country is the USA, and the reason I am a minority (one of them, anyway) is that I speak more than one language. I speak Polish, German, (crappy) Spanish, and (worse) French. (The parentheticals in the previous sentence are in no way meant to communicate my feelings about the latter two languages, only the condition of my speaking ability.)

It’s been a long-running goal of mine to speak multiple languages fluently. Languages have always fascinated me. I’ve made up a few. (Or a couple, more accurately.) I’ve always loved the idea of the Otherness that makes up foreign speech, and better yet when I get a glimpse into that Otherness and understand it. As I grew older, I started learning Spanish. At first it was all verb conjugations and noun genders and monotonous memorization — until Mrs. Slater got pregnant and was replaced by a teacher whose name I’m ashamed to have forgotten. The first day this new teacher walked into the room, she started babbling in Spanish. She refused to speak English to us. Everyone panicked, but she had the right of it.

Everyone is capable of learning a language. We all do it once; we can all do it again. She had the theory that the best way to learn a language is to hear it in context, to observe and make connections between speech and environment. This is what babies do. Once kids learn their basic vocabularies, they move onto more abstract conceptual language and more advanced forms of communication, but it’s no good to be able to conjugate the subjunctive tense of a random -ar verb if it has no context. Grammar without conversation is like the squiggling lines of a highway system without benefit of map. It’s meaningless without context.

All this has come up in my mind because I’ve again decided to dust off my Gaelic books. Learning Gaelic has been a goal of mine for a very long time. Part of it is the sheer beauty of the language. Another part is the connection it holds for me to my ancestors. Due to many ethnocidal policies enacted in Scotland over the course of the past three or four hundred years (and some before), Gaelic speakers now reside almost exclusively in the Islands and Northwest Highlands of Scotland. Gaelic is a rich, living language that formed the center of a community-oriented culture for over a thousand years. So many stories and legends have been lost, stories that were never committed to parchment and only existed in an oral tradition that was strangled over the course of a couple centuries. So I want to learn it. I want my children to know it. I feel like a child clapping my hands as Peter Pan abjures the crowd to show Tinker Bell that people still believe in fairies. If I clap loud enough and long enough, maybe others will clap with me. Maybe we can bring Gaelic back from the flickering fringe at the edge of Scotland that many say derisively is only the death-rattle of a language past saving. Welsh and Irish are making a comeback. Even Cornish is making a comeback. I want to do my part to save the language of my people.

So here I am, staring at a small pile of books with daunting amounts of vowels and elusive consonants that hover at the back of the throat and sometimes fade out of existence entirely depending on what the overwhelming vowels have to say about it. A few years ago, I picked them up and gave it a shot, but without audio help and the nearest native speaker being some 5,000 miles away, I floundered for a bit before conceding that I wasn’t up to the task.

Around that same time, I started picking apart another language. I didn’t have the same emotional ties to Polish as I do to Gaelic, but I did have some. I met friends because of the intriguing sound of Polish. Those friends spent a good deal of time trying to learn my language, so I figured the least I could do was try to learn theirs. I set about teaching myself Polish.

I learned Polish in the space of about two years. I didn’t know at the time what a feat that was. When I moved to Poland to study abroad, I tested into one of the highest levels of Polish classes (C1, for all you Europeans who might care). I was dismally behind on my conversational fluidity, but my grammar was excellent and my pronunciation was so good that I always got incredulous looks from people when I told them I had zero Polish background. And so I got dunked into the deep end of the language pool. For the first few months, I was over my head. I studied relentlessly to improve my vocabulary. To be conversational in English, one needs to know about 2,000 words. Many resources say that only 1,000 are really necessary, but for the sake of argument, I’ll call it 2,000. In Polish, it’s necessary to know over 7,000 in order to be conversational. I got greedy. I collected words like gold coins. I became a linguistic Scrooge. I breathed noun declensions. I prattled Polish to anyone who would listen. When servers at restaurants would figure out I was foreign and switch to English, I would speak Polish at them until they got the point that I didn’t want English.

And it worked. Even now, four years after leaving my beloved Krakow, I am still pretty fluent. Because of my experience with Polish, I am utterly grateful that that was the language I chose to immerse myself in. Why?

Polish is an intensely complicated language. Beyond the mountain of vocabulary necessary for speaking, it is home to three genders of nouns which all decline through a very Latin (think actual Latin, not Romance Languages) system of cases. Verbs change for gender. Nouns change not only for gender and case, but for status as animate, inanimate, or virile. Sentence structure is fluid and poetic. Adjectives decline with their nouns. It is due to the hard-earned familiarity with these aspects of language that I picked up German in about four months, and it is due to all of that knowledge that I have again decided to pick up and dust off my Gaelic books again.

No longer do my eyes glaze over when the word “genitive” appears in a sentence. I don’t stare helplessly, wondering what on earth a slender consonant is or what the hell it means to be a leniting vowel. Nasalized vowels and palatized consonants are no longer daunting. Through the precision of Polish pronunciation, I have a higher awareness of what is going on in my mouth when I talk: where my tongue sits with certain consonants and how changing it can affect sound; the difference between words spoken far forward in the mouth as opposed to back in the throat. I have a deep respect for English-learners; our grammar system is capricious and labyrinthine, our spelling an exercise in torture. I bow to languages where phonics is not actually the joke it is in English, where clusters of letters like -ough will make the same sound wherever they’re used rather than performing acrobatics like bough, through, thorough, rough. Where rules are rules. To quote a favorite comedian:

“Brian, what’s the i before e rule?”

“…i before e….always.”

“No, Brian. I before e except after c, or when sounding like a as in neighbor and weigh, and on weekends, and holidays, and all throughout May, and you’ll ALWAYS BE WRONG, NO MATTER WHAT YOU SAY!”

Hmph.

To sum up, languages are interesting. (Hahaha!) In case you are wondering which ones I care to learn to fluency (or maintain), here’s a list:

-Polish
-German
-Spanish
-French
-Russian
-Portuguese
-Gaelic
-Welsh

I’ll close this windy post with something I wrote whilst on holiday in Valencia in the spring of 2006.

The more that I try to learn languages, the more I am surprised to realize that the most touching and beautiful moments are those that require no words. And for the times that do, I am reminded that it truly is worth all the pain. Every tongue-twisting syllable, every elusive vowel or unfamiliar cluster of consonants, every foot-in-mouth moment or awkward silence, that panicky deer-in-the-headlights feeling — it is all worth it for just one second. Just one second where you can tangibly feel that you have left your own world behind and become one with another. The lights come on and for an instant, you understand. Comprehension dawns in a moment where no translation could retrieve the true meaning of what you heard in its original form, untarnished, with your own two ears.

That’s why I try. And that’s why it’s worth it.

 

What is Love? Baby, Don’t Hurt Me…

I couldn’t help it.

I apologize in advance if this post makes even less sense than last night’s. I fail rather dramatically at putting together coherent paragraphs after days as long as this one. I did have some thoughts tonight during my cocktail shift at my restaurant. We were slow, and I was bored, and in between running food and drinks to my few piddling tables, I had a conversation with a coworker about love, specifically the kind that has longevity. We’re both engaged to be married.

One of the not-so-first things that comes to mind when I think of love is money. Strange, then that money and financial issues are one of the biggest reasons marriages end. Different views on what is a worthwhile use of assets, someone spending too much on the wrong things, not making enough to get by, etc. I can see why. It’s not easy to mesh two people’s finances together, even if you keep them mostly separate. And it’s not a topic most couples find romantic. You can talk to any die-hard romantic about …well, romance…and they might tell you that all you need is love. That love can fix any problem. I disagree. Love can help you forgive a lot of things, but there are many problems that can suck the life out of love, erode it away until all that exists is a fossil of a memory and some jagged edges.

Long lasting love (ooh, alliteration!) involves sacrifice on the part of both parties. It means putting someone else first, or giving up something to gain more. It means thinking of we instead of me (see what I did there?) and putting the needs of others at the top of a priority list. So let’s talk about needs for a minute. I have a strong theory that a relationship cannot succeed if the partners fail to meet each other’s needs the way they need them met. Needs are specific to each person, and they often require different things from each person. Let’s say two people need reassurance. For one, that might mean nothing more than a long huggle and a tender kiss. For another, it might mean hearing affirming words. If you’re someone who needs  a long huggle to feel reassured, affirming words won’t do much for you, and vice versa. It might help a little, but you probably won’t feel completely reassured until the need is met the way you need it to be met.

The tricky part about meeting someone’s needs the way they need them met is that the golden rule really doesn’t apply. You can’t simply do unto your significant other as you would have him or her do unto you, because you might have a different way of having your needs met than they do. Love is being willing to crawl outside your thick skull and into theirs. Love is finding out what those needs of your partner are and how your partner needs you to meet them, then following through even when it’s supremely uncomfortable. Some people have a really hard time expressing themselves verbally. If you’re one of those people and your partner is someone who needs verbal affirmation, it could be potentially catastrophic trying to meet that need. But if you do it, even though it’s hard, your partner will take notice. The danger comes in when one partner says, “I’m just not wired that way. Deal with it.” Especially if that person expects their partner to meet their needs the way they need them met even when they refuse to do the same.

No one ever promised that love would be easy. In fact, if you get promises about love, it’s probably the opposite.

Then again, nothing worth having comes free and easy.

Why I Don’t Really Enjoy Chick Flicks

I honestly can’t remember a time where I ever truly enjoyed “chick flicks.” I suppose I watched them…in high school I can recall watching She’s All That and Never Been Kissed and 10 Things I Hate About You (which really isn’t much of a chick flick at all; it’s just awesome) (awwww…Heath Ledger…waaaaaah).  Those are the only ones I really remember, though.  Even then, the movies I got excited about were the Lord of the Rings movies, X-Men (I about peed myself), and horror movies/thrillers.  Even the occasional sci-fi movie, though I was never a die-hard sci-fi girl. But I digress before I even started. Alas. I blame NyQuil.

Anyway, tonight something happened that I just couldn’t ignore. First of all, I decided to watch Sleepless in Seattle.  It’d been forever since I saw it (if I ever saw it before tonight), and I decided, “What the hell?”

I fell asleep 40 minutes in, to my own chagrin. So I started it over. I like Meg Ryan.  I also like Tom Hanks. I was enjoying the movie after I conquered my sleepiness. And then, BAM. It was over. The camera zoomed out on that giant red heart on the side of the Empire State Building, and I was supremely confused. After a beat, I thought, “That’s it?” I was beyond confused. I was bewildered. “Really? That’s it? But…what happens next?”

I won’t deny that I could relate to bits of the film; perhaps it’s that I’m in love with a wonderful man myself, but I definitely had some warm fuzzies. However, when it ended, I was left utterly unsatisfied. I wanted to know what happened later, that evening, the next morning, a week or a year later. I don’t want the ride off into the sunset endings — I want to know what’s on the other side of that sunset. It really bothered me that the movie just…truncated like an obnoxious fraction.

What if Meg and Tom decide they can’t stand each other? And if they do really end up in love, how does that happen? Do they ever take each other for granted? Does Jonah end up resentful and sullen again?

I realize that this is exactly why I don’t really like chick flicks. For one thing, they usually break up some couples. For another, they all end this way, this happily ever after shite. I guess it’s not really shite, persay, but it’s so unrealistic I want to bop them on the heads with a mallet. I think that’s why I love Love Actually — yeah, some of them end up quite happy, but not all of them. And the love they show isn’t always the romantic kind, either. There’s some anguish, there’s some pictures of good love gone bad, and there are some pictures of nice, healthy love as well.

Sigh. Maybe Hollywood has lost a bit of its magic for me, but I don’t know. What I do know is that life isn’t full of happy endings. It’s the journey that matters, every step along the way. It doesn’t end when we meet the one we love or even when we marry them. It keeps on going, marching up and down, back and forth. And that’s what I like about it. I don’t want the end credits to roll till my eyes shut for the last time.

 

 

It’s 3 a.m.; I must be lonely

Well, the former part is true, at least.  Am I lonely?  Not…lonely persay.  Pensive?  A little.  Riddled with self-contemplation?  Somewhat.  Ever-so-slightly shocked at myself?  Yes.  Yes, I am.

I’m having a girlie moment.

Gasp.  Crash.  Hiccup.

I know.  I knooooooooooooow. I’m seldom outright girlie.  The pensive self-contemplation stems primarily from that blatant fact.  In many ways, I defy mainstream, pop-culture girl-dom.  I hate pink.  (Okay, maybe not hate, but I feel it ought to be used in very, very sparing quantities.)  Chick flicks are enormously depressing for me.  I don’t want to be a princess, unless it’s the warrior kind and I get to rampage about killing monsters and saving the world.  Diamonds bore me at best, and I loathe diamond solitaires (this time my adjective is not overstated).  I would be mortally offended if my boyfriend spent two months of income on an engagement ring, and only slightly less so if he spent more than a week’s.  (He knows these things already.)

My momentary bout of girliness is coming from the mere fact that my relationship is progressing.  And it’s filling my head with all sorts of fuzzy shiny happy thoughts.  It makes my tummy feel warm and glowy (and NOT in that pregnant way, so don’t even ask).  I may have even sighed and made goo-goo eyes at Edward the Elephant in my boyfriend’s absence.  *ahem.*

On a more serious note, this feeling is entirely new.  Without going into too much detail, no one has ever been committed to me before.  Me.  I’ve never felt anything like this — the sense that someone truly wants to journey through this life at my side and wants me there at his.

And so I’m being girlie.  I’m looking at pretty colors and imagining future moments.  I’m listening to the conversations we had over and over in my head and reveling in it.

I feel like I got a belated birthday present/early Christmas present.  Because as I’ve tried to wrack my brain for gift ideas for myself (always a precipitous sort of task), I’ve returned only to the simple (if gushy and cliche) sentiment that all I want for Christmas is….well, him.

Before I turn completely into a porcelain dolly with ringlets and ribbons, let me remind you once more:

Warrior.  Swords.  Zombie-slaying, kicker of dragon asses, vampire-loving, princess of general awesomeness — that’s who you’re listening to here.  And don’t you forget it.

Connect the Dots

I couldn’t think of anything creative for the title of this post; forgive me.

I also cannot think of a better way to start the day after a workout than a shower in the rain.  Yep.  I have been trying to get into some actual workouts after pretty much just counting on my job to keep me losing weight — and it started pouring right as I finished.

It was the first chill rain of the autumn season.  I let nature wash off the sweat and cool me off.  I love rain water.  I honestly believe it’s one of the cleanest feeling kinds of water in the world.  It makes my skin silky and smooth.  It’s lovely.  And out of sheer curiosity — okay, I got caught up in the moment a little — I put a bowl outside to collect some of this water and I tasted it.  Yeah, I know, I know, pollution-blah-blah-acid rain-blah-various sounds of horror-blah, but it tasted fresh and earthy, sort of the way mist smells.  It tasted like a cloud.  Or at least how I would imagine a cloud to taste.

Please don’t judge me.  I realize my coworkers have informally voted me the most likely to do something no one else would do, or be different.  Which is a pleasant way of saying I’m weird.  I’m okay with that.  I self-actualized with my weirdness long ago, so stuff it.

Besides, not many people can say they’ve tasted the rain.  So there.

I’m going to ungracefully segue into the other topic that has been on my mind for a while now.  It has to do with love and relationships (surprise!).  What I’ve been pondering is the whole Big Picture thing.  The Big Picture gets a lot of good press.  Forest through the trees and all that.  Being able to see the Big Picture is a usually touted as a good thing.  But is it always?

I think of a successful relationship as a giant connect-the-dots picture.  Sure, you can look at the Big Picture, imagine how everything is going to turn out, and it might be beautiful.  But as with all connect-the-dots, the picture doesn’t fully emerge until you’ve drawn all the lines.  Each dot could represent something for you, something special.  That first electric glance.  The first kiss.  The day you confess your love.  When you exchange your keys.  When you move in together.  When the answer to the question is yes.  The wedding.  The additions to the family.  First home.  All of those special, magical moments are dots.

But here’s the thing.  Those dots are part of the big picture, but you know what takes up more of it?  The lines you draw between them.  The days when nothing really “special” happens.  It’s the daily grind, the waking up each morning, the nights you just hang in your pajamas and watch movies, the days you’re exhausted after work.  It’s showing your love in hundreds of tiny ways, in late night texts or just stopping by because you can.  It’s finding vibrancy and joy every day. It’s every goodnight kiss and every whiff of morning breath.

And that’s the good stuff.  That’s the foundation you build for those pinnacle moments.  If you don’t have the foundation, the pinnacles will crumble away and fall, and your beautiful Big Picture will just…fade into nothing, incomplete.

The true beauty of a Big Picture for me is knowing that together we made it.  That we painstakingly drew each line from dot to dot, hand in hand, together.  As a couple, as friends, as lovers, as companions. The true beauty of the Big Picture can only be seen because of the brush strokes that made it.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Life, love, and the pursuit of happiness.

Autumn is flirting with September in a dance of revolving heat, rain, humidity, and crisp breezes.  Soon I know autumn will have her way with the world, and I couldn’t be happier.  Flickers of yellow and orange and red begin to appear on trees, and the temperature actually drops at night.  All in all, I’m waiting in anticipation of October.  As it approaches, there are a lot of things on my mind.  Not the least of which is what October brings with her as she arrives.  A year ago, I was waiting.  I knew what I was waiting for, but I had no idea how long my waiting would continue.  This week last year, I began to see a few glimmers of hope, a few warm tingles.  And then as October 1 turned to October 2, after a gleeful two hours of zombie-filled revelry, my waiting ended.  A man I had fallen for over the course of a year and a half invited me into his life, and we started down a road together.

Given the context of emotion this week holds for me, I suppose it’s only natural for me to think about love.  To ponder that thing that drives us so much through this world.  I think the silver screen presents us with many unrealistic views of romance and love.  (<–Understatement.)  Frankly, the few chick flicks (aka rom-coms) I’ve seen lately have been so far away from reality that they’ve left me wanting to repeatedly bang my head against a board.

What is love?  What really makes a relationship work?  If I could answer both of those questions succinctly, I’d probably win the Nobel Prize for Peace.  I’m just sayin’.  Go to any Barnes and Noble and you’ll find sections littered with books trying to explain love and fix relationships in 200-400 pages of easy step-by-step instructions.

Do soulmates exist?  Is there that magical moment where you just know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have found the one person who can make you happy?  I might disappoint the world’s movie-going rom-com fanatics by saying this, but no.  I don’t think either of those two things really exist in the way they’re portrayed.  Relationships don’t follow a flow chart of:  meeting –> spark –> blossoming love –> conflict –> happy ending/sunset + horsey + castle.  Relationships are messy.  Why?  Because you’re taking imperfect people and smushing their lives together.  To expect perfection is naive at best.  However, I think the reality of love is more charming and beautiful than simply following a formulaic interpretation of easy happiness.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in the last two or so years since I met John, it’s that communication cannot receive a higher commendation in the world of love.  And before you can communicate, you need to know and be happy with yourself.  If you’re looking for someone to complete you, you’ll never find that.  But I digress.  I don’t think love happens like in the movies.  Or at least if it does, it’s not even close to being the majority.

I think a lot of the time people get caught up in this idea of the magical moment that will make everything clear, make everything easy.  There’s no quick fix for anything in this life, in love especially.  I still think the guys in Thrice said it right when they said that love is a loyalty sworn, not a burning for a moment.  Relationships take work–they don’t just work because you want them to.  Sometimes they take sacrifice and selflessness.  Both of which have to go both ways.  While I think that two people can experience an initial click or chemistry, I don’t think that two lives just slip into each other without a ripple.  People have different dreams and ambitions.  To me, the mark of the best relationships is the ability of the couple not to expect their lives to poof into perfection, but the willingness to build something together.  A family.  A home.  A life.  Whatever that may look like.  That’s where the beauty is to me.

That’s what I honestly love about my relationship.  Looking into the future and knowing that each of us will build something together.  That in the two years behind us since we met, we have begun building a foundation.  We’re two adults long since launched from the families that raised us, and in the last year, we have begun a new family.  A small family for now, just the two of us, but with strong ties to the families we came from.  Something to build on together into something that fits us both.

I can’t think of a truer love than that.

Changes and the Familiarly Unfamiliar

I’m in Scotland.

I’m again confronted with the ever-familiar waves of knowing and not-knowing.  I know the fresh, washed scent of rain cleaned air, of chill breezes and the golden honey warmth  of sun.  I know the hill that holds Stirling Castle, and the Black Isle that peeks through the window from across the Moray Firth.  I know this building, but the view out the window has changed, and the flags that hang of St. Andrew’s cross, the lion rampant, the jolly roger, and St. George’s cross seem oddly disparate, though they grace walls which still hold familiar photographs.  Lone Tree on Rannoch Moor.  Buachaille Etive Mor.  Pap of Glen Coe,  Eilean Donan.  Inchkeith Sunset.  Familiar names.

The people here are now alien.  No Jordan or Julia or Nicole or Keith.  Instead there is Andres, Sandra, Howe.  Unfamiliar but kind.  As a former hostelite, they welcomed me with warmth and shared food and even tucked me in when I fell asleep on the familiar cushion of one of these black leather sofas, covering me with a fluffy duvet as I slept in a group of strangers.

The maps are well known, from John O’Groats to Skye to Aberdeen.  The voices are unfamiliar.  No Polish  do I hear, but French and English accents.  It has been…a long time.  The giant gulls call out their thoughts of the town and the surf.  Cars rumble across the Firth bridge.  The sun hides his face behind an oddly stagnant sky.

A whisper flits through me, a startling revelation.  Inverness feels like home no more. Perhaps it is the lack of sleep.  Perhaps it is the staggering mix of old and new.  It could be either of those things, but I think what it really is goes much deeper than a superficial makeover.  I’ve got a home.  Not even a physical home;  that’s in flux.  But there is someone rather than somewhere I need.  And he is very far away.  He has become my family, and where family is, so home is too.

More than anything, I wish he was here to share this place with.  Even shrouded in clouds, she has a glory and a cleanness that surpasses anything I have ever known.  There is wisdom in her aged glens, peace in her silver-smooth lochs, strength in her heather-clad mountains, and humility in the rushing of her surrounding sea.  I think if she could speak, she would tell me that she will always hold a place for me here.  And that the next time I return to her, not to come alone.

Two More Days

And then Friday!

My fingers are cramped up.  If you know me, you know that my right pinky finger is crooked, forever prohibited from straightening by a wonky tendon that decided not to grow.  I’ve just spent an hour and a half writing, and that little deformity of mine is in serious pain (I’m right handed).  I had an idea last fall, something to do as a gift that never came to fruition.  Now I’ve begun, and it really is beautiful so far.  It’ll take quite a while to finish at this rate, but I do have a few months left before it needs to be done.  The exciting thing about it is that it meshes rather perfectly with both a new development from today and also with another idea I had as well.  I would be more specific, but that would be telling.

After being stuck somewhere in the space-time continuum where there were constantly 6 weeks left of school, suddenly we’ve gone through a wormhole and there are only three.  Words cannot describe my joy at this.  I have a lot to do by the end of the year, and I might get into some trouble because this injury has made me miss so much work, but at this point, I can’t do anything about that.  It’s only been six weeks since the accident, and though I am feeling somewhat better now, by the time I’ve gone through half the day, I am a hot mess of ouch.

Well.  Three more weeks, and it will be over forever.  I just wish I could get rid of this horrible sense of trepidation that has plagued me all year.  I never should have taken this job.  Teaching is the perfect job for those who can give 110%.  I can give that to my writing, but not to teaching.  Maybe that’s selfish.  I don’t think it really is, though, any more than I would think it is selfish for people not to join the volunteer fire department or become a police officer.  Jobs like that require certain kinds of people who are willing to live and breathe their job.  I think that most of us have something we’re willing to do that for, but it varies from person to person, and for me, teaching is not that something.  Are musicians being selfish for making music?  Artists?  Accountants?  My thoughts about careers:  find what you love, and do it well.

That’s all I can ask of anyone.  Work is a huge portion of life — if you’re miserable, that just plain sucks.  And I’m miserable.

Sigh.  Time to try and sleep.

Two more days.