Heavy

Miles – our cat – almost died last weekend. He had an asthma attack last Saturday night, and we rushed him to an emergency vet at about midnight. He was put on oxygen, had x-rays taken, and within 30 minutes was diagnosed with feline asthma, which none of the vets he’s seen since his breathing problems started a few years ago even mentioned checking for. A few days later, we took him back to the vet because he had lost interest in all kinds of food. Didn’t matter what I presented to him, he wanted nothing to do with it. Another $180 (on top of the $2100 we paid to hospitalize him) and some new medications later we came home hoping he would start eating, so he wouldn’t have to be hospitalized again.

He did start eating, and we seem to be on the better side of this.

I went to yoga class after work tonight. I don’t typically put a lot of thought into the “dharma” or themes some teachers present at the beginning of class because I feel it sometimes creates an unnecessary pressure to feel or focus on a particular thing. The teacher tonight was talking about how she was in a situation with friends that is familiar, but she found herself feeling and needing something different. She related that to yoga in that we know the poses, but the experience and feelings that arise are often different.

When she queued Warrior II, I felt an incredible weight. My arms could not stay up. I mean, my arms are often tired in this pose. By the time Warrior II comes around, we’ve been supporting our weight in Planks and Downward Facing Dog poses, and we’ve reached up to the sky in Chair or Crescent poses.

It was more than tired arms tonight. It was like I was holding something very heavy or someone was pushing my arms down, and I was trying like hell to keep them up.

I started thinking about the last week and how difficult and exhausting it’s been.

(If you’re one of those people who scoffs at someone missing work due to the death of a pet or questions why people spend money to heal their pets rather than euthanizing them or surrendering them to a shelter only to then get a new, young, and healthy pet, as if your pet is just property you own for strictly for your enjoyment that does you no good when it’s “broken,” stop reading now, you sociopath. Actually, you probably should have stopped reading in the first paragraph. Why are you still here?)

I felt the weight of the vet bill I had not planned for and the cost of his ongoing care. I felt the weight of likely having to give him medication daily for the rest of his life, and trusting Harrison with it when I’m not home. And what about when we travel? I worried about finding a new regular vet for him and Billie, his sister, because how could I go back to the vet who never considered this problem? I thought about the possibility that he could have died, and he would not be tucked under my left arm with his head on my chest as I type this. I felt the weight of trying to make sure Billie gets equal love and attention that is not in the form of treats because… uh… she fat. I guess that is also a less metaphorical weight. I felt the exhaustion of the sleepless nights when I was getting up to check on him or try to get him to eat.

Fine, they’re cats. Just pets. Disposable for some. (Again, why are you people still here?We will never be friends.) My cats, or any other pets later to come, are likely the closest thing I will have to kids. By choice. Don’t pity me or ask me why. It’s 2019, people. I love them… more than most humans in my life.

I guess this was all a very roundabout way of saying that loving something carries a weight that manifests at unusual times like in a yoga class. Somedays you feel strong and are able steadily carry all of the weight worry of things you hold dear or maybe someone is helping carry the weight, and other days, you feel crushed by the weight, alone. I’m a sucker for certainty with a tendency toward laziness. This shit is hard. But in this case especially, it’s worth it.

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My heart.

Be a damn flower!

 

You’ve heard the analogy, right? The idea that in a relationship there is a gardener and a flower. I heard about this idea years ago from a friend. I don’t remember how it came up or giving much attention to it. I just said, “huh,” and moved on.

Recently, this idea has come up a couple of times, mostly on TV dramas strangely, but it made me stop. I started thinking about this idea in the context of my own relationships and the transitions that have been taking place since the start of year.

What I’ve realized is that, holy shit, I have definitely been the Gardener. In so many of my relationships, I have taken care of the foundation and watched others grow and bloom and find success. To be clear, this is an important role, and it’s definitely not a bad thing, especially if being a nurturer is something that fulfills you.

Here’s the deal. At the start of the year, I started singing with a choir. I used to sing in choirs, a cappella groups, and perform in shows around town (usually there were Drag Queens, costumes, and songs from Rent involved). I’ve loved singing since I was a little kid, and I have  missed it so much. It has been a struggle to find the right place for it in my life as I’ve gotten older and more introverted because the things I was doing before stopped feeling right, but this has been the perfect fit.

For the last several years, I’ve been stuck in a routine of work, home, occasionally yoga, and going to Harrison’s shows. For a the first few years of our relationship, it was his various music projects, and now it’s his comedy shows. I have for sure been the Gardener in this relationship. And again, there is nothing wrong with that. I have loved watching everything Harrison has done, and I’ve loved even more when I can help him manage his many side hustles by hauling sound equipment, working the door, or critiquing a joke. Basically, I’ve made myself EXTREMELY available. My routine became the deepest of ruts, and while I have loved being there for Harrison, I wasn’t being honest with myself about the things I was missing.

Harrison is going from being basically the sole receiver to having to give a little bit, and sometimes take the role of the Gardener. And it has not been easy. So much so that I have felt an ever-so-slight bit of guilt for being less available for him or for asking and even – dare I say it – demanding support. It doesn’t help that women are professionals at this kind of guilt. There’s this silent struggle over whose commitment is more important or who gets to use the car we share to get to the thing they need to get to instead of taking the bus or a Lyft.

It’s a work in progress. Sharing sun is hard when someone has been making sure you get as much of it as possible for years… since we’re using a flower analogy.

My relationship with Harrison isn’t the only relationship in which I have been the constantly available and reliable person who can definitely pick you up from the airport because I definitely don’t have anything else going on. As life has become busier and filled with more commitments, it’s given me clearer picture of which friendships in my life are mutually supportive, and which ones have existed on a foundation of me being available for favors. That’s not to say there isn’t more to those friendships. There is, but you start noticing who shows up when you have something to show up for. Some of the people who show up might surprise you, and the people who don’t might surprise you just as much. It’s a big deal when people show up.

I made a quiet commitment to myself to get back to the things that have made me feel most like myself, and I’m taking small steps in a direction that finally feels right. I’ve always been hyper-aware of the time I ask of others, and it’s generally made me uncomfortable to ask a lot of others. But listen, it’s my damn turn to be a damn flower. Just sometimes. Is that cool?

I hope so. Because I think I was well on my way to becoming something much, much, much lower than an overly available and less than fulfilled Gardner – the doormat the work boots sit on.

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Via GIPHY

Maybe when I have all the money, I’ll care about close seats, too.

Me: Do you want to go to the Nuggets game on March 2nd? I can get $14 tickets through work.

Dad: Where are the seats?

Here we go.

Me: In the 300s. They’re $14.

Dad: We want to go, but we would want to sit closer.

WHY DOES IT MATTER? IS IT AN OLD PERSON VISION THING?!?! THERE’S A JUMBO-TRON! Also DAD, I have to have fun on a budget because of those student loans I’m paying because of that college you thought I should have to pay for literally for the rest of my life because of bootstraps or something. 

Me: I didn’t look at the price of those. I’ll check.

Dad: Okay, well if you and Harrison want to go and the tickets are more expensive, you can just pay me the $14, and I’ll cover the rest.

I’m a 32 year old woman with a job and am about to agree to allow my dad to subsidize a closer seat to a Nuggets game.

Me: They’re $57.

Yikes.

Dad: Let’s do it.

Okay………… That’ll be $200.

The difference between Boomers and Millennials is how close they care to be to the court.

 

Professional networking is my personal hell

If there is one thing I’ve learned from people I know who have found new career opportunities, it’s that those opportunities have come to them through a connection they’ve made. I have heard no less than 2 people in the last month say, “This just kind of fell in my lap.”

WHAT?! HOW?!!!!

My lap covers some territory, and I’m not over here catching any specks of good fortune on the career front.

My stepmom always says, “You have to get in front of the right people.”

Well, shit.

I don’t exactly love being in front of people or being the center of attention. My most comfortable state is completely alone, anonymous, observing rather than participating. I recently took a personality test that put me at 86% Introvert and only 14% Extrovert. Basically, 14% of the time I want to be with other humans, and that sounds…uh…correct.

When I’m not at work, you might find me watching TV or reading a book alone. I prefer to run errands alone. I prefer to shop alone, and am often reminded of this whenever I invite a friend to the mall with me because I’ve forgotten how much I dislike shopping with other people. I go to yoga alone and speak to no one except when I give the teacher my name at the front desk.

My dudes and dudettes, this level of introversion is not a joke.

Harrison used to ask me, “Is this really all you’re going to do tonight?” as he leaves me on the couch with a book or a very deep Netflix queue on a Friday night to go to (probably) a comedy show or open mic. Then he stopped asking because my answer was always, “YES.”  Harrison spends a lot of evenings out at open mics, so our relationship has been incredibly accommodating. Some might say enabling.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), I have a new friend who is constantly inviting me to get involved in things despite her own innate inclination to stay home. And as much as I don’t want to, I know I need to.

I spent the last two evenings at engagements geared toward young professionals with her. One of them is actually a choir, and I’m legit excited about that. I loved singing in choirs when I was younger, and at least I’m in a room with people working toward a common goal. The singing part I can handle, but the conversing with fellow singers is the hard part.

The other event was a happy hour for young professional at a fancy hotel bar and um, it was the worst.

First of all, I’m not fancy, and I always feel out of place in those environments. I own exactly one blazer that I think I’ve worn exactly twice. At a young professionals happy hour, you better bring your blazer. I am also THE MOST AWKWARD. I’m bad at starting conversations, and I am really terrible and feigning interest in things that I find absolutely dull. I wear my heart on my face. Eye contact with strangers? Lol. Please. I usually find myself following around the one person I know trying to interject myself in their conversations and doing a very bad job of it.

Introversion is not a condition that needs to be cured, but damn it’s hard to be an introvert in a world that places so much value the charismatic and gregarious over the quiet observers.

I’ll just be over here…tired from all the people-y stuff I’ve had to do and wishing I were at home.

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Via GIPHY

 

With or without you…but preferably with you

Harrison got a new job this year. It’s kind of his first real adult job with real adult pay and real adult benefits. Although, he has yet to go to the dentist, despite the fact that he knows he probably desperately needs to. One thing we did not expect was that he would have to travel for this job as much as he has. He has been to the Washington, D.C. office three times now; the first time he traveled to the D.C. office, his trip was extended, so he could go to the New York office for a day. It was planned to be a five day trip and was extended to an eight day trip, which I felt was quite long. We’ve both traveled without the other throughout our relationship for work and pleasure, but it had never exceeded five days at a time until Harrison started this job.

Whenever he is preparing to leave, I am faced with the initial blow of painful anxiety about the loneliness I am sure to feel while he’s gone. Now, maybe some would think that is a sign of a healthy, loving relationship. Maybe it is, but I can’t help but be reminded of the codependency my mother had for my (former) stepdad, and really, any man I ever saw her in a relationship with.

This same conversation has come up again and again in my head through our 7 ½ year relationship. I am half of a partnership but still one whole person. I am holding on to my independence for dear life. I can’t be like her. I can’t. I’m better than that. I am okay on my own. I always have been, and I always will be.

The first time Harrison went out of town for work, I was a complete mess. As a life-long insomniac who is finally getting a handle on it, a change to my routine or sleep environment completely destroys any progress made. I barely slept that week. At one point, I went to Harrison’s weed stash hoping that what he had would be what he refers to “sleepy-time weed” because I can’t keep the actual strains straight. (If you ever say inidca or sativa in conversation with me, I’ll pretend I know what you’re talking about, but I don’t.) I took a risk that night, and I lost. I had a serious panic attack and was convinced that when I went to sleep, I wouldn’t wake up. This is what happens when I smoke the wrong kind of weed. I am certain I will die.

I went through the same initial motions the second time he went out of town for work and again this week. When he left for his most recent trip, I had a few brief freak-outs, I Googled, “Is it normal to feel separation anxiety when your partner travels for work?” Answer: this is totally normal. Phew.

I also cried  in a Target parking lot. Going to Target has become a weird couples ritual for Harrison and me. We grocery shop there, because Red Card + Cartwheel= getting that money…or um, just spending less of it. And we make a pretty good team. We plan our meals, make lists, we get in and out in under and hour, and we keep each other from buying things we don’t need. When I’m there alone, trying to get the things that only I need for the week ahead, I feel a little lost, and I’m suddenly wandering around putting random things that look okay to consume in a basket.

I do this solo grocery shopping with the best of intentions, but deep down, I know the food may not ever be eaten because I hate cooking for one. I will inevitably be a frequent flyer at the Taco Bell drive thru.

Something was different about his last trip, though. I’d had some practice. I was able to comfortably settle into the solitude of the week alone. And it was very alone. Since his trip had him gone the week and weekend before Thanksgiving, most of my close friends were also away or had family in town. Sure, I still did not eat particularly healthily. I still went to Taco Bell, one more time than is probably acceptable. But I did slightly better than I had before. I stuck to what would be our normal routine in order to prevent severe insomnia, and that went well with the exception of the first night. I made plans for the weekend with only a short period of indecisiveness, and I actually really enjoyed my time alone. It was a great time to go see that movie that Harrison said sounded like “a total bummer.”

Harrison came home, laid down in bed and was immediately engulfed by our cats. And everything was in its rightful place again.

He’s probably going to have more trips in the coming months, and he’s going on a quick comedy tour in February. The thing I have to remind myself of is that I’ve done the solo thing before – before Harrison and for brief stints during our relationship. And damnit, I’m good at it. It’s just not my normal state after this many years of steady companionship. I have someone to go to plan meals with, to shop with, to see a movie with. I love that. But it’s easy to lose yourself in it. I’ll always be excited for him to come home, but I’m getting to a place of content and gratitude for the time I have to be alone and grow and just be.

Tips for Extroverts with Introvert Friends

I recently read the book “Quiet” by Susan Cain. Reading this book was like reading about myself. Why do I get so burnt out? Why do I have such a hard time taking on other commitments outside of work, especially commitments involving people? Why do I love the days when the weather quiets the city and keeps people indoors? Why do I get so annoyed when I’m interrupted in the middle of a task at work? Why am I risk-averse? I am an introvert.

This book was incredibly validating. It even gave me some insight as to why some relationships in my life can sometimes feel strained without any fault on either side being at fault. I deeply value people who are more on the extroverted side of the spectrum because without them, I would probably miss out of a lot of great experiences. At the same time, my alone time is of serious importance for me. It’s how I recharge. It’s how I process a problem I’m having or destress. I don’t want to be pressured out of that time. I also don’t want to upset a friend by turning down an invitation. Let’s be real—invitations. Plural. It isn’t personal. I just need a little less stimulation. I came up with a list of tips based on my own experiences for extroverts who have introverted friends. Obviously, communication on both sides is very important, but I can only speak from my perspective. So, here we go.

1. It’s not personal.

I just said this, but I feel like this is worth restating. Not wanting to participate in a particular activity doesn’t mean we don’t like you, or that we’re mad at you. It probably means we need a break.

2. No means no.

Seriously though. We’re adults. Why are we still peer pressuring each other? If your introvert friend says, “no, thank you” to an invitation, I can assure you we are not looking for you to show us how bad you want us to go by begging obnoxiously. Another thing Cain points out in “Quiet” is that introverts is that we feel a higher level of guilt than others. Sure, if you beg us, we’ll probably go, but we won’t be happy about it. We’ll probably be a little annoyed with you, too.

3. Give us a minute.

A few years ago, Harrison and I took a trip to Arizona with his family. Five days… in a timeshare… with my mother-in-law… who is, um, long-winded. The first day I was back in Denver, a friend of mine immediately started to talk to me about weekend plans, and I’m pretty sure I snapped at her, which I immediately felt bad about. I didn’t understand why I did that. The truth is, I had reached my limit. Being presented with an invitation to partake in further human interaction was too much. I needed some time to recharge before making more plans, and I needed my friend to back off. Just for a little while.

4. We are bad multi-taskers.

This was a huge epiphany for me because I have thought for the longest time that I multi-task like a pro. That was incorrect. I’m just efficient, and I know how to prioritize multiple tasks and go back and forth between them. Since I read this book, I started to understand why my stress level gets as high as it does. For example, I have Skype for Business at work. This if, of course, rarely used for business. Sometimes chatting with co-workers is a great way to get through the day, but if I have too much work to get done, and I have co-workers trying to chat with me, I start to get really anxious about all of the directions I’m being pulled in. So, I ignore the blinking Skype box.

5. We know what we need.

I was going through a bit of a rough patch recently. I was sad, stressed out, unhappy with my job…all of it. A friend kept asking me to do things, and I kept saying that I just wanted to stay home and not be around people. She replied that it sometimes helps to do “low-key” things with people when you’re stressed. I’m pretty sure I wanted to throw my phone at that moment. I had just stated what I wanted—what I felt I needed at the moment, and she questioned that. I understand the inclination toward offering solutions to “fix” a problem, and that it takes an especially enlightened person to understand that most of the time, that is not possible. In a lot of cases, the best thing you can do is say, “That sucks. I’m sorry. Please let me know if you need anything.” This doesn’t only apply to an extrovert/introvert friendship. It applies to basically everyone. If someone tells you they need something, who are you to think you know better what that actually need? I know I’ve probably done this to people, too. And I am deeply sorry for that. I’

6. Calling us misanthropic might hurt our feelings.

Introverts are not misanthropes. This is about stimulation not any individual or group of people. If you read this blog or know me personally, you know I have an affinity for yoga. I know some people find yoga strange because it’s a workout with an ideology attached. But that ideology is one of loving yourself and others. I take that seriously. I believe all humans are valuable. Everyone has something to offer. Accusing someone of essentially being hateful toward others just because they recharge by being alone is rude, hurtful, and incorrect.

For these relationships to work, each side has to try to meet the other where they’re at, which is difficult. Introverts have to set boundaries for their own self-care, but also be willing to get out of their comfort zones sometimes. There might be a cool experience waiting on the other side of that comfort zone. Extroverts have to respect boundaries and be willing to back off sometimes. Sometimes, we just need different things.

An actual conversation

Me: I have a question and you’re not going to like my question.

Harrison: Okay.

Me: Have you clipped your toenails since we got back  from New York? (I noticed when we were visiting Harrison’s parents for Christmas that his toenails had reached an uncomfortable length.)

 HarrisonBlank stare

 Me: You’re going to stab the poor woman at the reflexology place. You stabbed me while you slept.

 Harrison: I don’t like the precedent we’re setting.

 Me: What precedent? That I have to remind you to clip your toenails?

 Harrison: I mean, why even get married? A transcript of this conversation should be our proof. (Internet- I’m providing proof that I’m basically married.)

 Later…

 Harrison: Now I have a question for you. When was the last time you took out the trash from your bathroom (yes, we have separate bathrooms) because it’s always overflowing.

 Me: You’re probably right.

We’re disgusting people, and I’m not sure when we’re going to stop living like we’re in college.