Battling Expectation

26 Sep

Ladies, we’re complicated. Have you noticed how much social math you have to calculate in your head before you approach a gaggle of women you don’t know extremely well? Okay…that one could just be me. But, really. Most of us are black belts in making things more difficult than they need to be. Relationships are by far the best example.

In the beginning, we’re suspicious. If a man offers us a simple kindness we hypothesize on the probably that he will later rape and kill us. If he flirts, we think he’s just trying to get close to us so he can hook up with our best friend. Then if the poor schmuck gets past the initial defenses, we move on to even greater concerns. When he comes over with a wrinkled shirt, we’re worried he doesn’t take himself seriously enough to succeed. If we go a month without planning a date that isn’t dinner and a movie, we’re worried we’ve lost all the romance. It continues pretty much forever.

We’re just different and there’s a reason. In my capstone class for my BFA, we often had a lot of tangential conversations that didn’t really deal directly with anything we were writing. We talked about ideas at large and psychology most often. One night our instructor came in and asked us all when we last felt like we were in physical danger. Every woman in the room mentioned a time within the last month and every man gave an example from childhood. Slowly the vast difference in gender instinct began to sink in for all of us and there were head-slapping moments as we all realized why we had such difficulty understanding each other.

The truth is, we women can’t help the way we conjure hypothetical doom out of teeny, tiny “signs.” It’s part of our base instinct to sense even the smallest amount of danger because whether we like to think so or not, we’re vulnerable. (Vulnerable–not weak or fragile and in need of protecting.) Men, on the other hand, don’t have a lot of worry. They think mostly about what’s happening right now–the fastest way to do things, the best new things to have, the simplest ways to make things better. The more you let this sink in, the more you realize that most of the problems in your relationships stem from these fundamental gaps. We can’t  truly get rid of them but we can fight them and build bridges to get across.

One of the best “bridges” you can build is direct communication. Women have lots of needs that men just don’t get because, once again, we think about broad and distant concerns while men are more preoccupied with the immediate things like what’s for dinner. Furthermore, we tend to draw our desires from what we see around us and for whatever reason, this doesn’t happen as often to men. For example, when I watch a Jane Austen movie adaptation, I always think how nice it would be to have a well-worded and meaningful love letter from Hubs. And the little hairy monster inside starts to think, “uh, why hasn’t he done that in the last two or three years?” Then I would commence to worrying about the love isn’t “new” anymore. Will could watch the very same movie, be slightly amused, but have no such desire. It’s amazing…and it’s also a trap.

Expectations are horrible little things that become enormous, hairy, and fanged problems when we don’t recognize them and squash them with a large shoe. They can make us wonder why our significant other never sends us cute texts anymore or why we never get flowers. In our minds, these needs and expectations should be obvious…like how the colors on his latest outfit didn’t exactly match. 😉 To men, these things are absolutely invisible. So you know what needs to happen? In order to avoid being greatly disappointed in and depressed by your relationship, you should just ask for what you’d like.

“Hey, babe. I need you to buy me flowers. Sometime in the next week.” Or maybe, “I’m having a bad day. Could we watch a girlie flick and cuddle? Also, I could use some hot tea.” Sometimes it’s okay to ask for things when you’re bothered by not having them. “Everyone I know is getting new shoes. We need to save for some so I can stop being sad about it.”

And I’m betting there are some of you reading that and thinking it sucks all the romance out of the relationship. So let’s take a moment to talk about what romance is (or isn’t).

First, romance is not being upset when your partner isn’t living up to what’s in your head and then never saying about it. It’s not even nice to hold that over your SO’s head. No one is a mind reader. It’s also not romantic to feel deeply disappointed by a gift that didn’t really hit the mark and the wonder if your partner even knows you.

You know what’s infinitely better? When you accept that your SO loves you and wants to do things for you that make you feel loved and special but that he just needs direction. If you really need to be surprised, you can give him/her a range of things to do for you and let them choose. I think we, as women, need to redefine romance to something that assures our happiness instead of something that depends on men assuming things they would never figure out on their own. It’s harmful to both people when we do that.

What do you think? Do you just say what you need or do you wait for surprises? What works for you?

 

 

 

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Lately (Meeting the Jordan)

21 Sep

There’s been lots of reading–scholarly reading at that. (And do you know how much it drains your brain to read around fifty pages of research each day?) Lots of learning to skim and discerning what pieces of information to keep and discuss. I’ve been figuring out things on my own as well as drawing from a forum of clamoring, discordant voices. I’ve planted my feet in fresh soil and begun a new kind of growth as I become enamored with the world of the library and the possibilities it opens for the community. I realize now how amazing people can be when we come together with open minds, offering everything freely without any regard for power.

So if I’ve been silent lately it’s because I’ve been overwhelmed in the very best way. I’m exhausted and simultaneously refreshed in a way I can only describe as spiritual. It’s continually amusing to me how much I thrive when I’m pushed beyond what I know into unexplored places. These days I laugh and cry at the smallest things and smile even when I’m trying to sleep off a headache. I’m writing and downloading new music and being unusually outgoing. This fall has been a spring of sorts for me.

A few months ago, I felt God telling me that I needed to read the book of Joshua. When I got the message, it was one of those weeks when I couldn’t help feeling a little defeated. The past six months or so have a been a bit depressing for me. After my first attempt at grad school fell flat, I felt like I was banging my head against the same brick wall day after day. I continued looking for meaningful part-time work and started volunteering at our public library. I was tired, though, and unaccustomed to feeling unsuccessful. My creativity was shrinking and eventually I just couldn’t motivate myself anymore. I came to the edge of my human ability to encourage myself and belly-flopped  into a pool of need. All my endless positivity couldn’t hide from God my dire need to have some reassurance that good things would happen. I got up the courage to ask him for–or should I say demand–good things and he responded with a homework assignment.

In Joshua, the Israelites have been wandering the wilderness for around forty years while waiting for the generation of Hebrews who were delivered from Egypt to die off. When Moses dies just before reaching Canaan, Joshua takes over as leader and is given a promise from God that it’s finally time to cross over to the Promised Land/Canaan. There’s a few problems with that plan, though, from a human perspective. One, there’s a giant, raging river between them and their new home and two, the people of Canaan aren’t just going to hand over the country and leave. They’re fierce warriors and there’s many more of them than are Israelites. Joshua must have thought God was out of his mind but all God has to do is promise him again and again. He tells Joshua not to be afraid for he’s already given them the land. He’s prepared the way and the people and nothing could stop them now. So Joshua takes him at his word and prepares the people to cross the Jordan. In typical God-form, the waters are parted and the Israelites cross on dry land, rejoicing. From there, the kingdoms of Canaan systematically (though, you know, not-so-seamlessly) crumble and bow before the God of Israel. Some people are brought into the Israelite family but others are…slaughtered mercilessly down to the last child. Yeah, Old Testament is pretty brutal.

The point is, the book of Joshua embodies the end of a long dry spell and a time of spiritual exile for God’s people. He renews his promise to bring them grace and bounty and they are ushered into a land that has already been given to them and it all starts with the river Jordan. When I began reading, I felt that I was on the wilderness side looking into the land of milk and honey and not knowing how I could ever make it across the rapids to that shore. Then I realized I wouldn’t be doing the swimming because all I had to do was surrender and ask. I’m not a big believer in wish-fulfillment-type prayer but I felt God telling me it was time. And, uhm, I was okay with that. 😉

A few weeks later, I was attending the orientation for my new school and feeling absolutely peaceful and happy about it. I knew that I was not only in the right place but that I was going to flourish there. I started asking God to prepare a place for me to work and to shape the hearts of the people who would employ me to make room a place for me. A few days after I started praying for that, a librarian approached me while I was volunteering and asked if I would be available for some part-time work. Of course, I calmly nodded and smiled. Today I interviewed for the position and should start training for it in a week or two.

Don’t you love it?

The Sort-of Single Life

31 Aug

First, a couple little updates in the nesting department. My milkshake room is still working its magic on me:

Some new touches.

 

I’m starting to throw in the reds and pinks and so far, it’s still looking cute as it did in my head. What do you think?

We also got our bed! Yay! And I found out how much I hate Ikea. Yep.

Best $100 bed ever.

 

The bed is super tall. Way taller than I expected, at least. I actually have to give a little hop to get onto it but it’s lovely. I’m thinking it’s a good solution to our shoe storage problem too. My next step is to find some under-bed storage that I can throw all our copious amounts of footwear into.

Now, I’ve got some good news and some bad news: Will is gone to Vegas for three months. Oh, that was both the good and the bad news.

Even though I miss him terribly sometimes, I actually really love my alone time. There’s a ton of not-so pleasant chores I have to take on now that he’s gone like taking out the trash, sending the bills, and taking the recycling to the center but there’s a lot of nice things too. I have the entire bed. Wait, actually I only have half the bed because Luca has taken over his side…but it’s still better than the third that my two bed-partners usually leave me. And the thing I’m really excited about? Cooking whatever I want!

Cooking is mostly Will’s thing. It gives him a way to unwind after work and it gives me one less thing to worry about. There’s no doubt about it; cooking can be very relaxing with all the aromas and tastes. For me, though, cooking is only something I do when I have to. I don’t actually like it and sometimes it’s even stressful to me. I can feel rushed and nervous about the outcome–it’s just not fun for me but I want it to be. The thing is, when it comes to food, I don’t really know what I love. That’s unusual for me. Typically I know exactly how I feel about almost everything. I eat food that’s good to me, but would I say I love eating? Not so much and it complicates things, including my health. I rarely ever feel the urge to snack between meals and that’s part of the reason I have issues with low blood sugar. I only eat when I have to, when I know it’s good for me.

So. I want to begin a love affair with food while my husband is gone. For my health and for my happiness, I want to be happier in the kitchen.

First Impressions of Grad School

24 Aug

I’m only three days into grad school but I have to say that right off the bat, it’s so much better than how my undergrad studies began. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect of the experience and from my past attempt at it, I wasn’t ready to get my hopes up. Still, when orientation went well and I liked all the faculty, I was encouraged. Now that I’m starting to see what our assignments are like, I’m loving it even more. Here are the big differences I’ve noticed between undergrad and grad studies.

It’s more of a mentoring process: You form relationships with instructors and advisers who have similar interests and experience in areas you like. These professors get to know you and help guide you as you decide what path to take. They’re also there for you when you start your job search and even after graduation. What I love about the library science field is that it’s dominated by women who come along and Mother Hen you. They’re smart, capable ladies who are invested in helping other women grow and succeed. Can you imagine?

You decide what you will get out of the program: With all my assignments, even group projects, we’re encouraged to explore our interests and passions and incorporate them in a way that’s relevant to our career. The program is generalized in this sense because it forces you to develop your own specializations. Depending on how hard you work and how much you use your imagination, you can come out with new ideas that will help change the field for the better. Another thing I love about library science is that it’s always changing. Not just because of technology but because librarians are dedicated to improving the system and helping people at every step.

Networking becomes a big deal: I only talk to a small handful of my peers from undergrad but I have a feeling that I will be networking with my current ones for years. From experience volunteering and getting to know librarians in other areas, I’ve noticed that a surprising number of them know each other. They either went to school together or attended a seminar once or maybe they just belong to the same organization but you can bet that they keep in touch. We’re already off and running on providing a support net for each other and will probably continue to do so through team work and group projects.

I’m loving this career choice so far and I’m actually pretty excited about the course work. I can’t wait to find out how to make my own little niche of expertise and research the topics that fascinate me. I’m so lucky to have found myself working towards a career that fuels my creativity instead of depleting it.

The Mismatched Life

19 Aug

I finally did it! Last Friday I had a sudden stroke of motivation and I decided it was past time to paint the dining room.

Now, don’t laugh when you see this but…

Ta-da!

I know, I know. The colors don’t go together even using every bit of my imagination. As some of you may remember, I went through pretty much every shade of brown and gray before making a realization about myself.

I don’t like neutrals.

At least not on my walls. After I gave into this fact and made my peace with using another colorful color, I went to my one-stop shop for color inspiration (Creature Comforts) and looked up swatches that could be used with yellow. I fell in love with this one:

Since the first two are the dominant colors in my living room, I decided I liked the second two for the dining room and kitchen. I dashed off to Lowe’s and picked out a few sample containers for colors that looked similar. Since I didn’t have a print out, I went by memory. I tried a little of two colors: a minty color (that I wound up keeping) and a more teal color that’s actually dead on for the light teal tile above. I fell in love with the mint color, though. I stared at it up close, from a distance, looked at it with the yellow and told myself I had no reason to be so enamored with it. It clearly didn’t match. I walked off and came back in. I tried a little more of the teal. I went back to Lowe’s planning to get the teal paint but when I was asked I pointed to the mint color in my purse. It was my soul mate.

So that’s the story of how I wound up with mismatched color progression going down the hallway. Since finishing the job, I’ve thought a bit about how to make the transition a little more cohesive and was puzzled up until yesterday. I was gazing into the dining room, fondly admiring my work, and I thought to myself how much it looked like a minty milkshake. I pictured it in a tall, pretty glass with a retro, red-and-white striped straw sticking out and smiled. I’m going to accent it with reds and pinks. Since both the colors are also used in the living room, I think throwing in those pops of color will make things blend much better. I’m also going to make sure that the art work is very similar to that in the living room and maybe even from the same artists, if I can swing it.

So, this is my Milkshake Room. 🙂

Notes from a New Husband

17 Aug

Hi, readers! Remember when I said Hubs was going to write a guest post for us? Well, it’s late…but with good reason. Last week he got some heavy news and we’ve both been mourning in our own ways while also making the most of our time together before he leaves for Vegas next weekend. We’ve had a lot of things to pray over lately and now feels like a good time to say thank you to everyone who has lifted us up in the past year and upheld the promise you made to us on our wedding day. There are definitely days when we get by on grace and we probably have a lot of prayers to thank for that.

So! Now here’s Will’s notes on being a new husband…

I am going to bring you my perspective on what it’s like to be a new husband.  It has been the biggest change I have ever gone through (to include 7 months in Iraq.)  The change is by far the most rewarding one you will make in your life.  It is definitely not easy, or for someone who gets bored with others. Marriage is a true test of everything you are.  It will test your sense of humor, your ability to adapt and overcome all petty things, your ability to cherish the little moments that have changed your life over the past few years, etc.

Something that’s been hard for me to deal with is always having someone around.  It’s hard to transition from one day having no one there when you get home from work to being greeted as you come in the door.  I am not saying it is a bad thing, words cannot describe how incredible a smile and a warm embrace can be when you have had a horrible day.  Some may say that I would be crazy to have an issue with that, but I need to be alone sometimes. Time apart is just as important as time together.  I usually take a short trip to the grocery store.  Driving is one of the ways that I can be relaxed while alone.

(Editor’s note: I totally sympathize with Hubs on this. I like my alone time and the poor man almost never gets any. He’s a good man to only require five or ten minutes away from me because I need lots of time to mull things over and I prefer that time to be in my bed with a good book. Don’t be discouraged or feel like a terrible spouse if you just want to lock your significant other in the basement for an hour. It’s absolutely normal and you have to learn that it’s okay to ask for what you need, even if what you need is for your SO to be far away.)

On the other hand, I like the thought of missing someone while I’m at work.  My wife and I never saw each other except on the weekends before, so it is definitely a step in the right direction.  In the past going to work was just going to work.  Now it’s a race to get home everyday so I can get the hug and kiss I was always missing before.

Talk about your financial plans before getting married and make sure it’s fully in place before the wedding.  I would recommend that you go into the marriage with your finances fully joined. Money’s a big deal and there are reasons for that. It will cause you to do strange things.  Never leave your significant other stranded without any way to access money.  Trust me, it turns out bad.  Also be sensible with your money, never live beyond your means. (We’ve learned that this means looking at how much you have to spare in your life. Never spend more than that amount because you’ll have a real tough time paying it back, no matter what creditors tell you. The best way to build credit is to choose a few regular bills that you can pay off easily on a routine schedule like gym memberships, gas expenses, etc. and only use your credit card for those things or absolutely emergencies.) Also, for couples filing taxes as newlyweds, file joint spouse. (Big bucks!!!)  Put anything you can into savings, there is never any telling what will happen and you need to be prepared. Trust me, it sucks to go without.  Enough with the money, I’m being a Debbie-Downer.

Honestly, the little things are what get you through the bad times.  It’s that picking up something special on the way home (for Brytani, its Hersheys or a Cinnabon).  Find something that she enjoys and take a few minutes out of your day to get it for her.  It goes a long way. (Well, specifically, it helps to renew those tender and generous feelings of love. If you get too much into a habit of only thinking of each other when you’re together, your relationship becomes routine and monotonous. We’ve both learned that both of us feel better when we do little nice things for each other. Even if it’s planning a nice meal on a hard day.)

Marriage is an amazing thing, but nothing amazing ever comes without a fight (or compromise). (But don’t fear the fights. Don’t retreat from the compromise. They’re healthy when you have each other’s good in mind.)

Guys, just remember this rhyme— HAPPY WIFE, HAPPY LIFE  🙂

(Ladies, that works in reverse too. Don’t let men fool you.)

Divying Up the Chores

9 Aug

It’s one of the first orders of business when figuring out how to live with another person and it’s always a tough job. You can’t decide how to approach the conversation of telling someone else what you think their chores should be because that seems so harsh. And then what do you do when the other person doesn’t hold up their end of the deal? There’s another awkward confrontation. “Uh, remember that deal we made where you do the laundry? Yeeeah, doesn’t look like you’ve been doing that.” Since I’ve now been living with someone (lovely who is never, ever an issue ;)) for almost ten months, I have a small amount of insight on how to take the sting away from sharing chores.

Remember that in my situation, I’m home for a good 75% of the week so in our case, I do around 80% of the chores. In most people’s lives, this isn’t the case but I think there may still be someone who can draw wisdom from my suggestions.

Amount of chores per person should be based somehow on how long each of you are home. As I just illustrated, if one of you spends more time than the other in the house, that person should naturally do more. I don’t mean that if someone is constantly going out with friends or partying that they shouldn’t spend anytime helping out around the house, though. I mean that your portion of the chores should depend on the time that you’re not working.

If your roommate/partner likes a certain chore more than you do, let him/her handle it. That’s one less thing to worry about. You may have someone who doesn’t like to do anything, though and I’ll get to that in a bit.

If you have something that you like done in a way that is uniquely and precisely your style, it’s polite to take that as your job. Because assigning dish-washing to your friend and then fussing at her for leaving a tiny particle of cheese on the bottom of the plate is a bit rude. Also under this category, don’t criticize anyone who is genuinely trying to help out. It can cause a lot of insecurity to look at the other person’s work and say, “but you just did it all wrong.” Then what’s the point of them even doing it? If you really must, offer suggestions…but nicely. Otherwise, deal with the little imperfections and realize that they’re better than no help at all.

When you get to the things that neither of you like to do, make sure you have an equal number of chores that make you frown.  That’s what sharing is all about. Some people can never be made happy no matter how fair you are, though, and it’s important to show that you’re both sucking it up. At least if they’re going to be cry-babies, they can’t cry about you being so unfair.

Try to steer clear of alternating days/weeks. It’s confusing but if you really must, then you must.

Now that you’ve set up your lists and schedules, let me share my method for handling chores that aren’t being done.

1. I try to wait a little while and see if the accumulation of things triggers the other person’s memory. Like if my partner is supposed to help with the laundry, I see if letting all the baskets fill up makes it easier to remember. However, this could become a negative kind of avoiding and if you’re not careful, could become passive aggressive. So…

2. The moment that it starts to actually annoy you, have a sit-down with the other person. Or just give a little suggestion. “Hey, it would really help out if you could do the dishes tonight. We’re running out of clean cups.” If it’s consistent, then a come-to-Jesus meeting might be necessary. Just don’t let it go on bugging you because life’s too short not to share what’s getting under your skin with the person you care about. You always want to give a friend a chance to improve.

3. I think this is especially important if you’re in a relationship/marriage with the person you’re living with: never do it for him/her. Mainly because it will make you mad and will sprout a tiny hang nail that will never really get plucked until one day you explode like, “I always have to clean the tub out for you! Why don’t you love me?!” My rule is, if it would upset me to do it, I don’t. I don’t martyr myself like that, ever. Now, if I feel like doing something nice for hubs, I certainly do but that’s different.

Well, I hope this experience comes in handy for you. Hubs is going to join in later this week with a little guest post on advice for new husbands (and maybe even for some of us ladies on how to handle them). I’m so happy I could just pinch his cheek. 😀