Relationships–where do I fit in?

I don’t have any plans to get married or engaged anytime soon, but I came across a website called A Practical Wedding recently that I can’t stop reading. There are so many essays that explore relationships and your place in them that really resonate with me.

One of my favorites is “It’s Still Worth It.” The comments, in particular, made my chest tighten up and a ray of hope shoot out from somewhere. The comment from MegsMom in particular is my favorite. I’m just going to post a bulk of it here:

“I often compare a good marriage to job that you really, really love.

I have spent my career years as a teacher. I love it. I am passionate about it. I always have felt and thought that it was something that I was called to do. Over the years, I have had bad days, bad weeks, bad months. I have had bad YEARS. Years where by November 1, I couldn’t wait for the year to end. Long stretches in which I wanted to tear my hair out and scream by the end of almost every day. For most of my career, I taught in neighborhoods in which the kids had almost every card in the deck stacked against them, and I sometimes felt that what I did for them was a hopelessly inconsequential drop in the bucket.

But did I want to quit teaching? I would sometimes fantasize about it. A couple of times I went so far as to investigate what additional training I would need in order to switch careers. But when it came down to a serious decision, I always chose to stay. Teaching gave me so much joy, so much satisfaction, and the kids returned so much love. And every time a kid’s face literally lit up with the realization that they understood something new, I felt that I had had a small part in the making of that miracle.

If your marriage is that: up times, down times, struggling times, and every once in a while miracle times, however small, then it is well worth helping each other find ‘the courage to love in the face of uncertainty.'”

When you hear “you just know” from so many people when it comes to choosing a future spouse, I get so frustrated. I don’t “just know” about ANYTHING. I hem and haw over which grocery store to go to every week, for goodness sake. How am I supposed to feel completely sure about a much bigger decision, even with time?

While the person who wrote this essay and I do not share the same situation, many of the sentiments are the same. This part particularly comforted me:

“As somewhat of a self-identified hopeless romantic who has always been giddy about the prospect of sharing my life with a partner whom I truly love, for some strange reason I thought the act of getting married and choosing that partner would be different. That it would be immune to the anxious rules that govern my decision-making skills, even though they especially govern huge decisions that will affect me for the rest of my life. I was a little disappointed when I realized that as we started to seriously consider getting engaged, my thoughts were overrun with the same overanalyzing and anxiety I’ve always experienced. Eventually I had to come to grips with the reality that this wasn’t going to be some magical “you-just-know” moment for me. I don’t work that way. I had a great talk recently with a newly wed friend who is similarly indecisive like me and she wisely told me that for people like us, we can’t hold on to a romanticized hope that our brain will just function differently for this one big decision. And it’s okay to analyze it, try to make sense of it in our minds, and that analyzing does not in any way indicate that you shouldn’t be marrying him. That was a relief to hear because not only had I been thinking about the stress of making such a huge decision, I had been worried that because of the fact I thought about how difficult this decision was, it somehow meant that we shouldn’t actually be getting married. The analyzing only indicates that’s how you work, that’s how you make big decisions, according to my friend. And in the end you should trust yourself and know that you’ve never in your life made a big decision that was flawlessly easy, that you were 100% at rest with. This wasn’t going to be that way either. And that is okay.”

I’m hoping that in the next year or two, I have a good idea about where I’d like to be with this relationship long-term. In the words of the second essay, I have a new goal for this time: “Come to a place where you feel like you can trust yourself to make a good and solid decision about marrying.” Because honestly, I don’t even know how I feel about the institution itself.

It’s the little things

You know how you start the day and something small happens, like you forgot to bring your gym clothes to work, or you discovered a scuff on the back of the shoes you wear practically every day? And then it seems to compound–you made a small error on something for work, the doctor’s office you called that has great Yelp reviews doesn’t accept your shitty insurance like they supposedly did, and your chin acquired a painful zit overnight that probably looks like it’s taking up half your face.

Gradually, you feel like the day is going down the tubes. If someone asked you how your day went, you’d think about it and say, “It wasn’t that great.” While you were in the midst of it, it’d seem like it could get better, and anyway, every day doesn’t have to be the best day ever. But after a quick reflection, you’d realize that it was actually kind of shitty, that the ho-hum of your usual day was punctuated with small events that tipped the scales to make the day not good at all. And you find yourself in a funk, in a grumpy mood, and like the day was a total wash.

It’s only 12:30 (also part of the issue–how is it not anywhere near 5 p.m. right now?), and I can already tell this is the kind of day I’m having. I’m looking at recipes for sweet potatoes and smoothies and salads and NOT thinking, Maybe I’ll actually make these, maybe they’ll taste good, like I usually do. I’m thinking, No way I’ll ever actually choose to eat a sweet potato, I’m not putting cabbage in a smoothie or even bothering to make one before work, this salad will never fill me up at lunch.

I know it’s partly mental, and that you make choices throughout the day, and that you can choose to be happy. But when you’re not inspired, and you just want to go home and take a nap with your cats, it’s real hard to keep that in mind.

I also just realized it’s that time of the month for me. Totally forgot. This probably explains it. False alarm?

Exhausted.

Between work (which is not that stressful, but it’s 40 hours a week of sitting in front of a screen), exercising, seeing friends, running errands, and wondering why my boyfriend’s sisters present seems to be stuck in the Los Angeles post office’s sorting facility, I’m tired.

Here, go laugh at Sad Desk Lunch. I’ll be back tomorrow.

Where’s my blogger tribe?

One of the reasons I decided to restart this blog is because I wanted to make new friends. I swear I’m not some lonely creep–I have a pretty full life and good friends in nearby DC. Some here, but not many I can truly call my own.

I figured that while Baltimore is a small city, it’s still a city, and there had to be a bunch of people with blogs here. That turned out to be sort of true, but most seem to be either health and fitness-related (look how many miles I ran!) or fashion and beauty-based (here’s my daily outfit picture!).

Not that I have a problem with these blogs, but these aren’t really my people. Me and exercise are in an on-again off-again relationship, and I’m not willing to eat quinoa and make hamburger buns out of cashews because they’re better for you. If something is healthy and tastes good, okay, but if I’m eating a burger, I want it surrounded by actual bread. Preferably brioche, but that’s irrelevant here. When it comes to fashion, I’ve sort of given up on my work wardrobe–it’s usually a season-inappropriate dress that I wear with a cardigan, tights, and flats. I have no idea how to accessorize aside from my nana’s super cool old ring and a pair of earrings, and while I wish I could do better, I don’t worry about it.

There are a few food-centric blogs out there, but most of them either haven’t been updated since 2011 or feature recipes that use sweet potatoes or winter squashes. They’re usually healthy, too. Where are the people who spend an hour reading restaurant menus before going out for a meal and aren’t afraid to give Tapas Teatro a two? I’M LOOKING FOR YOU GUYS.

If this were a personals ad, this would read:

ISO food lover who appreciates well-executed plate of nachos as much as dynamite steak tartare. Must be young professional with conversational skills and sense of snark. Beverage appreciation a plus.

I emailed a stranger

That title sounds like a Lifetime movie. I DID email a stranger, but with a purpose: to make a new friend.

When I moved to Baltimore in July, I thought it would be completely different from living in DC. And it is, for the most part–people you don’t know say hello to you in the morning on the street, rent is cheaper, and a beer is $2. But what’s too similar for my taste is how hard it is to make friends here. People may talk to you at bars with no other agenda than to be friendly, but that doesn’t mean they’re looking for a friend.

My boyfriend and I go out to dinner or for drinks a few times a week, and he rarely fails to strike up a conversation with someone. Sometimes, people will start talking to us. And about half of the time, they seem normal or like people one or both of us would want to hang out with. But you can’t just ask a stranger to dinner (although this did happen to us at Crate & Barrel, which is another story).

I love food: reading about it, watching shows on it, cooking it, eating it, the dining experience, the excitement of looking at menus and reviews and picking out my next stop, the unexpected surprises. I generally like other people who appreciate a good meal or a well-made drink.

Finding these people isn’t easy, though. I ran a Meetup group for a couple of months here for people who lived in my neighborhood that were around my age. I hesitated to start another food Meetup (which I’ve done in Boston and DC), but looking back, maybe I should have. I met one girl I liked, but being the facilitator and making people feel comfortable at each and every event, rather than getting to talk to the people that seemed most interesting to me, got exhausting. My boyfriend and I hang out with one of his friends and his girlfriend, and she likes to bake. (From my experience, though, bakers and cooks are different breeds of people.) Half a year in, I’ve sort of given up trying.

I was reading the City Paper‘s eats section online yesterday and came across a review for a bar that’s near me. The writing was concise and funny, and when I Googled the author, she looked normal and nice. I emailed her, under the pretense of wanting to connect with other people that love food in Baltimore, and to talk about how she got to where she is. But really, I’m hoping we might hit it off and become friends.

God, does that sound creepy.

If it works, though, then I’m keeping on this blog bandwagon. I met my boyfriend online (he’s normal, I swear), found my apartment on Craigslist, and applied for a job on the Internet. Why not try to make friends through it?

A struggle

Writing has never come easily to me. Yes, I could write quality papers for class, but I’d always agonize over them being good enough. It seemed like some people just wanted to get it over with, and they weren’t really attached to their paper on Their Eyes Were Watching God. Totally understandable, and I almost envy their detachment, because that’s just not me. Never has been, never will be.

I know I’m a good writer. In a huge pool of people who blog, or write for a living, or are trying to get their manuscripts published, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. So many people could do this better than me, and many do. So many more stick with it and are consistent about posting to their blogs, whether or not their writing is good quality or grammatically correct or if they have an audience other than their moms.

I can’t count how many blogs I’ve started. There have been countless proclamations of, “I’m going to really do it this time! Every day!” Just as many backtracks–“Well, no one’s reading it anyway. Why bother?” Enough minor moments to get me off track, and enough instances where the blogging world just seems too big to add one more.

But I don’t know why I see it as competition. I see just about everything as competition: which friends will get their “dream job” first, who makes more money, who seems happier, who’s really earned what they got, who seems to have all their shit together. I’ve heard so many times that it’s useless to compare yourself to others, but I’ve never been able to internalize it. I am the worst kind of perfectionist–the criticizer who knows I can probably do it better, but who gives up early on when confronted with people who are already doing it or when I hit a surmountable road block.

I can’t promise myself that I’ll keep writing here. I can’t say that I’ll be back here tomorrow, and the next day, and that I become a consistent blogger with connections to other bloggers. That’s the hope. I can only speak for today and say, “I did it.”