So Much For Fireworks

The sky was full of smoke. Lighters flickered at the end of the driveway, and adolescents let out a whoop and sprinted off, the universal signal that more explosions were on the way. “We’ll go to couples’ counseling,” I whispered, “this will all work out.” You smiled down at me for a second, then put your arm around my shoulder the way I hated, pulling me into an awkward, possessive hug, the kind that defined me as the little woman, the lesser half. I took a deep breath, an even deeper swig of beer. Your family gathered around me. They were my family then. I loved them as much as I loved fireworks – the bright colors; the cacophony of laughter; the genuine smiles, the kind that dazzle you into a chain reaction. Fire lit the sky. It was too hard to talk, so I just gave up and settled in.

In response to today’s Daily Post prompt, Autonomy

Return To The Road

Hello there, readers. It’s been awhile – sorry to keep you waiting so long for an update. In late March, I decided to take a little break from blogging here while I sorted out my life and considered whether walking The Camino was still in my cards. It actually didn’t take me too long to figure out that it was still what I wanted, but somewhere in the midst of my breakup, move, and life reshaping I ended up forgetting my WP password. Once I got that figured out, I started having technical difficulties with my Google Authenticator. From there, I just bumbled around, forgetting other passwords left and right and leaving a swath of abandoned social media accounts in my wake. Luckily, WP has these amazing Happiness Engineers that spend their days helping forgetful folks like yours truly, and the amazing David W. not only came to my rescue, but managed to not make me feel like an idiot while he went about getting me back into my WP account. Thanks again, David!!!

So now that I’m back in, what do I do? There’s so much to say to you all. Since my other blog, Compass & Quill, isn’t on the WP.com platform, I just kept writing over there. You can catch up with a selection of topics regarding my private life over there, if you’d like. I’ve been saving all talk of Santiago de Compostela for this page, though. Especially one specific thought that came to me at some point over the past couple of months, then was (strangely) reiterated by a friend the other day:

The Camino comes to you.

It makes sense, obviously, given that all pilgrimage routes are meant to be physical representations of journeys of the heart and mind towards some kind of spiritual Truth. When we walk, we’re looking to become part of something. We’re not just looking for the thing that will make us whole, that will complete us and give our lives meaning. We’re also looking to become part of the whole, to have our lives be meaningful to others.

When I first set upon the idea of walking to Santiago de Compostela, I looked at it from an academic standpoint. I was a wayward soul back then (and still today, but the film of time somehow makes me feel a little more tethered than I did at 22). I wasn’t looking at walking across the Pyrenees as a spiritual undertaking, but rather more as an adventure where I’d have the chance to visit and catalog a host of medieval religious sites over the course of a long period of exercising. After awhile, once it sunk in that I’d never be a medieval historian, I gave up on the idea of using the trip for research…which meant that I basically gave up on the idea.

The Camino had other intentions for me; it stuck around in my psyche, popping up every few years to remind me that it was waiting, to see if I was ready to take the plunge. Over the years, it also somehow boiled itself down into something more pure. The Camino would be a chance to walk, meet new friends, see things I’d never seen before, and most importantly, to start listening more closely to what the Universe was trying to tell me. It was going to be my time to find myself and become what I’d always been meant to be…whatever that was.

Over the last year or so, The Camino started meaning something else to me, something that I never realized clearly enough to be able to put it into words: escape. The act of becoming truer to myself and the Universe meant leaving behind what I knew and didn’t like about myself. Mostly, that was my relationship, and who I was within its confines. But I couldn’t say this out loud. I didn’t have the vocabulary for it. Instead, I’d think of going on the road, and how happy I’d be out there, alone. How maybe I’d meet people who’d get me, people with whom I’d be able to talk about religion, drink some wine, share some stories about traveling in Europe. It wasn’t until fairly recently that I realized all of these things were things I wasn’t getting in my relationship. My spirit was burdened by the now, and I was attempting to hide that from myself by daydreaming about a journey far in the future.

So the breakup came, after years of dawdling about on my part, but still not without a serious push from the Universe. Against my better judgment, I started to find feelings for someone else. Over the sound of a beloved band, conversation on the essence of St. Francis and how he will forever be part of my heart, musings on the meaning of The Camino…and a thousand other ideas and dreams that have passed their way between us in the last few months, my heart began to open back up in a way that had only been happening when I talked about my future plans to walk through Spain. I started to understand what it meant to feel genuine romantic love and concern for another human being, in a way I had only imagined I’d known anything about. And with that came this renewed sense of self-reliance, and a trust that I am actually walking in the right direction, after all.

All this time, I didn’t have faith. I lost it somewhere, years ago. But it’s back now. Yes, there’s so much farther to go. I’m just a child, blind to the wonders that are stretched out before me. But in the end, The Camino came to me…and now I know that I’m strong enough to go to it.

The only question now is where to find the funding.

Making Power Moves

Rumi Quote, Photo by Anna Harris

Note: I started this blog post on 4/30/13, so it’s half a month old. But I wanted to share it, anyway, as it’s a positive view on something that I’ve been kind of negative about lately: my relationship with The Man.

One of my two best friends always refers to groundbreaking actions as “power moves.” These actions can vary in depth and theme – anything from pushing your way to the front of a concert crowd to tackling important financial issues head on. Lately, I’ve been exploring issues here on Compass & Quill that I’ve been too afraid to really think too hard about. In some ways, I’m still going easy when I should be, as my friend would say, making power moves. It’s getting to the point where I need to take a stand for myself.

The other night after writing the last blog post, I had a talk with The Man about how I’m feeling about kids, marriage, living here in New Orleans, not getting paid nearly enough, and being buried in student loan & credit card debt. It wasn’t the most earth-shattering conversation, since a lot of the problems that we have with each other are entirely dependent on our current financial situation. However, as soon as some of my bottled-up complaints were out of my mouth, I felt much more free and relaxed than I had in ages. He agreed with me on almost every point. Where I was expecting arguments, I got either agreement or at least a try at understanding my point of view.

Update from 5/16/13

The Man left last week to live and work in New York City for a month or so. He works with the government, and it’s in his contract that they can just move him when and where they want. I’m fine with that, and he is, too. The same best friend that I was talking about above always quotes something that her mother says to her father – “How can I miss you if you don’t go away?” And it’s true. I don’t miss everything about The Man (for instance, I LOVE having the house to myself) but I do miss HIM. And he’s having an awesome time in NYC, so when we talk, it’s the happy, loving man I first fell in love with so long ago. I’m glad that he’s giving me precious alone time, but also glad that it’s on terms that both of us can handle. In a perfect world, we’d have a huge warehouse loft in NYC so that we could live there together, with plenty of room to escape each other when necessary, but that’s not happening (just yet, anyway).

In other news, I’ve made the decision to clear out my savings account (all the money I’ve saved up to pay taxes next go ’round) and use the money I’ve saved since January to instead pay off three of my credit cards. I’ve been worn out and sick for the last few days, and I started to get run down after about a week of feeling way too stressed out. I’m killing myself with stress, and it needs to stop immediately. The main stressors in my life are #1- not making enough money, and, #2-having so much debt, so I’ve decided to pay off most of the debt now, instead of letting it eat me alive for one more day. I can spend the rest of the year saving half of every paycheck to pay my taxes (instead of the 30% I currently put away). I have seven more months to figure the tax issue out, and without the stress of credit card debt on my back, I’ll be much freer to spend that energy tackling new projects and coming up with more cash.

I’ve got some big news to share with you this weekend, but it’s so big that it’s going to take another blog post and a lot more time to sort it all out into a manageable chunk. Keep me in mind – tomorrow’s Photography Friday, and I’ll be sharing pictures of my cats, New Orleans, and some Tibetan monks making a sand mandala (oh yeah, did I mention that I went to see monks make a sand mandala tonight?). The rest of the big reveal concerns my new company, a new gig, and hopefully my triumphant return to NYC for a weekend visit!

Adding Magic

Strawberry Festival Rides

I’m afraid that when I’m on my way out of the world, hopefully hanging out in my comfy armchair at my little cabin beside a pond/lake/ocean/other suitable body of water, I’ll regret wasting too much time on boring, meaningless things. Procrastination seems to be a way of life for me. TV, junk food, and worrying over complete bullshit seem to be my drugs of choice. I hate the cycle I’ve made for myself, but am having a great deal of trouble breaking it. Every day feels like starting over, with failure pretty soon into my morning in some way or other. But I keep plugging along. I keep trying to sort out my frazzled brain and hold on to the things that matter. I’m afraid that I’ll be living like this until I die, and I won’t have accomplished very much.

One of my biggest issues at the moment, of course, is my relationship. It’s troubled, and I don’t know how to fix it. I’ve been trying, but lately even the best days seem to be just OK. I’m not sure if I can be happy with that forever, but I owe it to both of us to hang in there and give it my best. I’ve read that you can’t be happy within a relationship until you’re happy with yourself, so most of my effort now is going to being happy, treating myself right, feeling alive and healthy in my own right, and keeping an eye on how these changes end up affecting how The Man and I get along.

Riding The Chainsaw

So this weekend I did everything that I wanted to do. My coworkers and I all went out to the Pontchatoula Strawberry Festival on Saturday morning, and had a blast! We rode the rides, ate tons of fest food (2 fried strawberries, strawberry shortcake, a meat pie, a half dozen chargrilled oysters, a shot of strawberry moonshine, and a strawberry daiquiri for me), played some carnival games, and all in all really enjoyed the hell out of the day. The best part of the day was riding this ride called The Chainsaw with my coworker Nathan. Each of the ‘cars’ on the ride is its own contained cage, and they flip upside down if the weight distribution in the car is right. Together, we weighed just enough that once the ride got going, our car just flipped continually. It was super scary, but also super fun. I’ve always loved carnivals and carnival rides, but I don’t know if I understood before yesterday just how much I dig them. Not sure if I get enough serious adrenaline in my life – might have to come up with a solution for that one. The rest of the day was pretty calm, though enjoyable. I even got to spend some time checking out the town’s antique shops, and though I didn’t come home with a pallet of strawberries, as intended, I did come home with a massive sunburn. All my fault for thinking that a few hours in the sun couldn’t hurt. My shoulders are not forgiving me.

Sunburn

This morning I met up with my friend Caroline for a great brunch at Surrey’s, this cool little diner. After that we went shopping and got mani/pedis at our favorite nail place. It was so great getting to catch up with her – we used to be coworkers about five years ago, and though I moved on from that job, we ended up keeping in touch over the years and hanging out whenever I was in New Orleans. She’s one of my favorite people in the world, and has a very fresh perspective on life; just what I need right now.

This was our table at brunch. Richard Simmons could not dissuade me from eating a big plate of tofu migas :-)

This was our table at brunch. Richard Simmons could not dissuade me from eating a big plate of tofu migas 🙂

Now I’m home, and The Man and I have had a good night in. We cooked dinner together, and are getting ready to cap off the night with Game of Thrones. I’m excited to see what’s going to happen to Arya, though of course now that I’ve said that, she probably won’t even be mentioned in this episode (argh). Which reminds me, did you guys see this article from Buzzfeed of Game of Thrones actors hanging out with each other in real life? It’s mind blowing, I tell you.

Anyway, I’m going to try to keep adding magic every day. Also, starting tomorrow, I’m going on a 30-day challenge – 30 days of gym/running & yoga every single day. I’ve also been meditating every night for the last five nights, and I’m feeling remarkably calmer than usual. Hoping that 30 days of working out, meditating, eating right and doing at least one thing that sparks my love for life per day will kickstart me into action and instill a new sense of energy and hope in me that I’m just not feeling right now. I want to have things sorted out sooner rather than later. Either I start over in love, or I start over. Either is a great choice, so I’m not scared, just ready to get to work.

Advancement

Some people think of advancement solely as something you do at work, like “advancing to a higher position.” I’m trying to think about advancement as something I’m doing with my life, not just my career. If I concentrate solely on advancing at my career, where does that leave me as a person? Sure, I might have a nicer desk or a packed social calendar, but it doesn’t make me a better person.

For me, a large part of advancing is becoming a happier person. I want to enjoy every day of my life like it’s my last. Sure, that might not be entirely possible, since I’ll have to choose between short term and long term happiness-inducers in some cases. For instance, if I couldn’t get fat, constipated or hung over (all of which make me supremely unhappy), I’d eat a wedge of brie and drink a bottle of red wine every single day from now until the bitter end. So in that case, I’ll have to make the choice to treat my body with love, instead of falling in love with food. But that’s OK – perhaps splurging now and then will punctuate my happiness more fully.

Things that I LOVE doing that I don’t do anymore:

1) Watch girly movies, foreign flicks, and documentaries

2) Go to art museums and study every.single.description without caring how long it’s going to take

3) Dancing

4) Listening to live Afrobeat, Latin Fusion, and Kirtan music

5) Reading until way past my bedtime

6) Singing out loud in my own home

7) Filling my fridge with delicious vegetarian meal options

8) Putting on sexy outfits and feeling like a millon dollars

9) Visiting graveyards and just enjoying being there

10) Going to cultural festivals

11) Traveling

12) Practicing/learning about my spiritual path

13) Having the house to myself for days at a time

14) Taking weekend road trips to the beach

15) Going outdoors with loved ones during the summer

16) Learning about wine & winemaking techniques

17) Going out to a new restaurant every week

18) Doing physical activities with my significant other (gym, dancing, running, biking, camping, etc.)

19) Camping

20) Laughing every single day

I had a serious talk with The Man last night about where I want to be in my life, and what the holdup might be. Our world views have become so different over the six years we’ve been together, and I’m not sure if I’m going to get through to him. He’s so very unhappy about where he is in life right now, and that he can’t afford a house or kids. Meanwhile, I’m unhappy that I’m stuck with someone who’s so focused on the future that he can’t see what he’s missing in the present. I don’t want to get old waiting to have fun, especially being a woman and realizing that the kind of fun I want will essentially be over once we have kids. I want someone to go on adventures with, and he’s so busy waiting for the train that he can’t see the beauty in walking. I’m having  a hard enough time being positive and forward-thinking on my own, and I just don’t have the energy to brush off his attitude anymore.

So we’ll see. It just feels like it’s time for me to make the call. I’ve been waiting for close to two years for him to snap out of it and realize he can’t spend all of his time focusing on things that he can’t control. But I don’t think he’s going to. I don’t think his belief system allows him any flexibility to believe that better experiences are possible just through making a concerted effort to create those experiences. And I don’t feel like getting dragged down with the ship, honestly.

This is something I’ve been examining from all angles for years now, and the only thing I can do now is just start living my life the way I want and hope that he catches up. Otherwise, maybe our paths will have to diverge. We’ll see. I don’t want to break up, though I can’t say I’d mind being alone again. I like alone – it fits me well. I’ll miss the way he makes me laugh every now and then, and the moments when he’s happy and it feels a little like the old days. Those moments are so very few and far between, though.

Now I just feel heartbroken thinking about how lackluster my life has become; I wish I had made the choice to say something years ago. Maybe I could have fixed us. Or maybe not.

 

Day #26: 6 Years Later…

Today is the six-year anniversary of my first date with The Man. We had already known each other for nine months, and were both classmates and teammates who worked closely every day in our historic preservation graduate program at Tulane University. We were friends, and had been attracted to each other since the first day we met – but I had a boyfriend, and wasn’t the cheating kind. As it turned out, that boyfriend turned out to be obsessive and turn into a complete creep who accused me of sleeping with The Man because I was at architecture studio all night working on projects, then threatened to kill me when I tried to break up with his crazy self. Eventually, I managed to get free of that bad situation (made easier since it was a long distance relationship, anyway), but things were very weird between The Man and me by then, since the crazy ex had also called and threatened him. Neither The Man nor I had considered dating, even though there was the attraction; it just seemed weird since we were such good friends and saw each other every day in school. But then my best friend moved back to town and dragged me out drinking on Labor Day, and I impulsively called The Man to see if he’d want to have a drink with us at Snake & Jake’s. A couple of hours later, we were happily holding hands and watching as Bestie lit fireworks out in the street in front of our house.

Now it’s six years later. Crazy. We’ve changed in weird ways, but stayed the same in the right ones. Sometimes our relationship is a huge pain in my ass, and I wonder if I’d be happier being single. Other days I realize that he loves me more than I love myself, and that’s worth fighting for. It’s a little weird having been together this long and not being married. We talk about kids, but neither of us want them just yet. We talk about getting married, but neither of us could afford the party we’d want to have. I have trouble talking about my relationship ups and downs with friends, because The Man and I have been together for longer than most couples I know, but everyone I know is married already. Some of my friends see that as some kind of warning sign. Other friends haven’t even experienced what it’s like to transition from being wildly in lust to just steadily in  like with the person you’re living on top of every day. Then again, as an only child AND a Scorpio (and he’s a Scorp, too, just to make it interesting) it’s VERY difficult to share my space 24/7. It’s one of my least favorite things about being in a relationship, and it’s pretty much our only problem as a couple. It makes it hard to talk to people I know who seem surgically attached to their lovers and wouldn’t have it any other way. That kind of shit makes me crazy. The Man and I finish each other’s sentences, he hums songs that I’m thinking about, I can pick a thought out of his brain on command. These are all good things. But we would both love to have a house where we could spend our time not seeing each other every now and then.

So. It’s 8:48am and I’ve just written a very random post about my relationship. Now it’s time to dry my hair, put on some deodorant, and go to work. I’ve already gone to Bikram today (Day #4 of the challenge – woot!) and I’ve got one more gulp of protein shake to get down. I weighed in at 157.8 lbs today, with which I’m fine. I’ll have to be careful to stay on target today and not let stress eating get the better of me. Other than that, I’m good. It’s time to go. The sooner I go to work, the sooner I’ll get to go out with my boyfriend of 6 years tonight for an anniversary date 🙂