We, and yes, that is me and my partner, who some people seem to confuse with a boyfriend or a passing acquaintance because we don’t use the words husband and wife, WE are going through a difficult time. A time of transition. We are changing everything. Our schedules, our commitments, our focus. In a way I feel lighter, but I also feel adrift. Nothing is the same as it was last week. I used to turn off my alarm every morning because his would go off and I could just wake up then. Now it doesn’t. I have to remember to set my own, and get up while he’s still asleep. Things are torn asunder, left and right.
What all this upheaval has made us do, aside from drink a lot of beer, is talk. We’ve been talking non-stop, questioning every decision, questioning everything we do in a day. I will admit I also suffer from a lot of what are generally referred to as “mental health issues,” so change is especially difficult for me. But the strong point through all of this is that we’ve, without expressly saying it, made a list of our values. It could be longer, really I could make this list go on forever. But here is what it’s come down to:
1. To be near to our families, which for us totals three sets of parents and of course extended family, and to spend as much time with them as possible (this also includes our dog and cat)
2. To spend quality time with each other, whether it is hiking, birding, gardening, or some combination thereof
3. To spend time with the friends who we love and support us
4. To work jobs that allow us to do the above things, and also pay bills
5. For me specifically, to read books and write
And that’s about it. There are things in there about me cooking real dinners so we eat good food, etc, but those are really the essentials. And when you are in a time of change (crisis?) you realize that yes, you really can cut out everything that isn’t essential. I feel like I’ve had a revelation. It may sound stupid, or trite, but it actually occurred to me (like a lightbulb going off) that I’m 31 and I don’t care what job I have, as long as I can spend as much time with my family as I want to. My career is somewhat shaky- I sew clothing for a booth at the Renaissance Festival, after all, and supplement with whatever I can find- so this is sometimes difficult. But I realized I am happy to walk away from anything that prevents me from having a family dinner once a week. I’m happy to say no to opportunities, if that means I can’t go camping with my partner at least twice a year. What a relief!
Maybe this all sounds self explanatory, like I should have been thinking this all along, but honestly, I feel like I just shed some kind of heavy, awkward skin. I’m done pretending like I have a god damn career, whatever that means. I’m done with bending over backwards to please everyone else. I know what matters- my family, my partner, my dog, our chickens. I spent a week taking off work so I could sit with my cat who was dying of cancer, and then I felt shitty because I couldn’t pay the bills. But you know what? That was exactly where I needed to be at that time.
I’m struggling with this notion of doing things because they are important to me, and not because they are expected. Every day is really a fight between what I think I should do (which is usually work in the garden or sew) and what someone else thinks I should do. Yesterday I sat outside on a blanket and read a book and had a v&t and listened to the chickens make happy contented little sounds while the dog sat next to me, just watching the world go by. I started crying because I couldn’t believe I was so lucky, to sit outside and really do nothing. To watch my chickens go about their business. And for the first time in months (years?) I woke up this morning and didn’t feel guilty about spending an afternoon doing exactly what I wanted to do, rather than what I felt I SHOULD have done (worked).
I’m trimming away at my commitments, but I’m also trimming away at my expectations. I sew for a living. I supplement by bussing tables. Yep. 31 years old and bussing tables for cash. And you know what? I don’t care. I’m happier doing that than I have been at any of the “acceptable” jobs I’ve had in the past- decade?
Maybe it’s wrong, maybe it’s privileged, maybe it’s just plain delusional. But I really don’t fucking care. And that is the most freeing thing of all. I know what matters. My partner, my family, my animals, my garden, and the friends who I know will stick by me no matter what. The friends who show up with hugs and texts and support, even when to the rest of the world I might look like I’m blowing up my life.
This is maybe not what I intended to write. I think I sat down to write about the transplants, and the difficulties of growing tomatoes in unpredictable weather? But this is what came out. And I just read back over it without the slightest compunction. This is where I am. Fuck it, I’m proud to be where I am, even if I never have any money. I’m where I need to be to do the most important things in my life, and that’s where I plan to stay.
*** and a special thank you to, you know who you are, the people who reached out with encouragement last week. I can’t even say how much that meant to me.