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Instead, this is a post to legitimately confess the deeply strange habits that one acquires when living alone. Society keeps us sane, people, and without it we become quirkier than we were before. When I lived alone in France, this quirkiness masked itself as culture. In my wifi-less state, I would load episodes of This American Life when I had wifi, and then play them in my little room above the city while I prepared well balanced meals. I listened to classical music, sketched flowers, and read a ridiculous amount of good literature.
Now I have the Internet, and it has robbed me of the chance to become a dignified and sophisticated woman of mystery, retreating to her quiet home to brood and stuff. So here they are, the strange habits I have adopted without the civilizing presence of The Gaze of The Other, as we say in graduate school, and with the added handicap of time-wasting Internet.
I eat really strange combinations of food, usually selected because they happen to be in the proximity where I am hungry. One night this meant a pile of tomatoes and a pile of green beans. Followed by ice-cream. Another night it meant 2 slices of lemon tart and small bowl of pistachios. But most often, it means a giant pile of leaves (spinach, kale, things pulled from the tree on the sidewalk as I walked into my building…jk… that hasn’t happened… yet), wilted down with some goat cheese and topped with runny eggs. Because if I had a restaurant, it would most likely be called “Just Put an Egg on it” as that is my food motto. That and, “Eat Nutella directly from the jar because you cut out the calories of whatever you were going to waste time spreading it on.”
I listen to music with the express purpose of crying to it. Y’all, the occasional weepy post aside, I am not actually a sad person. But I sincerely love crying, a convenient affinity as everything makes me cry. Sometimes I cry along to this one, because cellos sound like human voices weeping and it elevates my soul. Other times I crank up this one and cry as if I too survived a Freshman year of college replete with lost faith and soul-crushing anguish. I didn’t, for the record. Mine was full of baked goods, dutiful Bible study attendance, assignments completed on time, and appropriate levels of sleep. Don’t ever let you tell you that being the good kid can’t be fun. It is so fun, and even if it isn’t always, at least you are well rested.
I quickly eschew my actual clothes whenever possible, donning instead these fine pants and whatever t-shirt is nearby. And by pants, yes, those are leggings. With a magical 6 inch elastic waistband that never judges, only affirms. Haters gonna hate, but I prefer affirmative pants. I mean, I haven’t worn them to work or anything (yet) because I know that leggings aren’t actually pants and SHOULD NOT be treated at such, but talk to me again when James has been gone a couple more months. He already lamented my “deplorable” shower situation (although, let’s be real: DRY SHAMPOO FTW).
I just don’t go to bed. People, this is a problem. I love sleep and I am a total terror who inspires fear and pity in the hearts of ALL when I don’t get it. But when I am home alone, without others going to bed and inspiring me to prudence… I just end up doing mindless things. Like watching this ballet documentary and then trying out some moves in my living room. Or deciding that 1am is the time to develop abdominal muscles hitherto believed extinct. Or rearranging my closet. Or watching one video after another of babies responding poorly to their fathers’ newly shaved faces (Thanks, Sharon). I fall into pits made by Pinterest, end up scrolling through Facebook albums of people I barely know, and will read whole blog archives of blogs I don’t even care about.
But I know I’m not alone. C’mon people, give me your weird. What are some of the quirky things you do when you are living alone?
Most of the time I am strong enough for all the uncertainty that is lapping at the edges of our lives these days. Most of the time when people ask me how things are going with James gone, I can answer that they are going pretty well and I mean it. As long as I don’t watch the scary shows late at night and remember to do the things he takes care of, things are fine. As long as I use this time wisely to invest in other friendships and to get lots of important things done, my time is full and well spent. Because you get used to things, even bad things, and I am generally one who feels that you might as well make the best of wherever you are, so I am trying to find the positives in this time. Girls’ nights, quiche for lots of meals, no judgement when I binge on Bachelor in Paradise or host Miss America viewing parties, fewer distractions at home – all of these are good things.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
But then a hard day comes, and it takes my breath away, and I find myself fighting back tears in church because that is when I miss him the most, his hand holding mine during hymns and his voice reminding me to stop talking during the service and pay attention. (Yep, I’m totally a church talker.)
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Or he comes to visit and then leaves and it is like ripping off a Band-aid over and over again. Because you can get used to anything, but when you remember how it was before the getting used to it again hurts more every time, even when you think it should get easier.
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts.
And I’ve been thinking about all that lately, about the stress of so many things that I am fighting back these days, about the pain of fresh Band-aid rips that still surprise me, and about singing hymns alone in church. There are so many types of songs we sing. There are the Lenten hymns, the ones of solemn penitence. There are the Advent hymns of waiting and preparation. There are the songs of worship and deliverance and salvation and doctrine.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
And then there’s the Doxology, one that I can’t seem to get out of my head and heart these days. It’s a short song, a simple song, a song of quiet strength and faith. It can come out almost in one breath, one tired, sad, emotional breath. And the next one comes steadier, as does the next, and the next. The Doxology is a song for the everyday, for every minute, for every experience. It’s the one that we can sing when we aren’t eloquent and we have nothing else to say other than acknowledging that God is there and deserves our praise. Sometimes that’s all we can do and it’s enough. We are always strong enough for that.
My birthday is this week and here are a couple highlight of the celebrations we’ve been having around here, because you asked. Except you didn’t. But you’re still reading this, which is basically the same as asking. Anyways, here it goes:
James is in town for three days, which is the best gift I could ever imagine, even if he managed to show up with more dirty clothes in his carry-on then I knew he owned. When I looked at the mound and back at his tiny suitcase with a quizzical expression, he merely explained that it was like Santa Claus fitting all those gifts in that one tiny sack. Regardless, having him here makes everything feel like a celebration. Setting the table! Binging on Netflix! Going through piles of mail! Life with him is the best.
Also, because he knows my love language, we spent my birthday making sure I got all my favorite foods. Why pick between a macaron and a cupcake when you CAN HAVE BOTH? We went out to lunch at my current favorite neighborhood spot, mostly so I could have the iced tea, my very favorite sweet tea around. Not too sweet, just a little spice, and comes in a cute jar. Yep, I’m a sucker for branding. What’s that, you want a close up shot of the tea being poured? Sure thing.
As I’ve said before, one of the perks of only seeing him every never is that that we live up the brief dates we are able to snag. Last night I had a panicked moment thinking he might try to be sweet and cook me dinner on my birthday, but luckily he knows that his wife likes eating out almost as much as she likes baby animals. And that People, is a lot. Also, he can’t cook, so being surprised with dinner when I was looking forward to menu perusing and doggie bags is never really a danger. Thus we were crazy and ate out for lunch and dinner, which meant that I finished the eat-a-thon by begging James to just let me take a nap on the sidewalk until I didn’t feel full anymore, something I imagined happening perhaps by the following birthday.
Tonight after he leaves, some friends are organizing a little backyard cookout for yours truly and because I am actually a benevolent dictator with better hair, I told them to do whatever they wanted, AS LONG AS I HAD PINK CAKE. For me, pink cake (read: boxed strawberry cake mix) IS the taste of birthdays. At least, it is of mine. I’m also pretty excited to continue rocking out parties in the back yard (theirs, not mine) before winter shows up again.
Lest you think that all that was noteworthy in this birthday was edible, please know that I also unwrapped one of the best gifts imaginable from my sweet husband: a clap-adapter for my bedside lamp.
This means that now, instead of having to sit up and lean over to turn off my lamp, I can just clap. Game changer. I have happened to mention I wanted one only about every single night of our marriage and I am thrilled to announce that I spent a solid chunk of time yesterday just clapping that lamp on and off. I am so excited that I pretty much feel like doing this all the time:
That my friends, is pure joy. Pure, clap-lamp, cake, sweet-tea, happy to be with husband, birthday joy. The very best kind.
Somehow, everyone the Internet over started thinking that September constitutes fall. Personally, I blame Starbucks and that infernal Pumpkin Spice Latte. They roll it out September 1st, when most of us are still to sweaty to even consider wrapping our clammy hands around it, and all the sudden everyone is trying to convince us it is time for leave jumping and butternut squash soup. Pinterest is starting to hemorrhage with pictures of chunky scarves and piles of knobby pumpkins and golden leaves. Fall is here, the Internet screams, paying little attention to the reality that most of us are living.
And that reality? It’s sweaty and hot and not the slightest bit in the mood for a Pumpkin Spice Latte.
I don’t know about you, but last week was just about the hottest of the summer, gracing the mid-nineties daily. I blew my breakers multiple times running my AC units and resorted to eating mostly salad in an attempt to keep the oven off. I rolled into my office with sweat trickling down the back off my sleeveless sheath and felt my hair rebel against its coiffed waves as the humidity styled it into something akin of a shaggy dog that stuck its paw in a socket.
But it’s not all bad. I continued dining on peaches last week, soaking in my favorite summer food and coupling it with fresh caprese salad for a perfect summer meal. I spent all last Thursday afternoon at the pool, thanking my lucky stars that DC public pools are both free for residents, and stay open till early October. I cranked up the country music in my car and let those summer anthems wash over me.
It isn’t that I am a fall hater. No, I love fall. LOVE IT. I love chunky infinity scarves that wrap around my neck for ages and go perfectly with my thick tights and high boots. I love trees that change colors and scatter leaves that crunch when I walk. I love pumpkin muffins and thick stews and all that is autumnal.
But it isn’t time for that yet, and I feel that one of life’s most important lessons is to love the time we are in rather than the one that is coming. I’m not willing to chase out late summer and stand around sweating in my scarf for fall to show up. I do a little of that every year and then, almost every time, Augustober shows up and reminds me that the postcard fall often doesn’t come until we almost thought it was too late. Plus, fall doesn’t last, and you know what?
WINTER IS COMING. And if last year is any indication, IT NEVER LEAVES. I just can’t even go there. Admittedly, this week has ushered in much cooler temperatures and gray skies that do remind us fall is coming. Still, the highs are upper 70’s and low 80’s and that doesn’t exactly inspire me to bust out some cable knit sweaters.
Ultimately, I don’t want to rush these delicious days of late summer where there is still time to eat a few more ice cream cones and get a handful more freckles. I don’t want to miss out on the last peaches and final dives into blue waters. I don’t want to miss out on the sweetness that is September, a month that hovers between fall and summer, that lets summer go out in a bright flash that reminds us of all we love about her.
So everyone just chill out about those Pumpkin Spice Lattes, ok?
Over here things are resuming their typical, stressful early semester feel. I have spent most of the last two weeks trying to navigate complicated computer systems that supposedly will make the education world easier but are currently making me wish I that I could just quit. As in, one day I woke up with my lower face numb and swollen and my first thought was MAYBE IT IS A SERIOUS ILLNESS AND I COULD GO TO THE HOSPITAL FOR A WEEK AND EAT FRUIT CUPS AND SOMEONE ELSE COULD DO MY JOB. I’m not trying to be insensitive to those who are ill, just being honest about my reaction. And whining, because with James gone I have lost my captive sympathetic audience. It turns out it was just some bug-bite and I was fine and back to work with no delay, thanks for asking.
But enough of my whining and weekdays. Let’s talk weekends, specifically last weekend when I snuck away to a old plantation house on the James River near Williamsburg with about 20 friends. Usually, I am the one that organizes these type of weekends. This time however, I was the tag-along friend, the one that was mooching off of another group’s annual getaway. For all you organizers out there, I recommend trying this. It is really freeing to just show up with a pillow and whatever food you were assigned to bring and not ask questions.
We fished in the river, soaked up the sun, ate more chocolate covered raisins than should be possible, floated on kick-boards in the pool, enjoyed the Williamsburg ferry as if it were a cruise, and played loud games while creepy colonial portraits looked on. There was also a lot of baby loving, as our group included three littles under the age of 2, all of which were passed around and kissed constantly all weekend.
And. Those. Biscuits. They get their own paragraph. Sunday we headed across the river to Williamsburg and found our way to brunch at Trellis. Maybe it was the heat, or maybe it was that I had skipped breakfast but I actually teared up when I ate that biscuit. TEARS. Without a doubt they were the best biscuits I had ever eaten. The ones in that order were actually our second order, and when I woke up from my biscuit-coma nap that afternoon I hated myself for not taking home the bites I couldn’t finish.
But enough about biscuits. As I find myself dragging through some of these busy weekdays, I’m thankful for lazy weekends on river banks and the sorts of people who convince you to get away and take them. I’m thankful for summers that are hanging on through September and quiet weekends before busy weeks. I’m thankful for friends and laughter and food and chubby baby cheeks. And buttery biscuits. Always.
How did you all spend your long weekend?