Machine Gun Nancy Go!

It’s my first official day of summer.

 Summer!

For the last 6 or so summers I have had a part time job. I worked retail for 5 years and had a fabulous closet to show for it. Last summer, tired of spending most of my money on my wardrobe and dealing with people who treated me like an idiot instead of the fashion fabulous educated gal that I am, I took a job coaching a summer swim team.

Now THAT was a terrible idea. It was horribly stressful, too much work for the pay, and you know what? As much as I love kids (hello, teacher!), I really needed a break from them. We’re getting ready to buy a house this fall and I tossed around the idea of working that retail job again to get us an extra grand or two, but the husband said give yourself a break, you crazy, lady. (Actually, he said much nicer things, but I think the crazy part can be inferred.)

So, I’m giving myself a break but I have a whole list of things that I want to accomplish over these next two months.

  • Packing the nonessentials for the Big House Buy 2014
  • Walking the dog every morning and evening
  • Working out a money-saving, waist reducing meal plan
  • Cleaning/maintaining the house
  • Doing a few DIY projects… maybe
  • Reading, reading, reading (and going to the public library for the first time in 2 years to fuel my book habit)
  • Working out at least 6 times a week

I got up this morning at my normal time, made coffee, tooled around the internet, took the dog for an hour long walk, had more coffee, made a healthy breakfast, started laundry, and it’s not even 9:30 yet. I’m feeling pretty good so far and more like myself than I have in awhile. I kind of forgot what it was like to take a breath and not really have anything going on. I really want to take time this summer to be productive and unstressed.

A huge part of that will be eating right and exercising. I love working out. I love it because it makes me feel

After Machine Gun Nancy Go! Mode -- in which I work out like a crazy lady for 90 minutes 5-6 days a week.

Prone on the floor after Machine Gun Nancy Go! Mode — in which I work out like a crazy lady for 90 minutes 5-6 days a week.

strong, good about myself, and because I work out like I’ll never see gym equipment again, it lets me eat what I want. The problem with that mentality is when I am tired and stressed from a bitch ass year and I don’t want to work out AND I want to eat all of the cupcakes to bury my feelings in deep inside sugar and sprinkles. When I’m in my Machine Gun Nancy Go! Mode– or you know, my really intense work out mode– or, you know, how I imagine myself as I’m working out, which is a heroine of a Japanese Manga in which I definitely have a  machine gun/sword and an attitude and will definitely save the world from the evil ninjas/ robots/demons/ whatever–  I work out like clockwork and I can eat whatever the hell I want. But when I’m in this mode, I don’t want all of the cupcakes because I feel good, want to work out, want to maintain, and thus: healthy. Stressed out Nancy eats all the cupcakes, thinks, “well, I work out hard… most daysish… I can have cupcakes for breakfast” and then feels like a mass of sad flesh later. I don’t like feeling like that and I refuse to 1) let myself feel that way again 2) sit around when I can get back into my routine.

We’re in a wedding at the end of the month and there is a dress that I need to comfortably fit in all day long. I will not be sad, sorry, sack of flesh bridesmatron. I will also not focus on my health just to look good for that day. My goal is to maintain my skinny shorts circumference through the summer and fall, and winter, and right back into shorts season.

So, my real goal this summer is to find constants and reboot myself. Life is good and I am lucky to have the one that I do.  I’m grateful that I have a job that allows me time to take a breath every year and a spouse who tells me that if I want to, I should just go and workout and read a book already. I’m hoping that by writing all this down, I’m solidifying what I do and do not want my summer to be. I won’t always have the luxury of two months of free time and since I need it so badly right now, I want to make sure I don’t waste it.

Happy June 2nd, I’m gong to go jump on the elliptical.

 

 

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Hole in a Wall: The Confidence Issue

Sassy PantsI took a confidence test online the other day.

At the end of the test a box appeared that declared I had “high confidence”.

I could have told you that, test! I disdained, and then laughed, because really, there’s my answer right there.

I know myself. I’m sassy. I just kind of do things because I know that I will do them well and they’ll pretty much work out. This doesn’t go over so well for me when it involves a hammer and picture hanging. No joke, Chris came home once and I greeted him at the door with this line :

I made a hole in the wall… it’s a little bit big.

Well, I made a lot of holes in the wall because I was sure I could hang this damned shelf. I was wrong. I know now that I shouldn’t be in charge of hanging things unless there is easily removable wall velcro involved. Voila! No holes!

The older I get the less patience I have for self-doubt… both mine and yours. I’d rather swing a hammer and see what happens than sit back and think I can’t do something. This whole attitude has helped me develop a view on life where I think: I want to go to POINT A. And then I do things that will pretty much get me there. Sometimes these things don’t go as planned and I think: THIS WILL WORK OUT IT WILL BE FINE JUST KEEP DOING YOUR THING. And, usually– naw, I’m going to say almost always– things work out the way I planned/wanted them to.

For all the reasons listed above, I  just don’t understand the kind of insecurity that bleeds into someone’s life so much that I can pinpoint it when they walk into the room. This is probably because, since the time I was 5, I just did whatever the hell I wanted to because I knew what was best for me. All of this may make me sound callous, but I don’t mean it to. If you were to meet me beyond the screen you’d see I’m a terribly blunt, call-it-like-it-is, pulls no punches kind of gal. I’m also stubborn and it’s a huge strength and, lately, a flaw as well.

I’ve really struggled this year to find some understanding, compassion, patience, <insert more positive actions here> for people who are highly insecure. Frankly, I’ve come out the other side  of this struggle exhausted. I just don’t get it when someone isn’t comfortable in their own skin, when grown adults wear their insecurities like a coat and it seeps into everything that they do.

I’m going to admit something less than perfect here: there have been times in my life when I have spotted insecurity in someone and immediately lost respect for them. I don’t like weakness. I don’t have the time or patience for it.

I know. It sounds bad. It might be. I can let it be. I try not to. I also don’t think that I should have to put up with someone else’s baggage, especially if they aren’t a friend or family member. I have found that I have no empathy for someone who wastes my time because they are not secure in themselves. I am not a therapist, a best friend, a sister. I do not owe you the luxury of endorsing your insecurity. This may make me out to be a bad person, and if you think that, frankly, I don’t care (see, there’s that sassy thing again), because the best advice I have ever received was this:

The greatest luxury in life is being able to choose your friends.

Yes, yes, yes. What a freedom there is in that choice. I choose to surround myself with people who make me laugh, who are confident in themselves, so much so that they are unapologetically them. I have made these choices unconsciously, but with 100% accuracy every. damn. time. And this year, when railroaded by someone’s (remember: not a friend, not a family member) inability to believe in them self, I just became beyond frustrated and angry that I had to deal with the ramifications of their insecurity.

See? Flaws. I have them. I’m not so assured in myself that I can’t admit to them. And this one is apparently huge, because I asked for a partial work transfer just to get away from someone else’s bleeding insecurity because I couldn’t stand it, it was suffocating me.

I don’t have an answer for someone who wants to have friends, who wants to know how to wear funky on trend- clothes, who wants to get invited to happy hours, and be included in the team, have the most facebook friends, feel good when you look in the mirror, be ok with all the stuff those terrible people in your terrible high school said to you. I don’t know how you figure out your life so that you are happy and confident. I don’t know, I don’t, I really don’t. I’m just as unsure about how to be more compassionate to someone who drives me insane because they can’t figure this exact thing out.

However you do it, you have to eventually be ok with you fat, skinny, pretty, mean, nice, blunt, on-trend, sad, insecure, whatever. At the end of the day always, always, always be ok with yourself no matter what the world is telling you.

Everything else, holes in walls included,  won’t matter at all.

 

Laugh When Your Celling Rains, Your New House Smells Like Cat Urine, and During Other Bad and/or Stressful Situations

It’s been a stressful few months. Today and tomorrow are snow days and it’s been nice to just sit and put off work. Yes, I could be hanging pictures or organizing paperwork, or (shudder) going through the giant stack of mail that has accumulated in the last 3 weeks, but I’m not going to so there.

Phew. I can’t believe it’s February. I feel like I’ve been in a fog since October. First there was Chris’s long and arduous job interview process. There were so many emotional ups and downs that I thought therapy was going to be needed. For me, that is. But, he got the job and is doing awesome work for a school district and is finally, finally, enjoying his employment with a big boy salary too boot.

Because we’re smart people at this time, we decided to start looking for a dog to adopt and when we found a corgi mix named Benny who looked like this: ImageI know, right? We said yes, thank you, we’ll take him please to the adoption program volunteers and two days before Chris started his new job we hopped in the car and drove two hours to get him. I can now say with certainty the following two things :

1. I will never adopt a dog that is 6 months old ever again. I didn’t kill him because his cuteness is overwhelming.

2. I really love my dog now.

Adopting a puppy two days before my husband started his brand new job was really stupid. That said, sleepless nights, stressful puppy behaviors, completely altering our schedules and plans, stressing myself out about being a good dog parent- are quickly fading. I still freak out about being a good dog parent. See “The Scarf Incident”. Dog chews up clothes, I think he eats a whole shirt, crying emergency speeding to the vet. Turns out he just ate pieces of my favorite scarf, threw them up in the middle of the night and is fine. There was still a lot of panicking on my part. This was last week. Aaaaaanyway.

So Chris got a new job and we got a puppy we were not quite equipped to handle. And about two weeks into Benny owning there was “The Time it Rained from the Ceiling”. That, dear reader, is when the tenant three floors above you decides to vacuum their utility closet and break their water heater thus, flooding you.I was sick, tired, stressed about my dog, and suddenly there was water pouring into our cluttered one bedroom apartment. I don’t think I’ve ever sobbed that hard in my life. Chris came home to me, I believe, sitting on a dry patch on the floor weeping into my dog’s neck.

This moment became the moment of “I can’t loud, tiny apartment any more especially not if it will be raining”. So we decided to break our lease and move. And move we did the first week of January. That debacle will have to wait for later story-telling. Let’s just say it was also the most effed up move/event thus far. Good news: my house no longer smells like cat urine and I actually like where I live.

But yes, it’s been a busy few months. Work for me has been stressful. Home has been stressful. And through all this my husband has been steady, wonderful Chris. I can’t say the same for me. I haven’t been the best spouse. I haven’t lost my sense of humor, so I still have a ways to fall, I think, but it hasn’t been my best 4 months.The other day I realized we haven’t even been married a year yet. Shock. Not because we’re unhappy, but just because circumstances have been ridiculous and it feels like I’ve lived 3 years fast forward.

There was a time, about a year before I met my husband, that all the stressful life stuff I detailed above would have sent me over the edge. I sat once in a psychologists office, weepy and depressed and so upset by my absolute lack of control in my circumstances that I just wanted to quit school and sleep in my room forever. I think I felt ebbs and flows of this the last few months, but when you have someone to ground you, to make you laugh, and to let you cry hysterically about the water pouring into your apartment– it helps. A lot. Knowing you have someone in your corner, that if all your stuff is wet and damaged and the house you are going to rent is a hazmat situation and you may just have to sleep on the curb but god damn you sure aren’t going to be sopping wet or curb sleeping on your own- well, that makes you, or me, see it all for what it is. Stupid. Circumstantial. Stress.

Not exactly what you want for your first year of marriage, but then again, that isn’t really our first year of marriage. It’s just stuff that happened. Nobody died. Nobody was hurt. It’s all ok. Took me a awhile to loosen the bone and back away from the metaphorical cliff, but I realize now, it’s ok.

If someone were to ask me my advice on marriage, (Ha! No one ever has. So, I’m just going to tell you because I can.) I would say be sure to find someone who will make you laugh, laugh, laugh no matter what. That, I think, can get you through anything.

Oh, and it helps if he/she is a looker, too. But that’s just me being shallow.

Image

Dammit. We’re cute.

One Reason

TeachingThe bell has just rang. It is the end of a long, tiring Monday. A 6th grade girl stays behind as the others leave.

6th grade girl: Ms. G., I can tell you’ve had a long day. I just want you to know you’re a great teacher.

And that right there is the one reason those long, tiring days are worth it.

Hope and The Closet Sap

Image

This way, sappy pants.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the future lately.

At the school where I teach, one of our new  year themes is hope. Gallup defines hope as “seeing the future as better than the present”. Hopeful people, Gallup says, believe they have the power to make their future so. Gallup also has lots of handy studies on how hopeful students fair better in school and life than their non-hopeful counterparts. Admittedly, I haven’t read all of the studies or the book about the research, but I can’t really find much to scoff about here.

After all, what’s wrong with a little hope?

I can remember, as early as middle school, telling myself that what’s next would be better. I don’t know how I figured it out or why, but I just knew that once I jumped through all the hoops of school and the sorrows of adolescent longing and drama that life would become infinitley better.

And I was right. There were some ups and downs along the way, but all in all, every year has been better than the last. I don’t see why that should ever have to stop. I’m not afraid of moving forward. The thing that always filled me with the greatest anxiety was remembering the past too vividly. Nostalgia has it’s place, but I always hated that feeling of stuck. Stuck in what was, stuck in memories (The not so pleasant ones anyway. After all, do we ever relaly get stuck, unable to budge from the great ones? No. Those have a curious lightness to them. Easy to recall and easy to file away for another time.)

I’m still looking forward to the future. It’s the little things, the big things, and the everyday things all pressed together and indistinct before me that I can’t wait for. It’s the future things like: where we’ll live next year, and when we can afford a house. What color will I paint the walls? Will I agonize over them, or will I know for sure, without a doubt that this color will do much better than this one? Our first dog will be a corgi. I’m sure summer time dog training will be hot and muggy and drooly and I’ll love every minute of it. In less than two year the rest of my loans will be paid off and we’ll be debt free.  I imagine, weekly, the last time I have to press the ‘pay now’ button. There will be traveling and cooking and probably more school at some point (but that doesn’t really fill me with hope yet, I’ll be honest). There’s the flowers that I know Chris will buy me for no reason, date nights, and throwing grill out parties for our friends on our someday huge patio in our someday manicured backyard (now there’s a hope). There’s the potential for Chris’s new and better job (and universe, if you are listening, I know you will make this so) and all the wonderful yet-to-happen times with family and friends. There are the students who will come back and visit and I will be, I know, so happy to see them happy and healthy, and thriving. There is holding my husband’s hand until there are wrinkles along our knuckles and faces because we have too, too much fun together.

The day to day can be tiring and draining, but there is always the next day to look forward to, the next year, the next decade. I may be a closet sap. I may not like to talk to much out loud about the things inside my head and heart, but the future has always made me tick, and I think, I know, it’ll be better than today.

And really, today wasn’t bad at all so that most certainly tells you something.

I Only Roast Chickpeas In This Oven

ImageI don’t know what to write about this evening. I told myself that I would write a thing a day for the next 7 days but I feel neither creative nor humorous. So I’m going to write about assumptions in this post that I have just titled Assumptions: Or, How I am Definitely, Really Not Pregnant Or I Only Roast Chickpeas In This Oven and That Oven Is In The Kitchen So Stop Alluding Already.

We got married last month in the courthouse, no muss, no fuss. It was awesome and exactly what we wanted. We told everyone we were going to do it and 26 days later we did. I guess this is still incredibly incriminating evidence of pregnancy in this day and age. Honestly, I didn’t even think about how the quick turn around might set tongue’s wagging, because, well, we just got married our way.

But damn if people didn’t start asking all sorts of questions about whether or not the reproductive plumbing was cooking a small version of us. And I mean, everyone. Teacher friends at school, pretty sure some people in the extended family, the grocery bagger at the store.

Yeah. The bagger. At the checkout. At the grocery store.

“So you guys going to have some kids now?” he asked as he expertly packed the rice and cereal.

Good gravy, man, I just got married! And what stake do you have in this anyway!? I wanted to yell, but instead said, I teach. I have 32 kids an hour. That’s plenty. Alsoareyoudonebaggingthosepotatoesbecausethisisreallyawkward.

The best, and kindest way I’ve heard this whole third degree baby thing put is this: people are excited for us, and they want to welcome us to the club: the married and usually jonesing for children club.

I just don’t know quite how to handle that exclusive offer sometimes.

Like today, when someone asked how my weekend was and it suddenly turned into IS THERE A BABY INSIDE YOU. It went like this:

How was your weekend? she asked. Simple. Not a trap. There is no way this can somehow turn to my uterus.

I said, pretty good considering I was sick with a head and chest infection.

And then, “You’re not pregnant are you!?

Oh crap! 9 out of 10 chest infections turn into babies! No, nope, that’s not right. Ok, I’m good. We’re good! No worries! Still baby free!

I’m not sure if I’ll ever quite be at peace with the unsolicited advice, interest, and questions about possible buns in ovens.

Chris assures me that people will stop asking either when we’re forty… or dead.

Big Dreams Are What You Make

Hello, self? Are you out there?

I’m going to try to write one meaningful thing on here a day for the next 7 days. So here’s the first one: I used to have a big dream, or what I thought was a big dream, and it went something like this:

Move away from Kansas, Graduate, Move Overseas, Find THE adventure and thus, find my true self.

I wanted to move to Japan. Or someplace equally foreign and exotic and not in the continental United States. I didn’t know what was out there, but I was sure there was something large and important waiting for me. I thought that I had to leave to find whatever that thing was. I thought that adventure would somehow define and shape me, into The Best Version of Nancy.

That was my plan for years and years and years. It’s funny though, how that scheme always seemed so hazy and intangible despite how it cycled through my brain from the ages of 10 to 22. When I would try to think ahead and drop myself on a busy street corner in Tokyo, or along a riverbank in Europe, it felt like I was watching someone else’s movie. To me, that hazy feeling equated doubt. It meant that I doubted myself, I doubted that I could make it happen, I doubted that I could last alone out there in the big world. I’d tell myself, nope! You are small, but you are mighty! It’s just a plane ride! And an entire upheaval of your life structure as you know it, some far away part of me would chime in all sing-songy and innocently.

Shut up, you! I would think at myself and quickly stop thinking about large adventures and plane rides and knowing no one anywhere because that was actually kind of scary, yes, and now that I think about it, it is a giant upheaval of my life and–

So, I graduated college and went right back into graduate school, partially because I had to and partially because I wasn’t ready to pack my bags and say goodbye to everything that I knew. The plan then became, finish school, try for a job, work a few years, and then leave for THE big adventure to find The Best Version of Nancy.

In hindsight, I think it was less of a great wide adventure plan than it was a parachute plan, a this-is-what-I’ll-do-when-I-give-up-plan. If real life rejected me, if I couldn’t find that job, maintain the sturdy structure that years and years of school had instilled in me, then I’d bolt across the ocean and try a new and different life.

I know that there are experiences out there that you can’t get from wherever you call home. There’s too much to see and do and experience out there to think otherwise. I know that there are people and uncomfortable situations in corners of the world that will push you into becoming a new version of yourself. I know that there are whole groups of people who insist when you are young you have to go out and either A) make mistakes or B) Travel some part of the world and possibly combine A and B together. But you see, I don’t think that living that large is for everyone. Experiences that make you grow are for everyone, absolutely, but that  huge adventure that I had planned for all those many years? That is for very few.

I think sometimes people trick themselves into thinking that they are inconsequential if they aren’t doing something just a little bit bigger– I’m not living up to my full potential if I never try to write that book. I’m not making meaning out of my life unless I experience all the art in Europe. I’m going to live a small and unsatisfying life if I don’t make it out of the country before I turn 30. I won’t be free unless I try something new, lower my inhibitions, sail around the world, jump out of an airplane, ride an elephant, throw a spear, play hopscotch with the Dali Lama, stick a flag in a mountain— And so on. I think all those things are great, but I don’t think you have to do them in order to find out who you are, and that’s what I’m really getting at here.

Because what I found out about that hazy feeling when I thought about climbing mountains or living in Tokyo, that creeping thing that I thought was doubt in myself, wasn’t that at all. It was the know-it-all part of me that knew me the best, sitting back and slowly, knowingly shaking her head. What I wanted wasn’t as big as all that. I found out that all I wanted was a place to call my own, the opportunity to teach and live comfortably, a dog, and maybe someone to share those things with. That might seem very small and insignificant to some people, but once I figured out that those were the only things that mattered, life became a whole lot easier and somehow started to fall into place.

I got hired at a school, I paid off a bunch of my loans, I met a converse wearing musician and  we liked and loved each other a whole mess of a lot and got married. And someday soonish, we’ll have a dog, and then a house, and then we’ll be able to travel the world a little bit here and there. Over summer vacations we can stop on the corner in busy Tokyo or stroll down the cobblestone streets in Europe and then come back home, and put our feet up, and pet our dog and go to work and do it all again a little ways down the road. Someday we’ll be  have an adventure or two and then come home, unpack, and reminisce through pictures on a wall.

Do I still want the big adventure, then? Yes and no. We don’t have to exist in an extended meaningful adventure for our lives to have meaning. And we don’t necessarily have to go out and find ourselves in the great wide abyss of the world. Sometimes, we’re already right here, the Best Versions of Ourselves.

I think Big Dreams are what you make of them, and you don’t always need a jet plane to get there.