Archive for the 'relationship' Category

What is work?

Our little family has regular discussions starting with this question. If you had asked me, before living with the Beloved, I would have said “that which you do that you get paid for”. Had you prodded me a little, I would have added such things as housekeeping, child rearing and volunteering, but not much else.

Much to my earlier frustration, Beloved frequently told me he had to do work. After which he sat behind a computer screen and read news, looked at university websites, compared products he might be willing to buy and did other, less tangible, things that made me wonder when (the hell) he would open the company e-mail account and start doing this work that he told me about. This was not conductive to a mutual understanding of priorities. He felt I didn’t take his activities seriously and I felt he classified almost everything as work just to be able to prioritize it over fun-times-with-me.

In the spirit of peaceful cohabitation it became vital that we figured out what work actually means in this household. Beloved’s definition is, as you may have guessed, much wider than mine. If he’d see me here, blogging, he’d tell me I was working. Which makes sense, in a way. I’m honing writing skills, which make up a large and valuable part of my employable skills, experimenting with online community-building (although very little) and establishing my own voice as an author. Am I looking at plane tickets for a trip we’ve planned? Working. Reading up on an interesting course I may take when we arrive in the US? Working! Learning something about the basics of investing? So much working!

The closest I’ve been able to get to Beloved’s definition of work is ‘productive activity to enhance something that is a priority in life’.  When I applied that definition to my own daily schedule, it made a lot more sense to me that I felt that I was working pretty hard even if I could never put a finger on what I had been doing. Rewriting my resume? Work! Proofreading a letter of introduction for a friend? Work! Doing some research for a college fund for a little cousin? Work. Previously, I filed all these things as leisure, because they were things that I chose to do that did not directly relate to money in the bank or a cleaner house.

Defining all the arranging and planning and organizing in our lives as actual work is a good way to be nicer to ourselves, too. Spent two hours comparing hotels and another hour reading the fine print on car rental policies? That’s work, so you deserve a break. Much better than feeling the weird, guilty  sensation of needing a break from something that’s supposed to be ‘free time’ anyway.

Beloved’s definition of work makes me more understanding of why other people have social lives that are so much more exciting than ours, why some people can plan four commitments a weekend and still feel they’re refreshed and rested on Monday. They didn’t need to write four professors, fill out seventeen pages worth of forms, wrangle an investment bank into complying with a request and have three international phone calls of an hour each. They didn’t need to spend another night discussing quality of education to cost of living, career opportunities and parent proximity, because they’re not making a decision like this and don’t have to do the work associated with it.

As a language geek I am amused and intrigued that by defining one word differently, such large parts of my view on life have started changing. I take myself and our plans more seriously and value the time I sink into preparations and plans. There is less need to beat myself up for wasting time and not being productive, because I can view so much more of the things I did as valuable, necessary work. It also makes it easier to enjoy free time devoted to looking at pictures of cats, because I realize I don’t have nearly as much of it as I thought I had.

What is work to you, and how has that definition influenced your life?

Tomorrow :)

Tomorrow Beloved and I will have a semi-versary. As in, we’ll be married for six months. Pretty cool, eh?

It went fast, and we’ve both kicked ass the whole time. I could not have asked for a better human to be my team mate.

Did I ever tell you about our food initiative? It started on March 15 (you know, the Ides of March, and all) and  since that date we both cut our greatest vices from our diet. We also started having low carb dinners (while keeping relatively carby breakfasts and lunches). Seeing as that we’re no longer eating fried foods (his vice)  or cookies and chocolate (my vice) and have exchanged piles of pasta and white rice for spinach, lettuce, lentils and other goodness, I can say we’re objectively healthier. The end date on the ‘trial period’ for this (rather big) diet change is June 15, but my guess is that we’ll try to keep it up. Although I do miss lasagna. Maybe I could make some to have for lunch on the weekend?

I also went back to riding our spinning bike twice a week, without Beloved having to tell me to do so. Not that I suddenly like exercising (I don’t), but I hope it’ll help me keep my lungs in somewhat adequate shape for when I want to go to the mountains (seriously, I’m an asthmatic living at sea level. Put me at 10.000 feet and I basically suffocate just from standing still).

With regards to other ass-kicking:

Three weeks from now, we’ll have our final, final wedding celebration. This weekend, we round up all the non-RSVP-ers and harass them for an answer 🙂

Beloved has been doing a lot of math in preparation for the GRE. I’m sure he’ll do really, really well.

We’ve talked to a tax specialist who has prepared our tax returns, for here and for the US (not that I file US taxes, but Beloved now has to file as ‘married, filing separate’ which means we have to disclose everything, down to the colour of our underwear to the IRS, basically).

Last but not least: I’m in the middle of an interview process. For a new job. A really awesome job at, like, THE company that everyone would want to work for. I promise to tell you more once I know whether I get the job or not. For now I’ll let you know that  am exhilarated as well as a nervous. This process is also the main reason that I’ve been so quiet. It is on my mind most of the time, but it just seemed to early to mention it.

Also, this is me, anxiously awaiting results from interviews, answers to date requests and replies to petitions for naturalizations.

Picture available under CC license, courtesy of raindog (Jim Crossley).

Just a small thing

.. but I’m rather proud of it anyway.

Beloved and I were taking a walk. We walked past two people locked in what looked like an (otherwise) normal, if somewhat passionate, lovers embrace. Except that when we walked by, I heard the smaller of the two say ‘Let me go. Please let me go. Please? Let me go. Let me go now.’

So I stopped dead in my tracks, waiting for the taller one to let the smaller one go. But that didn’t happen, and the smaller one kept asking to be released. I don’t think Beloved quite grasped what happened, so he was rather surprised when I stuck my hand in my bag, grabbed my phone and walked back to the couple.

“I’m sorry. But.. Do I need to call someone for you, maybe?”

I know. As far as opening sentences go it’s rather sucky (and perhaps not as de-escalating as I should have aimed for).

Interestingly enough, the taller one immediately behaved somewhat defensive. The first words our of their mouth were “Don’t think I’m abusing (smaller person)!”. The smaller person immediately started defending me to the taller person and defending the taller person to me. Explaining to me, that no, no, everything was fine, it was alright, and explaining to the taller person that no, no, my response was probably due to seeing other people being abused and my intentions were good and that I was in no way implying that they as a couple were abusive.

In the mean time taller person kept interrupting me and smaller person by stating that they only did what needed to happen, by stating that smaller person was way more aggressive than them, and by pointing out the scars on their forehead that (apparently) the smaller person had given to them.

I explained that I was really only checking if anyone needed help. When they both assured me that it was only a normal lovers’ quarrel, I wished them a good night and went on my way. I still don’t know what to think of their behaviour (or rather, I know bloody well what I think, but I can’t be sure, so there’s no ground for judgement), but I’m glad I stopped and interrupted them.

I’ve also decided that next time I should ask: “Can I help you?”, since that probably elicits a less aggressive response.

How hopeful

despite his persistent cold and my persistent headache, today was and is a very good day.

  • he came back in one piece;
  • I took a day off;
  • we requested naturalization first thing this morning;
  • the dude we requested it from quoted us a 7 to 9 month timeline (as opposed to a full year);
  • we made soup for lunch;
  • we had nibbles for dinner and worked through a whole bowl of humus;
  • our cat Moodypuss is delighted to have his favorite human back to sit on;
  • we were able to watch the first episode of season 2 of Game of Thrones (still awesome);
  • plenty of cuddles.


Living with someone is hard

I’ve never had a roommate.

It was a very conscious decision to not move out of my parents’ house until I was able to move into a place that I did not have to share. When living at home, I was a hermit. I came out at dinner time because it was expected of me. All other hours of the day I was busy pretending no one was there.

At the ripe old age of twenty-two I left home, moved into a decently-sized but extremely run-down apartment on a busy shopping street. It was fantastic, even when my upstairs neighbour copious vomiting was so clearly audible that I got nauseous myself. And when the hatch to the basement rotted through, forcing everyone who came in to take a massive leap as they stepped in the front door. It was my apartment and I did not share it with anyone. Well, I shared it with cockroaches so big that pest control did not believe me when I first called, but at least I did not share it with humans. Cockroaches are scary-looking critters, but they’re not judgmental. Or very sociable. And I could throw them off the balcony without risking a police investigation.

In other words, I took to living alone like a duck to water.

So, when the time came that Beloved and I started talking futures together, and he mentioned going back to the US. I wasn’t worried about staying with him. I wasn’t worried about moving across the ocean. I worried about living with him.

For the last nine months we’ve shared a house (his). I’ve gotten better at it. I’ve (mostly) stopped feeling like a visitor. I’ve mostly stopped treating him like he’s my guest and expecting that he treats me like I am his. We both threw stuff out. Some of my stuff is here. Some stuff we bought together to make the house accommodate both of us. During his three week work trip, the place felt as much my own as the previous placed I have lived.

Still, I suck at relaxing with another person in the house. Whenever there is someone else around, a part of me always remains focused on them. It wears me out. It makes for regular supplying Beloved with coffee and tea and cuddles, but it’s not very healthy for me. I’m pretty sure a large part of my long-term tiredness relates to this inability of mine.

I better fix it. Have any tips?

Story time

Because we’ve mailed the forms for Beloved to take the right exam, and now we’re waiting, I figured I had time to tell you a story.

It’s the story of how we met. And also how we didn’t meet (and how I’m very happy we didn’t).

In our meeting and not-meeting, there is a shop that plays a central role. It’s a rather unassuming place with two floors and maybe 600 square feet surface area. It has had three sets of owners in the time I know it. As far as I can tell, the shop has always been a labour of love.

The first owner decided to sell the shop because he needed more time to spend on his wife, who was diagnosed with a serious illness. The second pair of owners were an international scholar and his girlfriend. The first time I met them we chatted and I decided to skip my class drink more coffee with the couple instead.

I came by somewhat regularly and occasionally brought my long term “sort-of-boyfriend”. At some point, when said man did not accompany me, I explained the nature of his relationship with me, as well as my acceptance of said nature. Soon after, the man of the couple took me aside and told me he knew of another nice guy – American – I could maybe try to date, if I were willing. I begged off, stating that I was way too busy for another “sort of”, let alone an actual relationship.

We never spoke of that again, and the relationship I was in slowly deteriorated into something that made me sick with worry and fear if we were not together and completely miserable and worthless if we were. In the mean time, the second pair of owners broke up and sold the store to another couple. An American woman had come over to join her partner here, and she started running the shop.

My by then abusive relationship ended, leaving me in a several months long fog of denial and absence of emotional balance. My lifeline were frequent phone calls with the members of an online community I was a part of. One lady in particular spoke with me often. She also worked at the shop, which I had declined to visit in a long time. As the darkest clouds receded and I stopped sleeping in order to catch up on the damage done to my life by my broken heart, she called. I’d spent the day at home, trying to fight my way through my Master’s thesis and was in no mood for joyful conversations.

“I met a man today. In the shop! He just came in to chat and obviously knows the owner.” she thrilled. “He’s really sweet and handsome, and I think you would really like him”. Met by my silence she continued: “I’d consider him myself, but he really is too young” . Still decidedly unimpressed, I told her I was trying to graduate university and was in no mood for things like men or dating. Besides, it had been eight months since the break up, did she think I was anywhere near relationship material again? She would hear none of it. Even when I admitted to a trip to the international scholar (and second owner of the shop) for a brief weekend of debauchery in his home country and a random one nighter  as my few first experiments with singlehood, she would not be denied. She kept calling, telling me to at least take a look at his profile on the internet.

I relented. Surfing was something I did way too much of, anyway, and looking at some (doubtlessly uninteresting) dude on the interwebs was at least a nice distraction.

I read the profile and enjoyed it. Very verbose, no well-recognizable pictures and – oh wow – he used a word I did not know. With my interest piqued and with absolutely nothing to lose and no serious interest whatsoever, I wrote a message describing my search for the word’s definition. I also included some critical questions about the possible contexts. He replied. We bantered somewhat.

Less than a week later I had consented to a drink in a local bar, thinking that it would maybe be interesting to take on an ‘introduce a foreigner to my country-project’ as a further distraction from my studies. As I picked him up from the train station, it rained cats and dogs. I felt a little guilty for the bad weather.

We’ve been smitten ever since.

After a few weeks of dating, I called the international scholar to tell him I was no longer interested in any trysts. I had, by then, learned that lover was a) not new to my country at all and b) him and international scholar were good friends when they both lived here. During that conversation I suddenly remembered international scholar’s remark about knowing a guy for me to date. Turns out that, had we let international scholar have his way, we would have met each other more than two years earlier.

I don’t know, of course, but I am pretty certain we wouldn’t be where we are now if that had happened. I, at least, had a few more lessons to learn.

People have started to ask

“does it feel different, being married?”

And I’m all like “I don’t know? Yet? Maybe later?”

It feels like I’m still coming down from the day. Still receiving congratulations and people being all excited towards me and expecting me to know what for without any further context.

I’m continuously amazed by how much people care. Never in my life have I done anything that has caused such an outpouring of love and support from people. It’s really rather magical. I’ll write more on me (maybe) feeling different at another time. So far, I have to say that mostly other people see us differently. It takes some getting used to.