Mind on the book

Books

I miss my books.

In the weeks leading up to and since the big move, I’ve found myself in an unusual situation: I haven’t made time to read. (Notice I didn’t go for the popular “I don’t have time to read” because, you know, we all know about priorities and deciding what’s important to us and so forth.)

Specifically, I’m so full-out, drop-dead-tired at the end of the night that my normal thirty-ish minutes of quality time with a story is . . . well, it just ain’t happening. I’m usually asleep on the couch before I pour myself upstairs, and then I’m out before the bedside lamp even clicks off.

This has happened before, of course, but not like this. Even in the chaos of wedding planning or the aftermath of a death or any of the myriad other times we find ourselves not reaching for books, I’ve continued reading in some capacity — even slowly. But lately? Here in the messy confines of the new house? My mind is too scattered, my attention divided. I’ve started and stopped several stories because I just couldn’t focus on them . . . and I know it’s a personal issue, really. They’re perfectly respectable stories, you know? It’s me. I’m the problem.

Sometimes my husband can get my mind back on the book, if you will. When he wants to stay up reading in bed, I curl at his side with the contented sigh of bookish types everywhere. Old daydreams often had me imagining reading time with my special someone, but Spencer has never been into fiction (though he did inhale the Hunger Games series once). I never thought we’d get that reading time in together, and honestly? In my darkest weirdo heart, it used to worry me that I’d disturb him night after night with something I love so much. I was concerned I’d have to stop my nighttime routines.

That’s why the Kindle is so handy, I think. Even when I don’t really feel like reading, I can flip ‘er on and take in a few pages before I can’t keep my eyes open any longer. I’ve been reading Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr.’s Empty Mansions for months at the recommendation of Andi, and I’ve loved it from page one! Huguette Clark is so eccentric and kind and fascinating. But I read, like, three pages each night. At this rate, I’ll finish around Christmas.

Just in time to ask Santa for more books . . . ones I’ll pile atop all my sad, lonely novels in boxes and bags around the house until the new library is ready.

Maybe the Big Guy’s elves can swoop in early and work on that one for us, too.


Where do you fit in reading time?
Are you a before-bedtime reader, a lunchtime warrior
or another sort completely?


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Settled-ish

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Morning light from our window


Well, friends, we made it. It wasn’t pretty — and frequently sucked, in fact — but we’re reasonably settled-ish into the new house and I am relieved. I think.

I mean, there’s stuff everywhere. I can’t find anything. My clothes are all in trash bags, and a fine layer of dust from the plank floors upstairs covers my feet constantly. I’m bone tired and bedraggled and ache all over, and some of my poor family members who helped are much worse off than me.

But we did it. We are moved.

(Mostly.)

(There are still things at the condo, but I’m trying not to worry about them. I mean, we’ll get them. This week. And the furniture is all moved, which is the most important stuff. So it’ll be okay. Right? Right.)

Posting will be light this week as we are without Internet for a bit, but I’ll return soon with updates and a little house tour — and hopefully be a little perkier! I am far from perky. I’m actually really disoriented and fighting this urge to want to “go home,” except home is not where it was.

But I’ll adjust. Just have to keep moving.

Good thing we unpacked the coffeepot first.


Stormy breeze, hope

Rainbow

I had a breakthrough last night.

After all the worry and planning and anxiety and uncertainty, I finally felt my burden lift. I felt calm.

Should have known I’d have the sky to thank.

The weather has fascinated me since I was a kid — back in the days when I fancied myself a future storm-chaser (I blame “Twister,” though I’d been watching the Weather Channel religiously for a while already). At some point I realized tornadoes are actually scary and maybe I wouldn’t want to drive into or near one, so I curbed my dreams of becoming a meteorologist and pursued other hobbies.

Also, I’m terrible at math.

My passions have evolved over the years, but I always come back to clouds. The sky. Weather. Hurricane season was once my prime time, and I scoured the news every morning to hear how storms had developed overnight. I distinctly remember waking up at my grandparents’ house in the summer and running into the living room to click on the news, desperate for updates on tropical storms brewing over the Atlantic.

I was a weird kid. Kinda cute, though.

As an adult, the weather still fascinates me — but more in a curious or “red alert danger” kind of way. Various iPhone apps keep me informed on what’s happening out there, and I’m known to friends as the Weather Cop — a title I wear rather proudly. If a storm is on the horizon, I’ll tell you all about it. And probably show you the radar map, ’cause that’s how I roll.

When Spencer bought the condo in 2011, we immediately fell in love with the large windows overlooking town with an unobstructed view of the skyline. High up on the second floor, everything looks beautiful — and the sunsets we’ve enjoyed from our apartment have been incredible. I’ve taken countless pictures, and my weather-loving self has rejoiced at the unparalleled views right from our couch.


La Plata sunset


Spence had little when he first moved in. Coming from a house shared with roommates (and their furniture), the living room held only fold-out camp chairs and a tiny, cable-less television for months. We entertained ourselves through sky-watching. One of my earliest memories there is of the two of us peering up at the encroaching dusk through opened windows, the warm summer air ruffling our hair. We used to lay on the carpet and talk, looking up at the stars. We didn’t need more than that.

Three years later, we’re boxing up the last of our belongings to leave our first marital nest this weekend. We got word that potential buyers were coming to look at our condo last evening (!!!), so Spence and I hurried home to tidy up and move more boxes to the new house. I was in shorts and flip-flops, sweating and tired — but suddenly so buoyed and hopeful that someone was coming to see the apartment. The one we’ve loved so much.

Things are in motion. After several long months, the end is in sight.

At the new house, Spence and I walked around cleaning in advance of the crew coming today to cover our bare plank floors with carpet. Real carpet. And last night was the first time I looked around and thought, This is our house. Though we had, you know, signed our lives away a month ago (terrifying) and spent nearly every weekend and most weeknights slaving away in there, it hasn’t felt real. Transitioning from “construction zone” to “moving in” has been . . . an adventure.

But we’re getting there.

We’re almost there.

Upstairs, we heard rumbles of thunder as we jimmied the washer and dryer out of the guest room. It was warm, both of us sweating. After we managed to get the appliances off the to-be-carpeted floor, a flash of lightning lit up the hall. “Storm,” we said. Spencer and I moved to the large glass windows above the garage and stared out, quiet. Waiting.

Our view at the new house isn’t as expansive. We don’t have the clear views to the west, and the twinkling lights of town don’t beckon us. It’s wilder out there, deep and thick; the woods behind our house are impenetrable in summer, and a little scary at night. We’re much farther off the highway. It’s quiet, too.

But standing there with Spencer, both of us looking up at the night sky, I felt just as I always have. Like I’m home. It called me back to those early days at the condo — back when we had nothing but an empty room and daydreams. Those memories will always taste so sweet to me.

Heat lightning streaked the sky, illuminating the newly-cleaned corners of the room. Lightning bugs buzzed on the lawn.

I put my hand on his back. And we watched.


In which I ramble about anxiety

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I’m not going to lie to y’all: I’m all over the place right now.

Which end is up?
Which end is down?

I was doing really well in advance of the move, but Spencer has been away this week and . . . I’m having a tough time.

Why is it so hard for me to say that — that I’m struggling? We’re used to putting on a brave face. Many people in my life are dealing with truly tough things: illness, grief, job loss. When I stack my “problems” next to theirs, they look wholly inadequate. Silly. #firstworldproblems, you know?

And I don’t want to complain. Or look bratty. Or selfish. So I say little, smile, keep going . . . but inside, all that “nothing” has been hard. I’ve been keeping it in.

Spencer has been gone. He’s been out on business before, but I was still living at home then — so I spent that week eating my parents’ home-cooking and generally doing my normal thing. But this? Now? A week before our move? I’ve been alone in the apartment, obsessing and worrying and wondering. Trying to pack but getting too overwhelmed to do much of anything. All the ambitions I had for the week have evaporated, and I feel guilty and sick knowing I could have done so much but chose to avoid it all instead.

But it’s Thursday, I keep telling myself. I still have time. I can pack tonight, check on the new house, get some things together. The week hasn’t been “wasted.”

I think I just needed a break.

And a chance for some forthrightness. Is that a word? I’m making it a word. Because on this specific Thursday, I felt the urge to say I’ve spent most of this week feeling anxious and weird and freaked out about so many changes on the horizon . . . and that’s partly embarrassing and partly just what it is.

More than just my husband, Spence is my best friend. When he’s not here to talk me out of my nonsense, that nonsense becomes all-consuming. Before him, I’d never had a significant other so in my corner . . . someone so thoroughly in the trenches with me at all times. Until this time alone in our boxed-up apartment, I’d never considered how emotionally reliant I am on him. I just really miss him. I love him. It’s been one silly week, but this has been hard.

The truth is . . . I tend to panic. Though I don’t often talk about it, I struggle with anxiety. The easiest way I can describe it? When I’m stressed, I operate in fight-or-flight mode. Despite the fact that I am not in a life-threatening situation, my body screams at me that I absolutely am. My pulse races; I begin to sweat. I have a hard time breathing. When I’m in an uncomfortable situation (like being home alone), my instinct is to flee. My mind convinces me that I’m in mortal danger even if I’m safely ensconced in a locked house.

It’s rather inconvenient.

I don’t walk around scared all the time, but I’ve noticed my anxiety issues reach a fever pitch when I’m stressed about something — usually totally unrelated — in my life. Right now? That would be the upcoming move. The one happening next week. And because I’m stressed about that, my body has begun its attack on all rational sense. I’ve been sick to my stomach since Monday.

I’ve been thinking about why I don’t often write about my anxiety given I talk about . . . well, just about everything else. And I don’t really have an answer. I’m afraid of someone misunderstanding or judging me harshly, of course, and also of having my fears dismissed. I don’t like looking “weak” — even though I don’t see this as a weakness, per say. Just a facet. I struggle like we all struggle: shades of being human.

In disclosing our worries, we realize everybody’s got something. And when I talk about how I fear not finding a table in a crowded restaurant, some folks could snicker . . . but most accept this and try to help, you know? Rarely has anyone been unkind. Never am I teased. We adapt and accept and, when you’re with those who love you, they want to help.

Even if that means pushing you outside your comfort zone.

But that’s another post.

I felt compelled to scratch some thoughts out this morning because life isn’t always polished, as we know. I’ve felt like writing this week . . . but not in the way I normally would. My attention has been all over the place — too scattered to talk about books, though I’ve finished some good ones. I just wanted to talk out loud and think, and I knew you’d be here. You’d understand.

I feel a little better already.


Prepping for Box City

Talking about house


We’re about to become denizens of Box City.

Spencer and I began packing on Monday night . . . and by “began,” I mean we emptied two bookcases of DVDs into six cardboard boxes before we both declared ourselves tired and overwhelmed, then sank onto the couch to fret over just how stressful this move is going to be.

Six. Boxes. In.

When I moved out of my parents’ house last fall, I literally carted all of my worldly possessions over gradually in trash bags, duffels and those recyclable totes you get from the grocery store. It took weeks to eventually get all my stuff into our apartment, capped off by one tear-filled final drive to Spencer’s with my backseat full of childhood memorabilia.

That sucked.

Though moving was tough, I had a ready-made home to join — and had already felt like a member of the household, even if I wasn’t there full-time. All I had to bring were my clothes, shoes and accessories, plus my personal library (heavy) and various other things I’d collected over the course of, oh, 28 years. But that move was more emotionally tough than physically taxing.

This one? It’s going to be both.

The other night I literally stood staring at my paperbacks and hardcovers and boxes of photos and stationery and journals with tears in my eyes, wondering how in the merciful good gracious I was going to organize these things and schlep them to a new place — again. Along with all our furniture, all of Spencer’s things, the overflowing workshop of tools, our kitchen gadgets, the contents of our fridge and pantry . . . I mean, everything. Everything in sight.

It was too overwhelming to even consider . . . except I have to.

I kind of powered down, like a robot. A super stressed-out one.

I realize this is all very boo-hoo, you’re buying a house. But I’m sure many of you have stood in my steps and looked with horror mingling with excitement at the prospect of changing residences, so I’m hoping you’ll take pity on my weary soul.

And maybe you’ll help me.

I realize I’m in Maryland and you’re in, I don’t know, Indiana or Texas or California or maybe even England, so it’s probably not feasible that you’ll grab an end of the couch to help load our U-Haul. And that’s okay. Honestly? I feel super awkward asking for help, and I wouldn’t want to beg for your assistance in exchange for beer and/or pizza. I mean, I’m going to — at least on a local level — because we don’t have a choice . . . there is no earthly way we can move some of our furniture ourselves.

But how you could lend a hand? Give me your moving tips. Is there anything to make the transition easier? We’re a week from settlement and about a month from actually living in our new house full-time, so we have time to gather up our belongings and keep them organized . . . and I want to be as organized as possible.

But are moving and organization an oxymoron?

Am I being hopelessly naive to think this will be anything other than difficult?

Do you have any packing tips and/or tricks you’ve used to make things less ghastly?

Even if you don’t have any advice, I’ll take moral support. I’m starting to get really nervous.

I’m all ears.

If I wasn’t going into massive home debt, I’d even offer you some pizza.


State of the bookshelves: complicated

When I moved in with Spence last fall, one of the most difficult parts of the process was, beyond a doubt, hauling my books.

All of my books.

So, so many books.

If you’ll remember, friends, Spencer popped over to our local Borders clean when it shuttered in 2011. He brought home several (very large) bookcases, installing them in our living room, and they’re now the focal point of that room.

It’s hilarious to see the empty shelves now, knowing what I know. Knowing how far I’ve fallen.


Bookshelves

The good old days – 2011


Those shelves? No longer empty.

Not even kind of.

I’d take a picture to show you a current view of my overflowing shelves, but I’m not that crazy. Don’t you know everything shared online can live on forever? I don’t want to be haunted by this disarray a decade from now. My once-organized novels have been taken over by paperbacks, review copies, old library books. Stack upon stack upon stack.

We’ve reached critical mass.

Good thing we’re moving.

But having just schlepped hundreds of books up to our second-floor apartment (with the help of my dad and sister) in October, I’m none too eager to repeat the experience. Though my goal was to actually streamline my to-be-read stacks and have fewer novels starting 2014, the opposite has happened. Not even my digital library can save me now.

The other day I thought, Fine. This is it. Some of these MUST GO, but then I realized . . . regardless of whether I’m moving them to the new house or donating them to the library, I still have to carry them. They still must leave the premises.

I’m so tired of carrying things.

When I moved before the wedding, everything was piecemeal until the final push. Every visit to Spencer’s included recyclable bags full of my stuff — things I’d forgotten I even had until I was emptying my childhood bedroom of all its worldly goods. I actually moved my books before I moved much else, mostly because I wanted the place to feel “homey” — requiring my beloved classics, natch — and also because those jokers were heavy. Carting over the heaviest stuff at the beginning, when I had the most strength, seemed a reasonable plan.

I don’t know what we’re going to do this time. For one, the bookcases are actually bolted to the walls in the living room; they’ll have to be removed and the holes patched up for whoever we find to rent our place (please, please let us find renters, Universe). It feels strange to be boxing up my books without having their new home established . . . but, well, our new home isn’t set up for us yet, either. So.

Despite the lug-factor, I’m still contemplating making one big sweep of the shelves to discard what I simply don’t plan to read. Unlike clothing I eventually admit I’ll never wear and can easily donate, it’s so hard to part with books. Everything in my bookcase is there because, at some point, I really wanted to read it. I don’t accept review copies because YAY FREE BOOKS — I have enough problems. And I definitely don’t spend cash on novels that don’t appeal to me. That would be . . . odd.

So what remains? Ones I once fancied. But I simply can’t take all of them with us. I don’t want to take all of them with us. It’s freeing to part with books I’ve had eyeballing me for years because, as they say, there really is no such thing as a free lunch. I don’t feel guilty having them there, per say, but overflowing shelves do make me feel stressed. I don’t need all of them, and I’d rather they go to a better home.

One that isn’t ours.

I have my work cut out for me. Maybe I’ll do a big giveaway or something. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

. . . My loss, your gain.

Let’s reconvene in a few weeks.


We went to court . . .

Town hall


. . . for our marriage license.

Our marriage license. It’s all official now.

Well, almost. We have to, you know, actually get married — which will occur in just a few weeks! And then it will be all official.

Hard to believe.

Time went by slowly, then quickly — and now faster still. I moved over the weekend. It was intensely emotional. By Sunday evening I felt wrung out, depleted; organizing everything I own in a new space has been challenging and scary and a little fun at times, yes — but also intimidating. And painful. And odd.

Spencer has been wonderful. Patient and kind and helpful. Understanding when I felt too wiped out to do much but stare into space; comforting when I most definitely needed a hug and chai tea.

Growing up is hard. I’m 28 but can easily close my eyes and be 10 or 12 or 22 again. I feel like my world is topsy-turvy — like everything is out of order, rearranged. I’m guessing many people feel that way after leaving home? After 25 years, I’m having a hard time thinking of “home” as anywhere other than the house in which I grew up. With my parents. And my dog.

But it’s only been two days. Two strange days. And I keep thinking of my future husband and the life we’re building and the positive changes that will accompany stepping into real adult world, though they’re hard to sort out sometimes.

Look forward, my mind hollers. Keep looking up.

I’ve always found change so difficult. Every major life transition has been met with uncertainty and fear. Graduating from middle school and high school, starting and leaving college. Break-ups. Reconnections. Heck, even falling love. So why would leaving home and getting married by met with anything but uncertainty? I know myself well enough to anticipate this would be an interesting time for me, and I was so very right.

But I’m hanging in. And I’m adjusting. I’m working on adjusting.

Bittersweet has become my refrain, my own broken record. That one word has come to embody everything I know and think and feel about 2013. I’m always so hesitant to talk about my sadness regarding leaving home because I fear judgment — like others think my anxiety is a reflection on my relationship. It’s a general assumption that wedding planning should be The Happiest Time of Your Life!!!, which makes it even harder to express the mixed bag of emotions I’m actually feeling. It makes me feel guilty and pathetic and bad. (Which is why I’ve been so grateful for places like A Practical Wedding. Nervous brides-to-be, get thee to that website.)

I remember reading Aidan Donnelley Rowley’s Life After Yes in 2010 — how it spoke to me on a deeper level than any other novel had at the time. The thought that moving forward isn’t something that just happens to you — that growing up and being happy are a choice — is a theme that struck every little chord in my soul, and it’s something I return to now.

“Growing up doesn’t just happen. It’s not a fact; it’s a decision.”

So I have decided. I am deciding. We are deciding.

Starting with that license.