You know those mornings when you wake up before the alarm, and the windows are still cloaked in cool nighttime colors? This is one of those mornings. Yesterday was almost one–I woke up before my alarm, but then I succumbed to exhaustion and closed my eyes again. That’s the fatal mistake. It sets you up for a day of sandy-eyed sleepiness.
But today I managed to haul myself out of bed, to snap a leash on Wren and lead her out into the dewey grassed morning while Chara gallivanted around us. Now I have a mug of peppermint tea steeping next to me, and a cat curled up on a chair to my right. It feels good to have a little decompression time.
This post is one I’ve been thinking about for awhile now. I’m all about the power of gratitude. I’ve noticed that when I record all the things that I’m grateful for, I notice even more that I love about my life. And I become markedly happier. But the problem with publicly recording your gratitude–whether it’s in blog posts or on social media–is that it feeds into this concept that your life is perfect and easy. It creates a crust of perfection that’s hard for other people to break through, to relate to. It makes them feel worse about their own lives.
So to combat this, I thought I’d start cataloguing the hard things in my life along with the happy ones. Start out with the things that are hard. End with the things that make me happy. Cathartic on all ends, and definitely not fake.
So, here we go: the hard things in my life right now. There are a million small things–I hate that our car is messy (even though I’m the one who made it that way). It drives me crazy that we don’t have a place to feed the cats except for on our kitchen table, so that their catfood crumbles infiltrate our eating space, and their dirty little paws get all over the spot where we eat (I know where those paws have been, Minerva….).
I dislike that someone decided to put two different types of flooring down in our kitchen and dining room, because it looks horribly tacky and it’s hard to sweep. I’m not a fan of the giant fluff balls of animal hair that gather in the corners of our home if I’m not constantly sweeping. I hate how halfway through the week, it always feels like we’ve run out of everything easily accessible to eat, and cooking snacks becomes a lot of work. It gets on my nerves that Jordan still hasn’t painted the drawers in our kitchen, so they’re mismatched and hard to pull out sans handles. I’m also really not endeared to the stiff feeling I get through my belly and diaphragm after sitting at a desk all day.
Those are the little things. But there are big things, too.
Probably the biggest one is loneliness. We’ve lived in Georgia for a few months now, and while we’re incredibly lucky to have moved to a place where we actually have close friends who already live here (Jordan’s PhD advisor actually roped us into coming here in the first place, and they’ve been close family friends since 2014), we still haven’t formed a community.
Since this is my third state and fourth town since graduating in 2014, I know that building community takes time. It took about two years in Mississippi before we formed a network of people who we were close to. And before the community building takes place, life can be pretty lonely.
It doesn’t help that we’re going through some really big life changes–having a baby, working on a house. We aren’t able to share those things with our families in real life on a day-to-day basis, and that’s really hard. Until about two weeks ago, aside from my boss and Jordan’s advisor, no one I interacted with daily even knew that I was pregnant–I just wasn’t showing enough, and no one asked, and it felt weird to bring up.
It made me sad to feel like it was a secret, or like it wasn’t being celebrated the same way it would’ve been if we’d been around an actual community of people who know and love us. There was no one to whoop or cheer for us in real life. No one to give us hugs. We told our families via Facetime, because the next time we were going to see even a couple of them, I already would’ve been halfway through my pregnancy.
I also don’t have any close female friends here. I’m the sort of person who needs deep, regular conversation to be happy. I love to parse life out and examine it with a friend. And while Jordan and I have lots of deep conversation, it isn’t the same as having someone to meet up with and talk to. He also has different interests and obsessions than I do. Not to mention he shouldn’t be required to fulfill all of my needs. Friends are important alongside partners. I miss having close ones in real life.
Another tough aspect of our lives has been living in our house while we’re DIY renovating it and working full time. For a few weeks we’d dismantled our entire kitchen–the contents of it ended up strewn through the dining room and spilled out of boxes. We were living in literal chaos.
And while weekend by weekend we bring things closer and closer to normalcy, there’s still a lot of work to do: a dishwasher to install, a chest freezer to purchase, a nursery to organize and put together. And my pregnant-lady nesting instincts are starting to kick in full force, so that our empty freezer (we’re cooking batch meals and freezing portions so that we have food to eat when he’s born), disorganized house, and lack of nursery equipment are like nails on a chalkboard to me.
The list is so long, and I want it all done NOW (deep breaths, Sarah). It’s ridiculous, but I feel like we haven’t painted the nursery yet, or gotten a crib, or made it nice and comfy and cozy, we never will, and he’ll be born, and we won’t have anything we need. And I know this is ridiculous, because we’re still three and a half months away and if I feel this way now, there’s no way I will let that happen as we get closer and my feelings become more intense.
We’ll get there. Already, day by day we’re getting there. It’ll all come together, and our house will be cozy and comfortable and baby-ready.
Those are the main complaints. There are other things I could get into (and honestly, bigger, harder things that I can’t necessarily write about because they involve other people), but I’ll stop there for now. Moral of the story: life isn’t perfect and isn’t always easy. There are things in my daily life that drive me crazy and grate on my nerves. There is also real grief and sadness and loneliness in my life.
But then, to balance it all out, to make it all worth it, there are the good things.
There are a million tiny things I’m grateful for: this morning it was my cup of peppermint tea in a dark room. It was Chara curling up in Jordan’s still-warm spot on the bed when he got up to go to the bathroom, and stroking her silky scruff until he came back. It was rubbing Jordan’s neck for him when he woke up, because it was stiff, and feeling the silky little hairs under my fingers. It was the dewy grass on my flip-flopped feet when I stumbled outside to take the dogs out. It was the delicious banana-peanut butter-honey-chili powder wrap that Jordan made for breakfast. It was feeling baby L’s first spasmodic kicks of the day as he woke with me and stretched his limbs.
When you put all those little things together, life feels so rich and wonderful that all the other complaints seem silly in comparison.
And that isn’t even mentioning the bigger things: like the people we DO have here in Georgia. Namely, Jordan’s advisor and his family. We had to run into the hospital the other night because of some contractions I was having (everything was fine, I’m just new at this and terrified of every new sensation), and not only did they offer to come let our dogs out, G also told Jordan not to worry if he had to cancel a huge meeting they had planned for the next day. It honestly doesn’t get better than that, as far as friends, family or bosses go.
My own boss is also really wonderful. She’s incredibly supportive of my being pregnant, a pleasure to work with, and the next morning when I was exhausted after being at the hospital until late in the night, totally fine with me taking the morning to catch up on sleep.
We also happen to live just across town from some of Jordan’s old family friends, who are also great people, and have made an effort to include us in their lives. So yeah, it might feel a little lonely sometimes, because everyone is busy and running around. But we have people here. And the people we have are wonderful. Not to mention, having people this early on is new for us–in Mississippi we knew absolutely no one. And yet we built a community and friendships that will last us for the rest of our lives. The same will happen here in Georgia, it just takes time.
Another incredibly satisfying part of my life right now has been making batch meals to freeze. We’ve only been at our cooking-and-freezing efforts for three days now, and already we have two servings of refried beans, one big serving of green curry, and three big bags full of dumplings crowding our freezer. Most of these foods we’ll need to eat before the baby comes in November (freezer food has about a three month lifespan), but I love that we’re getting in the habit. It’s also incredibly satisfying to know that if I’m starving, delicious, homemade pan-fried dumplings are only minutes away.
Also on our list are assorted items such as shepherd’s pie, chana masala, venison stew, oven-ready pan macaroni and cheese, squash soup, collared greens and black-eyed peas, banana bread, pierogies, ravioli, homemade pasta and pesto, lactation muffins (apparently eating oatmeal and other grains helps boost milk production–who knew?!)… the list goes on. I can’t even tell you how soul-deep satisfying it is each time we stick something new in the freezer (e.g. probably I’m nesting).
If you have ideas for other yummy, healthy freezable items, please let us know! I’d love to have a variety of delicious items on hand so that we don’t have to cook when the kiddo comes, and so we aren’t tempted to order takeout more. Also, the more things I have to cook, the happier I will become.
Jordan is also gearing up for hunting season this year, so that we can plan on having a deer or two in our freezer. With venison comes a number of amazing recipes–back strap, shank stews (which are rich with marrow), homemade meatballs and burgers and roasts…. Oooh, and then there’s the pear tree in our backyard, with still-ripening pears on its branches that we’re going to try canning. And there’s a brand new bare patch of earth for me to start a garden in. And there are all the millions of possibilities for our backyard.
So yeah, to boil it down, food is huge for me, and preparing it, freezing it, and eating it are all huge bright points in my life.
As with the hard things, there are millions of other things I’m grateful for (people who come to visit us/call us/send things to us, the fact that our baby is healthy and things seem to be going well, our merry band of critters, the jogs that my doctor okayed)–but this is becoming a tome, so I’m going to cut it off.
What are you grateful for? What do you wish was different or better about your own life?