Life, work, misery, nostalgia

Family

Abe & Xander

It has now been a little over six months since we have been married. Shortly before our wedding, on July 4th, we had lost Chuca, our beautiful red Queensland heeler. It took a while to get over her loss, but in September, we got our first baby, Abe, a tan Labrador retriever mix. We adopted him at the age of six months. He was about forty-five pounds then, but now he has grown to a healthy, hearty sixty pounds. Things were all fine and dandy, and Abe proved to be a good, mellow dog, very happy to please but also easily amused (he can sit there for hours sucking on his favourite pillow and knead it with his paws). However, he started getting bored without another puppy to play with, so in November, we adopted our second baby, Xander, a eleven-week-old, ten-pound little golden retriever mix. Little Xander proved to be Abe’s undoing, as the rascal knows that he is fuzzy and cute, so he uses his shiny little black eyes to get away with everything. Abe would be calmly relaxing under Chris’ chair when Xander, while exploring, decides to dig out a piece of trash, thereby luring Abe to join in the destroying of it and the littering of it all over our bedroom. Of course, Xander would be already over the fun and napping quietly on a pillow when we walk into a messy room and discover Abe chewing on the remnants of a piece of tissue. Poor baby. Xander has since doubled in size and mellowed out, but it seems the seeds of destruction were, unfortunately, planted in Abe’s head.

Still, I cannot help but feel a lingering sense of dissatisfaction with life the way it is. Since graduation and the wedding, I have been feeling somewhat aimless and purposeless. However, let us backtrack and talk about the housing situation. This was my greatest source of dissatisfaction at the start. While I understand it is not practical in today’s world, I was unhappy about the idea of marrying and still sharing a house. As much as I have imagined a number of scenarios for my adult life – living in a large, open studio with plenty of sunlight, my music, and my paintings; sharing wine, ideas, and discussion in a community household of friends, each with their own separate lives but each happy to hang out too; or just a house with a large yard, my pets, my husband, and enough space to let my imagination go – a college house was not what I’d pictured. That is not to say I was against living with people my age, but I had hoped that I, and the people around me, would be grounded in our lives and that each other’s company would only help to encourage and inspire us in whatever we were doing, would help build up our careers and spur us on toward our goals rather than promoting irresponsibility with late nights and hangovers. Sounds cheesy, doesn’t it? Anyway, instead I found what at the time felt like was alcohol and substances facilitating friendship and taking the place of “real” communication. Over time, though, things settled down, and with each of us on our own house and work schedules and in steady relationships, we formed a good community. Every once in a while, we had our wine tasting nights, where we each brought a bottle, yea’d or nay’d each other’s picks, and discussed our experience of each. We would regularly spend time around the fire pit in the yard with a few glasses and talk or in the living room over a movie, a video game, or just listening to music.

After a few months, however, my sense of dissatisfaction nagged at me even more strongly, especially with my inability to find career oriented work in this town – beautiful Santa Barbara in which I have fallen in love. It is much to do with my own personality. We keep being asked the question: “How is married life?” Life is the way it is. It has been not that much different, except that I don’t have to go home at the end of the night. In many ways, it is harder – we have to commit to working through things together, our disagreements, our stresses, without the benefit of simply a separate time or place to relax so that they don’t “taint” our time together. Michelle’s words again: “Commitment is more important than compatibility.” Unemployment hadn’t helped either; with only one meagre income and the slowly building business in an even slower economy, tensions abound. Nonetheless, with my homebody personality, I am not good with new social situations or crowds, unless my role and function is clearly defined. In day-to-day life, I live and breathe Chris. He is my husband. I enjoy going out to dinner, out dancing, on hikes, but if it is not with close friends, it has to be Chris. I don’t think I can have it any other way, better or worse. Marriage is what I wanted, and Chris is whom I want for the rest of my life.

Work Woes

Beyond that, I’ve been unhappy with work. I have accepted with my personality that I make friends, but slowly. The friends I have last a lifetime, but I do not tend to walk into a situation and come out with friends I make plans to meet up with that weekend, the way many people do. I don’t spend time with co-workers outside of work. That has been fine with me; I am not a social butterfly, nor am I that much fun of a person to be around. I’ll sit and have a drink and late night dinner with you, laugh with you, talk about life, politics, beliefs (and their differences), cook, but I will never be the one you text message on a day off to go dancing at the club with. That’s okay with me, but it seems it does put a strain between me and people for whom that lifestyle comes easily. Another thing that has been building over these past two years and has been upsetting through the countless random discussions, cafeteria conversations, every time a news article or report comes up, or anything…is the hypocrisy of the policy on personal beliefs. It was clearly stated that there should be no discussion. But that’s not what it means where atheism is the reigning belief. Two things are sacred in my stripped-down-to-a-bare-minimum life: my faith and my marriage. Neither of those is held sacred in the workplace. Don’t talk about religion, they say, and keep your opinions to yourself. So I have been. But I’ve been suffocating under the countless jokes and jabs and how “obvious” it is that God is a farce, a freak, to be the butt of all jokes, and Christians and those “damn born-agains” are just poor, ignorant creatures that have never read a science textbook in their lives.

Isolation. So I sit and pretend to be a good girl with no opinions, until I’ve denied so much of what I believe that I don’t know if I can be called a Christian anymore; certainly nobody could tell except that it seems I arrive later in the morning on Sunday shifts, and I suppose my facebook profile says something about it. I know my history; I know of the follies and atrocities of the church throughout history – faults of man and their limited understanding of His great wisdom. I also know we have learned (as a country) from our past judgments and try not to portray all Muslims as terrorists and in a negative light; nonetheless it is the fashion to demonise any and all Christians except the ones who are willing to say, “I go to church on Easter and Christmas” but deny Christ’s divinity in the same sentence. I don’t open my mouth about God except to insert into the thick of some conversation denouncing all Christians on the mistake of one self-righteous sinner that “they” are not all like that, that only the obnoxious ones make the most noise. It has become “they,” not “we” or even “I.” It hurts that I have become assimilated, defending Jesus as if he were the freaky little brother that I have to stand up for rather than the great and magnificent saviour that saved me from my own path of destruction, that rebuilt my family, that daily gives me more than I deserve. I have more love than I’d ever thought I’d receive or deserved, but here I am feeling ashamed and heartbroken that outwardly, I act as if being in love with God is my shame, something I must hide.

Americans think they’re so liberal and liberated.

I am not pushing my faith on you, just trying to be free to feel joy and hope at something in which I believe. Why must you mock it? Why must it be acceptable for you to do so to my face and it not be acceptable for me to react? I miss Thailand and its real liberation. In a hierarchic Buddhist society where social convention rules all, they have the graciousness to not criticize other faith, even though Christianity and Islam are beliefs quickly rising and yet very foreign and strange to them. But in a beautiful isolated community of one of the richest places in the world, the expected behaviour is the epitome of American values: presentation is everything; be accommodating and accepting while holding every ugly thought and prejudice in the world in your heads, to be spouted out with crude and vulgar language in the back offices and break rooms. If you have a legitimate problem or concern, expect that you will be treated as an annoyance, your shifts and life rescheduled to “silence the complainer” who obviously does not work and just stands and “thumbs his butt” all day anyway.

Neither is my marriage sacred. I fielded question after question throughout the engagement. No, we are not freaks because our relationship was non-sexual. How dare you question its ability to succeed based on whether we’d previously lived together? How dare you tell me I “must not be a very affectionate person” because of such? I feel I have offended some by being uninterested in their personal sexual lives. While I understand that, in today’s world, it’s a common point of conversation or something to share, it is not a topic with which I am comfortable. What my husband I have is between us. Our lives, the way we show affection, the things we do together – some of it is fine to discuss but others are private. I have no interest in “living up to” others’ expectations of our marital or sexual behaviour or what constitutes an interesting or fulfilling relationship, so please don’t expect me to “step up.” In a confusing and mixed up world, this is where I’ve found happiness – with him; please let me enjoy that in peace.

For these reasons, you almost never hear me talk of work. Many of you have never known and still do not know where work is. It is this beautiful wonderland for many where they can escape reality for as long as they can pay. For me, it is a place of so much potential and so little understanding, where I’ve seen people I respected come and leave, often for their own personal reasons that they could never bring up without being told off and made to feel ashamed for having those concerns.

Moving On

For many months, we’ve been looking at San Diego as a potential place to move. I need a career, and Chris needs to move on for school – in a community similar to Santa Barbara’s beauty and friendliness but with a bigger market for both of us. The current situation, and our pastor moving on from this church and passing on the baton, feels like clear signs that He is pointing our way elsewhere. Maybe I will feel better then. There’s gotta be something more than what I’m living for; I’m crying out to You, yeah…

Nostalgia

Mostly I am hit with waves of nostalgia, dreaming of previous times when I was surrounded by people I could trust. This is expressed through crooning jazz and old blues and the music that carried me through my earlier school years and over the last decade returning to me. From the yearning of Jars of Clay‘s Something Beautiful to the sad but hopeful ballad of Savage Garden’s Two Beds and a Coffee Machine or To the Moon and Back. Then there are the college days and the nights spent crying over (a) boys who werewasn’t worth it and finally, finally finding myself and getting to a place I was comfortable inside. Days and nights singing Broadway musicals at the tops of our lungs and sharing and discovering music, like Stephen SpeaksOut of My League and the Ken Oak Band (previously just Ken Oak, now Oak & Gorski). Then there were the late night and early morning conversations with friends whose distance never really dulled my love and appreciation for them, their tastes, and their passion for life and all it has to offer. Jen[nie] and I talked (typed) and shared our joys and disappointments and above all – hope, hope, hope – over online chat, phone (occasionally), and email (when the sudden desire to write hit) and poured over the hundreds of songs that Tori wrote over the years.

More recently, it’s been Rosie [Thomas] and tango and Rosie again and again and again…

I Run

I run, I run, I run far from
You to the apple tree in my yard
With my dress all bundled up in my hands
Dirt on my feet I am dreaming again.
I run, I run, I run far from
You to the lilac tree in my yard
No more swing set for the girl who is all grown up
No more tea parties parades or mothers in love.

I hold my breath past the cemetery
My brother wins, he can hold it much longer then me
Gravel roads make car keys rattle on steering wheels
Children and horses, old barns, and old automobiles.
I run, I run, I run far from
You to the watered streets of Oregon
With a coffee cup half full in my hands
And I’m praying my savior would just
Place a gun in my hands.

I run, I walk, I lie far from
Freaks and lying cheats on the tip of my tongue
The moon hides in the sky behind rows of tree tops
And I’m wishing I was somewhere up there
With the mermaids and stars.
I run, I run, I run far from
Reality to escape who I’ve become
Insanity is close at my back
And I’m getting rather numb from the snakes
Who have blurred my vision.

Rosie Thomas

But I know I have much farther to go until I get where I need to go. Hopefully I can pray forgiveness and be guided from here on by my Father, because I am tired of being alone without Him anymore.

Oh how I wish I could go back in time
To the night when I heard my mother cry
She held me in her arms and we talked for some time
And I sang a song her mother sang to her
And it goes something about paper dolls and what men prefer
Something about the cross and how her Jesus died for her
Something about love and how it’s worth living for
I wonder does love like that exist anymore?

I have much farther to go
I’m so confused I know
I should just kick my heels together and go home
But I lost my way when I lost you

– from Much Farther to Go by Rosie Thomas

God bless, hugs and kisses.

Lots of Love,
><> Elizabeth <><