Monday, May 28, 2012

I hope you all have had a lovely Memorial day weekend (and as always, many thanks and grateful thoughts to those who have fought bravely for this country).  I have been on vacation, and obviously have been on vacation from blogging too much as well.  I'm not going to promise that I'm back or anything like that, but I will simply say that I'm trying to navigate the challenging task of figuring out how much to disclose about my personal life and my personal opinions, on a space which is very public.  My new job also takes up a lot of my time, and I want to spend my life living it, rather than reflecting an and documenting it, so I'm trying to find a balance.

This weekend, we trekked down to the New River Gorge in West Virginia and rented a cabin in Fayetteville with the husband's cousins and aunt.  This was the first true vacation I had taken with his family - we have visited his family, but that's different.  To go on vacation is a totally different thing to than to visit somebody, so it was really nice.  It's also great to get to go hiking and white-water rafting and hang out in a hot tub and talk about life stuff with such a varied group of people, none of whom I knew very well, if at all.
The funny thing about being married is that I think sometimes we are so busy nurturing and cherishing and protecting our baby families that we forget how much value there is to be had in spending time with our families of origin.  We were the only married couple on the trip, since none of the other spouses could make it, and it's always challenging to draw the line between being icky-mushy and "ew, no, he has cooties, don't make me sit near him."  We went on a trip with a few other couples back in January, and it was really interesting how some people spent the whole time cuddling and some people spent time doing their own thing. 
Generally speaking, we try to adopt the same buddy-system that we use while diving - just occasionally make sure that your buddy is still alive, is not in distress, and not running low on oxygen.  If you are in distress or low on oxygen, it is your obligation to make sure your buddy knows that.  Make sure that you check in with them on a regular basis, but make sure that you enjoy yourself and give them space to do the same.  If you spend a lot of time together otherwise, maybe use a big group trip as a way to get some space.    Group trips are also a great way to make sure that you get what you need from vacation - some people use it as a way to relax and recharge, and some people use it as an opportunity to go out and do stuff - and if you are with a number of people, some of whom want to do what you do, and your partner wants to do something else, take advantage of the opportunity to spend time with other people.  I'm always baffled when we're on vacation and one person won't do something they really want to do, because their partner just wants to chill out at the lodge and relax.

How do you work the big group vacations?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Monday Marriage Matters: Lessons from Living with a Neat Freak

When my husband and I first discussed moving in together, it went something like this:

Me: I'm too messy to live with you. You'll resent me.
Him: But I'll fix you! It'll be fine.
So you can see why I was initially noncommittal on the whole moving-in thing.  But we took the plunge anyway, and five years later, I am still a far-from-neat-person.  In fact, I'm writing this post because we recently had our usual argument about the state of cleanliness of our house (and not because it's move-in week on APW and Liz went and bragged about how easy it is to move in together).  The good news is, our house, even on it's messiest days, is way cleaner than my dorm room ever was, and than my bedroom ever was before that, and I actually think of it as "clean-ish".  The bad news is, what I think of as "clean-ish" my husband still thinks of as "anxiety-inducing messy."  I hate having this fight because the only way to resolve it is that I promise to "try harder" and my husband promises to "nag less".  The really good news is, I do try harder, and he does nag less, and we have this fight way less often.  The other really good news is, I'm better off now than I was four years ago, because I live with a neat freak.   For those of us who are not inherently well organized, I am sharing these lessons I have learned that make my life infinitely better, that I only learned because I live with a neat freak:
Life is less stressful when you can find sh*t:  Last week I had to get to court, I was running late, and I couldn't find my wallet.  I actually had to leave without it, which I hate.  It made me think, though, of all the mornings in high school when I couldn't find my wallet and had to leave without it.  I thought, "I haven't had to do that in a long time."  I think the best piece of advice I ever got was from my friend Ben, who was never stressed, and when I asked him about it, he said, "well, I'm really organized - and I think I don't get stressed out because I'm so organized and I can handle stuff."
So now I keep my keys on the key rack, and I try to keep my wallet in my purse or make sure it is in an obvious place and that I create a memory when I put it down as to where I put it.  It's not perfect (obviously), but it's better.  I'm more likely to be on time, and I'm less likely to be frazzled when I can find my stuff.  Like yoga, I think of this as a practice, not as how I have to live.  I try to create spaces for things so that I know where they are, and I make a real effort to put them there.  Whenever I move something and think, "oh, I should put that in my purse so I don't forget it", I go put it in my purse. 
Marriage is less stressful when you aren't fighting all the time.  You know what? I don't like fighting.  Neither does my husband.  So little things, like how I don't ever remember to put my cereal bowl in the sink and rinse it out, used to lead to big fights.  Then we just got sick of it, and we both decided to try a little harder.  Now, instead, they lead to me making an effort to put my cereal bowl in the sink, and the rest of the time, my husband doing it without complaining.  He only mentions it when I've been particularly bad about it lately, and then I renew my efforts. 

If somebody else is pulling their weight, you have to pull your weight.  My husband does the laundry.  Like the "if somebody cooks, the other person does the dishes" rule, laundry is much the same, but it's a little less clear what the "second half" is.  Mostly it's picking up the slack, like running a load or moving it into the dryer if I realize the washer has finished, and it is definitely putting away the clean, freshly folded laundry that gets delivered to my dresser.  As much as I would prefer to live out of the basket for the week, I recognize that it is fair to at least return him an empty basket so he can do my laundry next week. 

Little efforts add up.  I'm not going to say that it is easy to be clean.  It is not.  But it is easy to do small things that do not take very long, like hanging your keys up on a hook and putting your shoes away on a shoe rack, or tossing dirty clothes in the hamper or recycling the junk mail as soon as you get it instead of letting it pile up.  Nobody ever makes it to the grave wishing they had spent more time cleaning, but I think there are a lot of people out there who end up wishing that they had been able to invite people over more often because their house was usually relatively company-ready. 

Being organized saves money.  I live in eternal fear that I will buy one of those cars where the keys cost $300.  Because then I will live in eternal fear that I will lose that key.  Think of all of the things that have replacement costs that are high - office keys, cell phones, library books; even just small things, like a new chapstick or package of hair elastics.  I dislike replacing stuff I can't find for two reasons - it's expensive, and it contributes to the amount of "stuff" that I have, which makes it harder to find things in the future and it's a vicious cycle.  I'll admit that sometimes, espcially if it's always useful to have more of the item, I'll just give in and buy it, but I still make a good faith effort to find the missing one. 

I like it when things are clean.  This is the most surprising lesson.  I am generally content if things are cluttered, but I prefer that things be clean, organized, and away.  Because it improves my general quality of life, and my marriage.  Maybe it's like how sometimes a couple gets a cat because Bob loves cats and Jane loves how much Bob loves cats, so they end up both loving the cat.  Or maybe it's because I'm more punctual these days.  Or because I can invite guests over for dinner at the last minute and not be totally embarassed by my house.  Or just because stuff is easier to find when it's put away in it's proper place.  All I know is that I would not have learned this if I hadn't married a neat freak.