“And besides, feelings are totally full of shit.”

I woke up last Sunday adorned with the previous night’s glow sticks and feeling like someone had dropped a load of bricks on my chest. Such is the weight and effect of running into one’s own unhappiness.

The last two months have been endlessly stressful: holidays, moving to Chicago, moving out of our apartment, moving into my Unnamed Hippie House (which I’ve decided is its name, by the way), my uncle’s death, drunk people drama, sickness, job hunting, job interviews, the beginning of the semester, winding down a job, and living apart. It’s all fucking hard! Hard, hard, hard.

I’m a person who thrives in chaos, so times like these usually see me rising to the occasion. Five years ago, we launched Moodle at the beginning of the semester while I was also a full time doctoral student and a new gyne instructor – so I was essentially working two very demanding full-time jobs while taking on an emotionally and physically challenging part-time job while also maintaining a relationship and starting to focus on losing weight after four months away from the gym (and my bike) with a broken arm. Literally the day before Shane moved to DC, I had unexpected minor surgery after receiving scary lab results from an abnormal Pap and also got an estimate of $2400 to make the necessary repairs to my car so that I could move to join him – while also gearing up for the beginning of the semester and actively job-hunting. I’m not alone in my experience of shit stacking up in impossible ways, or of being able to put my head down and knock through it all to come out on the other side smarter and stronger.

But in and around the stress and stressors of the last two months, I’ve had a lot of time to think. The time and space and distance have allowed issues to rise to the surface that I’ve been ignoring or just haven’t been brave enough to face. And one of those is my unhappiness, a thread of pain through so many aspects of my life.

It’s no secret that I’ve been profoundly unhappy in my career in the last few years. In job interviews, I’ve spun it as “a series of right turns” – from instructional technology support at Illinois to reference librarianship at GW to web development at UM. From a position of authority and trust to the bottom rung of a soul-deadening bureaucracy to manual labor, working in a call center, finding ways of stretching 5-8 hours of work to fill 40, and then ending up in a position where I’m challenged and respected, but which is still tangential to any of the goals I can loosely define for myself.

I’ve been tremendously lonely in my relationships. I’ve focused my energies on my marriage to the detriment of my relationships with others – perhaps appropriately so, but still a stark thing to realize. I’ve been trying to change this in the last few months, but I know I have a long way to go.

I’ve tried to direct this loneliness and frustration into positive channels: running, the garden, cooking, blogging, teaching, and connecting with friends online. What I haven’t realized until recently is the extent to which my loneliness and frustration has been self-reinforcing. I’m lonely, so I go running alone. I like running alone, so I opt to continue with this solitary activity, even though it could be a great opportunity to meet other people and build relationships around running. Shane is often busy with hobbies or friends, and I respond by soaking up the much-desired solo time, which then leads me to support (rather than complain about) more time dedicated to hobbies, which then leads to more time alone.

Which leads me to this place: waking up on a Sunday morning feeling crippled by sadness. Grinding away on the track to meet a training goal but also to focus my mind on something other than the intractability of my feelings. Struggling to remember happiness, or to picture what happiness might look like. Knowing that the easy answer is more meds, or changing the meds, but being unwilling to accept that as an answer YET AGAIN.

I want to be happy.
I don’t know how to be happy.
I don’t know what has to change in my life for me to be happy.
I’m afraid of my own unhappiness.

Advertisements

Chicago, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down

Chicago Sunset
Photo by PeteTsai, All Rights Reserved

We’re settling into this long distance, back-and-forth thing. Leaving on Monday was hard, having spent the better part of the previous week putting everything in its place, making our new home feel like a home. I spent the morning making soup for Shane’s dinner, chopping vegetables on the new (and wonderful) island, using my favorite pot to simmer lentils and stock. It was wrenching to leave, knowing that on the other end of my snowy drive lay more unpacking in an unfamiliar place, and an empty twin bed, albeit one warmed by the electric blanket Shane got me for Christmas.*

The routines of my solo life in Ann Arbor are quickly establishing themselves. I do push-ups in my tiny room while I wait for the water for my coffee to boil. I walk to work in the early hours of daylight. I take the bus to the gym or walk home and then drive to yoga. I eat my dinner at my computer, often tucked under the already-warm electric blanket. I watch something on Netflix while chatting with friends, working on job applications, or prepping for class. I drink and snack with my housemates, and stay up too late because my brain won’t turn off at a decent hour. I miss Shane at odd times, and talk to him before sleep.

I’m in Chicago now, and will be back in two weeks. This is our life for the time being. We’ll make it work

* There were other, more romantic gifts, but few things are less romantic than being very cold when already feeling very alone, so perhaps an electric blanket is romantic after all!

TSWA

Herky!
A couple of months ago, SB lamented the fact that we rarely get to go do awesome spontaneous fun things because we’re so busy with school, work, and other obligations. We did a lot of fun, awesome things this summer, but once school started, we got back into a rut of staying in on the weekends, doing homework, and watching Law & Order (not that there’s anything wrong with that. We ❤ Lennie.). I asked Shane if he trusted me enough to commit to going away for a weekend with me without any knowledge of where we were going or what we’d be doing. He said yes, and the Top Secret Weekend Adventure was marked down on our calendars.

For weeks, I dropped hints (mostly false) about our destination, some more obvious than others. I told him a number of times that we were going to trapeze camp, though my broken arm made that less believable. Shane was pretty convinced that we were going to Madison – or at least Wisconsin. He was wrong!

On Friday, I took a half day off work, and we left mid-afternoon, en route to Iowa City, though Shane was still in the dark on our destination. After about 15 minutes, I couldn’t stand it any longer and handed over a map of the Herkys on Parade. I think he was initially disappointed, but when I told him about all the Herkys, as well as the other things we could do, he perked up a bit.

We spent three nights at the Mission House Bed and Breakfast – a Mission-style house with original Arts and Crafts interiors relatively undamaged after a long history of use as grad student rental property. The owners were courteous, thoughtful, and polite – and made killer breakfasts. We were within walking distance of the downtown area, so we spent most of the weekend walking around, shopping, eating, taking pictures, and visiting family. We had really amazing tapas, tried on $800 glasses, sampled beer in the Amanas, shopped at a fantastic co-op, and fell in love with a kittem, who caused our return home to be delayed by half a day as we waited for the adoption paperwork to be approved.

Shane didn’t see as many Herkys as he would’ve liked, but we had a wonderful weekend, and completely fell in love with the town. It’s a lot more cosmopolitan – and hilly – than I’d remembered – all of which are good things. My family has been trying to get me (and my siblings) to move there for years, and after this weekend, I can definitely say I’d consider it. Most of all, though, it was wonderful to just get away together without having to worry about school, work, or responsibility – to simply be able to enjoy each other’s company, whether it was during a drawn-out meal, a chilly walk, or a late afternoon nap.