Why, hello there, Ira. Thanks for confirming that I’m not crazy.
I’ve been the “creative type” my whole life – a dancer and at times, a choreographer; a writer; a chronic crafter. And in all my artistic endeavors, I always dive in with the same zeal and enthusiasm and optimistic vision, and inevitably I always hit the same wall.
In high school after I’d had years of rigorous ballet training, I suddenly felt the overwhelming desire not just to master and perfect, but also to create. I’d witnessed and worked with so many brilliant choreographers, whose work could evoke so many emotions and make me feel like I was watching a piece of music come to life… it made want to strive for greatness like theirs.
But time after time, my work seemed to fall short. It felt too choppy, too forced. The creative juices would quickly run dry, and instead of feeling liberated by the creative process and the possibilities, I felt burdened. Like I was stuck in a math problem I just. couldn’t. solve.
For a while, I thought I just wasn’t cut out for it. There were also days (many of them, in fact) when I thought I was just a crazy perfectionist. Turns out, I was wrong… and I wasn’t alone. (Enter: Ira.)
Ira Glass, an American public radio personality and host and producer of the radio and television show This American Life, is a fellow creator. Aside from being poignant and wonderful and generally adorable, he’s also accomplished, articulate, and wise. (Marry me? No? Okay.)
The following is a quote from Ira himself that feels like validation and a breath of fresh air every time I read it. It reminds me that mastery takes time, and it encourages me to push ahead. It reassures me that imperfection is okay, and patience is necessary.
As a new blogger, I think this quote still applies to me in a big way. I’ve been struggling lately to keep writing as often as I want to, and New Kid Frustration is totally to blame. I have plenty more to learn, try, and master before I’m as good as I want to be… but wise words like these are often the nudge I need to just keep going.
Have you felt these frustrations? Does this quote resonate with you?
First of all, let’s talk about how long it took me to come up with a title for what will be this recurring little segment. Brainstorming was less than seamless, and went a little something like this:
Em’s Ideas Featuring Alliteration:
Relationship Ramblings (not terrible, not great either)
Couple Chronicles (What is this, a newspaper?)
Duo Dilemmas (…soap opera…)
Twosome Trials (um, what?)
Manfriend’s Contributions: (“I like the rhyming idea, myself…”)
Musings & Fusings (uhhh…)
Joyce’s Choices (Sure, I’ll just change my name. No one will notice.)
And then, one morning last week, after half a latte and a breakfast burrito… it came to me.
One of the most powerful realizations I’ve had about relationships in the last few years is that the way a relationship evolves has much less to do with the things that happen to us, and much more to do with the choices we make. Pretty awesome and empowering, no? Those choices – the ones that shape my relationship and determine its direction – are the ones I want to dive into and share with you… and there’s so much to talk about. I’m overflowing with ideas! So… let’s begin, shall we?
If I had to describe my Manfriend in one word, it would be… drumroll… independent.
That quality, while sometimes frustrating and challenging to wrap my head around, is one of my favorite things about him, and it manifests itself in a thousand different ways within our relationship. One example in particular is that he likes to travel. A lot. And I don’t mean weekends in New York… we’re talkin three weeks in Eastern Europe. Or six weeks in Southeast Asia. Or two weeks in South America. You know, just because.
If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that I can’t change him, just as he can’t change me. Loving him means embracing his independence and giving him the space to be him, since trying to change each other just opens the door for resentment. That means not whining or trying to “not let him” travel. It means encouraging it.
His most recent adventure was when he spent nearly two weeks in and around the UK to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin this year. It used to be a really hard thing for me to embrace his need to explore, and to not interpret his excitement to leave as an excitement to leave me. But I’ve learned to understand and appreciate how this aspect of him is so central to who he is, and it actually does a lot of good for our relationship. Stay with me.
Do I miss him when he’s off trekking the globe? Of course I do!! And in those first few days, it’s especially sad. But having said that, the physical distance gives us the space to miss each other. To strengthen our relationships with ourselves, to deepen our own understandings of who we are as individuals. To focus on the things that are important to us, outside of our relationship. To hug and kiss and… cuddle… that much more when he comes home.
Plus, for me in particular, the aloneness that distance provides allows me to stop worrying about him or about us, and instead to focus on taking care of me - a task I find especially challenging - and that benefits both me and my relationship! Because let’s face it – happy, secure people make the best partners.
For similar reasons, we have also decided to take a break from living together for the next year, and to spend that time living (very) near but not with each other. It’s a tough thing to explain to our friends and family that this is far from a “setback” in our relationship, especially since we’re living together now. Instead, we are each in a place where we recognize that giving ourselves some space to grow individually will make us stronger, happier, and more loving companions for each other.
While it’s not super easy to explain to people, this is a decision I’m really proud of. It’s the kind of choice that actively shapes our relationship, and reminds me that we are the ones who decide what kind of relationship we are in. We’ve chosen to think outside the box, and make a choice that tends to our needs as individuals first, which I believe will make us healthier, happier people, and better, more loving partners.
Have you dealt with distance in your relationship? Or, what kinds of outside-the-box decisions have you and your partner made for the sake of your relationship? I’m dying to hear!
I’m the kind of girl who really appreciates the role of a good routine.
My weekends have been a little frazzled lately. Some days I’m too ambitious and end up overbooking myself, and wishing I had a weekend to recover from my weekend. Other days, I find (arguably too much) comfort in lounging the morning away in bed, making some lists, pinning some recipes I dream of trying, and catching up on quality (terrible) television.
Don’t get me wrong, both are totally appropriate ways to spend the weekend. Having said that, even if I’m going to spend the day living like a couch potato (which, again, I’m rarely sorry about), there’s something really fulfilling about setting the tone for a loungetastic day early on, and with a sense of intention.
Today, I reminded myself of just how much I love a good lazy Sunday routine. Not only does it start my day off with a sense of purpose and serenity, but it also tends to propel me into whatever I’ve decided I need to accomplish that day. It’s a lovely little gift I need to remember to give myself more often.
Clouds and drizzle set the stage for an especially cozy morning today – I owe you one, Mother Nature. To capitalize on these ideal cozy conditions, below are just some of the things that made my morning thoroughly soothing and satisfying:
Starting from the upper left and moving clockwise, in the picture above…
1. Coffee. Need I say more? This morning’s latte was accompanied by a perfectly soft, warm blueberry scone. Om nom nom.
2. Oh, how I love me some fresh flowers. The ones pictured were actually a gift from parents when I got promoted at work about a year ago – they’re far cheerier than the wilting ones I have on my kitchen table at the moment. I’ll be replacing those this week, since there are few things that brighten up a room more than a vase of fresh flowers.
3. Ira. Ohhhh Ira. If you have not yet discovered This American Life, today is the day to change that. It’s an amazing radio show-turned-free-podcast hosted by the amazing Ira Glass, and their About page does a far better job of explaining it than I could. They also provide a staff favorites page, if you’re a new listener who doesn’t know where to start. Some of my personal favorites include Testosterone, Blackjack, and Allure of the Mean Friend.
4. That little snuggle bear’s name is Penny Lane – she’s a maltese, about a year and a half old, and has waaay too much personality for that tiny little body of hers. Snuggling with her is the BEST.
There’s one more important aspect to this routine that’s worth mentioning: I know myself well enough to know that most of what makes this whole process so therapeutic is being alone. This is a lovely segueway into what will hopefully be my next post, one that I’ve been working on for a few days now.
Are you a believer in the importance of a routine? What constitutes your perfect Sunday morning?
Show of hands: who made New Year’s Resolutions back in January? …now who is still following through on said resolutions? (Beuller? Beuller?)
Resolutions are daunting, and the weight of a year is heavy. It’s always exciting at first to identify the changes we want to make, and it all feels so promising at first. But the excitement lasts, oh, about a week if you’re anything like me, before that excitement turns into pressure… which turns into failure… which turns into guilt… which turns into giving up entirely.
But there’s something tangible and immediate about today. I can do ‘today’ … ‘today’ doesn’t scare me. ‘Today’ is conquerable.
I’m not ashamed to admit that part of this may have stemmed from watching The Biggest Loser this season. (There, I said it.) But look at those people! They’ve taken their life into their own hands, and one day at a time, they’ve decided to fight the lifelong battle to reclaim their health and their lives, to make choices that nourish their bodies and promote their happiness. It may be reality tv, but it’s also inspiring.
Today is a bit-sized piece, and 5 is a manageable number. Therefore, I’ve compiled 5 easy ways that I can take control and make today healthier – no matter what I ate yesterday or an hour ago, no matter how lazy my morning was, these are 5 things I can do, now:
- This amazing video explains how 30 minutes of exercise makes a big difference. I could try to summarize or recap the highlights, but really, you should just watch it. It’s awesome.
- I make much better decisions about food when I plan my meals for the week, for a few reasons. Not only am I forced to go grocery shopping and start eating fresh foods from my fridge instead of making bad takeout choices, but it also increases my awareness of what I’m putting in my body. Plus, bonus – I really, really enjoy cooking!
- Perhaps the easiest step I can take is to decide today when I’m going to exercise tomorrow, and stick it on the calendar. My life revolved around my ballet classes for 15 years, so at a young age I grew accustomed to knowing exactly when I had class, and I planned around it. Adding an appointment to exercise on my calendar puts me back in that mindset of blocking out a time slot, and holding myself accountable.
- I know myself well enough to know that shooting for 3 hours at the gym is, well, a joke. But what I can do instead is maximize my down time. Use that commercial break to squeeze in some crunches. Do some squats in the kitchen while I heat up dinner. Work on those calf raises while I brush my teeth. So many possibilities - just have to be creative!
- In the wise words of Real Simple, there’s always a chance to inconvenience myself. I can park further away, opt for the stairs over the elevator, carry my heavy groceries to the car instead of pushing them in a cart. The little things add up.
What daily habits to you use to better your health? Do any of these work for you
With all the weddings and bridal showers that keep appearing on my calendar these days, I find myself having the same debate, over and over (and over…):
To stray from the registry, or not to stray from the registry?
On the one hand, these people clearly took the time to cherry pick and tell us – their family and friends - exactly what they want. Do I really think I know better than they do?
But then, on the other hand, my inner Martha Stewart can’t handle the idea of buying some thing for someone, peeling off the sticker, putting it in a bag with some tissue and calling it a day. A gift that doesn’t involve some combination of brainstorming, envisioning, making several trips to Michael’s, cutting, gluing, tying elaborate bows, and/or washing glitter off my clothes feels too… I dunno… easy. It’s just how I’m wired. You craftaholics understand.
So, in answer to the question at hand - to stray, or not to stray - I say, a little of both. Honor their wish list, and add some flare.
I was recently invited to a friend’s bridal shower, so naturally I kicked things off by checking out her registry. I immediately narrowed down the list based on my price point and personal preferences, and I was left with…. a bundt pan.
Because nothing screams “pizzaz” like a bundt pan.
Clearly I had work to do. My mind immediately went to ‘function’. What good is a bundt pan with no recipe to use it for? And so, the ideas swirled, and I grabbed the necessary supplie and fuel (yes, that’s a venti… don’t judge me…) and got to work.
I tracked down a few spectacular-sounding recipes for bundt cakes (thank you, Pinterest) and raided my supply box for a way to craftify them. Enter: Glitter. Lucky for me, I had lots of lovely paper scraps on hand that coordinated nicely together, thanks to years of frequenting Michael’s and compulsively overspending. Whoopsie. I also think there’s something really special about a recipe that’s lovingly hand-written, so I put my crafty handwriting to work too.
Once the recipe cards were ready and to my liking, I wrapped them up in a neat little bow and tucked them inside a card file I found at Staples.
Last but not least, I’m a sucker for killer gift wrap. And I mean killer gift wrap. More often than I’d like to admit, I find myself at Paper Source spending more on wrapping supplies than I spent on a gift itself. And this, my friends, was no exception. Throw on a lovely bow from my ribbon stash leftover from Christmas, and I was ready to rock and roll.
By the way? Favorite. Wrapping Paper. EVER.
Voila! A registry gift with flare. Putting all of this together brightened my day, and reminded me of how fulfilling it is to put personal touches on the gifts I give to the people I hold near and dear.
Do you stick to the registry, or do you lean toward more personal gifts? Perhaps a combination? Share, s’il vous plait!
Have you ever heard of TED Talks?
According to their own site, TED – which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design – is ”a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.” There are conventions devoted to these topics and more each year featuring a plethora of fantastic speakers, and more than that, there are gazillions of amazing talks on a huge variety of topics available for free online.
My dad was the first to introduce me to TED Talks, and he and my mom and I watched Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability together not too long ago. I just love Brené Brown, and after watching this, I kinda want to give the woman a hug. (Apparently, awesome articulate women have that effect on me.) Really though, I could listen to this talk again and again, and still feel its impact.
I know the 20 minutes looks daunting, but I seriously, seriously recommend you watch the whole thing. She’s brilliant.
Have other TED Talks grabbed your attention? Which ones? There are so many out there, I’d love to hear your recommendations!
One-half of knowing what you want is knowing what you must give up before you get it.
I somehow doubt Mr. Howard had ‘kicking-your-soy-latte-addiction’ in mind with this quote… but hear me out.
My imminent (exciting!) move closer to the city – and the increased cost of living that comes with it – is forcing me to put on my big girl panties, and take a hard look at my budget and spending habits. But more than that, I need to cut back wherever necessary.
Tragically, my daily Starbucks has to be the first thing to go.
I’m not sure when I became a daily Starbucks customer, but I know it’ll be damn near impossible to wean myself off my daily doses of warm soy deliciousness. If you’ve met me, you know that kicking my morning caffeine habit altogether would put my coworkers in imminent danger, so now it’s just a matter of finding a more wallet-friendly alternative.
What’s that, you say? Make my own lattes?
Indeed I must. I’ll soon be investing in some quality vanilla soy milk (suggestions welcome!), a decent espresso maker, and perhaps the most exciting, an awesome travel mug that makes me feel even more fabulous than I felt carrying my daily Grande Starbucks cup. (I hate admitting that I feel cooler when I’m carrying one… but let’s be serious, I really do.)
Below are some of my favorite contenders:
Have you had to make tough budgeting choices in the past? What expenses have you cut, and what indulgences were worth keeping?