I feel like I have had a helluva past couple weeks.  The combination of the imminent departure from Nashville of two women who are super-inspiring to me both scientifically and as friends, planning for and giving two presentations (one on my research, one leading a discussion for a first year grad course), my despair at things happening in the world, and hormones have made me feel INSANE.  Sad and crabby and seriously hungry (have I mentioned that I eat my feelings?).  What made it all worse was that the research talk that I gave on Monday basically reinforced an idea I’ve been having for a while that I’m on a directionless path to Science Nowhere.

This morning, this post appeared on one of my newly found favorite blogs, and it just feels perfect to share.  April of Blacksburg Belle uses a vivid “elephant and rider” analogy and says that in order to stay motivated, we have to celebrate each small thing that goes in a positive direction for us (or each tiny step the elephant takes).  So rather than dwell on my first paragraph, I want to share victories that happened this week:  On Tuesday, I met with a PI that I really like in order to plan a course we’re teaching this summer and the minute he asked how things were going I couldn’t stop crying.  He provided a paper towel for my tears and supportive listening ear for me.  I got to see my counselor on Wednesday, which is almost always amazing.  Thursday, I presented for my lab’s group meeting (super informal) and they gave me great advice on where to take my project so I can go toward Publicationville, which is on the way to PhD City.  But the best part about this week is that I feel elated and ecstatic because the discussion that I prepared to lead for the first year course happened today and it was AWESOME.  I felt well-prepared, the students were engaged and fun, we covered the material we needed to cover, and at the end of it I felt energetic and ready for the next challenge.

Sometimes the paths we’re on feel wrong, but I think that when we most need a nod that we’re going down the right one, we get it.  It also doesn’t hurt to motivate your elephant by celebrating the baby steps along the way.

The Future

As Hubs and I walked to lab this morning, we ran into an Ultimate friend of his that has a cute, red-headed kiddo. Hubs’ friend is a definite hipster and as we went our separate ways, I remarked that even his kid looks like a hipster kid. Hubs wholeheartedly agreed with me, and then I asked what kind of kids Hubs thought we would have.  Without even missing a beat, he said, “Nerd kids.”

A little bit later on in our walk, we were discussing the hipster kid’s name and whether it’s Biblical or not.  (The name is Gideon).  We were a little bit confused about whether the name actually appears in the Bible or whether it’s just the name of the folks that put the Bibles in hotels (turns out both are true).  The main reference that I could think of, though, was a Harry Potter reference, and as I expounded upon my HP knowledge, Hubs shook his head and said, “You’re taking it to a whole new level.”

Nerd kids, indeed!

Valentine’s Day

I am not in love with Valentine’s Day.  I think initially this feeling stems from the days in elementary school where they instated a rule that you had to give a valentine to everyone so that no one would feel left out and some people still got special, bigger valentines, while everyone else got the punch out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle ones.  Or it may be that it was middle school when you could buy your special person a carnation (the Miller High Life of flowers) and attach a note that the student council would then deliver in your second period class and everyone saw who got a carnation and who didn’t.  A chili bowl haircut (through sixth grade) and taller than all the boys (through tenth grade) doesn’t really get you special Valentine’s gifts.  And in retrospect, none of this really matters at all to me.  I am happily married now and before I was with my husband, I had several “good” Valentine’s Days.  The point, though, is that I still remember how it feels to be the third-grader without the heart-shaped chocolate box in her bag or the only seventh grader in pre-Algebra without a dyed red carnation, so I really can’t get behind a holiday that has the power to elicit feelings of inadequacy and sadness in single people.  For the record, I’m not in love with S.A.D. (Singles Awareness Day) parties either.  The ones that I’ve been invited to are generally negative, and really, who needs an excuse to be pissed about something?

Culture in the U.S. (especially, I think, in the Southern U.S.) is so incredibly biased toward lasting, monogamous relationships, regardless of relationship quality, that people stay in toxic relationships because, were they to end the toxicity, they might feel unlovable and out of place in our culture that treats Valentine’s Day like the BEST DAY EVER (Quick! Go BUY something for your MATE.  Don’t have one?  Well, you’ll probably just need to go eat your feelings).  It is incredibly difficult to be single, not only because of the varying levels of yearning for a partner that one might experience, but because being an individual in America doesn’t actually mean much unless you have someone to share it with (or so we’re told by the endless onslaught of couple-y advertising, which is especially rampant this time of year).  Obsession with Valentine’s Day is just a symptom of a culture that drills the idea of something good (romantic relationship with gifts) ahead of teaching people how to actually cultivate a good thing (almost no one is taught how to effectively communicate with a partner, resolve conflict, show love).

And please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not against long-lasting, monogamous romantic relationships.  I am trying to have one of those RIGHT NOW (and hopefully so is Hubs).   The idea that he has to bring home flowers and chocolate and jewelry to make me feel loved, however, is ridiculous and an example of blatant consumerism that is the other part of my pie of reasons not to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  I know he loves me.  He shows me in a hundred ways every week that he does, and when I feel as though I’d like to have some sort of special acknowledgment of his love for me, I step back and try to evaluate what’s really going on in the marriage.  Is it that we’ve both been spending more time in lab than we have together?  Or that I’ve been doing the grocery shopping alone for the past few weeks?  Or maybe I just really do need a little extra attention in the form of flowers (maybe that he picks in a park to save money)?  But why should Valentine’s Day be the only day that I (or anyone!) gets recognition for being a lovely partner?

To live our best marriage, I think we need to embody the spirit of Valentine’s Day every day:  recognition and appreciation of each other.  This we can do in private, without buying tons of crap and making single people feel terrible.

And I love this moment we’re in

This line from an Avett Brothers song describes nearly perfectly how I’m feeling about our marriage.  Hubs and I recently resolved to work on us, and in spite of still sometimes feeling like I’d like to throw a bag of dog poop at him, this moment is just right.  I came home from a weekend of coaching to a sweet and funny text (“Where you at girl?”) and a CLEAN house.  The floors vacuumed and mopped (pretty sure Hubs has not mopped our floors a single time since we moved into this house two and a half years ago!), cat boxes scooped, kitchen clean (including countertops), and recycling out in the bin where it belongs!

Coming home and seeing that he had listened to what I needed from him and honored me by making our house clean was the best way for this week to start.  I immediately expressed my undying love for both Hubs and the clean house, and we went to bed.  Starting out happy with each other not only because it was nice to be together after I had been away but because he had done this wonderful thing, though, has already made a huge difference in our relationship just in the past couple of days.  We have been laughing every day on our way to work, enjoyed grocery shopping together, and last night we had a real breakthrough.

In making plans with a friend, I offered to cook dinner Saturday night.  I forgot that Hubs is giving a tour to some prospective grad students on Saturday, most likely right up ’til dinner time.  He knows that I sometimes get stressed out with having guests when he’s not around to help me prepare, and as we were going to bed, we started to talk about the time for the tour, which he doesn’t know yet.  I felt myself get frustrated about the lack of information and planning, but instead of turning it into a big deal, I just decided to go to sleep (which is actually pretty uncharacteristic; I’m more of the turning-things-into-a-big-deal type).  This morning, I asked him very calmly whether he thought that we should cancel the plans, but we were able to decide together that it wasn’t necessary to cancel completely, but would probably just be less stressful to go out to eat with our friends instead.

I am proud of us for several reasons: 1. We averted a potential fight.  2.  We did so by calmly talking it out and thinking ahead.  3.  We did all of this while both of us are under the same amount of stress as we always are!  And I am convinced that we were able to accomplish all these wonderful things because of the optimism that we both felt by coming home to each of us being happy on Sunday.  I want to live our marriage like this all the time.  I want to always feel like we’re anticipating potential problems and handling them in a grown-up way.  I want to be able to come home and be joyously happy to see my husband (whether or not he has cleaned the house) because now I know that choosing to feel super-wonderful about us in just one moment makes all the moments that follow amazing, too.