28 Jul

My first adventure

I feel like I should spoil the punch line of this story right away and admit that as adventures go, this one was pretty mild. It took place mostly in my imagination. But in my imagination, it was loads of fun.

So I was at a rest stop on 95, in North Carolina, maybe the last rest stop before the border? It was around lunchtime, so early, but I was looking for a place that would be good to stop around 3. I’d walked the dogs already, enjoying the feeling of forest, the humidity in the air that felt heavier and damper than Florida humidity. It wasn’t that it was worse, but the air felt still and thick, like no afternoon thunderstorm was going to rumble through to clean it out. I liked it. Wouldn’t want to stay in it forever, because the bugs liked it, too, but it was fun to feel the sensation of being in a different climate.

But as I looked for a place to stay, I started to get vexed. I didn’t want to park overnight in a parking lot: it’s too hot and the dogs need the air-conditioning. But I also didn’t want to spend $40-50 or even more for a place that was really just a place to rest my head for a few hours.

A campground that I’d considered staying in before, Lake Gaston RV, started to seem more and more appealing. It was still in North Carolina, only 45 minutes away from the rest stop, so it meant a short day, followed by a long day tomorrow, but a quiet afternoon on a lake sounded really appealing. Decision made, I made a reservation, called up the GPS on my phone and headed out while my phone considered the options.

Lesson learned: make sure to have the directions before getting on the highway. For some reason, my phone got very confused. It wanted me to “proceed to the route.” I would have loved to, if I had any idea how. For about five minutes, at 70mph, it told me that I was 600 feet away from my route. That had to be a lie. And then it decided that I was still in Florida. It would have been a fine time to have a navigator to figure out what the heck was going on, but Zelda didn’t seem interested in taking on the job.

So I got off the highway and looked for a place to park and figure out what I was doing. Um, note to self: Serenity is taller than a Honda Civic. I drove under some trees that scraped along the top, got flustered, wound up in some mud, couldn’t get the phone to work, had cars whizzing by… Finally I used the in-system navigation built-in to Serenity. It told me to turn around. But I hadn’t used that system and didn’t really know how it worked. I tried to get an overview, but that was a list of road numbers I didn’t recognize. All I could get it to show me was the line where I currently was, not the whole map. Still, it was the best option I had at that point and I really wanted to get out of the mud I was in before I got stuck. So I made a cautious K turn, hurrying and anxious, and headed out.

For the first ten miles, the drive was lovely. It was so nice to be off the highway. 95 creates the illusion that the whole country is exactly alike: McDonald’s and Shell stations and asphalt. Sure, the billboards advertise peaches and pecans in Georgia, but mostly one mile is the same as the next. Driving along a road of fields and little brick houses was so much more interesting. Sort of slow, but that was okay. After all, I wasn’t in a hurry.

And then the line along the map that I was following had me turn. Obedient to the whims of my electronic guide, I did. Onto a dirt and gravel road that led to a tiny bridge signposted with weight warnings. What? According to the numbers, I was still 20 miles away from my destination. Could this really be the road?

I hadn’t intended to go hours and hours out of my way. The original map I’d been looking at had made it look as if the campground was about twenty minutes off the highway. I was already twenty minutes away from the highway.

But I drove onto the gravel road. It was exactly like you’d think it would be — bumpy and dirty and kicking up a cloud of dust as I puttered along at about ten miles per hour.

And suddenly I knew where I was — in the beginning of a romance novel. When the photographer or journalist or whatever she is — not quite TSTL, but maybe borderline — follows bad directions and winds up on the farm owned by the good-looking curmudgeon with the heart of gold that she mistakes for a hired hand. Except, no blizzard. Really, to be a good romance novel, I would need to be destined to get trapped on the ranch and that means blizzard. No blizzard, no romance.

Okay, so maybe I was in a thriller. I follow the wrong road and see something mysterious. Mostly I was seeing lots and lots and lots of green leaves, I was clearly in the middle of nowhere, but maybe I’d see two suspicious men exchanging an envelope. And one of them would look vaguely familiar. They’d see me, too, and then I’d be in danger. They’d know they had to stop me from revealing their meeting. And ha, innocent old me, not only am I driving a distinctive vehicle, I put a name on it. All they’d have to do is hunt for the van named Serenity. (Have I shown you a picture of the name yet? For some reason, none of the pictures ever turn out, but I will do that soon, I promise.) Strange men would start following me, a car with heavily tinted windows would try to force me off the road. Except seriously, there was nothing on this road and no other people but me. And wouldn’t the suspicious men meet in a less innocuous place? Or maybe at night?

So maybe I was in a horror movie. The forest had a great vibe for that — beautiful, innocent, flourishing. What darkness might it be hiding? I’d be trapped on the road, lost, and I’d go up to the spooky house, the one with the porch that creaked as if someone was walking on it when no one was there. And then… yeah, no. We did not have enough characters for a horror movie. Plus, dogs. Who would write a horror movie with dogs in it? B would not be a good horror movie victim — he’s just too pitiful, especially right now when he’s been chewing off his fur. And Zelda might be a good character in a horror movie — she’d be the dog barking furiously at nothing — but I would never ignore her if she were barking furiously. I’d pay attention. We’d leave. End of movie in the first act.

That left… murder mystery. And sadly, the only way that storyline made sense was if I was the victim. The innocent shower taker at the Bates Motel; the empty van still running, abandoned in a field; the body washed up on a beach. The story would open with me, but then jump to the world-weary detective, burned out on the job but determined to solve this one last case, the greatest of their career.

And then the gravel road came to an end and I was back on a normal road, pretty much highway-ish, wandering through a small town, and eventually deposited neatly at the front of a very nice campground. There’s a pool, a gorgeous lake, loads of people, a tiny restaurant that looks out on the lake and serves food I can’t eat; golf carts and pine trees and red-clay dirt that thrills me because it’s not Florida dirt, not New York dirt, not Californian dirt. Not, in other words, dirt that I know.

Adventure over. But it was so fun while it lasted! Even though yes, what really happened was just that I got a little lost, it felt like a blissful twenty minutes of imagination churning.

I made up for my lack of true adventure by braving my kitchen tonight for the first real time. I’ve eaten plenty of cold food — my usual salads and roll-ups and plates of fruit and veggies — but it’s been too hot to think turning on a heat source made sense. But tonight I used both burners of the stove and made brown rice noodles, topped with a sauce of sautéed onion, garlic, black olives, green olives, salmon, avocado and arugula. It reminded me very much of when I was first learning to cook, about 16 years ago, and experimented with all sorts of strange pasta sauces. It would have been better if I’d added some chili garlic sauce, but I already ate my nightshades for the week. Still, it was entirely edible. And my stove worked the way it was supposed to, plus the hot water heater worked the way it’s supposed to. Yay! I like having my adventures be imaginary, not technical.

And now I’m listening to the rain on the roof. Loads of rumbling thunder, but it feels quite peaceful inside. I have no internet so can’t post this story at the moment, but maybe tomorrow when I’m in the midst of my long trek north. At the moment, I feel like I could stay in this campground forever, but maybe tomorrow’s campground will be just as pleasant.

26 Jul

Bass Lake, Dillon, South Carolina

376 miles today. I do not intend to do days like this often. I kept passing places that sounded intriguing and wanting to stop: historical sites and parks, beaches and artisan stores. But I just kept driving by. It is NOT the point of my adventurous life to always be moving. Well, sort of it is, but not moving without stopping at the cool stuff along the way. Once I get to Pennsylvania and unload the things that are making life in Serenity a little too complicated — she’s not really sized for carrying Christmas ornaments, china, and a large-screen television — I’m going to be slowing way down. When I see something that sounds fun, I will stop.

Not, however, when it’s a restaurant. What is it about road trips that makes unhealthy food seem so appealing? I wanted waffles today. And pancakes. McDonald’s french fries. Fried chicken. BBQ. Every time I saw a sign for restaurant I’d never heard of, I wanted to stop and check it out, and every time I saw a sign for fast food that I once liked and haven’t eaten in years, I also wanted to stop. I wasn’t even hungry most of the time. For breakfast, I had gluten-free rice Chex with fresh blueberries and coconut milk. For lunch, I had prosciutto-wrapped dates and cherries. And for dinner, I had turkey slices rolled up with peach-honey mustard, avocado, and arugula inside, with sliced radishes as a side. How could McDonald’s compare? And yet…

One of the reasons that I drove so far today was that it is seriously hot. I thought about stopping earlier in the day, but with the van moving, both of the dogs were in the front seat area, AC blasting on them, as the back got hotter and hotter. I knew if we stopped in the heat of the day, the AC would be hard-pressed to keep up. It can drop the temp about 20 degrees, I think, less if she’s sitting in full sun. So with the temp breaking 100, stopping earlier would have meant sitting inside an 80 degree van, at best, or staying outside in the heat. I could have done it and Z probably would have been fine, but poor B does not love the heat.

I accidentally gave B a full Benadryl tonight. I don’t know what I was thinking — over-tired, I guess — but I stuck the whole pill in the peanut butter and handed it to him and only thought, “Oh, wait, I usually cut it in half,” when it was already in his mouth. Not like I could get it back at that point, but I was filled with maternal anxiety. Not about whether it would be bad for him — a double-dose of Benadryl’s not going to kill him — but about whether his reaction would be stoned dog or hyper dog. Either was possible. I am feeling exceedingly fortunate that his eyes are glazed and his head nodding. I’m not exactly in the mood to entertain a bouncy ball of enthusiasm although it would be sort of fun to see B have crazy energy. It’s not his usual style. I should probably drag him out for a last walk before he completely crashes, though.

And then maybe I’ll start planning tomorrow’s journey. The question will be: zoom through North Carolina and well into Virginia, or take it easy and stop early? Except VA, it turns out, is only 3 hours away, and that seems like a pretty short day. But maybe that’s what I’m ready for. Decisions, decisions!

26 Jul

St Augustine!

But I don’t have any cool pictures because I haven’t done anything at all. Except pull off the highway, find myself an RV park (St. Johns RV) and after a reasonably brief time of getting settled, crash onto an unkempt bed and go to sleep. I didn’t even hook up the water and the sewer, despite having paid for the full service. But I was surprisingly tired.

Well, maybe not surprisingly. I think I predicted more than once that the moment everything was done I was going to sleep for three days. It’s been a busy three months and an intense last few weeks. I did have time for one last swim yesterday, and a lovely lunch with my dad, but when we returned to the house the buyer was there for the inspection and from then on, it was a whirlwind.

Eventually, I was on the highway, Serenity and I headed north, and two things were happening. First, my brain wasn’t letting go of house worries. I kept trying to convince myself that it was finally my chance to think about writing, nothing whatever to do except concentrate on how I’m getting Grace out of this boring scene that she’s in, but my brain just would not unlock. And second, I could feel myself getting driven to reach PA. I passed a place I’d thought about stopping in — Flager Beach, where there’s a campground that sounded nice — and I was tired, my back was sore, I was hungry… but I just kept going. As if I was going to make it to PA in the next two hours. Given that my destination is 800 miles away and that there’s no reason for me to get there before Thursday, I knew I was being stupid. Well, or rather High Persistent, which is one of my character traits that’s always been both a blessing and a curse. Another fifteen miles down the road, I pulled over in a rest stop, found myself a new place to stay, called ahead, and here I find myself.

It’s nothing special: your basic field with concrete pads. But there are some trees and a nice long walk for the dogs. Both of them refused to come back into Serenity this morning after their walk, so I got a chance to try out their new tie-outs. Z promptly wound herself around the tree. Ha. It’ll take practice, I expect for both of them, since they’ve never been tied up before.

Still, it’s getting pretty hot already — not quite 9, and it’s 86 degrees inside Serenity — so it’s probably time to close Serenity up, get the AC on, and get back on the road. I don’t wish I was staying because Serenity is filled with clutter that I’m taking to my brother’s house and the feeling of chaos stresses me out, but I am definitely looking forward to the day where my goal isn’t to get on the road, but to enjoy where I am. Soon!

25 Jul

The big day

Yesterday was a perfect day. Not just a nice day, not just a good day, but an authentically perfect day.

I’d been dreading it for weeks. My last full day in my house, my last moment to say good-bye. I expected loneliness and sorrow, regret and probably some worry about the future. Instead, I puttered around, moving stuff from one place to another. I went for a walk with a friend, cleaned and swam, saw another friend, ran some errands. Spent half an hour on the phone with R, made a snack sort of lunch, swam some more. Cleaned some more, went out and saw some other friends, made dinner in Serenity — a salad of mixed greens, turkey chunks, pecans, and dried apricots, with a balsamic and peach honey mustard vinaigrette.

And at about 9, when I was tired and ready to sleep, instead I went back into the house and out to the swimming pool and lit the torches and swam by firelight under a starry sky. It was lovely, so beautiful as I floated in the still water, watching the colors of the flames against the backdrop of the green leafy bamboo. The sweet olive tree was even blooming a little again, making the whole backyard smell tropical. It was as magical as I could have imagined, maybe even more so.

The only not quite perfect thing about the day was that poor Zelda was so tired from staying two inches away from me while I wandered around that when I swam she didn’t play with her ball. Instead she slept, as if she was grateful for the chance to get some rest while I was contained. She, of course, doesn’t know that it’s going to be her last chance to play in a pool for a while.

But even that’s okay. I’ve been fighting to keep her ears healthy — drops every morning, cleaning them every day — but I’m pretty sure that I’ve failed and that she’s working on infections, maybe in both. It would be impossible to keep her out of the pool if we were home, but her ears will have a chance to stay dry when we’re on the road. And if I decide in a few days that this is an infection that needs more than Zymox, I can find a Banfield on the road and use her wellness plan to see a vet pretty much anywhere.

And today — well, today’s the big day. I shouldn’t be writing a blog post, I should be finishing cleaning out the house, making last decisions about all the things left inside, dragging the trash out to the curb. Maybe scrubbing the kitchen floor — I did a fairly half-hearted job yesterday. Definitely finishing emptying the fridge and cleaning it out. Checking the laundry situation, maybe making a last run to Goodwill. Oh, and cleaning my bathroom.

I suspect that today is both going to fly by and have long moments where it feels like it’s dragging, but at 2PM, I will sign the papers. One set of dreams will come to an end, but another will begin. I have no idea where I’m going to be spending the night, whether I’ll still be in Florida or have made it to Georgia or South Carolina. For that matter, I have no idea where I’ll be tomorrow night either. How fun!

23 Jul

Peaceful mornings

I slept in the house last night, but this morning I decided to have my first meal in Serenity. I brought my coconut milk, my gluten-free cereal and a nectarine out to the driveway and made myself a cup of coffee while I sliced up the nectarine. I sat on the edge of the van, the sliding door open, coffee on the floor next to me, bowl of cereal in my hand, adoring dogs at my feet.

A bird was flitting in and out of my crepe myrtle tree, which is in full, gorgeous pink bloom, and the sky was the pure blue of early morning with some wispy white clouds floating by. I took a deep breath and thought about how a peaceful morning just sets the tone for the whole day.

And then a dog walked by and Zelda went berserk and I grabbed for her (brand-new) tie-out cord, throwing my cereal into the air. Before we were through, I had nectarine and coconut milk and soggy rice chex in my coffee and on the floor and even on the comforter on the bed next to the door. Yeah, that happened.

I didn’t let either dog lick up the coconut milk and cereal, and I growled at Zelda as I cleaned up the mess. Literally, a low rumble of annoyance.

But now I’m sitting on the bed in Serenity, trying out my new mobile internet solution. I’ve been finalizing one room at a time in the house. My bathroom and bedroom are almost done–cabinets and medicine closet bare, dresser drawers empty. My living room is done, the family room, guest bedroom, Rory’s bedroom and guest bathroom are all complete. Most of my fridge is in Serenity — and the online wisdom that the small fridge is surprisingly big seems to have been accurate, I’ve gotten a lot in there already with plenty of room for more.

If I was really motivated, I could get everything I need out of the house within the next hour, take a load of stuff to the storage unit, and be living in Serenity by noon. But there’s the slight problem of no water supply, plus I do still intend to take as much advantage of the pool as I can in the next two days.

And I don’t feel done. I’ve still got a lot to do in the next couple of days, including the always really boring deep-cleaning done for the benefit of the next inhabitant. Something about scrubbing floors when I know I’m not going to be the one messing them up again makes me clean more sullenly. Still, I’ve got a definite glow of joy going as I sit here. This is going to be so much fun!

21 Jul

Playing house

I spent a couple hours this morning moving into Serenity. Like, really moving into Serenity. Tomorrow morning when I want coffee, it’ll be in the van. When I get dressed, I’ll be running out to the driveway first. My cooking capability in my house is down to… well, nothing, actually. My frying pan and two pots are both in the van, along with all my utensils.

Does this make any sense at all? No! I’ve got four more days in my house and Serenity’s not hooked up to water, and the refrigerator’s not cold, so it’s impractical to think I can really just stay in her. But I’ve been having to make tough choices about what I can bring & what I can’t bring and tomorrow is my last trash day, so I needed to make decisions. The easiest way to decide was to try things out.

It was fun, actually. I put all my dishes and pantry goods onto the shelves, then realized that when the bed is made up as a double bed instead of two singles, one of the cabinets will be difficult to access. So I rearranged everything. And then I decided that my shelves didn’t work the way I needed them to, so I did it again. It felt remarkably like playing house, like being a little kid in a pretend kitchen, doing pretend shopping.

Analyzing the way I use my dishes has also been entertaining me. I have two pretty mugs, blue with red flowers, white interiors. I’m very fond of them. But I use them only when I’m having an extra cup of coffee. They’re “special” mugs. On a daily basis, they’re too small and they cool off too quickly. Meanwhile, I have four tall latte mugs, and I use them exclusively for tea. They’re the perfect tea mugs, because they heat so evenly and hold the heat so well. I also have two red mugs that I didn’t actually like very much aesthetically, but they were what I drank regular coffee from, because they were a good size and weight.

Eight mugs. Serenity does not have enough room for eight mugs. Also, I am one person. I do not need eight mugs. For a time, I had six in there — two of each. But even six didn’t fit. So then I had one of the pretty ones, one of the red ones, and two of the latte mugs. The reality, though, is that my perfect tea mugs are by far my favorite and the most useful to me. What to do? Finally I asked myself the daring question: could I actually drink coffee in my tea mugs? It turns out the answer is yes.

But it amused me to realize how rigid I am in my uses of specific things. I put almost all my knives in Serenity for exactly the same sort of reason: I need the small one for apples and other fruit, and the next size up for carrots and vegetables and the third for slicing meat, and the fourth and fifth and sixth… but I suspect that after I’ve lived in Serenity for a while I will discover that I can live with two or three knives. Fortunately they don’t take a lot of room, so I’m going with abundance when it comes to knives for now.

Ugh, and bowls… so many tough decisions when it comes to bowls, because apparently I need a certain bowl for scrambling eggs and another bowl for marinades and a third bowl for mixing salad dressing and a fourth bowl for making rubs. And let’s not forget cereal, fruit, and frozen treats! I could actually explain why each of these bowls is better for its purpose than another but I did manage to decide that I could adjust to having only a couple types of bowls. Well, four. Or five. Anyway, I still have plenty of bowls, but I picked ones that stack and reluctantly let go of the ones that don’t.

Spices and herbs have been fun, too. I think I wound up keeping almost everything except red pepper and pink Himalayan sea salt. Their containers were just too tall or I would have squeezed them in, too. Three kinds of vinegar — balsamic, red wine, and white wine, but I jettisoned all the oils except coconut and olive. I hardly ever used the avocado oil, the red palm oil, the canola oil and the other oils I had, so I can live without them. Soy sauce, yes, fish sauce, no. Four kinds of hot sauce and chili-garlic sauce, yes, but all pre-packaged salad dressing, no.

Tomorrow I take Serenity to the dealer and get her vent fixed. Saturday and Sunday — I finish cleaning the house, I guess. Do a last load of laundry. Swim and swim and swim some more. Spend some time with friends, I hope. And then I’ll be moving on. And getting back to Grace! I find it really very funny today that Serenity has stolen so much of my attention from Grace. Even funnier when I realize that my mental name for APB (which has also stolen attention from Grace) is Balance.

Serenity, Grace, and Balance — three very nice things to have in one’s life.

18 Jul

To-do lists

I had an incredibly productive Monday morning:

    I scheduled an appointment at the RV dealer to get Serenity’s vent fixed.
    I called the fence people about the permit problem.
    I took a load of stuff to Goodwill, probably the last.
    I stopped at the pharmacy and picked up a prescription and discussed arrangements for refills on the road.
    I called my doctor and got a couple extra refills added to my prescription.
    I took some old cans of paint and bug spray to the landfill.
    I loaded up Serenity with four bookcases and a chair and drove them to the house of the friend who’s taking them.
    I posted a question about traveling with pets to Facebook.
    I emailed my realtor.
    I called the guy who’s taking my porch furniture and made arrangements with him for Thursday.
    I talked to my sister and set up a time for my nephew to come collect a few things.
    I spent some time researching temperature monitoring solutions for when I have to leave the dogs in Serenity.*

And then I sat down at the computer to write and… didn’t.

I have this fantasy where I’m so engrossed in the story I’m telling that all the trivial details of my life are simply flotsam and jetsam drifting past unnoticed while a current of pure story drives my days. Reality is never so smooth. If Grace was a kayak outing, it would be an insanely frustrating one where the current of reality keeps driving me into eddies and backwaters. Actually, that’s a really good description of Grace anyway. I keep thinking I’ve got it and then… I keep not getting it.

But the day is not yet over. Admittedly, it’s after 7 and I haven’t had dinner and still need to take the trash out and my realtor just answered my email… but words can still be written! So off I go to at least try, having fulfilled one more item on my checklist of things to be done. (I’ve managed to blog every Monday of 2016 — I didn’t want to break my chain!) A week from today, I’ll be on the road, headed to PA, and all of the vast multitude of house-related to-do list items will be… well, done. I don’t know whether I’m more relieved, scared, or excited.

*The temperature inside Serenity hit 122 degrees the other day. I was impressed. That was with all windows closed and no AC on, of course, on a Florida day in July — a situation in which I would never leave the dogs. But I would like some kind of warning system for when I do leave them, although preferably one that doesn’t cost a small fortune.

14 Jul

Life lessons in Q-tips

Real Q-tips are better than fake Q-tips.

This feels like one of those life lessons that I have to learn every five years or so, but this time around I’m learning a new lesson, too: it is better to throw away the cheap swabs than suffer through using the whole box of them.

I think I might be finally learning this life lesson because I’m getting rid of so much other stuff. It’s ridiculous to walk away from a $400 gas grill but struggle to discard a product that cost less than $2, which I bought in order to save $1. And yet, if it weren’t for the fact that I think these cotton swabs are making Zelda’s life unhappy, I probably would still use the box. Penance for a bad buying decision? Frugality as self-torture? Why choose to suffer? I don’t know, but I know I usually would.

Now, however, I am resolved to throw away the box as soon as I finish writing this post. And then I’m going to go to the store and buy Q-tips, real Q-tips, with plenty of cotton, so that when I’m cleaning my ears, it feels like I’m cleaning them with a cotton ball instead of poking them with a stick. And, more to the point, when I’m cleaning Zelda’s ears, which is how the vast majority of my Q-tips get used, she will feel the same.

Why so many Q-tips for the dog, you ask? Because she loves to swim. Swimming equals water in the ears. Water in the ears equals breeding ground for bacteria. Bacteria equal ear infection. When Bartleby has an ear infection he makes it immediately clear as strongly as he can — he gets grouchy, snappy, hides in corners, resists being touched. If he were a kid, he’d whine loudly and take to his bed the moment his temperature hit 99 degrees. Z, on the other hand, is a stoic. I haven’t realized that she’s had ear infections until she’s done damage to her ears, so I try to be hyper-vigilant about getting water out of them after she’s gone swimming. Of course, in 10 days, she will be swimming a lot less, so maybe I don’t need to worry about this.

But that thought is too big to contemplate. Today, I’m going to focus on Q-tips and shelf liner and triple A batteries instead. A run to the post office to return some products I shouldn’t have bought. A check of the battery in Serenity to make sure it’s charging properly. Writing this evening with my friend J. And if the thought keeps creeping into my head that this is the second-to-last Thursday I will ever spend in the house that I thought I would live in forever… well, that’s okay, too. Because two weeks from today I will be in Pennsylvania, I hope, eating blueberries and counting my blessings.

11 Jul


R came home for the weekend, which was lovely.

We went out for sushi at our favorite sushi place on Friday night. Saturday morning he slept in. For breakfast, I took small slices of some melon halfway between cantaloupe and honeydew and topped them with prosciutto and a sprinkle of ginger. I saved him some so he ate a little of that when he woke up and then we had a big brunch of bacon and eggs*, scrambled with sautéed onion, cilantro and avocado. Plus coffee with coconut milk and cinnamon.

We watched a movie while we ate. Inception, I think, with a break in the middle to swim and read in the sun. Then we ran some errands: another load of stuff to Goodwill and also a run to the storage unit. He went out for a while and when he came home, we watched Ocean’s Eleven, and ate salad with roast beef, sweet corn, radishes, cucumber, avocado, and a dressing of balsamic, olive oil, italian herbs, fresh cilantro, and finely diced red onion. I’m sort of into the diced red onion salad dressing. It’s got a really nice but subtle kick.

On Sunday, he woke up late, then went out to lunch with a friend. When he came home, we watched Interstellar. Afterwards, he helped me drag some stuff out to the curb — his box spring and mattress, an old washing machine that’s been in the garage for the past seven years.

We put Serenity’s name on her. He’d been joking about my spaceship since he first saw her, but when he looked at the name lettering I’d gotten, he told me I’d picked a very Christian font. I was a little taken aback, but he viewed this as a good thing. He said that when I was broken down by the side of the road, people would be inspired to want to help me.

We talked about Ireland and his job, his thoughts for the future, ideas about plays he’s writing and his thesis, places he wants to go, and the movies we were watching. Whether Christopher Nolan can get away with anything. A show he’s watching on Netflix that I would really hate but that makes him laugh. Game of Thrones, which neither of us watch, but both of us know much too much about.

And then he got into his car and drove away. And I will not see him again until 2017. And we will probably never live in the same house again. And I am so sad.

Also completely congested, eyes puffy, face tear-stained, and so, moving on. Change happens. It’s not always easy. This change is enormously better for me than sitting in this house, waiting for him to visit, so I know it’s right. But a little grieving, that’s right, too.

*Cooking note for future reference: I cooked the eggs in red palm oil, which is supposed to be a butter substitute. It worked pretty well. They’re not kidding about the “red” part, though — it turned my onions orange and gave the eggs a deep, rich color. It doesn’t have much taste, which is a positive, I guess. Eggs cooked in olive oil or coconut oil are definitely flavored with the oil. Well, as are eggs cooked in butter. Funnily enough, though, I think I’ve adapted to eggs cooked in coconut oil. They give the eggs a flavor of sweetness that I missed. I’d still prefer butter, though, if only dairy didn’t make my immune system crazy.

07 Jul

Letting go of expectations

The search for happiness begins with letting go of expectations.

I can’t remember where I read that (and I probably mangled it, since I can’t find the link) but I was thinking about it this morning while I was practicing meditating. At first I really thought it was one of those bullshit philosophical sentiments that make absolutely no sense with a closer look. Like, really, one of those “you will only find the thing that you are looking for when you stop looking” ideals that may be occasionally true, but is mostly not helpful. Sure, I’ve had moments when I’ve given up on finding my keys and suddenly remembered where they might be, but most of the time I find my misplaced keys by looking for them. And not looking, while it might eventually work, does not get me out of the house on time.

But while I was meditating and my thoughts were roaming, as they do, I realized time and again that what I was thinking about was an expectation. Example one, things to do. I had a moment of realizing that I still didn’t manage to do a two-minute job for a friend, felt guilty, resolved to do it immediately, or at least as soon as I stopped meditating — and then realized that my plan was an expectation, an expectation for what I would be doing next. So I reminded myself to let it go. (I will still do it, of course, but I let the pressure of needing to do it immediately and the guilt of not having done it yet go.)

Next I started worrying about Serenity. The dealer called yesterday and they couldn’t find anything wrong with the air-conditioner. Not an okay answer. But worrying is just another expectation, an expectation for a future that will be the way I want it to be. There’s nothing I can do to influence either what’s wrong with Serenity or what will happen next, so what value does worry have? It is entirely contrary to my nature to try to let go of that kind of worry, but I did it anyway. I thought of it as an expectation and tried to let it go.

I went back to trying to focus on my breath and still my noisy brain, but my nose was dripping. It’s tough to be peaceful when you have a runny nose. So then I started questioning whether I was sick or allergic and running back over all the things I’ve eaten recently, trying to figure out what I could be reacting to. But that’s another expectation, in its own way. I’m expecting that something I ate might be making me sick. And really, what difference does it make? My runny nose is going to stay the same, regardless of whether it’s caused by a cold virus or injudicious dairy intake. What benefit does deciding that I’m to blame possibly give me?

At that point, I was totally into the idea. Every thought that came up, I looked at and tried to see how it could be labeled an expectation. As soon as I defined the thought as an expectation, I tried to let it go. Unexpectedly, I got happier and happier as I did so, until the bell rang and I finished my meditation on a pleasant glow.

I was talking to a parent friend a few weeks ago who’s struggling with her adolescent daughter. She’d snapped at her daughter, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” Her daughter’s answer, “Right, of course!” I think wanting to be right is expectation-thinking. I’m not sure I can express it better than that, but for today, I’m going to try living without expectation (to the extent that is even possible for an obsessive, controlling, perfectionist type) and see where it gets me. Because I think at this point in my life, I’m grown up enough to decide that I would rather be happy than right.

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