Saying Goodbye

December 31, 2014 § 3 Comments

It’s fitting that I’m packing up (most of) the condo on the last day of the year — a year in which was very good in many ways, and a year in which I grieved leaving St. Paul, and my single-girl-in-the-city life. Think: Carrie Bradshaw.

J/k.

I still have the plant from my aunt Karen (it’s still living and has multiplied again and again!), the red candlesticks from Meg, the old cigar box from Heather, the vase from Emi and Jon, the cookbook from Alex. I’m sure more of you gave me housewarming gifts, but I’m sorry I can’t remember them now. And as I wrap them in paper and bubble wrap, I feel so grateful for having friends who wanted to help warm my home. Which makes me think: I should do that more often for other people.

This condo was so much more than just the place I lived. I bought it by myself. It was the place I learned to be single again. And the place where I nursed more heartaches. I loved waking up in this place, in the full sun. Sitting on the couch with coffee and books well past noon, watching the teenage boys do skate tricks in the parking lot, dancing to Rihanna in my undies (if you don’t dance when you listen to Pon de Replay, there’s something wrong with you).

I remember in college walking with my friend Emilie on the cobblestone streets of Saint Anthony Main, and I said aloud that I dreamt of one day having a condo in the city. With a piano. And fancy cocktail parties. I think I had probably just read The Awakening, and wanted a Southern 19th century lifestyle, but still. I did it.

And now we’re selling it. (Wanna buy it?) When we moved to Fergus, Ben and I planned to keep the condo. Maybe rent it out. Let our future kids use it during college, and then move back to the cities in retirement. I fiercely did not want to give it up. But I started to fall in love with a new home — our little green house on the hill. And when I was here for work, I missed Ben and the animals. And paying two mortgages isn’t super fun.

Ben said, “let’s do what you want to do.” Which is one of the many reasons why I’m so glad I married him. And it took me nearly a year, but I’m ready to say goodbye to this place. So, sayonora good friend. I hope the next owners fall in love with you as much as I did.

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Try and Understand

December 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

I’m sure like me, your Facebook or Twitter feed is filled with news articles, but mostly opinions, about Ferguson and similar events. And, people are generally taking one of two sides: 1) what happened to Michael Brown is a crime and Officer Darren Wilson should be (should have been) arrested or 2) Officer Darren Wilson was only doing his job.

This is such a polarizing topic, that I bet as you’re reading this, you’re wondering which side I’m on and if I’m not siding with you, that you might just unfriend me on Facebook. I’m saying this because I have this sick fascination of watching or listening to or reading things I know I’ll disagree with just to get riled up and feel self-righteous. (If we’re honest, I think most of us do this.) But just to get distractions out of the way, I think Darren Wilson should have been arrested and made accountable for his actions. But if you disagree with me, please stay with me. At least for a few more minutes.

A few years back, I lived in Costa Rica for a couple months. I like walking, and would often walk into town — which was about a mile away from our apartment. Every time I walked alone, men in trucks would whistle or catcall or both. I hated it, but didn’t acknowledge it. One night, I was walking along the road from the beach to a restaurant. I was with two men (whom I knew), but was walking ahead of them a bit. A truck drove by and men in the truck whistled and catcalled, and I had had enough. I yelled at the guys in the truck and flailed my arms. I was furious. The two guys I was with said I was overreacting. That I should have taken it as a compliment.

I think — I hope — we are making strides in our culture that catcalling is not a compliment, but a threat. Now, that was a pretty minor event, but I wanted to share it as an example of an event that multiple people observed and came up with two completely different responses. At it’s root, I think that’s what is happening with events like Ferguson. By no means am I suggesting that being black is like being a woman. I’m not saying that. But I am saying that I think it’s hard to know what it’s like to be “other”. I mean, truly, white people don’t know what it is like to be black, unless you’re John Howard Griffin. Men don’t know what it’s like to be women (for the most part). I’m not a behavioral scientist, but when I say “know”, I mean something more on the lines of “experience” rather than “conscious of”. Whites may have an idea of what it’s like to be black from books, or movies, or black friends, but we don’t really know.

But, here’s the other thing. I guarantee that everyone has had a moment in their lives that they were judged because of some outward appearance. Maybe it was racial, or ethnic, or gender related. Maybe it was because of your hair or your clothes or your piercings or tattoos. Maybe it was because of your height or weight. If this has happened to you, you know what it’s like to be judged. Because you know, you can have empathy. You can begin to understand what it might be like for someone else. I believe that blacks have been treated unfairly as a race. I believe there have been a lot of injustices done against them. But nothing will change if we don’t try and understand. That’s the least we can do: try and understand.

Also, when you unfriend people you don’t agree with, you’re just preaching to the choir. To reach those you disagree with, first: understand where they are coming from. Empathize. Then speak your mind.

The Second Time Around

December 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

I get asked this question every now and again. From married friends. Divorced friends. Single friends. “Is being married different the second time around?” I think most people — including myself — expect a resounding yes. Of course one hopes that whatever mistakes you make the first time around, you’ve wizened up enough not to make them the second time around. But I think it’s more like whatever mistakes you made the first time around are just that more obvious the second time around, as in, “Wow! I can’t believe I didn’t learn that from my first marriage! Good one, Ruth!”

Like, did you know that when you’re married — no matter who you’re married to or whatever number of spouse you’re on — you do things differently? It’s true. For example: I save plastic grocery bags. I’m sure you do too. I think this is a value born out of the Great Depression and hasn’t left our system yet. I simply stash all of my plastic grocery bags in a larger bag under the sink. That seems completely acceptable and normal. Ben, however, ties them in a knot. I remember the day I learned this tidbit. He said, “Hey Ruthie, I like to tie knots in the bag before putting them away because they take up less space that way!” I nodded, “That’s neat, dear husband of mine.” I mean, how did he not know I’ve been doing it my way for so long?

Also, no matter who you’re married to, you probably make decisions differently. I actually learned a lot about how Ben makes decision just after one date. Our first date was Halloween (on a Saturday night), and I flew out to Birmingham the following day for work. We talked on the phone for hours — me on my fluffy hotel comforter and he in his dorm room. If my life were a movie, I’d make sure in this scene that the director include a rotary phone so that my (Scarlett Johansson’s?) fingers could curl around the cord, like you do when you’re talking to a boy. Anyway. I learned that he had been interested in me for about two months, but gave it a lot of thoughtful consideration before officially asking me out on a date. Me? Let’s just say that, in college, when an acquaintance asked me if I wanted to live in North Carolina for a summer, I said yes, and quit my job the next day. In a word, I’m rash. For better or for worse.

But also: it is different. Sam wasn’t the guy for me — or at least not the life-long partner guy for me. I had a college professor say to me (to our class, really) that there are friends you’ll have your whole life long. And then there are friends — even really good friends — who will be in your life for a chapter or two. He said this to our class of 36 students, living in Ecuador, who had become pretty much a family during that time. And I think he said it to us because a) it’s true, and b) so that we wouldn’t fall apart if we all didn’t stay friends forever. I think that’s some of the best wisdom or advice I’ve ever received. And when I reflect on being married twice, I don’t regret saying yes to Sam. He helped make me the person I am today. Sam was my post-college-I’m-23-and-an-adult-now-and-hey-let’s-get-married guy. And Ben is my I-love-you-and-hey-I-could-actually-live-with-you-life-long partner guy.

In some ways, I think marriage is marriage is marriage. It’s good, and it’s hard. No matter who you are.

I mean, on one hand, we’re constantly negotiating for power cords, travel mugs, and whether we should watch Parks & Rec or The Office.

On the other hand, when I asked the other day: “So, how are you?” He said, “In love with you.”

Where Am I?

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