Wednesday, July 27, 2005

And Round and Round We Go

I've made my way by trian up the northeast corridor and have finally landed in Maine, land of happiness and sea breezes. Along the way I stopped to visit some of the most incredible people, my friends. They are truly an amazing, inspired and inspiring bunch. Among them is a poet, author and song writer, a politician and activist, two PhD candidate, an Emmy-nominated assitant producer, a lobster-woman and artist, a teacher, and a rancher. And this is only what they do professionally!

Visiting each of their homes, whether a studio in Manhattan or a 100 year old cabin in Leverett, Massachusetts, gave me further insight into the lives that they are beginning to contstruct for themselves. It's a thoughtful bunch and the choices they are making now, and the choices they've already made are deliberate. Conversation ranged from discussion about God and religion, science and spirituality, post-modernism, to bridesmaid dresses, politics, world travel, desire to have babies, America's sorry health care system, and so on. Though on average I spent only about 24 hours with each person, I arrived in Maine feeling like I had covered the globe.

None of us are making the same choices, or buy into just the same set of beliefs, but a willingness to drink it all in is a very strong common thread. I'm blessed to have these women in my life; they are the ones who make it so rich.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

I'm Off!

Having an extra week to rest, to get my financial aid in order, to do household things I'd been putting off for months, and to spend what little time S. had together was definitely the right choice. And now I'm on my way up the northeast corridor to visit nearly all of my bestest closest girls. I'm not taking a computer, and expect most time to be filled with lots of filling in talk, so things may be a little quiet around here until next Monday. All aboard!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

You Gotta Have Faith

In second grade my friend A. and I would re-enact the George Michael music video "Faith." Not having cable in the house, I had never seen the video, but A. did a great job directing our production. A.’s family was Catholic, but I remember her confirmation being a great point of contention between her and her parents. She was confirmed, but when she left for college she left the church as well.

My own experiences with organized religion have been much less decisive. The daughter of a Catholic father and a Jewish (though non-practicing) mother, I attended Unitarian Universalist Sunday school for three years or so. The first year of college I set out to explore a variety of religions and attended Catholic mass with my roommate, and Shabbat and Buddhist meditations with practicing friends. Nothing particularly spoke to me, and I remain ambivalent about organized religion, but it was certainly educational.

What I find most compelling about organized religion is the practice of setting aside time in the week to pause and reflect. If I went to church regularly, I’d want to use that time to think about the humbling force that keeps things in perspective and helps me realize how valuable and how short lived my time on earth is – God? Being humbled goes hand in hand with being thankful and grateful, and I do my best to recognize and give voice to these feelings as much as possible, but it wouldn’t hurt to do it on Sunday mornings too.

What turns me off about organized religion is its exclusivity. The claim to hold the truth is so intricately linked to power – power over the believers, and more importantly the non-believers. My urge for spiritual connection lies in opposition to this impulse. That said, the extreme alternative, utter relativism where there are no truths, is equally unappealing.

As S. and I consider what kind of ceremony we’d like to have for our wedding, I’m confronted by my utter religious ignorance I don’t know the right lingo, “is it sect, practice, branch?”, “minister, priest, reverend?” The two churches in my community that I feel a connection with are the UU church I attended as a child, and the Episcopalian church where I went to nursery school. Our close family friends were members of the congregation and on one afternoon Mrs. F. took me into the quiet sanctuary. The feel of the hand stitched needlepoint kneelers under my fingers and the close quiet of the church were impressed on my mind.

But whether an Episcopalian or UU ceremony will speak to the unique brand of spiritualism S. (who grew up attending a Methodist church) and I have developed each in our own way remains to be seen. I’m looking forward to a lot more exploration and religious education as we dive into what matters to both of us.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Future Looks...Different

S. began his third year rotations last week. Medical school has been intense for the last three years, but this is a whole new level. He leaves before 7 am, someitmes before 6 am, and gets home between 5:30 and 9 pm. Then it's time to hit the books before going to bed and doing it all over again. And this isn't even residency!

I'm starting to realize that the dynamics of our household are probably going to be very different than the household I grew up in. My dad owned his own business and my mom worked part time in a school and then as a consultant. Someone was always there at my games (if not both), we would go to the beach together in the summer, sometimes my dad would come home for lunch, and it was a rare occassion not to eat dinner together (before 9 pm!).

There aren't any doctors in my family, and the one doctor that I knew growing up was the father of a friend, and he was already well-established in a successful practice. I've never seen second-hand the grueling hours it takes to become a practicioner of medicine, so witnessing it first-hand is a learning exprerience.

Fortunately, long-run I know that S. is committed to a good quality of life, and values his personal relationships and family above all else. But I also recognize that he doesn't have much of a choice in anything for the next 6-7 years. Gasp! Thankfully, I am someone who can enjoy time alone, and I've kept up a strong network of friends. But, as a paste together another peanutbutter and jelly sandwhich for his lunch because it seems like one of the few things I can do to make this a little easier for him, I'm beginning to understand why, in the households I know with doctors, the division of household labor seems unequal -- the domestic tasks fall to the non-doctor partner because the doctor simply has no time. It's a new reality.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Staying Put

Today, my plans changed. As I've mentioned elsewhere on this site, I get horribly ill when traveling. I have yet to master the art of traveling on an airplane without using the airsickness bag. Nonetheless, I've traveled overseas and across the country many times. As I've gotten older I've managed to overcome the sheer hell that is air-travel by the power of positive thinking (and the use of prescription drugs that help ameliorate the situation by a few degrees) -- it's a finite amount of time that I spend in the air and I'm always rewarded with great experiences and time spent with family and friends once on the ground.

Following my last day of work in June, I had the following itinerary set up: June 24-July 4, Netherlands; July 12-July 18, California (2 days in Berkeley and 2 days at Lake Tahoe); July 20-28, Philadelphia, New York, New Haven, Boston, Amherst, Maine; July 28-31, DC; August 1-14 Maine. The plan was to visit as many loved ones as possible and avoid the thick southern heat.

But after this morning's run, my stomach revolted and my psyche crumbled. I've hardly adjusted back to EST after returning from vacation across the pond, S. is adjusting to a frantic hospital schedule, and my head was spinning at the idea of having a total of five days at home in DC this summer before starting law school in August. I like to challenge myself, but today I learned that I'd made the grave mistake of pushing too far, too much, too little recovery, and underestimating the sadness I felt leaving S. behind for nearly a whole summer. I was overwhelmed and unable to rally. I've never cancelled before, but this time it seemed like the right choice.

One of the worst parts about canceling, aside from knowing that I was missing out on time spent with people I love, was the feeling that I was disappointing my grandfather and dear friend, H. I called them both in tears and worried they would be upset. I should have known better; I should have remembered that these people care for and love me. Both H. and my grandfather were incredibly understanding, and I'm far better off this evening, on the ground instead of in the air. H. and Grandpa, my extreme gratitude for your patience and kindness.

Monday, July 11, 2005

A Few Things I've Learned

Now that I've officially entered unemployment, I have time to ponder things like: what I learned in nine months as a non-profit grant writer.

1. I prefer that my job require human interaction.
This was the number one take-away from my most recent job. As a five year old, I was shy, but believe it or not, I've changed a bit in twenty years. So although I still think of myself as the shy five year old, on the whole, I like people and by extension meeting them, helping them, brainstorming with them, and generally interacting with them. Now, I still have an inner introvert, or at least a preference for doing many tasks on my own, but it's nice when there is a mix, and when the day isn't limited to me and my computer to get the job done.

2. I like to be busy.
I'll take a busy phone and thousands of pages to photocopy over sitting in a cubicle twiddling my thumbs any day. I despise being bored. It makes me cranky and depressed. I learned that I can generate my own work and pace myself to a degree, but I hated those days when I had checked off everything on my list through Friday and it was only Tuesday.

3. I manage time and multiple tasks well.
I consistently completed all of my grants well ahead of time and had ample time to write grants that had rolling deadlines. The pace didn't feel particularly fast (see #2) and I never felt overwhelmed. Yet I apparently got more work done in less amount of time than any of my predecessors and my boss. As long as I can see what's coming a week down the pike, I'm almost always able to estimate the amount of time I'm going to need and budget other things accordingly. (Note: I'm less successful with this in my personal life ie: running errands and then meeting friends on time)

4. It's helpful to believe in the greater mission of what I'm doing.
When I worked for a large publishing house owned by Rupert Murdoch, I had the books and my belief in reading and writing and the exchange of ideas to sustain me. But I got pretty disheartened realizing just how entirely commercial publishing has become (to the point of excluding lost of excellent and interesting literature because there isn't a convenient way to market it). Working at the non-profit, I had a greater sense of purpose, and I liked this. I saw the patients coming into the clinic and had a sense of satisfaction that the grants I had secured were providing the money that enabled them to get reduced-cost or free care.

5. Being around articulate and verbally-gifted people is a bonus.
Working at a publishing house meant that a lot of my colleagues were very well read and verbally astute. There were lots of puns and allusions to characters and ideas, a strong dose of sarcasm, and general playful banter. Working at the non-profit meant that there were a lot of very earnest people doing great things. Many of them were bilingual, but English was not their first language. It was a great opportunity to learn more about other cultures, and learn a tiny bit of another language, but I really missed the verbal sparing and wittiness of the publishing house.

There is more that I learned, but these are some of the immediate take-aways that came to mind.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Yes, Yes, Yes

I had jitters in my stomach before we left for dinner. "Odd," I thought to myself, "But how cool is it that I still get butterflies even after dating for nearly five years?" We biked by lush green pastures with big fat dairy cows, the sun at our backs and the Ijssel river to our right. I told him I felt nearly nauseous with happiness. We crunched down the gravel driveway to the old estate and parked our bikes.

During our aperatif he looked nervous, but dismissed my concern. We ate salty herring, drank in the cool vodka and soaked up life. Our table was the best in the house. The open window let the breeze tickle my legs and the buttery sun melted into the room. We looked out over the pond and talked about how far we've come, and how important honesty is to family.

The waiter asked us to follow him to the wine cellar for a palate cleanser. There were two champagne glasses tied together with white ribbon. "Wow, sure looks very matrimonial. But I know this couldn't be related to us because the man I love just isn't quite ready for marriage -- not for a year or two yet."

Before I knew it, though, he guided me to a bench surrounded by candles, then he was down on one knee. Through tears of joy I said yes.

I've never been so happy to have been wrong!