So, so scared

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but I was born and raised in Austin. I’ve pretty much* lived here my entire life, and I turn 36 (!!) next week. *I say “pretty much” because I did live in Lockhart for 6 years, but that’s about 30 minutes south of Austin, and I was still in Austin all of the time. And while I have made a nice little life for myself here, I am SO over Austin. I’m just done.

There are many reasons why people love and move to Austin – the abundance of live music, the extensive hike and bike trails, the major festivals, the weather (at least before climate change screwed us), the counter culture vibe, the foodie scene. And that’s great and all, but other than some minor hiking, I don’t enjoy any of it. I hate going to concerts (too many people standing too close to me and usually some tall person blocking my view of the stage). Same thing with the big festivals. The allergies suck, and the foodie scene is insanely expensive. Plus, I’ve lived here MY ENTIRE LIFE! I’ve done these things. I’ve been to ACL and volunteered with SXSW and seen tons of movie premieres and saw Blink 182 at X-Fest in 1997 and eaten at the trendy restaurants.  I’ve experienced Austin life pretty fully.

Being a semi self-aware person, I recognize that I need a change. I applied for a job with NASA in August, which would have had me move to Huntsville, Alabama. I was so excited for the change!! The cost of living is way cheaper, I could afford a bigger and nicer home, there’s some great hiking nearby, they have actual seasons. I built an entire life there waiting to hear if I was even going to get an interview. And then I got my “thanks, but no thanks” email, and my pretend life crashed. I’m not going to lie, I was heartbroken. I tried to build up excitement about my life here, but just couldn’t do it. Then, a few weeks later, I just went ahead and applied for some jobs out in Santa Barbara, California. My parents live out there, I’ve visited many times, it’s gorgeous; why not? After talking to my mom, she even agreed that I could stay with them for a few months while I find my own place. Sounds perfect, right?

I am so scared. I don’t think I have ever been this scared before in my life. I love my job here in Austin, but I’m just kinda bored with it. There’s no ability to advance, and while I am appreciated and valued, that doesn’t change my lack of enthusiasm with Austin. If I could do this job from California, I would sign up for that in a heartbeat. I also love my condo. I’ve been there almost five years, and I have truly made it into a sanctuary. Again, if I could move my condo to California, done!! It’s not living with my parents that scares me; we get along well, and I’m a pretty responsible boarder. I’m not even scared of not finding work; there seem to be plenty of jobs available which I could do and which pay the same or more than I’m making now. The thing that scares me is not being able to find my own place. Coastal California is expensive!! Sure, there are some condos about 30 minutes south of Santa Barbara that are in my (high-end) price range. But what if there’re not as great in person? What if I get out there and no one likes me? What if I give up this great job and great condo and I never find anything as good?

Okay, I just realized while I wrote that that it sounds exactly like previous things I’ve written about not wanting to break up with someone because I may never find anyone better. And that is not the way I want to live my life. Yes, this is extremely scary, and WAY beyond my comfort zone, and very unlike me to make a leap like this. But, in a way, I think I am more scared to continue to live my life the way I am now. Because I’m not really living. I don’t go out and do things. I stay at home and read and hang with my dog (which is not a bad thing at all). But I just feel suffocated being in this town. I need a change of location.

– Finch

I don’t want to call myself pathetic, but…

I was filling out a journal prompt today which asked, if someone really wanted to understand you, what would they watch, read, and listen to? The “watch” part started me off, and it was pretty easy – obviously The West Wing! What other show so perfectly encompasses my ego, my belief in something greater than myself, my hopeless romanticism (Donna, CJ, Josh, Toby…)? Then I immediately thought of Kate Winslet’s character in The Holiday. Okay, she’s a bit of a pushover at the beginning, but by the end, she finds her gumption. At one point she talks about feeling like the sidekick in her own life, rather than the leading lady. I *might* feel like that every now and then. Or more often. Then Norah from Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist came up. Yep, definitely resonate with her. Oh wait… isn’t she a bit of a pushover, always going back to the callow ex, finding her happiness only when she gets a boyfriend? I’m sensing a bit of a pattern here.

A couple of weeks ago, I cleaned out all of my journals, wanting to start fresh. As I was skimming through them, checking to see if there was anything I needed to keep, I was absolutely struck dumb by how many times I had written about wanting a relationship, or feeling out of touch with whomever I was dating at the time, or wondering why a relationship had not worked out. Easily 70% of my entries had to do with my love life, or lack of one. And you know what? It pissed me off!! I mean, really f’ing pissed me off! I am successful, financially secure, funny, cute, smart as hell, valued at my job, beloved by my friends and family. Why was I wasting so much time and energy on my love life? As I read through and got angrier with myself, I kept thinking, “What could I have done with all of this wasted time? If I hadn’t been wondering what was wrong with me when my relationships failed, I could have started a business, taught myself to play guitar, learned to make macaroons. This is BS!”

Sure, of course I appreciate the fact that I have learned from my past mistakes and am a better person for the soul-searching that I have done. However, there was WAY too much whining going on there. Because let’s not pretend that I only poured my heart out to my journal. Oh no, I cried to my friends and my mom and my sister. I sought out tarot readings to find my flaws. I worked out and starved myself to appear prettier, and therefore more valuable, to the opposite sex. And I gotta tell you, I’m more than a little disgusted with myself. Instead of celebrating the massive amounts of love that I do have, I cried about guys who I rarely think twice about. Instead of utilizing that time to better myself overall, I punished myself for things which were not my fault.

So yeah, after going through the journals, I felt more than a little pathetic. And I decided that I didn’t like that feeling. I decided that I would rather focus on my mental well-being. I would rather focus on my friendships. I would rather focus on achieving goals.

And so, I will be revisiting that initial journal prompt. Because I want to associate myself with strong women who are saving themselves, who are acting as good friends and good citizens of the world. Not the women who are only happily ever after once they get a boyfriend.

– Finch

What Is Your Motive?

I was having a conversation with a friend recently about whether it’s ever okay to reach out to an ex. In her case, she and the ex had had a very bad breakup, but she had been close to the ex’s mother, and she found out that the mother was sick. My friend genuinely just wanted to express her sympathies.

So this led into a whole other conversation about my thought process last year when the singer Chris Cornell passed away. My ex-husband had been friends with Chris, and had a great musical relationship with him. So when I heard about Chris’s passing, I seriously considered reaching out. However, every single message I came up with started, “I’m sure you don’t want to hear from me, but…”

And that had me thinking. If I was *that* sure that Ex didn’t want to hear from me, why was I reaching out? Even though all I wanted to do was express my sympathies, would Ex resent hearing from me at all? And if my only motive really was to say how sorry I was, couldn’t I send him that energy without intruding on his life? Was my motive to express my sympathy, to show that I was a kind and caring person, or to show that, on some level, I still cared for him?

I wasn’t able to give my friend a concrete path to take. However, we came to the decision (*we, as if it was my decision anyway!) that she should send flowers to the mother. My friend decided that this really wasn’t about her ex; she just wanted to let the ex’s mother know she was thinking of her. By stepping back and really looking at why she wanted to reach out, she realized that the person she needed to reach out to wasn’t the ex at all.

I’ve reached out to exes before for a variety of reasons, and most of them have been purely selfish – I wanted them back in my life, either as boyfriends or friends. I’ve been really, really lucky in that none of the exes have reacted poorly to me reaching out. It’s always been a positive experience, and in some cases, it brought me some much needed closure and/or answers that have helped me to move on. But again, that’s about me and about what I wanted.

I still don’t have a definitive answer here. The best I can do going forward is look at my motives, and see if they really serve the higher good. I think that’s the best any of us can do.

– Finch

Allergic to cold-weather dating

Let me just be blunt – I HATE cold weather! I don’t care if it’s cold and rainy, cold and clear, cold and windy; the operative word in all of those descriptors is “cold” and that word and I do not get along. This is one of the (many) reasons I live in Austin. We think 65 degrees is cold. So, wouldn’t you know it, a massive Arctic front pushed through yesterday, the second one in as many weeks.

I was trudging through the wind to my car last night, thinking how nice it would be to go home, and snuggle up under the covers with someone and fall asleep wrapped in some nice, warm arms, when it suddenly dawned on me – I have never dated anyone (successfully) through the winter. I’ve been married during the winter, but we all know how that turned out, and I can tell you, there was a definite “chill” in our relationship during those months, and it was all me. I just do not find anything romantic in cold weather. My hands and feet get freezing cold no matter what, so snuggling isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. My nose gets red and runny from the temperature and wind, so I look like I have a perpetual cold – totally sexy, right? I’m much more interested in dressing for warmth, and I hate running outside, so my body is not in the greatest shape during these months. Also, I can never think of anything fun to do when the weather is this horrid – go for a walk? No. Go to a museum? That would mean walking to and from my car (so really, go anywhere is out). Stay inside by the fire? Fires make messes and are dangerous. I do like to cook when it’s cold out, but, again, that necessitates going to the store for ingredients and that means going outside.

But, back to my relationships… Tripp and I started slowing down right around mid-October. Ex and I would always slow down for winter and pick up again when it warmed up. Most of the rest of my relationships have begun in the spring or summer, and were over well before the first frost. Even Jay – I joked with him that I liked him because he kept his AC so low in the summer, but that once it got cold outside, I wouldn’t need him anymore. One week before the first Arctic front, he was kicked to the curb. And, interestingly enough, the holidays don’t play into these dating trends. I’m a great gift-giver and I’m pretty good with receiving gifts as well, so I’ve never had an issue there. I don’t stress over meeting parents or introducing guys to my parental units. It’s SOLELY AND COMPLETELY the temperature!

Ugh. I’ve never looked forward to spring more.

– Finch

Diet Coke and a smile

When my parental units moved out to California a few years ago, one of the first things my mom told me was that, apparently, men did not help women who were stranded on the side of the road with flat tires, engine trouble, etc. Now, she had not witnessed this – this informational nugget was gifted to her by several co-workers and friends. But she was a bit in disbelief.

My mom is that rare woman who can be stuck with a flat tire on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, with no cell signal, and within five minutes, some good ole boy in a pick-up truck will have pulled alongside her and will be switching out that flat in no time at all. I’ve never seen it fail.
So, of course, when she had a flat tire a few months back on the sunny streets of Cali, she had not one, but two men come to her rescue. When she informed the naysayers of this, they were all shocked – this had never occurred before. Maybe the men were transplant-Texans.

I was out there over Easter weekend, and I borrowed mom’s second car (her first is a convertible, which messes up my hair) while doing a little on-my-own sightseeing (that’s the best kind, just so you know). Well, I noticed that it was a little low on gas, and I’m a good daughter, so I found a gas station and filled the tank. While the gas was pumping, a cop pulled into the lot and parked and made his way inside. Now, I am not usually the “nervous nellie” type, but the car still had the Texas registration sticker, which was expired on it, and I don’t know what the rules in California are on car registration, inspection, etc. So most smart people would have finished their gas, and left, right?

But I really wanted a soda. I mean, really badly wanted a soda.

So I went inside. This was one of those kind of “old-timey” gas stations, where they still have a mechanic’s garage attached, and the inside is very tiny. I’m used to the mega-market stations we have here in Austin. You could practically grocery shop in those ala Reality Bites. Of course, once inside, I made an ass out of myself by having to actually ask if they sold sodas there, because I couldn’t see where they were. And of course! The cop was standing in front of the particular cooler in which the sodas were stored, so I had to walk up to him, say excuse me, and again, *of course*, he is ridiculously good-looking. So he smiles at me, I smile at him, he walks to the register, I grab my Diet Coke. And he’s just standing there – not paying, just hanging out. Okay. So I also grab a Mounds, because when in doubt, get chocolate. As I walked up to the register, he motioned for me to go ahead of him. I smiled, thanked him and laid my purchases on the counter. As I was reaching for my wallet, he says, “Oh no, I’ve got this.”

Now, maybe this happens every day to you, and if so, rock on with your bad self. But I rarely have someone just offer to pay for me, especially at a gas station, especially when we haven’t been talking and flirting beforehand. So I smiled and thanked him again – “That’s awfully nice of you” – and made my way out to the car.

Because it’s not about giving the guy my number (which would have been weird since we live in different states), and it’s not about flirting and feeling like I owe him now – it’s about someone doing something nice and out of their way, and you being gracious enough to say “thank you.” It’s a simple act of giving and receiving, and it doesn’t have to be tied up in a myriad of hoops and obligations.

And maybe it’s not that California guys aren’t helpful to strangers. Maybe they just respond better to Texas gals!

– Finch