Winter’s work

I haven’t kept up with this blog as planned. Now it is nearly winter and I am still in flux, but I think I am onto a different stage now. This is the “What now?” stage. Which is certainly better than the “cleaning up the pieces” stage. I hate cleaning.

T is in New Jersey teaching for the semester, which is necessary and good for him career-wise. However, it leaves both of us lonely and pining for each other, especially during down time. Missing someone is a physically uncomfortable feeling. 

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I’ve realized, somewhat surprisingly, I am not great at living alone. The first weekend after T left, I felt bewildered with what to do with myself. What do I eat? What time do I get up? Do I really have to put all this laundry away? Does it matter? And quickly I also realized: yes, it does matter. The tempting thing to do when you live alone is – nothing. And while Friday night Netflix or AcornTV marathons are completely justified after a long work-week, I really need to DO other things.

Recently at work, I was skimming our library collection and found a book called Memories of a Maine Island: Turn-of-the-century tales and photographs by Marie Locke and Nancy Montgomery. Our library collection focuses on photographic history and mainly on the American west, so I was excited to find this title about my beloved state. The book is about life on Little Cranberry Island, one of five islands that make up the Cranberry Isles, located just southeast of Mount Desert Isle. It’s a fun book with well-documented memories of life on the island – fish skinning, farming, lonesomeness, pot-bellied stoves and of course, winter.

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Page 44, from “Memories of a Maine island”

Towards the end of the book, one of the women says that at church fairs “you could get all kinds of things that people would make – winter’s work.” Winter’s work. I liked the idea of it. And I thought – that’s how I need to think about this winter, while T is away and I’m still figuring this all out. I need to occupy myself with “winter’s work.”

But what does winter’s work look like to a 30-something girl, living in New Mexico, working full-time, with few turn-of-the-century skills? I’m not going to be making pillows stuffed with horsehair or a patchwork bag to “put my hankies in” (these were examples in the book). So, I came up with this list, which is not super authentic to the Cranberry Isles definition of winter’s work, but functions mostly the same way: to give me something to do, to lift my spirits when daylight is short and temperatures drop. To focus on the moment, by creating, learning and being quiet.

Winter’s Work

    1. Keep the house tidy. For me, mainly this involves doing the dishes and putting my laundry away, my two most hated chores. But I do love a clean house.
    2. Cook and write down recipes. It’s easy not to cook when you live alone. Lately I’ve been eating a lot of kalamata olives and popcorn. I know. Not very nutritious. And I really need to start writing recipes down and keeping notes.
    3. Get Mesa out of the house whenever possible. Mesa needs exercise, even if it’s just a walk to the bookstore. It’s good for both of us. And sometimes, it’s easier to make myself do something if I disguise it as doing it for my dogs 🙂
    4. Learn to sew better. Hem (all) my pants, make curtains, shirts for Lupe, bandannas for babies. My mom is buying me a sewing machine for my birthday, and I can’t wait to put it to use. Right after I read the manual…
    5. Read actual books. Since leaving school, my reading life has taken a plunge.  I am a very picky reader, easily bored and quickly put off by bad writing. However, I do believe reading makes you not only a better writer, but a better thinker.  I have a few books on my shelf right now: Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking, 1491: New revelations of the Americas before Columbus, Telling New Mexico: A new history, and Julie and Julia: My year of cooking dangerously.  

       

    6. Write regularly and more often. This includes blogging, journaling, letters, and maybe, maybe getting back to short stories.
    7. Call my friends. I’ve lost touch with a few far away friends and even one phone call a month will help, I think.
    8. Take photos with my real camera. I used to enjoy taking photos – before I got an iPhone. Somehow, the ability to instantly capture a moment with my phone sucked away my desire to really think about photographs. And I like thinking about photographs. So less iPhone, more camera.

I found this post on Pinterest helpful: 10 Ways to Get Yourself Out of a Funk It’s simple and the advice might seem obvious, but sometimes we need reminders, right?

A Re-introduction

Five months after leaving my home and relationship, I finally unpacked the last few items from my car (a set of screwdrivers, a couple of socks, a coffee mug) and placed new photos in frames which have stood empty. Just because you know a decision is the right one doesn’t make it easy. Over these last few months, I’ve felt like I was limping around with an injured limb and constantly telling myself, “Keep your head up.”

I’ve been through a difficult break-up before, but we were younger and I had friends nearby to rely on – to house me, and listen while I cried, to take me out for gin and tonics and eat Thai take-out by the ocean.  And it was a relatively clean break, that one. It was acute and severely painful to my young heart, but also fairly simple.

At thirty, with a house and an engagement, two dogs, a cat, and seemingly innumerable bills (not to mention the intangible things, like hopes for the future, ideas about love, etc. ) – this break-up seems more like chronic pain, ongoing and deep. It really, really sucks.

It makes me feel old. It makes me feel like I should have known better.

It’s like when I fell on my first tumbling pass in gymnastics, during a floor routine. A graceful, expectant start and then —  Ooof. Except, it’s way worse, actually.

I was going to start this new blog and not mention any of this. But every time I read what I wrote, I hated it. It wasn’t honest. I haven’t easily moved on to “fun new adventures.” I’ve clung to these new adventures while hoping to recover and move on and make sense of… myself.

New Mexico is a beautiful place for recovery. Cooking also helps, as does Mesa. The sun helps. Taking weekend road trips helps. And I don’t want to be coy about the fact that I met someone, let’s call him T. And I’m in love and I know it, for the first time maybe ever.

So here are some photos from the last five months, which show beautiful, fun things I’ve experienced  – oftentimes with a heavy heart.