Sunday, October 30, 2011

a white october.

The view from my front door.
It snowed yesterday.

Before I continue, let me say: I've been in snowfall before, but it was a light dust that seemed to almost stop before it really started. It was junior year of high school and I was with a group of about 30 north of Sacramento for a retreat. We were eating breakfast on the last day when the flakes began to fall, and we ran outside with excitement and wonder. (And I also snapped a really great photo of Laura that she says she still remembers.)

The first thing people told me about winters in the east coast was that it would be freezing and there would be snow. My Californian friends expressed worry; other non-Californians laughed prematurely at what they predicted would be horror. But I won't lie: yesterday was kind of thrilling.

You know that scene from Gilmore Girls when Lorelai wakes up in the middle of the night because she can smell the snow? She drags Luke outside for the first snowfall of the season. "It's just my favorite time of the year. The whole world changes color," she says. "Flakes, flurries, swirls, crystals - whatever form it comes in, I'll take it. We got back, snow and me. We have a beautiful history."

I don't have a "beautiful history" with snow. When I was younger, my parents used to take my sister and me up toward Tahoe to build snowpeople and play in the already-fallen snow. When I was three or four, my parents plopped me in the snow and I began to sink. I cried and wailed, and rather than save me, they filmed it for my future embarrassment. Snow and me? Not so friendly.

But yesterday, I rode up the escalator out of TJ Maxx and had to squint. Was that slow-falling rain? What was happening?

Snow.

It was like a scene from a movie, as I exited the department store to a flurry of snow. I looked around, wondering where the ringing bells and Starbucks holiday cups were. It was too early for this to be the first snowfall of the season, but here it was, and I was caught outside in it like a dream.

I'm sure I'll grow to hate it when it starts to interfere with my workday commute or general well-being, but yesterday was--at the risk of sounding cheesy--magical. Just look at Melissa's photos - you'll see what I mean.

It's sunny today, though still cold, but I'm looking forward to those flakes again. "Welcome, friends," Lorelai says as the snow begins to fall. Come back soon.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

on love and independence.

From Shel Silverstein's "The Missing Piece Meets the Big O."
"I wouldn't want to raise kids in the city," a friend and I agreed on the metro the other day. But, then again, I don't think I'd want to raise them in the suburbs either. At least, not right now, when family living comes at such a price. Though I suppose if I were to imagine life with a husband, white picket fence, granite countertops and a minivan in the driveway for those 2.5 kids and that dog, I would see it in the suburbs--not somewhere like downtown D.C. In the mornings, whenever I ride the metro and see exhausted mothers in business attire accompanied by a crying, screaming baby, I can't help but think that postponing family life for another decade is a wise decision for my generation.

Not that I have wedding envy or baby envy or anything like that. You all know me--I'm a commitment-phobe with a penchant for over-caring. When this point of discussion comes up, as it has surprisingly often lately, I'm firm in my stance: I don't want to get married anytime soon. My parents were incredibly young when they got married, and it isn't that I'm avoiding it because of them, but because I haven't found myself in a position in which independence and a commitment to another person have existed in harmony--at least, not enough to the point where I feel comfortable with it being legally binding.

A recent article by Kate Bolick in the latest issue of The Atlantic takes a look at this perspective and raises an interesting question: "Now that we can pursue our own status and security, and are therefore liberated from needing men the way we once did, we are free to like them more, or at least more idiosyncratically, which is how love ought to be, isn’t it?"

True--we should be marrying for love, not necessity. Not because we want to have children or we're attracted to the security and stability they can provide. Additionally, the institution of marriage is (or, at least, should be) changing as well. But that's a tangent for another time.

Bolick's article is incredibly in-depth and fascinating on many levels (and you should read it, even though it's really long and might not apply to you): from examining cultural and social trends to personal anecdotes, she captures the importance of independence. The point: you shouldn't feel the need to get married.
We are far more than whom we are (or aren’t) married to: we are also friends, grandparents, colleagues, cousins, and so on. To ignore the depth and complexities of these networks is to limit the full range of our emotional experiences.  
Personally, I’ve been wondering if we might be witnessing the rise of the aunt, based on the simple fact that my brother’s two small daughters have brought me emotional rewards I never could have anticipated. I have always been very close with my family, but welcoming my nieces into the world has reminded me anew of what a gift it is to care deeply, even helplessly, about another. There are many ways to know love in this world.  
This is not to question romantic love itself. Rather, we could stand to examine the ways in which we think about love; and the changing face of marriage is giving us a chance to do this. “Love comes from the motor of the mind, the wanting part that craves that piece of chocolate, or a work promotion,” Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist and perhaps this country’s leading scholar of love, told me. That we want is enduring; what we want changes as culture does.
There is no clock ticking, telling you your time to connect with others is ending. Don't break your back putting in overtime in relationships that don't contribute to your personal growth because you feel the need to prove something to yourself and to others about the kind of person you want to be perceived as.

A late night conversation with a friend once led her to ask me what I thought the key to successful relationships were. "Being happy single," I answered. Which sounds like it defeats the purpose of integrating your life with someone else's, but I still believe that's true: in order to make a relationship work, you should be content with yourself as a whole person. After all: "You cannot roll with me, but perhaps you can roll by yourself."

Perhaps, indeed.