Imaginary Raja

As a shy, awkward, noise-sensitive, anxious child, I often imagined I had someone big and strong with me at school. As a kindergartener, I pretended I was friends with the Power Rangers, even lying to my classmates about knowing them to make myself feel less afraid, less unwanted, less small and powerless. When I got older, I imagined Raja, the tiger from from the movie Aladdin. Even older than that, I imagined Aragorn, who I envisioned as my really awesome uncle (making me a sort-of princess) but let’s talk about Raja.

Jasmine was one of my favorite characters. She was interesting and kind, and she had this big, cuddly, protective tiger who helped her, who was on her side 100%, and who was capable of scaring away all the people who made Jasmine feel unsafe and small. Sometimes as I walked in the hallways of my school, hoping to be ignored but desperate to feel special and seen, I imagined I had an invisible Raja with me. I’d even reach out my fingers with one hand when I particularly needed to feel comfort, pretending I could feel Raja’s fur as we walked. Doing so made me feel less alone and more confident. Raja wouldn’t let anything happen to me. Raja was big and strong and on my side. I knew he was there, I could see him, though no one else could.

My Sunday school teachers told me I should remember Jesus was with me, or God, and picture them when I was scared or lonely. (Not that they knew about Raja. I’d learned from the Power Rangers not to try to pass off the lies I told myself to make myself feel better as truths.) But some of the bullies claimed to have Jesus with them too. I couldn’t pit Jesus against himself. Even though I knew Jesus wouldn’t approve of their teasing, I also knew Jesus doesn’t love me more than anyone else. Prayer and other aspects of my faith were very incredibly important to me growing up, but in this matter I didn’t always feel like my faith was helpful. So I pictured Raja. 

I’d lean against his warmth. I’d brush his fur. He’d walk beside me in the halls and curl around my chair in class. Raja would let me lean against him on my bed at home and cry. Raja would sleep between me and the window, which I was afraid some thief or murderer would come through. Raja would bound along beside me at recess and in gym class. Raja would growl at the teacher I loathed and bare his teeth at the kids who were the meanest to me. I had Raja, even if I was the only one who knew it. 

I’d forgotten all about this until recently, when a friend and I were bemoaning how little Raja was developed in the live-action Aladdin, released earlier this year. Raja had been important to both of us, and we’d both been so disappointed not to see more of him in the movie. The admission of Raja’s role in my childhood slipped out, almost before I consciously remembered it myself. I realized I had never told anyone about Raja before. Nor had I remembered my Raja in a long time. But thinking on the character, introduced perhaps for the first time to a new generation of kids through the new movie, I wish that they’d had the supportive, protective figure in Raja that I knew as a kid, and that had so helped me.

Welcoming Fall

Things have been quiet in the office lately. I’m finally caught up, press date has passed. This is the month of the year when I can take a few days off, even a week, and not have a single email in my inbox when I return. I love this time of year. But this month is especially quiet because two coworkers in my department have left in the past two weeks, three in the past two months. And none of them have been replaced yet. We aren’t sure when they might be. 

I feel myself drawing inward. I lean into the quiet, wrap myself in the soft sunshine and hush as I plod along at my work, struggling to motivate myself. I know that any day we could learn there will be a new coworker joining us, and we will gasp into urgent preparations for their arrival, but for now we have no news and no known timeline. 

In fall and winter, I make fewer plans, spend more time reading and crocheting and writing. I emphasize coziness. I light candles. I’ve talked about this before and I don’t want to harp, but I don’t remember my tendency toward drawing inward starting quite this early before. I assume it’s the silence. Like when an unseasonal cold snap sends the trees into color early, though temperatures rise again. 

I spent a little time going through out holiday decoration boxes last week to pull out our fall decorations. I wanted my parent, who visited last weekend, to see them. I’m also just ready for that change. I’m ready for my favorite season. 

I kneeled in the closet under the stairs, opening boxes, listening to Tara scrabble at the underside of the door to try to get to me. I found and stacked the Halloween-specific decorations for Oct. 1 but went ahead and set up the more general fall decorations: ceramic and crocheted pumpkins, the wreath, the welcome mat, a painting. I’ve also bought a few more decorative pumpkins, including one for my desk at work. I recently painted a somewhat Dali-esque pumpkin scene at a local art studio, which leans against the wall on the breakfast bar. I placed the fall decorations around the house and continued to wonder what I should do with all my candles. 

Yesterday, I took the day off and planned to do nothing but put books on my new shelves, bought and brought by my beloved parents. However, I had a headache most of the day, so lay on the sofa and watched Moana. I didn’t even feel up to pulling up Netflix until well into the afternoon. I played with the cat and let her sleep on me. I ate very, very badly. I didn’t read, didn’t plan, and would maybe put two or three handfuls of books on a shelf before I retreated back to the sofa. 

I’m looking forward to experiencing a new season in our new house. I’m excited to continue to decorate for the season, we’ve now officially entered. But I’m also down this year. Not sad exactly. Not depressed. Maybe my headaches are because of an allergen or the seasons changing. I do feel withdrawn, especially at work. Until things get better, so I’m going to enjoy some sunshine. 

Meet Cute: Nemesis

I told this story on Twitter recently, and doing so in just 3 tweets reminded me how much fun it is. 

First! Definitions.

Meet Cute. The moment in a film or book (or real life) when love interests meet for the first time, usually in a cute or slightly unrealistic way. The terms can be used more broadly for any two significant characters meeting for the first time.

Examples: 

  • Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are introduced at a ball and he insults her (Pride & Prejudice)
  • Rapunzel hits Flynn Rider over the head with a frying pan, knocking him out (Tangled)
  • Jane Foster hits Thor with her van, then must take him to the hospital (Thor) 

Nemesis. They don’t necessarily hate each other, but they are rivals in all things. 

Examples: 

  • Thor and Loki (Marvel Cinematic Universe)
  • Harry Potter and Cedric Diggory (Goblet of Fire)
  • Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes)

Now, to the story of the meet cute with my first nemesis.

On my first day of kindergarten, I and the rest of my class were lined up alphabetically by first name. Directly before me was a boy named Jeremy. This line determined our seats and line order for the rest of the year (and, because our teachers were a little unimaginative, the next two years as well). Jeremy and I sat down next to each other and said hi. He seemed quiet and nice. He liked dinosaurs, but not as much as Bran, who really loved dinosaurs. I liked dinosaurs okay, but I wanted some girls to be friends with. I thought Jeremy and I would be friends. 

I soon learned that Jeremy and I made the top grades in the class. In true Ravenclaw fashion, I’d already decided that good grades would be my thing. I could not be outdone. Not long after, Jeremy broke the rules and talked during class to whisper-ask me how to spell giraffe, which to be honest I still struggle with. I hissed back that he should sound it out. And then I caught him looked at my paper, probably because it was a really confusing lesson and we were both on the wrong page.

That was it! Getting good grades, breaking the rules, and trying to cheat? Three strikes. This kid was now my nemesis.

And I kind of liked him. He had dark hair and he was nice and I liked that he was quiet too. I was painfully shy, but I didn’t feel like I was fading away or being eclipsed when I was around him. Plus, dinosaurs are pretty cool. I liked science. His favorite TV show was Kratt’s Creatures, which was my second favorite show after Wishbone. And yes, I remember how cosmically important I found this information when I learned it due to a class project in second grade. 

The one day in first grade when Jeremy and Bran invited me to play with them on the playground, a bee flew up my pants leg on the swings and stung me twice on the underside of my knee. I had to go to the office and get an ice pack while trying not to cry in front of everyone. They didn’t ask me to play with them again, and I didn’t ask. The universe had already decided: we were nemeses. No crossing of the streams.

Jeremy and I competed against each other from seats directly beside or in front of one another for two and a half years, until I transferred to another school. I went on to have many more nemeses, but Jeremy was my first. 

Fast forward to the summer after my freshman year of college when a bunch of my friends and a bunch of their friends all met up at the drive-in (yes, really) to see Toy Story 3. We’d grown up with the first two movies, so this would be great! So fun! Not heartbreaking at all.

We hung out at the concession stand and amidst everyone’s cars, seeing people we hadn’t seen all year and meeting their friends whom we didn’t know. When the movie started, we mostly ended up crowded on sleeping bags in the backs of the 2 pick-up trucks with the tailgates down. I hit it off with this one guy with dark hair. We sat next to each other, chatted, ugly cried at the end of the movie and tried to hide it—it was great. My friend kept giving me a thumbs up when his back was turned, and discretely distracted people who also wanted to talk to us.

That night after we all went home to tend out mosquito bites and cuddle our childhood toys, the guy found me on Facebook and sent me a message. When I saw his last name, my excitement was immediately replaced with stone-cold dread. I knew that name. 

“Uh oh,” he wrote, “I think we were elementary school rivals.”

It was him. Jeremy. Nemesis #1. He’d found me.

Except, there was no reason to be nemeses now.

“It’s YOU,” I messaged back. “You were my first nemesis! I thought you looked familiar.”

“Yup. We were the original Pepsi and Coke. So how have you been?”

He had a girlfriend. 

So close, universe. So close. 

Hurricane Prep

In the summers when I was growing up, my mom always kept several gallons of bottled water on the floor of the guest bathroom. During bad years, the bottles would duplicate and selections of canned food would work their way into towers alongside. Many years, I found myself on my hands and knees, reorganizing these nonperishables against the wall to make room for more. Thankfully, we almost never needed them. But every hurricane season, Mom took the extra oil for her hurricane lamp and the water in the guest bathroom seriously. Today, she’s evacuating from Dorian.

We always evacuated growing up. The Atlantic was very active in those years, and Mom always said that we were blessed to live in a beautiful place and blessed to live in a time with technology that told us when to evacuate. One season, we evacuated five times. We kept all our family photos in a single backpack and my brother and I each kept a huge box of toys in the living room, ready to be sealed and loaded up as soon as the governor gave the evacuation order. I learned to read maps on the evacuation route. I learned latitude and longitude as we tracked the latest storm locations on a family map with a green Expo marker. Our schools built hurricane days into the calendar instead of snow days. 

Because these memories were so common in my childhood, and our home always survived, many of them are fond ones. I loved putting puzzles together by the light of Mom’s oil lamp. I loved the rumble of thunder and watching the lightning flash outside as we watched a movie, all of us safe and cozy inside. I loved charting the hurricane’s new path and getting to ride up front with my mom, controlling the walkie-talkies while my brother and dad rode in the car behind.

Thankfully, we always had somewhere to evacuate to (grandparents’ house) and a mostly backroads route to get there. We didn’t have to drive for 24 hours like one classmate when evacuating from Floyd. We didn’t have to call ahead and ahead and ahead, praying for a hotel room, praying for a place that takes pets. We didn’t have to sleep in our cars outside a Walmart, where we could go in and use the bathroom 24 hours a day. We did sit in line for half an hour to fill up with gas. We did leave everything behind, wondering if we’d ever see it again. We did take refugees from Katrina and other massive storms into our schools and church and community. 

As an adult living inland, my relationship with hurricanes is different. During Irma, we lost power for 4 days, and it got cold and dark and no number of candles were as good as a lantern so I bought a lantern. I could take a hot shower, but only by candlelight. The house was so dark, the neighborhood so quiet, and I desperately missed my roommate and Tyler. I would have abandoned the house to sleep on a friend’s sofa if I hadn’t had my roommate’s dog with me. Even after the rain passed and my roommate got to come home, the nights were mostly long and miserable and the days were crowded and stressful.

In light of Hurricane Dorian’s trek through the Atlantic, I decided to pull together my hurricane stores over Labor Day. This required some digging through our many moving boxes for the supplies I’d somewhat haphazardly packed away, vastly overestimating how quickly I’d be unpacking and underestimating how soon I’d need these items.

I already had gallons of bottled water and canned food stored for us and our cat, as per my mother’s example. But I needed to find lighters, batteries, candles, our battery-operated lantern, and our phone-charging battery packs. My search was somewhat successful (the lantern remains elusive, but we bought a spare). We caught up on laundry and texted with friends who might need a place to stay. I watched the radar and checked on friends who live in places Dorian’s already devastated. We aren’t expecting any rain from this storm, but I’m still filling up with gas, going to the grocery store one more time, and checking on Mom’s progress to the place where she’ll wait until it’s safe to return home. And I’m thinking eastward thoughts toward Dorian. 

What kind of prep do you do for hurricanes? Do you have any good memories associated with hurricanes?

We’re Moving!

I haven’t posted in a couple weeks, but thankfully it’s not because I haven’t been writing. In the past month, I’ve written about 10,000 words on two writing projects, which I’m hesitant to even talk about because I’m afraid it’ll shrivel up and die. Projects can be fragile things until they’ve grown up enough to survive opening their eyes, standing on their own legs, being seen. 

During this time, Tyler and I were also looking for a house. And just this past weekend, our offer on a house was accepted. The next month will be busy as we proceed with due diligence inspections, possible further negotiations, and packing. We wanted to start this process early so we’d have plenty of time to find out what we like and what we don’t, as well as a new home, before out apartment’s lease is up at the end of the summer. We didn’t expect to find a house we love our very first day viewing houses. We felt so immediately comfortable in every room. We love how the dining room, living room, and kitchen flow into one another. We love that, though the house is big, it feels cozy and inviting and warm. Visiting a second time not quite a week later, we were ready to offer. 

We’re learning a lot about the home buying process and are preparing our lives and budgets for this big change. Even if something happens and this particular house falls through, this is something we want to do this summer. We’ve started packing up our nonessentials. I’m stockpiling recipes and asking about Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. I’ve been researching bookshelves and rugs and decorations we currently lack, and which we’ll probably buy over time, since we currently only have enough furniture to fill a one-bedroom apartment, not a four-bedroom house. 

I’m making lists of cleaning supplies we’ll need and all the places I’ll need to call to have our address changed. I’ve downloaded a browser extension that shows me if the books I’m looking at online are available at my local library (to cut down on my book purchasing). We’ve already planned a small, weekend vacation and have agreed that that’ll be it for a while. We’re also planning to go back to a weekly game night instead of the weekly movie night (although we’ve seen some fantastic movies this summer). 

This will be my second move in less than a year and Tyler’s first in three years. It’ll be our first time moving together, and it won’t be particularly gradual. Last year, every time I went to Tyler’s apartment I brought something—a box of scarves or candles or mugs or something—to move. This time, we’ll both be moving, and will likely do so over the course of a weekend or a week. 

We’re excited. We’re busy. We’re a little overwhelmed. My writing will definitely suffer during this time. I’ll try to keep up the blog, but if I post erratically, you’ll have an idea why. Thanks for hanging in there. 

Another Katie

Sometimes I like to play a game. When I see something I really like but would not buy, be it a necklace or a wedding dress or a piece of furniture, I like to imagine the version of Katie who would buy it. After all, I do like it. With different life experiences, jobs, and relationships, I might have become a Katie who would buy it. 

For example, I saw this sofa in an Amazon ad on Insta last week. It only has one rating (and it’s one star), but I love the rainbow buttons, the smooth dark wood softening the black upholstery. I love the unique, enveloping shape. I imagine it in a number of spaces, but none of them resemble the home I currently have. I also don’t think that Tyler would go for it, both for the buttons and the black fabric and the rather thin-looking cushion.

So what sort of Katie would buy it?

She has a long entryway, rising to a sweeping curved staircase. She likes to restore old homes, and bought this one in the historic district as a 5-year renovation project. The crystal chandelier above the front door, visible in a half-moon window from the street out front, came with the house and she recently put it back up after cleaning it. The wood floors are original to the house, though she’s replaced more than a few boards. This Katie wants a fun piece where she can put on her shoes and lay her guests’ coats, while keeping the entryway from feeling too stuffy.  She likes that the buttons can pull in any accent color, so it looks fine next to the plethora of bags and coats she has hanging from the row of mildly tarnished hooks by the door. Beneath, she tucks her two favorite pairs of flats and her paint-spattered Keds.

Is there a version of you that’d buy this sofa? If so, what sort of person are they?

Dear Grad

I had the opportunity this year to write cards congratulating two recent high school graduates and wishing them well on their coming college adventures. The following is a longer version of my messages to them.

Dear Grad,

Congratulations on your graduation. I almost added “from high school” but that feels inadequate. You closed the book on at least 14 years of mandatory, highly regulated schooling, much of which was in subjects you had little interest in and under people you may not have liked or respected. And you got through it. You completed your senior year while also making plans, leaping through flaming hoops, and establishing where you’ll be next. This is the part that begins to feel like adulthood, staying on top of what you’re doing while preparing to move somewhere else. Keeping your grades up and working. Working and getting a new job. Working and moving and making new friends. Working and planning a wedding and marriage. Working and raising a new puppy. You’ll have a lot of “working and” from now on. And you handled your first season of it successfully. Congratulations.

The person you’ll grow into in college and beyond will forever be changing. Sooner or later, you’ll challenge your own ideas of who you are and what you want. You might wake up one day and know in your core that your favorite color is no longer purple, that you love Brussel sprouts, that you’re brave or capable where you didn’t think so before. You’ll find all kinds of new activities you like and you’ll leave behind many others. One of the best parts of what’s to come is all the opportunities to just try things. Try that restaurant. Try that movie. Try that hobby. Try that trip. Try that sport. Your parents and the people who have known you practically from diapers aren’t telling you “that’s not you.” Don’t you dare do it to yourself. As long as it isn’t hurting you or anyone else (that’s my adulthood-required caveat), give new things a try.

When I was in the summer you’re in, planning for my college years and making lists and hiding my fears and enjoying every home cooked meal like I was moving to Mars instead of Georgia, I loved picking out things for my new room and my new life. I had choices where I never had before, like in my color of towels. I got to pick out whatever shower curtain I wanted. I chose decorations and colors that felt full of possibilities, that could hold all the new life I’d paint on them. You’ll need a lot of practical things, like spatulas and screwdrivers and a new pair of shoes. The gift I’m including can be for those things. Or it can be for something that feels frivolous but is also life-giving, like a succulent or a bird-shaped USB or a fuzzy pillow. I hope your choice, whatever it is, will feel full of possibilities. Why not have red kitchen utensils? Why not pick a lamp that looks like Medusa’s hair? Why not try a different color bedspread? Why not get a Game of Thrones cutting board or a tape dispenser that looks like a cat? Pick something that feels like you. 

You don’t have to have everything figured out. You don’t have to be accomplished or ambitious or successful in everything. You won’t be. That’ll feel really freeing in a few years, even if it’s making you sweat right now. There’s as much or more to gain from learning who you don’t want to be, what you don’t want to do, as there is in finding something that suits you. And even if it suits you, you don’t have to stick to it. No one is going to stand over your shoulder and glare or try to guilt you about it, thank goodness. 

Who you are now would be amazed at who you’ll be in a year. But college can be really lonely at first, especially if you don’t have friends going there with you, or when your friends are making other friends faster than you seem to be. Give it 3 months. In 3 months, you’ll have people to go to dinner with and plans for your weekends.

You’ll be okay. You’re building yourself into a whole new person in a whole new world, and you’ll be fine.

Congratulations,
Katie

A Day Off Is Saving My Life

“Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”

—Maya Angelou

Last year, I wrote about how poetry was saving my life. I put the question that sparked that post to myself this week and discovered that having a day off last Saturday made the biggest difference in my life. Prior to Mother’s Day, I’d traveled 3 weeks in a row. I was so tired. I was trying to recover from a cold. I was worn out. And as I looked around, I saw dishes piling in the sink, baseboards needing dusting, a tub needing scrubbing, and a mounting pile of laundry. Getting those things done would make me feel better, but they’d also leave me as physically exhausted as ever.  

So, on the first Saturday I’d had at home in a month, I sat down with my toast and reread passages of Aurora Rising, a book I’d recently read and loved. I washed my hair, then lay on the sofa with Tyler and watched a couple of shows on the science channel. I met my former roommate for lunch and then we went to see The Hustle. I ran a couple errands afterwards in the rain, both necessary for Mother’s Day the next day, and arrived home with my arms laden with bags. I dumped them all on the floor and fixed myself a bowl of ice cream. I enlisted Tyler’s help to wrap the presents for the next day. I checked on my plants. I dozed. After a frozen pizza dinner, I watched two Hallmark movies, then went to bed. 

I sometimes talk about being socially exhausted as being “peopled out.” Saying this to my former roommate once, she quickly offered to leave me be, but I answered, “You don’t count.” Of course, she counts as a person, but she isn’t someone who tires me out, whose presence drains me of energy. This puts her in company with only a couple other people in the world. I can want nothing to do with all of humanity and still be happy to be in her company. She still holds that position, but now Tyler’s there too, along with my best friend and my brother. My ideal day involves a lot of quiet time to myself, or in the company of those few people who I can fully, completely rest around. 

On my ideal day, I don’t have to cook or clean. I don’t have leave the house at all. I nap. I eat something sweet. I read in the sunshine. I watch something funny. That Saturday was pretty close to perfect. But a perfect day off, a day of true rest, doesn’t happen on its own. It has to be planned for and it must be guarded. 

When I plan a day off, I make sure I have food for all my meals. I accomplish early or push back every possible chore, phone call, and obligation. Even if I have just one thing to do, it can feel like a burden until it’s over. At the very least, that one email or phone call distracts me from following my proverbial bliss. I let go of my expectations about the dishes and my hopes for the baseboards. I carefully choose who I’ll let into my day so I can spend my time recharging. I do simple, quiet things and let the simple quiet restore me. I set myself up for success by lowered my expectations for myself and focusing on my word for the year: enjoy. When I’m tired, I sleep. When I’m hungry, I eat. I’m kind to myself. I let myself heal.

I’m well aware that many people don’t have a whole day to set aside to do only the things they most want to do. For many people, keeping themselves alive for one day, doing the bare minimum, requires much more than my day requires. If nothing else, keeping another human or two alive, plus a couple of animals, requires effort I don’t have to put forth right now. And for many people, reaching that bar is all they’re capable of on a typical day. Our ideal days might very, very different be based on our season in life and who’s around us. 

What does your ideal day look like? And if that seems like too much to think about, what would you do if you had a morning or afternoon off to just rest? 

NYC Stories

Okay. I’m fessing up and giving up. The gaming series I’ve been working on for over a month just isn’t coming together. So I’m abandoning it for now and getting back into my weekly routine. 

Lately, I’ve noticed a lot of the media I’ve consumed, but primarily books, are get in NYC. And as a consequence, I haven’t been able to get NYC out of my head. All the strings have pulled together and I’m seeing NYC in every direction I look. Even in places where it may not be, like in the Netflix series Umbrella Academy.

I’m happy with this proliferation of New York in how I perceive my world because I love the city, but it’s odd. And distracting, like a song you can’t get out of your head until you listen to it a few times. Except, I can’t pop up for the afternoon to have lunch with a friend, sit on a bench on the Brooklyn Promenade looking at the skyline of lower Manhattan, or walk out of The Strand bookstore and up the street until my legs burn. 

So, I’ve put together a list of some books and movies set in NYC. I hope you find a few new ones to try. If you can, enjoy them next to a vase of tulips or with a scooped toasted bagel and cream cheese—anything that means NYC to you.

Books

  • The Sun Is Also a Star
  • Before the Fall
  • Once More We Saw Stars (forthcoming)
  • Shadowshaper
  • Burn Baby Burn
  • Another Brooklyn
  • Roomies
  • Isla and the Happily Ever After

Movies

  • The Sun Is Also a Star (forthcoming)
  • Isn’t it Romantic
  • Spiderman: Homecoming
  • The Intern
  • Maid in Manhattan
  • 27 Dresses
  • The Devil Wears Prada
  • You’ve Got Mail

If there’s a book or movie set in NYC you think I’d like, comment and let me know!

(En)joy

On New Year’s Eve, as we were reading in bed after watching the ball drop in New York City, I told Tyler that I thought my word for the year should be either joy or enjoy. In my mind I’d stylized it (en)joy, at least until one or the other became more apparent.

As with “believe”, my word for 2018, I wanted my word for 2019 to encourage me and remind me of my goals and hopes for this year. I want to relish it. A year without a huge party to plan. A year, hopefully, without last year’s stress. I just want to enjoy being married, spending time with friends, and following whatever whims come to me: wreath design, scarf creation, weekend-long read-a-thons, maybe a dance class. Instead of worrying or stressing, I want to enjoy this year. I want to find joy in all the little things around me. I even thought of a photo I could keep by my desk, a jumping picture in the desert from the same trip to Egypt as my 2018 photo.

So I find it ironic, and tiring, that I got sick on New Year’s Day with a sinus infection that laid me out for two weeks. I haven’t been that sick since I had the flu four years ago. Tyler was also sick. Many of the things that usually bring us comfort, like cuddling and going for walks, were out of reach. We struggled to find the energy to feed ourselves three times a day. We went to work when we felt well enough (which wasn’t often), went to Publix for orange juice and saltines and a different kind of decongestant that might help me sleep. We were in constant need of more Kleenex.

Enjoy? We were miserable.

And now I’m sick again. And things at work are complicated. And I’m still trying to get my name and address changed in all the necessary places. And once again I can’t seem to get enough sleep. And I’m thinking about my word and wondering How?

I have, of course, thought back to the many Sunday school lessons that focused on the differences between happiness and joy. Happy is a fleeting feeling based on circumstances. Joy is an abiding connection to God regardless of circumstances. I have tried to connect to joy by naming things I’m grateful for, like Tyler, blankets we’ve been gifted, sunshine, Gatorade, paid sick leave, health insurance, and money for plungers and Kleenex and pizza someone else made.

I’m stubborn, so I’m not changing my word now. But I am beginning to worry that this year will be a trying one in ways I cannot begin to comprehend. I know I’m tired and therefore prone to some fatalism. But if this year is going to be a difficult one, the joy and enjoyment I’m seeking will constantly be in spite of. Which sucks. But we aren’t guaranteed anything else in life. We aren’t guaranteed time where everything’s great, where the government isn’t shut down, where everyone I love is well, where Tyler and I each have the time to pursue our own interests, where we aren’t plagued by worries.

But neither are we promised a life with no enjoyment at all, no sweetness or fun. And we have had those times this year.

We’ll see what the balance will be.