Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"Home Improvement"

I'm still in the process of figuring out what turns a place into home.

Now I'm supposing that moving into a house with someone and doing bunches of decorating and furniture shopping for it together is an altogether different scenario.  That will happen down the road, I hope, but for now I'm on a bit of a different quest: turning my apartment (for one) into home.

After college graduation, I was lucky enough to be able to move out on my own right away.  But since then, conditions haven't been quite ideal for really nesting into a place.  For one, I've ended up moving once a year - and while diagramming new furniture arrangements is actually quite fun, any roots I've put down in that place (both indoors and the surrounding neighborhood) get abruptly pulled back up again.

Secondly and more importantly, though, is the feel of a room when I'm in it.  When I think of a home, I think of coziness, peace, warmth.  I want to feel it is a place I could bring together people who are important to me, as well as a place for my own time.

Through noticing the lack of some of these features, I've begun to sense how strongly the decor inspires the feel of the room.  And I use 'decor' in the broadest sense; for me, it is mainly the furniture.  For quite awhile, my collection felt horribly mismatched - bright college dorm colors clashed with a gray-green couch inherited from a prior roommate and the beautiful dark wood of the bedroom pieces with which I grew up.  While I've appreciated not having to pay for a whole new set of furniture to fill my apartment, together they didn't create a comfy atmosphere, an environment that invited me to feel settled.  And oddly enough, it bugged me that the collection was obviously in transition from typical college dorm items.  I guess I do have some adult instincts after all. :)

In my latest apartment I'm happy to have taken a few steps closer to these goals.  My parents recently gave me a very nice living room lamp and I'm just in love with it.  Paired with a brilliant new furniture arrangement by my mom, I now have that cozy feeling in my living area.  (Well, mostly - I wouldn't mind replacing this couch at some point.)  Often now I can't help lighting a candle to accompany me through my quiet evening activities, as there's something special to me about its warmth and flickering glow.

Smaller things make big differences too.  A few paintings and a clock decorate the living room walls; a set of colorful cloth coasters is scattered about on tabletops.  My parents also brought me my bed comforter from home, for which I traded the neon green and blue one I'd used in college.  It gives my bedroom a soft lightness and even complements the colors of the curtains.

I still have a ways to go, I know.  But even if my current apartment won't be where I'll live forever, I'm happy to be finding out what makes it really feel like my home.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

a New Year's night, part 1

On my first ever - to my recollection - New Year's Eve alone, I take a first sip of the one treat I have given myself. Sharp, with the softest hint of sweetness, its warmth sizzles in my lips and tongue for long, delicious seconds. For months I have been awaiting my next chance to taste this spirit, all the while singing its praises to any friend who will listen, and now, it is just as special as I had remembered.

I think of my past New Year's Eves: many were spent with my family in the living room of our house, watching Dick Clark's traditional show, and laughing when we found out how old the champagne my dad dug out of the cabinet was that year. Then we lounged on the couches, catching up on popular music for the next hour and a half or so, until we all got tired enough to go to sleep - perhaps each with our own musings about how we'd make this year different and better.

From the next apartment over come many sounds of celebration. I receive periodic updates by text message from my boyfriend about the party at which I had intended to join him, until I had realized how completely exhausted I was at the end of the day. Now after the little webcast of the ball dropping in New York City is over, I sit, feeling very quiet. Feeling like I'm waiting, but not quite sure for what.

I take this moment as a time to let the thoughts really come to me, about not only 2012, but where I am, and who I am.

I think of my parents. I have become very much more appreciative of them in the months of late. How blessed I am to have their pure, joyful, total love. Of course, this meant so very much as I was growing up, but even now, when I am living many miles away, they are always, always there for me. They still want to do anything they can to help take care of me.

I think of the crazy experience of making decisions to change not only my job, but practically my whole life by moving to DC. I remember the fears that made me take action. I remember the moments of panic. I remember not knowing what would come next, the sense of following a path of opportunities unknown and changing every single day, the excitement and allure of big new Life Things. I remember the people who helped me along the way; those I didn't know, and the friends that I did, who held me in hugs, listened to my fears and wonders, gave me advice and encouragement.

Deciding to avoid the conclusion that being alone tonight is a sign that my life is lonely, I think of those who love me. My family. They surrounded me with love, whether intentional or not at any particular moment, for a whole week just past. Having that environment to return to is so beautiful. My dear friends and the dance community... those who welcome me with warm hugs, who tell me "you have to come back to Philly!", who invite me to events, who share moments, and passions, laughter, and life.

I think, as well, of my own imperfections. I know that I've long needed to patch myself up in terms of some pretty basic elements of life. Much of it comes down to some common threads: taking care of myself, and just getting things done. Though I have some deeply set habits that oppose these goals, I can feel it that if I work on them, I will truly make myself happier, more comfortable, less stressed. So what can I do? I figure I'll work on tactics for putting things into motion; or even throw plans to the wind and just start doing little things towards making bigger changes.

Here's to it all!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

the one

Sometimes, you find the one.

When you find yourself at a crossroads in life, searching for a place, or opportunity, or perhaps a person -- sometimes you find the one.  The search can be long and weary, as you visit, and examine, and think over one option after the next.  As they pass by your consideration, some seem a far-out chance, and others might not seem so bad after all.

But occasionally, for no explicable reason at all, you stumble across it.  Suddenly, all other possibilities pale in comparison, because this -- this feels right.  A calm excitement fills you; a peace, a joy.  And you know you've found it.  You see yourself in that apartment, curled up on the couch, waking up in the morning, stumbling to your door at 3 in the morning after a fantastic night.  You see yourself at that job, satisfied, achieving, enjoying, growing.  You see yourself with that person, cozying up side by side, smiling through tears, taking adventures, loving and being loved....

Monday, December 3, 2012

On: a productive Sunday

Today was, most likely, the most productive single day I've had in months.  I managed to wake up around 11:30am -- impressing myself both by waking up to the single alarm I had set for that time, and because I had been up til nearly 4am after a wonderful late night out for salsa and bachata.  Thus, in the still-early afternoon, I ventured out to the nearest mall containing a JC Penney and had a surprisingly successful bra shopping experience.  Upon getting back home, I cooked and ate dinner, then started in on laundry, including long-overdue bed sheets.  While the sheets were in the dryer and a load of clothes in the washer, I went out and got my grocery shopping done, which was also overdue.  After once again returning home, I retrieved and folded up the bed sheets and moved the other load to the dryer, then later retrieved that one as well.

I have long internally chastised myself to a degree for the many weekend days during which I accomplish little if anything of use.  Not that I believe every weekend should be as packed with chores and errands as today turned out to be, but I have often found myself thinking I would feel more satisfied if I had gotten something done during the day.  And then if I had, I would consequently feel that I had better "earned" some sort of lazy or fun activity that evening.

So at the end of this day, I pulled some ice cream out of the freezer and watched half of a favorite romantic comedy on Netflix.  This was delicious and enjoyable (respectively) for sure, yet... I realized I didn't feel as contentedly satisfied as I had hoped.  Yes, I am definitely proud of myself for all the necessary things I crossed off the to-do list today.  I certainly think I earned movie time tonight, too.  But, sadly, I still feel an emptiness from my day.  I realized that over the whole day, I had only spoken a few words to the cashier at the mall and a fellow shopper at Safeway.  And as busy as I was, a bit of loneliness still crept up on me.

I'm not sure if it's a flaw -- to not be able to spend a day doing things on my own without feeling at least a little lonely.  I know I can mostly hide it from myself with some distraction or other (most likely the boundless lands of Facebook, and Netflix, and catching up on email...).  But I can feel myself quietly longing for companionship; for the mood lift that comes from interacting with a good friend; for the comfort, care, and peace that (I imagine and so hope) comes from having someone to come home to at night.

Monday, June 25, 2012

And how was your weekend? (windows on life through an apartment search in another city)

Sometimes, life is ridiculously, even hilariously, unfair.

[On Friday evening I spent an hour waiting for Megabus while an intense thunderstorm gradually drenched me and the rest of us in line, huddled together beneath a railroad bridge.]

Being in the same boat brings people together.

[We started chatting with those around us -- the same folks we usually ignore as we all mind our own business waiting in line in normal circumstances.  We asked those who had prepared to share their umbrellas, complained together, screamed when the wind gusted and umbrellas blew inside out.  I saw one guy who lent a sweatshirt to a girl who looked particularly chilly.]

The crappy stuff is (usually) temporary.

[The bus finally came, and we all struggled to show our tickets on our phones as the rain continued and got on.  I sat in wet clothes for the three-hour ride, yes, but eventually all of my clothes were put in the dryer and I got to take a hot shower.  The important part was that my electronics -- both my laptop and my smartphone -- and their associated gadgets (power cords) were still perfectly functional.  See?  No lasting damage.]

Care and companionship go a long, long way.

[I was accompanied throughout the two days of apartment hunting by my boyfriend, who put up with waking up crazy early, sacrificing eating on a normal schedule, walking all over the place in the 90+ degree heat, a couple of dead ends, the Metro frustrations, and overall exhaustion -- and never complained even once.  He was patient and helpful, in good spirits, and even carried my ridiculously heavy bag for me sometimes.  What more could I ask?  He made my experience infinitely better than it would have been had I been running around on my own.]

So does being friendly.

[I am often pretty shy about contacting and meeting people I don't know, even more so when they aren't friend-of-a-friend connections.  Naturally apartment searching puts me in the situation of needing to do this quite a number of times.  Therefore, it was both comforting and refreshing for me when I met with people who were simply friendly, good-natured, and very helpful.  Yes, they were trying to market something to me, but I never sensed an act in their demeanor or words.  I appreciated this very much.]

Sometimes, relaxing and lounging are valid and enjoyable ways of spending time.

[It's easy to debate with myself about whether I'm being lazy if I'm lying around doing nothing productive whatsoever.  I do believe life should include a balance of activities -- or maybe that's just what I have found makes me happiest, most satisfied, and least bored.  But let's face it: our bodies have a limit.  After a long day of trekking in the heat, I thoroughly enjoyed relaxing with dinner, beer, boyfriend, and stumbling on a good movie on TV.  Balance achieved.]

Sometimes, you make mistakes or things don't go as planned... but these are not the end of the world.

[On Sunday I had intended to wake up around 10 or 11am.  This would have given me enough sleep, but still a good block of time to check out more places before catching the bus home.  Guess what?  My phone froze overnight, and none of my several alarms went off.  I woke up just before an open house I had really hoped to attend.  So there was nothing I could do but try to go later.  I did, and it was too late.  Maybe the scenario could have been avoided, but I did the best I could to work with the situation as it turned out.  My best wasn't successful, but I can't get everything right in life, so I find no need to berate myself, lament it, or dwell on regret.  I just need to move on to the next step.]

Sunday, May 20, 2012

music fixing me

The Sunday evening is waning in concert with its sunshine, and I'm left in my usual slightly incomprehensible mood.  The walk home is short and the scenery distraction enough that I needn't really trouble myself with figuring out any thoughts -- or having much of them at all, really -- and once I get home, the perfect distraction is a quirky Jane Austen love story encapsulated in a two-hour movie.

The two hours end and I'm left with the warm fuzzy feeling for which I'd hoped.  Time in the real world keeps on going, though; it's now 9pm and I haven't had any real sort of dinner.  Orchestral music and proper English conversation are still in my head from the movie; while these are lovely, they're something of a fantasy world, and I need something to bring me back to the routine.

Pandora is the best bet, I figure.  I fire it up to see what my eclectic little indie rock/dance station can throw at me, then walk barefoot to the kitchen.  As I make a sandwich, I get lucky.  Whatever song has started playing first is the perfect movie soundtrack song for my life at the moment.  The words don't matter because the mood is right.  And I can take a moment of the bittersweet, and I can smile, and I sit down with the window wide open to the cool night air and eat and drink water.

And I can make jokes, and say "I miss you" with a smile, because missing someone means you know it felt good to be with them, and I can reach out because I'm lucky enough to have good friends.  And then I can dance in my chair because the next song is that good.

And I'm on my way -- not without looking back, but with living it all.

Monday, May 7, 2012


...as explained in two songs, from my bus ride home tonight.

What touches me most about this one: how celebratory, how utterly joyful his voice is when he sings, "I am in love with you!"