Feelings, Big and Small

It’s been a while.

I do miss this place.

I do miss this place, but…

Well.

I’ve been working like crazy. My current office is an absolute jungle – people constantly shouting, badmouthing each other and coming close to strangling each other on a daily basis, but somehow, despite the craziness, I seem to be doing very well. I may well start a dangerous catfight in a meeting one day, but at least I absolutely adore the guys in my team, our deranged shared sense of humour and the work we’ve been doing, and so most days it’s a blast.

V and I are still debating on where our careers are going, and struggling to answer a million other difficult questions. But we also try to focus on the good stuff.

We began our summer in Mallorca and ended it in Cascais. In between, we left work early on a few occasions to make it to the evening mathches at Queens, our favourite grass tennis tournament. Then we traveled to Birmingham for the Women’s Tennis Classic finals. An AC/DC concert on Wembley. And supporting Romania in the Rugby World Cup on Stratford Olympic. A roadtrip to Stratford Upon Avon, and the opening night of the BFI London Film Festival. And guests, countless guests, family and friends. Walks, dinners and laughter. Lots of laughter.

And then, this Saturday.

This Saturday we got up earlier than usual, changed into freshly pressed outfits, walked to the local Register Office, and got married.

A low key, intimate affair.

So low key that I did my own hair. And made my own bouquet the night before, with grocery store roses and a bit of YouTube guidance.  And I would have definitely ruined my chances at a happy marriage before it even began, had someone not remembered the “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” thingie just as we were leaving for the ceremony. Reluctant to upset the nuptial gods, but mostly giving in to very stubborn and loud peer pressure, I ended up borrowing earrings and most importantly, wearing a ridiculous aqua-blue hairpin stuck to one of my bra straps for the rest of the day. Thankfully, it was invisible to the outside world, but that particular detail didn’t really make me feel any classier.

And now here we are. Together. Not more together than before, but a slightly different, matching-wedding-bands sort of together. Although if I’m perfectly honest, we’ve been wearing our matching wedding bands around the house and out and about on weekends for a month or so anyway, to get used to them. We’re super duper traditional like that.

I had cake for breakfast today, by the way. Then I spent the rest of my morning doing load after load after load of side plates and flute glasses, straightening sofa cushions and polishing silverware. Then I had cake for lunch, of course. And now, everything feels pretty normal again. If it weren’t for the flowers. They’re everywhere. In glass vases, in milk carafes, in recycled pickle jars, on every surface of every piece of furniture in every room.

And so, happiness. Or something like it. Something very much like it.

These Are The Days

Dear friends.

I’m living days of beautiful, exciting things.

Being thirty one and as grown up as can be, I’m of course, reluctant to write about it all because I’m afraid I’ll jinx it.

So I carry my secret specks of happiness up and down these streets, and try my best at not making a hopeless mess of the other layers of my life. Because believe me, they’re more susceptible to mess than ever.

First, there’s my family.

Consistent as ever in my failures, I’m still more or less a disappointment. But I think we’ve reached this point in our lives where years and years or constant unrealistic expectations and eventual letdowns later, we’re ok with our mixed-up, deranged relationship. That’s not to say it’s easy. I still have the ocasional phone conversation with my mother by the end of which I’m so mad I’m crying, and focusing every fleck of my will power to keep my voice from breaking. Because if she can tell I’m crying, she will have won, and we can’t have that now, can we? Have I mentioned I’m thirty one? Oh well. Families are tough.

And while we’re on tough things, there’s my job.

As luck would have it for a rather volatile, can’t-take-other-people’s-crap-for-too-long-without-turning-murderous person such as myself, I happen to currently work in Crazy Town. I know, I know. It actually sounds like it could be fun, right? And surely the kind of place someone as crazypants as yours truly would thrive in? And the funny thing is, I am. Thriving. But holy cow, is it giving me half a dozen tiny heart attacks a day! These people are crazy, blood thirsty monsters and one day, soon, I’ll be on the menu. Until then, I’m losing sleep, keeping my claws sharp and a drawer full of stress balls at hand.

To top it all, and the main reason I’m not hitting the road and finding another, less cancerous job, I’ve got money on my mind.

V and I (well, mostly me! he’s the more balanced half of our family) are nervously entertaining this miraculous idea of paying our mortgage a million or so years early, which is super realistic and putting zero pressure on ourselves and our relatively unchanged salaries since we got said mortgage. But hey, what are our thirties good for anyway, if not for worrying and stressing and counting and saving, until there’s little will to live left. So far, it hasn’t been all that bad to be fair, since we’ve managed to squeeze in two seaside holidays this summer and are already planning our next trip for later in the year, but at the back of my mind, little clouds of digits and percentages are growing bigger and bigger and are already casting a shadow on me every time I find myself caught up in another impromptu shoe shopping spree.

Now, to be perfectly honest, apart from these little nuggets of madness clearly making my life more exciting and enviable, I’m pretty much ok.

Which is, I think, why I’m not writing more often and why these last few posts have all ended on annoying, optimistic notes. But don’t despair. I’ve got a performance review at work in a few weeks! And family visiting! And summer’s over! I’m sure I’ll get back to my hate-my-life, regular little self in no time!

Until then, have a lovely sunny Tuesday, wherever you are!

*

Later edit: Also, this is my 200th post here, people. Is that amazing or what?

All the Tiny Pieces

For a while, all days are alike.

No spilled coffee, no heart attacks, no surprise breakups. A monotony I enjoy. As time goes by, I relax. It turns out that after the initial shock, it’s easy to get used to peace and quiet.

Then someone has a miscarriage.

As I listen to the story, and it slowly seeps into every layer of our lives together, I remember. Peace and quiet come and go. The thought shocks me. The not knowing, the “out of the blue” of it all.

*

Coffee helps.

I’m back to my daily cup of black after many years, less for the taste or the energy kick and more for the comfort of hot, familiar sips from a hot, familiar cup in between morning office dramas.

Everybody fights in this place. We’re not here to make friends, we’re here to thump our chests and blow our trumpets. We’re here to prove we can very well function with no regard to common courtesy, common sense or workplace noise regulations. We’re here. We’re loud. We’re disgusting. Espresso break, anyone?

*

When I’m not stuck in head-splitting meetings for hours on end, empty cup in hand and dreaming of bucketsful of freshly brewed, or maybe picturing myself strangling various suit-clad big-mouths, well, I’m determined to enjoy myself.

Two weeks of sun, and summer is done and dusted around here. Since we’ve returned from holiday we’ve been mostly staying in in the evenings, cooking and sipping wine in front of the TV. We go to bed at normal hours for once, and wake up before the alarm goes off. We’re rarely in a rush to anywhere.

On the train, we read. V about his crimes and zombies, as I’m wolfing my way through Julian Barnes, Toni Morisson and Harper Lee, and more slowly, finally making time for the Penguing Clothbound Classics editions of Jane Austen’s novels. They’re so pretty, these Clothbounds, that I find myself breaking my reading to wash or squirt hand sanitizer gel in my pamls yet again, just in case.

*

In other news, it seems that everybody around us is…, well, something is definitely going on with everybody.

Those who aren’t divorcing or redefining their relationships in the most unexpected terms – erosion, sophisticated, detrimental – well, those who happen to be at ease with their current matters of the heart, are selling their unaffordable houses to invest in even more unaffordable ones, leaving their stressful jobs for more stressful ones, all the while feeling sorry for themselves and very much above every other creature walking the earth.

It may be the permanent craving for change, for a challenge, the thirst for more something – anything. It’s meant to motivate us to keep going, to not succumb to depression. In which case I’m probably depressed as can be and don’t know it. As I’m not divorcing, nor craving for bankruptcy, nor do I understand the need to make my life more difficult on purpose in any way.

Yes, I’m well aware that perhaps everybody’s just acting the way perfect, respectable grownups should and I’m the one missing the plot.

*

The good news is, if things do go wrong and I end up bankrupt, divorced and/or homeless, I’ll be able to turn my life around and start a potted succulent plants venture.

I must be doing something right in the world, because the three bite-sized succulents we bought when we moved in last year, are pretty much the size of pineapples now and have grown countless plump, juicy babies which have in turn claimed their own teracotta pots and spots on various shelves and ledges.

It’s things like these that make me happy these days. Fat, nail sized leaves the colour of sea water. A book bound in bright yellow cloth. The kettle boiling. The last flashes of London summer, just as we’re temporarily relocating our complicated relationship in a few weeks time, for another quick break in the sun. Oh, and Thursdays. Thursday and happy simply belong in the same sentence, don’t they?

Happy Thursday, everyone!

 

Wonnemond

There’s no reason for me not writing these days.

There’s no good reason not to write, my high school Lit teacher used to say. She was young and beautiful and there were endless rumours of her seducing boys in my class. Sometimes I believed them. Sometimes I really didn’t want to. But something was certain. This was a woman with a secret. It didn’t take an expert to see it. Something bubbling, a darkness, a hint of danger. I’d watch her. I had little in the way of hiding myself those days, but I found mystery in people around me strangely thrilling.

She used to ask me what I wanted from life.

*

We’ve been traveling quite a lot and when we’re not traveling, we’re sleeping in, planting white geranium, watching old movies and it feels to me, waiting for something.

I read and read. Mostly about Romania and the Revolution these days, which reminds me of my childhood and makes me miss my parents so much that the feeling’s gained colour, taste and texture, and follows me around even in my dreams. There’s no such thing as one phone call away.

London is breathtaking and I’m back to being my 19 year old self. No matter what happens, who breaks my heart and how many days it’s been since my last cup of coffee, well, it’s enough to walk the streets and I feel better. Different city, different decade, same me.

I won an award at work a few weeks back. Sometimes it dawns on me that I have a job, that I’ve had jobs for ten years now and that I never seriously considered I would. That I can’t for the life of me pinpoint the moment I stepped into this grownup thing, if there ever was just one moment or if instead it’s one of those things that takes your world over bit by bit, like the Arctic melting.

Then sometimes it dawns on me that we’re living the time of our lives.

*

A couple of years ago, my Lit teacher and I reconnected. We exchanged a few emails, she actually put one of mine into one of her books (yup, published author here, people!), we even briefly met when I traveled to Romania for our high school reunion. Again she asked what I wanted from life (pretty much the same things I’d wanted when we first knew each other), she wanted to know if I ever wrote anymore (not really), made me promise I would, and last but not least, she wanted me to tell her about this boy who’d been in my class. What he’d been up to, what his girlfriend looked like, whether they looked happy. This is it, I thought. The secret, the bubbling.

I’d kissed that boy. We were carrying boxes across a parking lot, huge, TV-sized cardboard boxes filled with paper cups and plastic cutlery for a school event, and they were really light but impossible to manoeuvre between the parked cars, the wind was ruffling my dress and waving his jacket wide open and we kissed. We were sixteen. Our Lit teacher was waiting in the open door, arms reaching for one of the boxes.

Our lives are such strange, vaguely inhabited planets circling each other.

Fifty Shades of You and Me

I haven’t been writing much lately.

As most hungers, it comes and goes, this typing-every-half-formed-thought-you-ever-have-for-strangers-to-jugde thing.

I’m hardly ever online these days, except when I’m in the office, of course, but then I’m so busy digging tunnels through something I like working on for once, that it never even crosses my mind that I might have stories to tell. Until recently, I often wrote through my lunch break, salad bowl dangerously close to the edge of my desk as I was balancing fork and mouse and keyboard and scratching my forehead for just the right word. Now I spend my lunches walking the streets, browsing tattered paperbacks in my favourite used book shops in Soho, or sharing terrace tables and starters with colleagues I’m slowly getting to know and let in on my secrets.

Then in the evening, if there’s no one to meet for dinner and nothing good playing in theaters, V and I gladly let ourselves sink into our quiet routine of home made food and a nice bottle of rosé, and before we know it it’s time for bed and the daily cocktail of hopes and fears for the future lulling us to sleep.

I’ve been reading The Goldfinch these days, and after wolfing my way through one of the first chapters where the main characters are caught in an explosion, I went to bed and dreamt that a bomb went off in the middle of Piccadilly Circus. I’d just gone out for lunch and was waiting at a red light on one of those streets so narrow and crowded with tourists that no one pays any attention to the flashes of red and green anymore, until one day I’m sure someone will get obliterated inches away from me, and I’ll just stand there, frozen, trying not to wonder if they carried family photos in their wallets or not. Anyway. I was waiting for the light to turn green, cautious and responsible as ever, even in my dreams, when there was a loud bang and the next thing I knew I was lying on my chest on the sidewalk, and someone heavy had been thrown partially on top of me, like an oversized backpack with a still, if haphazardly beating heart inside. I woke up and had to fight my way out of an entanglement of covers for what seemed like the longest time, V was breathing smoothly by my side, our bedroom walls were still standing and growing a soothing shade of gold as the sun was coming up, but I could still taste the dust and the terror.

We’re OK.

Most weekends we have guests or head for the City and dinners with people who can live with our bad jokes for an evening. Then sometimes we get in the car early in the morning, and cross the Channel for a proper coq au vin and crème brûlée, or drive to Peak District for a day of trekking and a night of sleeping in beds made by strangers. Some weekends we walk the streets of Cantebury, then the beaches of Eastbourne. Some Saturdays Carmen and I talk about our lives until three in the morning, in this strange language that doesn’t really belong to any of us but has somehow turned into just the right language for our strange friendship. Some Saturdays I write to C, long emails he replies to with even longer ones that I then read without breathing, my heart pounding, because it’s extraordinary how I’ve shared myself with this person for more than half my life, and though we’ve had our ups and downs and we’re now a continent apart, we’re still something. Something great.

Of course, V and I have our less than happy moments too these days.

We’re often very tired. He’s been miserable at work and looking for a job for a while. I’ve managed to hammer a tiny hole into one of our very visible living room walls, and it drives me crazy every time I see it. Just recently, we spent four and a half hours in the local emergency room on a Friday night. We still bicker about whose turn it is to unload the dishwasher. Our families have problems of their own, and we share in carrying the burden. Sometimes we worry. Well, we always worry. About pretty much everything. Growing up may just mean we’re ready to make our peace with that, and live our lives despite all the worrisome stuff.

So now I’m off to make us a late snack of leftover apple pie and icecream, just in time for an episode of Better Call Saul and whatever dreams of devastation or relief the rest of the night brings.

Happy Friday, everyone!