months ago (like july, eeps), i got an email from a reader & dear friend in real life. i've thought about it a gazillion times since then & am finally going to do my best to answer it.
"dear t&f, I have finally caught up on the June/July postings and would like to thank you for all the lovely work you do!! I am about 87% inspired to do something similar, but due to my hectic schedule, short attention span, computer illiteracy, and inability to see any of my projects through, I fear I'd just be a disappointment. I do have a question/idea--or maybe better put--a problem for you to tackle! (really, it might be a doosey for you to figure out) What about all the single gals??!?! Any suggestions for us?? Do you know of a blog where we can find handsome, funny, chivalrous, wannabe family men to go?? Or do we give up and just start nesting by ourselves (I get the house-purchasing-itch every time I read t&f)?? Start picking cats up off the street? Take up an interest in knitting??--which I'm actually seriously considering, after your post from NYC. This is all in jest of course,...but seriously...t&f always makes me a little sad that life plan #1 never quite materialized. Should I feel sad about that?? Is there a way to feel that content-and-settled-yet-excited-about-the-future the way you are with Ryan, when all I really want to do is hit the PAUSE button until Mr. Right comes along. Did any of that make sense? Feel free to reply if you need clarification. I just wanted to see what your sunshiney take on single life was."
i'm totally unqualified to answer this awesome question, but hope in my ramblings, some of you will find something useful. numbers help me think:
1. wherever you're living, make it your space. before i married ryan, i lived in d.c. in this amazing little studio apartment in georgetown. as i've been thinking about this post, i keep picturing that apartment. i moved to d.c. after the most painful season in my life so far, and so that space became a sanctuary for me. after looking at 40+ apartments, i finally found the perfect one for me. nestled at the corner of 32nd and r, across the street from the amazing dumbarton oaks gardens, and a short walk to the wonders of M street and wisconsin (not to mention whole foods, glover park, etc....) my little studio had just been redone -- fresh paint on the walls, a newly renovated bathroom with a skylight, an amazing little galley kitchen with new appliances, and french doors to give the bedroom a bit of privacy, but keep all the light coming in the windows bouncing around the place. i could clean the whole thing top to bottom in an hour, parking was right outside, i had amazing running routes in every direction & i made the space into my own.
i had ikea furniture -- billy bookcases (which we still have & love) & my desk was two ikea file cabinets with a top (still is, love it). but i also made investments -- i bought a GOOD bed (we humans spend a lot of time sleeping!); and though 99% of my kitchen was from target, i bought two sets of anthropologie dishes in a pattern i adored when they went on sale. i found an antique nightstand i loved. i had nice towels. i balanced being newly out of college, in a big city, on a budget, with not wanting to feel like everything i was buying was a starter kit to tide me over until i "grew up." all those things i invested in are things ryan & i still have. i still love them.
so, my first bit of advice is to invest in the place you call home. have the people you love over to visit. make it a space that warms your heart to look back on. and for pete's sake take photos of it because holy moly writing this post made me realize i don't have any photos of that wonder of an apartment i lived in for two years!!
2. do what is possible & that you love in this season of life. whether that's taking a trip to italy with your best friend; going kayaking in british columbia with your dad; taking that assignment with work out of the country for a few months; have a west wing or downton abby marathon weekend; eating apples with peanut butter, wheat thins, hummus, and ben & jerry's s'mores ice cream most nights for dinner; going to yoga three times a week; taking that painting class; switching jobs, again; splurging on those j.crew flats; leaving on a spontaneous road trip with five minutes notice; staying up all night ... there will be something you love right now or something you've always wanted to do that your life currently has the time & space for, that in that life you're hoping will start any minute (dating someone, marrying someone, starting a family, a new job, a new city), won't be possible or nearlyas easy.
in fact, all of the items above would be pretty hard for me to do right now & sound pretty fun to me! aside from staying up all night with a baby, the season of life i just entered means most of the above things are on the back burner. i know the grass is always greener, but we miss so much by constantly anticipating the next season in life, instead of soaking up what is possible right now.
i am terrible about this: when i was growing up, we remodelled our house. for the renovation, i was going to need to move my bedroom to the basement for a few months. i got so excited about this that i moved down a few weeks early. of course, half way thru the renovation, living in the basement got really old & i desperately wanted my room back. if i'd only stayed in my room until the renovation actually began, i wouldn't have made myself so miserable. i've done this countless times in my life. right now, i'll be nursing ellie & mentally running thru my to do list and think "as SOON as she falls asleep, i'm going to put her down in her crib." then i remember i'm going to blink & be dropping her off at college, so maybe i should hold on a bit longer.
in a nut shell, if you're bummed the life you want hasn't started yet, find one thing you can do right now that may not be possible in that next season of life & do it. at the very least, you'll be more interesting when you do meet "the one," get that job, move to that city.
3. be very, very choosy of whom you go through life with. i do happen to think ryan is handsome, chivalrous, funny & a family man :), but he's certainly not the only one out there. they may be few and far between, and certainly hard to find, but they're more than worth the wait. i realize this is very easy for me to say when i found mine at 26, but i don't think it makes it any less true. the reason why has little to do with the good ones, or the search to find them, and much to do with what happens when you choose the wrong one.
just as marriage has the power to be an incredible bond, a friendship beyond what you knew possible, and a comfort in all seasons, a bad marriage can hurt you in ways you didn't know possible, make you lonelier than you ever thought possible & darken your world. the reality is tough times are going to come -- you're going to lose a parent or a job or a child, you're going to confront an unexpected illness, you're going to feel despair, you're going to need to have someone you know won't give up on you. the right spouse is never going to be perfect, or know all the right things to say or meet all your needs, but they're going to be there, try really hard, & quite often be the only one who can comfort you quite like that.
when you're thinking about your life's partner, think about who you want sitting next to you at a funeral; who you want to stand beside in the hallway of a hospital as you get the worse of news; who you wouldn't be bored of after 27 years of dinners at the same table; find someone who you want to do 3 a.m. diaper changes with. it's easy to find someone to go on vacation with, or be your date to a wedding or graduation, or who you can have semi-interesting conversations with on a regular basis, it's harder to find someone for all seasons.
tim keller is one of my favorite thinkers on marriage, and i've always loved this quote of his: "if the purpose of marriage, if the thing that is really essential, is companionship, then you need to find somebody who understands you, who looks in the center of your life and doesn't yawn or laugh, but says wow."
thanks for reading, xo.
image above, here.