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Posts Tagged ‘Amy Sundberg’

I am in Washington! As I write this, I have been at my new home for about sixty hours, and so far, it has been quite a whirlwind.

Less than four hours after I picked up my apartment keys, I hopped into my car and drove across to my first Seattle party. So far I have been to two parties and am about to go to my third. I have gone to Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, Safeway, and Pet Smart. I have enjoyed the view from Lake Union. I have gone dancing. I have explored a bit of the downtown of my little city, and I have played a bunch of air hockey. I have seen several friends and met a bunch of new people, almost none of whose names I can remember. I have, most important of chores, set up the internet. I have done a load of laundry to clean up the end-of-road-trip doggie vomit mess.

Nala and I have established our new daily walking route, and it is so exciting! There are some old abandoned railway tracks right behind our building, and if you follow them a little ways, they join with a lovely gravel walking path. The area is surrounded by trees, and it is the best daily walking spot we’ve ever had. We’ve been taking longer walks than usual because it’s so pleasant.

My apartment is not quiet. The downstairs neighbors play music all the time. The neighbors who share my bedroom wall had a lovers’ quarrel at 1:30am on Saturday night. Ear plugs are my friends. My allergies are acting up because of all the pollen-producing plant life around here. I woke up in the middle of the night when my air mattress deflated and ended up breaking my fingernail below the quick while fixing it, resulting in a throbbing and bleeding finger at 3:30 in the morning. Nala is nervous. One of my dance partners threw me around in an unexpectedly rough manner, and I hurt my shoulder before I could compensate for his use of force.

I am either too hot or too cold, but very rarely completely comfortable. Everyone in Seattle hangs out outdoors at night, even though it’s cold. I sleep with my electric blanket turned on, even though it’s July. I wish I had packed more sweaters. But then sometimes the sun comes out and because of all the layers from the time it was cold, it becomes suddenly sweltering.

Everywhere I look there is beauty.

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I feel like I am living in a picture book my mom used to read me every year the night before the first day of school. “Will you be my friend?” I don’t know who I’m going to see once in a while, and who I’m going to see all the time, and who I’m mostly going to see at parties, and who I’m going to see one-on-one. I don’t know who to ask to watch Babylon 5 with me, and I don’t know who would want to go to the theater with me, and I don’t know if I know any live music fans. I do know that I will be able to play board games to my heart’s content and then some.

I know a lot of people here, and everyone so far has been so thoughtful and helpful and wonderful. And I see my friends, and I think, with a small jolt of surprise, oh my goodness, I really like you! This shouldn’t be a surprise, since this is one of the reasons I moved here, but nevertheless, it feels like an unexpected gift. I’ve spent the last few months managing my expectations like a pro.

I take comfort in the things that are the same. Nala is my touchstone. I listen to familiar albums in the car. I have a friend I message almost every day, and we still message almost every day. I still love pie, and otters, and Disneyland. The “i” key on my laptop still pops off all the time in a really annoying way.

Last night I dreamed it was Valentine’s Day, and I was feeling sad, and then my friends threw a spectacular surprise party for me, and I was so happy to see everyone. And then I woke up, and I thought to myself, yes, of course. It feels like you are all right here with me.

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You burn your arm on the oven when you’re taking out the pizza. The burn turns into a weird blister. You put a band-aid on it and don’t look at it again because you don’t have time to have a burn on your arm right now.

You also have a mysterious bruise on your shoulder, sore arms, a sore neck, a sore back, sore legs, and you’re wearing your ankle brace all the time again because you don’t trust yourself to walk properly and not hurt yourself.

You have driven past your street or driveway by accident at least four times in the past week. Maybe more.

You struggle not to lose your patience with customer service representatives who take a ridiculous amount of time to do something that should take two minutes. You throw things away you never would have considered throwing away even a few months ago. You try to convince people to take random stuff because you know that otherwise it will go into the landfill, and it all feels like a huge waste.

You play and play and play your piano. And then you can’t bring yourself to play even though this is your last chance because it’s just too fraught.

You cry when you think about selling your piano. You cry when you get a voicemail from your friend saying he thought maybe you could use hearing a friendly voice, because you could use it and then some. You don’t cry when they carry your beautiful table away because by this point you are somewhat numb.

You do cry after you get off the phone with the emergency vet tech, who tells you, yes, you  need to bring your little dog in right away because the crack in her fang could be serious and there are no appointments available on the weekend so Friday night it is. If there is anything that can break you, it is your little dog’s health. You stand there and cry for five minutes, and you wish you had housemates or a boyfriend or family nearby, and then you coax the dog into the car and do what needs to be done, and now there are antibiotics twice every day, which isn’t so bad but is one more thing to remember.

Speaking of dogs, your dog is unhappy. She barks at the ceiling fan. She barks at the people who come over to get stuff. She barks more frantically than usual when she realizes you’re leaving. You tell her every day she’s coming with you, but she doesn’t speak English so communication is problematic.

Communication is difficult even when you speak the same language. You send endless messages to people. It’s all scheduling and logistics, and while you are okay, even good, at these things, you kind of hate them. You stare at your phone waiting for people to get back to you. They mostly get back to you after you’ve pretty much given up on it happening. It must be like water not boiling until you look away.

You spend one miserable night lying there unable to sleep, which means you have way too many hours to think about every detail of the move. Now you take melatonin every night before bed. It seems to help.

People have a lot of opinions, and you disappoint some of them, and you are too tired to care. The weather in Seattle is bad. The weather in Seattle isn’t so bad. What, you’ll move again if you don’t like it? What are you thinking? Why did you get an apartment in Bellevue? You should throw a goodbye party in your copious (read nonexistent) spare time. You should put your stuff up for sale on Craigslist. You say no a lot because there simply isn’t any wiggle room. You have the time you have, and it is extremely limited in quantity. At this point, if the other person in any given equation doesn’t make a lot of effort, it’s not going to happen, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

You receive your first few invitations for Seattle, and you think, hmm, I’m not going to know anybody there. And then you think, wait, this is going to be the next several months of my life. And you get ready to steel yourself. In the meantime, you get to see a few of your closest friends more often than usual, and it is lovely, and you almost wish you could always be on the cusp of moving so you could always spend this much time with them.

You drink sparkling cider and you eat cranberry sauce from the can. More and more of your stuff is in boxes. You can tell how much you care about an object by how much paper you use to pack it.

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Seven Years of Nala

As I type this, Nala is lying in her bed and I am sitting in my easy chair where I always write, and we can see each other. She is drowsing, half sleeping and then cracking open her eyes to look at me. I am making silly noises at her and calling her nicknames.

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We have lived with each other for seven years. Today is our adoption anniversary.

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I have lived longer with Nala than I have lived with anyone aside from my nuclear family.

I feel like you can’t know me well without being aware of Nala’s existence in my life. I share photos of her all the time because they make me happy and I want to share that happiness with all of you. She is an essential component to the rhythm of my days. She loves it when I have friends over because she is so curious about people. Oh, and also she’s fond of getting more belly rubs.

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We’re moving out of state in less than two weeks. My days are filled with logistics and scheduling and making big decisions and packing and saying goodbye. Meanwhile, awful things are happening out in the world, and when I think about it (and how can I not think about it?) I feel like crying. Sometimes I do cry. And then I have to focus instead on whether I should pay to move my Billy bookcases or whether I should give them away, and what health insurance plan should I sign up for, and why hasn’t the welcome letter from my new complex come yet. And I have several friends who are having a difficult time right now, and I’m worried about them, and I don’t want to be dealing with moving, I want to be next to them giving them support. But I can’t because I have to be here. It’s a weird time.

In the middle of so much turmoil and change, I am especially appreciative of the things I can depend upon. I am afraid. I try not to problem compare, but I think of all the people who have so much more to be afraid of than myself right now, and this complicates my feelings even further. Even so, this is my reality. I am afraid. I think of being all alone in a new city in an empty apartment (because who knows how long it will take my stuff to arrive) and I am afraid.

And then I think of Nala. “Nala will be there,” I tell myself. And that fact, the fact of Nala, makes the fear navigable. She will roll around on the carpet and make funny snorting sounds. We can sit together on the floor in the dark. She will lick my arm. We can discuss her sentience or lack thereof, and she will be there when I cry and then realize I forgot to pack any Kleenex and end up draping toilet paper around the apartment like ghostly tear trails.

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The ones we love can’t take away the fear or the pain or the struggle. What they can do is make it easier to sit with these things.

What they can do is make us feel like we aren’t alone.

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I am so grateful to have Nala in my life.
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She gives me something to emulate. I hope my words can make a few of you feel a little bit less alone too.

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I’m not burying the lede this time, but I’d be happy to mix some metaphors. I’m taking a leap, starting a new chapter, and making the move up to Seattle in a few weeks.

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What you are seeing here is a completely mythical sunny Seattle day.

Haven’t you been talking about this for a long time?

Yes, since my first visit to Seattle, in fact, which was in the spring of 2012. So this is definitely not what I’d call a spontaneous decision.

Didn’t you once make an April Fool’s joke about moving to Seattle?

Yes, and I think it might be the only April Fool’s joke I’ve ever made. But I’m moving for real this time, I promise.

Doesn’t it rain a lot there?

Yes, yes, it does.

Aren’t you afraid you’ll get S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder) and be absolutely miserable? Don’t many Californians move to Seattle and then come back?

I survived a winter in London, so I’m not hugely worried. But I’m also prepared to move again if I feel I’d be happier somewhere else. This is me we’re talking about, so I have a plan B. And a plan C. And a plan D, E, and F….

This is a big deal!

Yes, this is a really big deal. Some of you may not know that, aside from a year I spent living in London right after college, I have lived in the Bay Area my entire life. So moving to a new city in a new geographic region will be quite the adventure for me.

Are you for sure going to move?

I’ve put money down on an apartment, I’ve given notice at my current place, and I’ve reserved a moving truck, so I’m pretty sure this is going to happen. I’ve taken my time with this process, partly because I had other stuff I needed to do before moving and partly because I wondered if I would change my mind, given the chance. But I never did change my mind, so here we are.

What are you going to do in Seattle?

Pretty much what I’ve been doing in the Bay Area. Although it’s not a stretch to suppose that living in a new place, I may try some new things. And I’ll definitely be meeting some new people.

What does this mean for me?

Well, if you live in the Bay Area, you might be seeing a bit less of me. If you live in the Seattle area, you might be seeing a bit more than me.

If you read the blog, I hope to write about my experiences living in a new place and creating a new life for myself there. I imagine I’ll have a lot of thoughts about it, and I’m pretty excited about what this could mean for the blog. We might be in for some interesting times ahead!

I have feelings about this!

Oh, wow, do I know. I have feelings too. Lots of them, and they run the gamut from excitement to terror.

How can I help?

My friends have been very supportive thus far, and I feel really lucky. If I am moving away from you, keep in touch; I’d love to hear from you! If I am moving near to you, invite me to do stuff; I’d love to not be a hermit!

If you read the blog, I’d appreciate your patience. I might be writing here sporadically or not at all over the next few weeks as I orchestrate this move. If I am quiet here or elsewhere on social media, it is because I am very busy. But I’ll be back soon enough.

You still haven’t said WHY you’re moving.

Yeah, this is the most common question I receive, after some comment about the weather. The decision to move out-of-state is a complicated one, and I’m not moving for any one reason. The easiest reason to give is that it’s a financial decision, and it is true that I’ll be saving money living in Washington, and I am looking forward to that.

The more accurate reason is that it feels like the right time to move on. While there have been plenty of challenges in execution, this wasn’t at its heart a difficult decision for me to make. I gave myself a lot of chances to turn back, but I never wanted to take them. On the whole, I have felt exceptionally grounded about uprooting my life and trying something new.

That is not to say I don’t feel sad to be leaving. I will miss my friends here a great deal. I will miss the sunshine. I will miss the place where I grew up. I will miss the sense of personal history I get from so many of the places I go. I expect I might be horribly homesick, and then I will write about it, and we will see what there is to learn from that.

But it is time. And so I am going.

Let’s see what this next chapter holds, shall we?

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The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new. – Socrates

When you want something you have never had, you have to do something you have never done. – W S Bloom

I have been thinking about my future. Not next week, not a few months from now, not even next year. I’ve been trying to think about my longer term future, and what I would like to see, and what concrete steps I can take to work towards that vision.

I haven’t been thinking much about my future the last few years. I’ve been thinking about now, and I’ve been thinking about a few months from now, and I haven’t been seeing more than a year out from where I am at any given time. It’s been good to practice flexibility, and it’s been good to take the time to figure out what I want. Not based on convention or what anyone else I know is doing or what other people think I should do or be, but based on actual me. What I want and what I think is important.

I find having a vision to really help with my focus. Having spent the last few months honing my vision, I’ve begun to see that many of the details are extraneous. They don’t matter. It feels like they matter; it feels, in fact, like they are huge life-altering decisions. But sometimes all the big flashy external stuff is merely a blind for what’s going on inside. And being able to focus on the inside stuff brings a lot of clarity along with it.

It’s not always the specifics of a vision that matter. You have the vision, and then you figure out some specifics to get you there. But you could figure out a whole different set of specifics that may very well get you to the same place. What’s important, then, is figuring out where you’re generally trying to go. In order to pick specifics, in order to confidently make changes, it helps to know what you want.

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Details are a bridge, but you can always build another bridge further down.

I feel like this is easier for some people to achieve than others. I ask a lot of questions, and that can mean it’s more complicated to figure out what I want. I kind of tried to follow a common middle-class American life road map, but I was never completely on board with it, and then it turned out to not be what I wanted at all.

And then there’s the blindness that can come with experience. You don’t have something in your vision not because it’s necessarily not possible, but because it’s outside what has happened to you personally. Sometimes our expectations for what is possible can end up being set too low, and it doesn’t even occur to us to shoot for something more. And sometimes we don’t add something to our vision because it doesn’t occur to us that it is even an option.

I have discovered that Socrates was a wise guy (not that this should be news!) I have spent a lot of time in my life fighting the old. I have this weird idea that if I simply try hard enough, I can fix anything. I say it’s weird because it is patently false.

But when I focus on building something new instead of fixing or trying to prop something up, that’s when I tend to make actual progress. That’s when my vision begins to clear, and I think, “Oh yeah. I do know what I want. Huh. How about that.”

And that’s when things really begin to change.  

 

(P.S. I’m going to be traveling, so there’s going to be a short break in our regularly scheduled programming. See you in a bit!)

 

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Change hurts.

Sometimes change hurts a lot.

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I find that change hurts a lot when it cuts close to the bone, when it touches on something deep from the past, when it challenges some long-held belief or defense mechanism that you desperately do not want to let go of, because to hold onto it equates to survival in your own mind. Even if that is no longer the case. You might be reliving a reality that is long gone.

Change hurts.

You may be sitting there, and you notice that you’re breathing. You take a breath in, and then you take a breath out. And you’re surprised, not even surprised, shocked. Not because you were trying to hold your breath, but because it seems inconceivable that you are still breathing at all. It seems unbelievable that the entire world hasn’t frozen in place.

You may be afraid to move because there is a knife lodged somewhere deep inside of you, and any movement could shift it, and any shift could drive it deeper still, or cause it to cut some critical artery that means you bleed out. You are afraid to move physically, you are afraid to move emotionally. The pain is balanced so precariously, and your main focus is keeping it there instead of letting it slip.

Change hurts, and sometimes the pain makes it feel like the change might not be the right thing to do. Because if this change was so good, why would it hurt so much?

This is a lie. Sometimes positive change hurts a hell of a lot. It hurts for a reason. It hurts because it is hard for you to do something different. Or maybe it hurts because you are afraid. Or maybe it hurts because you just jammed a surgical instrument into an old wound and ripped it back open again so it could finally heal cleanly.

That is not to say it’s a good idea to seek pain simply for pain’s sake. It’s okay for things to be easy sometimes. It’s okay for things to be good. It’s okay to let yourself be happy.

The truth is, the pain is just the pain. It doesn’t tell you what to do. It simply tells you something is going on, and whatever it is, you might need to pay some attention to it. You might want to think about how you are going to respond to it. Maybe there is something active you want to do, or maybe you just want to sit there with the pain for a while. Maybe both.

Nowadays, when I have the time and space, I try not to hide from the pain. I don’t confront it either. I exist with it. I let it be with me. I bring my mind back from all of its distraction techniques and circular games. I want so badly to castigate myself, because this distracts me more effectively than almost anything else, but every time I start, I simply stop and redirect. No, I’m going to be kind. No, I’m going to be kind. Over and over, for however long it takes until it settles.

And then there is the pain I was trying so desperately to avoid. And it is terrible. It is the knife in my gut, it is the air in my lungs, it is naked and wretched and it is a part of me.

Change hurts.

And then it dissipates, and it is sad but also clean, and it is hard but also okay. Sometimes another wave of grief comes later, and another, and another, but once you’ve allowed one to wash through you, the worst of the terror is gone. It simply hurts. And then it hurts less. And then it hurts more. And then it hurts less again.

Change hurts. And then you come out on the other side.

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Here are a few of my favorite songs right now.

 

 

I’m also super into Portishead’s cover of SOS. It can be tricky to find but is so worth the effort. I want to listen to it over and over. Actually, I have listened to it over and over, but I need to listen to it EVEN MORE.

I’m also learning to cover Ruth B’s Lost Boy, which has been fun. I haven’t had much time (read: pretty much none) to practice the last few months, so I’m really happy to be singing and playing the piano again.

 

Yes, I know this isn’t the most in-depth blog post, but I spent the day visiting my mom’s ashes, so that was an important thing to do. It’s interesting how familiar Marin County still feels to me. I hardly ever go there (I think the last time was at least a year and a half ago, and the time before that was probably at least another year), but I learned it so well I guess in a way it will always feel like home.

It’s a comforting thought.

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