For Christmas, my husband bought me a magenta-ish Patagonia hooded sweatshirt (aka, a hoody). I unwrapped it around 8 am on December 25, directly removed it from it’s plastic bag, and put it on. At the time of the ham incident (see below), I had removed the sweatshirt to sleep and, briefly, for three other occasions. I did not wear it to Christmas Dinner. I did not wear it for one afternoon when some relatives came to visit. I did not wear it for about an hour on New Years Eve (but then I got a little bit chilly so I put it on). As of January 5th, I had worn it for all but about eight waking hours over the course of 12 days. For the record, I changed shirts daily, or nearly that, in case you are wondering.
Now, about the ham. In my family, it was/is traditional on New Year’s Day to eat ham and black-eyed peas (for luck) and greens (for money). Not sure about the meaning of the ham. I think our tradition was always turnip greens (the kind that comes frozen in a rectangular solid) when I was living with my parents though I think, technically, that consuming any kind of greens on January 1st ensures a steady flow of money raining down from heaven over the course of the year. Feeling compelled to instill a bit of tradition in my offspring (while quite aware that they would not approve of the menu), on the 2nd of January I went to the store and bought a ham (and black-eyes and collards). (We were on the road on the 1st and I’m hoping there is not some other tradition the says if you eat greens and peas the day AFTER the first you will have terrible luck and lose everything — I’ll keep you posted). Who knew that you can get a whole ten-pound ham — organic — for $19 on the day after New Year’s. I’m used to paying $10 for a pound of ground beef so ten pounds of almost all meat for $19 seems pretty crazy protein to price ratio.
We got the ham. It is the spiralized kind. We baked it. We ate it on Tuesday night. And Wednesday night. I ate it for lunch on Wednesday. School for the kids was cancelled on the 4th because of “weather conditions” (not exactly sure why but they were home nonetheless) so I think I ate whatever they didn’t eat but much of the day goes by in a snow day haze so I could have mostly missed lunch.
So there I was, Friday January 5th, wearing my hoody and standing in the kitchen. It’s lunchtime and I see the huge ham. There are about 8 pounds remaining. I will freeze it and use it to make red beans and rice, I tell myself. My husband will like that. It is healthy. Inexpensive. Delicious. Part of my heritage. Good plan. But in the meantime, I will eat some ham for lunch. So I unwrap it, setting the two sheets of glaze-splattered foil on the counter, pulling off part of a slice and shoving it into my mouth. Not EXACTLY like an animal, I did use my hands and didn’t just put my face directly on the ham, but possibly like a monkey I guess. Like an ape. Except that apes don’t eat ham and if you’ve seen the gorilla at the zoo regurgitate food, it wasn’t like that. I put it in, quickly, chewed, sort of, and then ripped off another slice.
At some point during this luncheon, I recognized that I’m wearing my sweatshirt (certain members of my household may or may not have mentioned that the sweatshirt may have become a sort of uniform, and maybe they mentioned this in a way that suggested such a uniform might not be considered a positive development). I’m wearing my sweatshirt for the 12th day in a row and standing in my kitchen ripping slices off a spiral ham and shoving them in my mouth as my form of lunch and I start giggling. People would think there is something wrong with me. This is the part of the movie where I’m deep down in a funk, depressed, not quite right. I should cut off some slices, put them on a plate, sit at a table. There should be a salad, or some veggies, a glass of water. Maybe even another person. I should go to a cafe, in my stylish clothing, with my hair and makeup done. My friends would laugh at some story about what we did over the holidays, I would listen intently, then I would go back to my desk to finish up an important memo about something that was going to make the world just a little bit better, or at least make my boss happy, and then I would get my paycheck.
Now, fast forward to today, January 12th, a week later. I have had some real serious talks with myself since the ham incident. Here’s the thing: I’m not in a funk. This is not the part in the movie where I make an appointment to get a haircut (I did make an appointment to get a haircut though), start going to the gym (we’ll talk about that another day but it is definitely time that I start at least stretching regularly. Ok, we’ll talk about it now. I think i’ve been thinking i’m super sneaky and I’m going to be that person who makes it through life without exercising regularly. And the thing is — I can be! I’ll just make it through life a little bit more quickly, and less comfortably, than i would otherwise. So that suddenly doesn’t feel like such a sneaky, or good, plan.) But back to the not funk.
My mom, over the holidays, suggested a couple of ideas for things that I might be really good at doing professionally. She meant well. She loves me. She has a lot of confidence in me. She said these things in front of other people which made me feel embarrassed. Like what I am and what I’m trying to do isn’t enough. As if selling safer cosmetics and blogging when I feel like it isn’t my destiny.
Here’s what I’m saying back to her, to you, to myself. THIS is what I’m doing. I’m eating ham, with my fingers, wearing a sweatshirt. The sweatshirt is soft, it is clean, it keeps me warm. I don’t need five sweatshirts. This one is great. It fits, is rip-free, is a beautiful color. It serves my needs. I’m eating a little bit of ham for lunch. I don’t need to spend a ton of time eating lunch some days. Sometimes a little ham is enough and then I can get back to all of the things I’m working on: writing, reading, editing, seeing friends, selling cosmetics.
I think I’ve been feeling like I don’t have a full-time job because I can’t have a full-time job. I think that’s what I’ve been telling people. We have no family nearby that can help with kids, my husband travels for long periods of time, we’ve both worked full-time before and it felt unsustainable. But here’s the truth: I don’t want to work full-time in an office. I don’t want to spend any more of my life that way. I have worked as a receptionist, as a data-entry intern, in accounts payable for Budweiser, in a greenhouse, as a waitress, as a nanny, cleaning hotel rooms, at two magazines doing research and writing, planning scientific expeditions to Africa, organizing teams to negotiate at UN meetings, on organizational design and strategy for a large 30-country conservation NGO.
Now I am searching. I am living a human life, awake. It is not always comfortable. It is not always clear. I do not have defined deliverables and I don’t have anyone holding me accountable other than myself (and maybe an accountability partner or two but I COULD blow them off without serious consequence). My ego fights me. Financially it is not the easiest path, for now. And THIS is what I choose to be doing. Could I improve in terms of how to structure my days? I feel confident saying yes, I could. Might I develop some deliverables for myself? Well, maybe. Eventually, for sure. Right now I am searching. I am giving myself time to look around. To wonder. To feel the feelings in my body. That little pain that pops up around my heart sometimes — is that muscular, or from my soul?
So I just wanted you to know that. I’m not in a funk. When I look at myself in the mirror, while there are certainly lines that I’m not excited about and spots that I wish weren’t there and also consider a professional liability, when I see my red sweatshirt I feel happiness. When I look at my eyes I recognize myself.
In 2017, I started this blog, started writing three novels (and one has just passed the 25,000 word mark and is going strong), wrote two essays I think are very good but I need to finish, started another 15 or so essays that have some potential, I started taking songwriting lessons and shared one song on this blog, I started meditating, started playing the piano regularly, planted a butterfly garden, took a trip to the ocean with my kids, I started a Beautycounter business, found a bunch of four-leaf clovers in a biography of Charles Dickens, received notes of encouragement from unexpected sources, I learned that my gut flora is depauperate and took steps to address matters, learned I CAN eat cultured foods, I broke a debilitating addiction to iPad games, I saw a democrat elected to an Alabama senate seat, I spent more time with some of my favorite authors (E.B., Cervantes, Austen), I wrote a couple of paid articles, edited some cool stuff, got paid to learn about some things I’m interested in. I spent time with some friends. I listened to them. They listened to me. I cooked and ate a lot of healthy food. I cleaned some toilets. I stressed about money. I tried to stop stressing and be thankful. I will try harder this year.
As far as resolutions go, here is what I’m thinking:
I will make more choices instead of letting things go undecided for so long. My husband found some cotton plants while he was in Alabama, he picked some cotton, he was very interested. I put the cotton, stems, and seeds in a ziplock bag. Maggie brought it to school to show her class. Then it sat in the bag, in my dining room, for two weeks. I looked at it every day. What will I do with that cotton? I composted it yesterday. Decision made. (There are a lot more to go.)
I will acknowledge the choices I am making. I won’t sink into feeling done-to.
I will try to meditate every day. This is really good for me. I like the Headspace app and you can start with 3 minutes a day. You can do it.
There is more to share about Swedish Death Cleaning and Napolean Hill and You are a Badass, but I have to post this before 11 am which means I have 8 minutes to reread.
P.S. I’m going to start saying the New Year’s ham is for persistence. Luck and money are very well and good, but I want to persevere.
Happy New Year!