Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Home Sweet Hectic

It's been 47 days since I left Moscow, and I am caught in a weird time-warp limbo where one minute it feels like I came back yesterday, and the next it feels like my time in Moscow was a surreal spark of whirlwind days in the distant past, something remembered from a particularly vivid dream.  I stepped off the plane at Dulles and back into the tightly defined social space I inhabit at home, the margins of my life delineated by my roles as partner, friend, daughter, sister, employee, supervisor, scholar, pet owner, and homemaker (can we find a better term for this?? WTF do you call the person responsible for the upkeep of the home who also works outside the house?  Let me preempt your Betty Friedan related mumblings...Will did all of this and conducted a job search and worked a temp job whilst I was away improving my career).  In Moscow, my days were less tightly constrained; my obligations began and ended with my roles as 'scholar' and 'friend' and I reveled in the freedom...for most of the trip.

While I missed my partner and friends the entire time I was away from home, I also began to miss the structure imposed by my myriad (chosen) obligations towards the end of my time abroad.  Those obligations stem from the things that make my life so sweet and wonderful. In Moscow, I woke up each morning to my tiny Russian cell phone's alarm; at home, my dog's- rather polite and quiet- grumbling wakes me up.  The last thing I did before falling asleep each night in Moscow was look at the photo of my partner taped to the wall of my dorm room next to my pillow.  Here the last thing I am aware of before sleep overtakes my consciousness is my partner holding me (and occasionally of him shoving the dog out of the bed...furry interloper that she is).  My job fires my imagination, my time at the gym (or spent with Jillian Michaels and my DVD player) relaxes my body, cleaning our apartment yields a beautiful, restful home, walking my dog each morning means I watch the sun rise up over the Mason temple that is our backyard, driving to pick my partner up each night gives me alone time with my other boyfriend- Kai Ryssdal of NPR's Marketplace- and means that I get to hear about Will's day at work as I enjoy the view of the Washington Monument and Jefferson, Lincoln and Air Force Memorials as we drive back over the Potomac towards our home.  The obligations that frame my day also wrap around my identity, providing a cozy blanket of familiarity built through a combination of intentional decisions and serendipitous strokes of luck over the past fifteen or so years.

Lest I am giving you the impression that I view my life as all sunshine and Martha Stewart, let me be clear: This shit can be crazy overwhelming. Screw you Kelly Ripa and your "Be Even More Amazing" ad campaign: Sometimes I feel at risk of drowning in a sea of errands, meetings, emails to answer, and, are you serious??! the dog just threw up on the floor.  I do not, as my sister put it, "fart glitter and roses".

I hit that wall Monday two nights ago, driving home from Will's office having sat with NPR running off just the battery in the car.  10 minutes later, go to turn the car back on, car is dead.  Will was just coming off a 14 hour day at the office, and I was coming off 8 hours of my job, laced with 9 loads of laundry, cooking dinner, picking up house, dealing with dog diarrhea (sorry for the over share, but seriously, I imagine I am not the only one who's been here folks), and fielding calls from my mother about the head count for my bridal shower next weekend.  Waiting for 45 minutes for a tow truck was the icing on the domestic bullshit cake, and I just couldn't handle it anymore.  Driving past the high school on our street, a wave of melancholy and panic washed over me as I thought about the conversations we have been having about impending procreation attempts, and I moaned out load to Will "how do people do all of this crap with kids?"  My mind wandered over the Atlantic and all the way back to my dorm room off Studenchenskya, my sore body physically yearning for the stiffness of the board-and-pad-mattress-substitute in my Moscow bed and my brain aching for the lack of structure that allowed for chore free days of museums, day trips and sight filled meandering through the streets of Siberian towns. I feel asleep thinking of my roommate Tima, how much fun we had staying up until 4am all too frequently, contemplating the meaning of life and the antics of our neighbors, waking up in the morning and immediately picking up the conversation while goofing around trying to dry hair, apply make-up, and make beds in a 10'X16' room shared by three women.  

I miss my friends in Moscow more than I can say, and yes, I miss the wide open days sometimes too.  I write this sitting surrounded by work to-do lists, wilting flowers that need to be replaced on a trip to Trader Joe's, stacks of books for my course I am taking this summer, unopened mail, under-attended-to Russian language homework, the prescription I picked up yesterday, and dry cleaning that needs to be dropped off.  The dishwasher needs to be run, the laundry needs to be put away, and my hair is still piled on top of my head tucked under a towel. However, despite the mild chaos, I look past the clutter and see the dozen or so birthday/Mother's Day/thank you/congratulations cards displayed on our china cabinet, testimonies to milestones celebrated with loved ones, roles well filled, jobs well done.  Pictures taken over 8 years of shared history building a life with my partner line the shelves of bookcases, packed between words and ideas that inspire the professional work we both hold dear.  Our dog snoozes on the sofa we purchased from friends when they welcomed their first baby, a yellow leather reminder of the fact that life will evolve to make room for the new commitments we chose to take on- even ones that will crap in diapers rather than outdoors.

My life at home at the moment is less Carly Rae Jepsen "Call Me Maybe"and more Bon Jovi "Living on a Prayer".  The fun and flash of my time in Moscow was exciting and new, filled with possibilities and absent of obligations.  But it also lacked the sense of accomplishment and drive that accompanies the feeling of success garnered each day as Will and I tenaciously build our careers, our family, our future.  I am so appreciative to him for the gift he gave me by encouraging me to step away from my various to-dos of life at home and leap boldly into the unknown of a semester abroad.  I am even more appreciative to be back in step with my daily life, jam packed as it is.  The laundry and the bills and the conference calls and the term papers and the reimbursement paperwork and the Russian grammar textbook all represent different choices I have made, different obligations I have committed to, different hopes I have for the life I am building.  If the past is any indication, it will be better than beyond anything I can dream up now, despite whatever chaos accompanies it. 

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