Living the Back Up Plan First

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image via 

Have any of you watched The OA yet on Netflix?  I don’t watch a ton of TV, but a few weeks ago I had a night to myself and started it on a whim.  I got hooked.  And when I like something, I can’t just like it.  I have to obsessively Google the back story and learn about the people behind the projects, and I go down an internet rabbit hole of short lived obsession.  Totally normal, right?

Before watching this show, I had never heard of Brit Marling.  What interested me was that she not only stars in the series, but was one of the creators of the show.  So here’s a woman who had a story to tell, and made it happen in a very big way.  I love that!   What’s more – I came across this video  interview with her, where she discusses leaving her cushy corporate gig at Goldman Sachs to pursue her passion.

Sounded quite a bit like my own story (litigation paralegal turned interior designer).  When I get into a comparison hole and wonder why I’m not further ahead on my current path, I need to just remind myself that I did it backwards.  And dreams take a long time to pin down into specifics, so it’s not such a bad deal that I’m still working it all out.  The fact that I am is what matters.


Do any of you have a back up plan?  Or a dream you are saving for later on down the road?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

To China

My little baby brother, only 20 years old, is moving to China today.  How exciting!  How brave!

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Photo by the oh-so-talented Anna Sodziak.

He is, like my sister and me, an artistic soul, quiet (at first), contemplative, and a big dreamer.  He, like me, decided New York was not all it’s cracked up to be, and decided to take a break.  When I did that, I decided to move to Chicago, and I’m still here 11 years later.  When he decided, it took him all the way to the other side of the planet.

I have always wanted to live abroad but just never made the space in my life to do so.  I get very comfortable and like to be caught up in routines.  They make me feel secure and stable.  I’m a 50/50 split between a city girl and a homebody.  (Like those New Yorkers who never leave Manhattan, but not quite so drastic.)   I have to admit I’m a teeny bit jealous of his big adventure – all the things he’ll get to see in Beijing, and all of the tasty food he’s going to eat.  I know I’d be doing dumplings and Dim Sum all day every day!

I talked to my parents who were a bit tearful and sad, as to be expected.  They are officially empty nesters now.  I’ll have to go home more and bug them.  But we are all wishing David the very best of luck on his trip.  That he can find his way in a world where he doesn’t yet know the language, won’t know his way around, and will have to point to the things (he thinks) he wants on a menu.

This is a year for big change.  I knew it, I could feel it, I willed that it MUST BE.  As 2016 was drawing to a close, I asked the universe to please let us keep going, not allow us to blow up in a terrible disaster so that we could keep living happy and productive lives as best as we could.  So far, we’ve been very fortunate to not have every single one of our rights and expectations for life taken away from us, but that may still be coming.  For some of us, that may come sooner rather than later.  In the mean time, we have to focus on what we can still do, and what’s still out there for the taking.

Like China.

CHINA!!!

Something about Stillness 

When my nails are wet I struggle to find the patience to sit still long enough for them to dry.  Suddenly things involving my hands are very important, like adjusting the waist band of my pants to hold in my fupa, or rearranging the contents of the refrigerator so I don’t forget to eat something before it goes bad the next day.  There is always one finger that I have to paint over and over again, despite my greatest efforts to only grab things with the palms of my hands, fingers stretched out straight.  I just can’t sit still.

When I lie in bed at night, I wriggle and fidget and scratch.  Some nights are worse than others, and I am overcome by an all over itch.  It pricks me in one spot, and then another.  Scratching to satisfy the itch only sends it somewhere else. Lower legs, middle back, left eyebrow, back of the head.  It’s as if my brain is playing Simon with my body, lighting up the spots for me to get to next.  Some nights are worse than others, and I know I am in for a long battle before sleep finally comes.

What is this restlessness?  Is it possible that my mind cannot find stillness and my body therefore suffers?  Lately I have started using an app on my phone to guide me into sleep.  I’ve never really spent much time meditating before, and the silly feeling creeps in that I might be doing something wrong.  Growing up I had the same question about prayer.  How did people know what to do?  What to say?  It was not a thing I was taught to do, or that was expected of me, and so I never developed it as a habit or a practice.

But practice is what they call it when you meditate.  I am practicing the quieting of my mind.  I am practicing the strengthening of the link between my mind and body.  “Shut up” I say.  I know that’s not the greatest mantra, but it’s all I can think of, and like with prayer, I never learned how to do this.  I know when I practice yoga, I feel it.  With movement and breath I feel it.  But something about stillness prevents me from finding peace. My mind becomes defiant, battling the quiet with obsessive and circular thoughts; my brain sends signals to my body that cause me to tear at my own skin with my nails until it hurts.  To the point where I find myself at 9 pm, 10 pm, 11 pm looking for something else to do to avoid the painful struggle that is falling asleep.

Maybe I should work out more.  Physical exhaustion to slow down the mind.  Maybe I need to get back on the wagon of eating clean again.  Maybe I should cool it with the self help and career advice books that do more harm than good.  I am constantly stressed that I’m not happy enough, I’m not hustling enough, I’m not picky enough about how I use my time.  Depending on where I look, I can find a reason why I am not enough, and it is wearing me down to the point where I can’t stop thinking about it and can’t sleep.  I need to figure out how to rid myself of the tendency to overthink literally everything.  But maybe I won’t try too too hard to figure it out.  Maybe that’s the ticket.

2017 Goals

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Image via Drew Ellis, found on Pinterest, obvi.

We’re fast approaching the end of 2016 (phew!), and now is the time that many of us are making resolutions for next year.  Somehow it seems more important and serious this time around, as if suddenly a switch has been flipped inside of me, and I now understand the consequences of inaction.

Most of my goals for next year focus on financial stability and growth.  I want to pay off my credit cards, and make room to start saving towards our goal of buying a home.   Of course, I want to make sure I’m working enough to afford to do all of that.  If possible, I would love it if the work was rewarding and fun, but I won’t get ahead of myself here…

Aside from that I’m trying to prioritize my efforts so that they fit into the following three categories.  I’m going for improvement, not perfection, with happiness as the main goal. Continue reading “2017 Goals”

Grinchy ’16

I know it’s Christmas, but I just have to come out and say that I’m just not feeling it this year.  I kept waiting for the spirit of the season to hit me, but it just never came.  To be 100% honest, I’ve been a total freak lately.

Well, I should say lately as in, after we returned from our official honeymoon trip to Mexico.  After spending a glorious week actually relaxing on the beach in the sunshine, it’s hard to come back to Chicago’s temperatures (sub-zero when you count wind chill).  It was so important and refreshing to take a break and disconnect from work and emails.  I barely looked at or posted on Instagram, I didn’t give a hoot about what people were putting on Facebook.  I was just happy to BE where I was and experience what I was doing.  We didn’t even take as many photos as we thought we would, but I find that’s always the case when I go on vacation.  I pack up the camera stuff and a notebook, and have to force myself to even just get a page of writing done to justify bringing it along.

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Continue reading “Grinchy ’16”

Dining Room Rug

The other day, we made a quick jaunt out to Ikea (our favorite spontaneous weekend activity), and came back with more than we needed – as usual! Ikea is like Target for me – it doesn’t matter if I only need one thing, somehow I always end up in the check out line with a full cart!  (As AirBNB hosts we always have a need for something, plus MJ loves Swedish Fish..)

My absolute favorite section is the As-Is, where they put discounted merchandise that’s often perfectly good.  I’ve gotten lucky so many times, with so many different kinds of products.  We’ve found complete duvet sets that were previously on display, large picture frames for $4 because they changed the packaging and wanted to get rid of the old ones…. you get the picture.  This time, we came away with a sisal rug that I’d been eyeing!  I wanted to buy it anyway, but at 40% off how could I say no?

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Continue reading “Dining Room Rug”

Thanks for Everything

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2016 has been – and continues to be – a total whirlwind of a year.  My limits of patience and tolerance have been tested.  I’ve had to come up with creative solutions for everything from planning a wedding on a budget to building a business from scratch.  I have had moments where I felt I was failing, where wonderful things seemed too good to be true, and everything in between.  In the spirit of the holiday weekend that is now coming to a close, I’d like to express my gratitude.

To the days that left me feeling worn out, but not quite broken.  To the extraordinary person I get to share my life and home with for being ever supportive and patient.  To my family – old and new, and friends – old and new, for being my amazing network of love and trust.  Despite all the days I felt lost and like I had nothing to stand on, I know what I have is pretty great, and that I’m a lucky girl.

The year isn’t over yet, but still I am so grateful for all of the lessons it has taught me.  Lessons in humility, hard work, perseverance.  Deep wounds have had time to heal, and I know now that any problem I face will someday be a thing of the past.  The best is yet to come.

I hope everyone had a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday!  Now, who’s ready for Monday?

Home Maker

These last few weeks have been a strange mix of emotions.  I yo-yo back and forth between terror, acceptance, denial, anger, disbelief, and so on.  It has been so difficult for me to return to normal after the election and pick back up with a chippy attitude on social media and here on this blog.  It’s almost as if I suddenly feel that the things that used to interest me have lost a bit of value in recent weeks.  What difference am I making in the world by choosing someone else’s furniture for them on Pinterest?  What does my future as a luxury service provider look like if the economy tanks?

I know that is not the way to look at things.  I know that what I do matters – if not to everyone, it matters to the people who I do my work for.  Now more than ever, I think the idea of staying home is appealing to me – and it’s not just the colder temperatures.   And making this home of mine one that I am happy and comfortable in is increasingly important.  I can’t imagine I’m the only one.

For now, I will keep working, and do what I do as best as I am able.  I make my home the one I want to be in.  I help others create the backdrop to the stories of the lives they want to lead.  Whether it’s their first home, a second home, or an update, this is something that will always be important, no matter the state of the world outside.  To be at ease in a safe and comfortable space is a feeling that is sought after again and again.   I have been living in the same apartment for 4 years and constantly rearrange the items on my shelves, moving plants from one room to the next.  Every now and then something crashes to the ground and I start all over again.   My home is more than the rooms I inhabit.  It is a state of being, a reflection of both who I am and who I hope to become.

 

Strong, Independent, Beautiful

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Once you hit the bottom, you can only go up.

When I was in college, we had a system called ROLM Phone.  It was basically the phone system that you could dial directly to anyone’s dorm room – this is back before it was a given that everyone had a cell phone, though most of us did.  Like a hotel phone, you could pick up and punch in your friend’s room number down the hall and it would ring like you put in the whole phone number.   It was extremely easy and convenient.  (So easy, in fact that a local pervert figured out the formula, and called all of the girls in my dorm, one by one down the hall. Those who picked up heard nothing but heavy breathing.)

Anyway, once a week, we’d get voice messages from our college dean about upcoming events on campus to be aware of.  She had the nicest, sweetest voice, and began every message the same way.  “Hello to all of my Strong, Independent, Beautiful Barnard Women… ” and “Good MORNING to all of my Strong, Independent, Beautiful Barnard Women…”  It was a self-image they tried to hammer into us.  As Barnard girls, we actually did face some minor adversity on campus, though most of it were from girls across the street at Columbia, who viewed us as second class citizens.  Many girls went to Barnard because they didn’t get accepted to Columbia College (which has a much larger pool of applicants), but still wanted to be a part of the university system.  Columbia girls made fun of this fact despite it not being true for all of us.  They saw Barnard girls as a threat because we tipped the male to female ratio out of their favor.  Almost all of the Barnard girls I knew thought that the rivalry was stupid, though I recall meeting girls who admittedly only came to college to find a husband, rendering the general angst about us somewhat valid.

I could be remembering all of that totally wrong, but that’s not the point.  The point is that despite how we may have felt, or how others may have wanted us to feel, almost all of the Barnard girls I knew repeated the phrase “strong, independent, beautiful Barnard woman” more often than they probably realized.  It was a joke in a way, but it was our joke.  We said it to each other in moments of joy, congratulation, stress and encouragement.  Yes, it was almost always said in jest, but we still said it.  We didn’t have to believe it for it to be true.

Continue reading “Strong, Independent, Beautiful”

A New Season

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March 2016

Back in early March, I was sitting on my sister’s couch, crying my eyes out in the middle of the night.  Things were horribly, yet inexplicably wrong at my job (my dream job!) and the anxiety of returning to a toxic workplace had ruined the end of my week long vacation in Phoenix.  The feeling crept up on me, until it had totally overwhelmed me and stopped my ability to enjoy a single moment of the day.  Imagine Sunday Anxiety x 1000.

Earlier that day as we wandered through the aisles of a Native American Market, I felt lost and hopeless, touching every stone and asking what they meant.  Where was the thing that would purify my soul?  Where was the thing that could protect me?  I allowed my mom and sister to dawdle at the booths and rushed ahead of them so they would not see that I was crying.  Something in me had cracked and broken, but I did not know what it was.

Continue reading “A New Season”