Monday, May 24, 2010

Matched by Incompatibility


The other night, The Brooklyn Baby Daddy and I were watching America: The History of Us on the History Channel (which we HIGHLY recommend, even though, as Dave has noted, I'm unhappy with how infrequently women's stories are told). We saw one of those heart-warming, deliciously optimistic commercials for E-Harmony, the sight that matches people on different components of compatibility.

We've known people who've met their spouse through this site - lovely couples for whom we couldn't be happier. But it made me wonder, where would I be today if I'd met someone with whom I'm almost completely compatible?

Don't get me wrong - Dave and I are good together. But I'm not sure, especially in the beginning, you would have considered us "compatible."

Dave grew up in a Jewish family in New Jersey - basically a suburb of NYC.

I grew up in a Southern Baptist family in a town of 1,000 people in Kentucky.

Dave tends to be very laid back about life, realizing that should a disaster happen, there's probably not much he can do to stop it, so it isn't worth worrying about.

I obsess over my loved ones, demanding phone calls upon the landing of an airplane, freaking out if a person is 30 minutes late to meet me, tossing and turning in the middle of the night from fear that a meteor will blast right into Stella's room.

Dave cherishes his time alone, and has been known to sit and read for days on end, taking breaks only to use the restroom, snack and sleep.

I get ancy if I spend too much time alone, and want to chat almost constantly.

I could go on, but fear not - I won't.

For the eight plus years I've known Dave and the almost five that we've been wed, we've challenged each other, struggled against each other, fought with each other, and made up with each other. We've considered calling it quits, called each other names, gone to counseling, pretended nothing was wrong.

But somehow, maybe miraculously, we've made it to now. A time that isn't perfect, but a time that is (mostly) peaceful. A time that isn't devoid of work, but a time that is filled with love and joy.

And, perhaps best of all, we're both better people because of it.

If I'd met someone more like me, perhaps I would have delved deeper into my binge eating, getting to a weight that is unhealthy and dangerous, rather than recognizing when I'm full and making myself stop. If I'd met someone like me, maybe I would have gotten a bit out of control with my negativity and paranoia, rather than realizing people act out of their own situations 99% of their time, and not as a reaction to me. If I'd met someone like me, maybe I would have continued to have more and more angry outbursts, rather than learning to accept responsibility for my actions and speak to people respectfully, even when angry.

I needed a lot of work. I needed to be challenged, not allowed to go along as normal. Because, sadly, I was not normal.

But my evolution as a human wasn't complete with Dave. I had other things to learn -- things like life doesn't always follow my schedule, no matter how far in advance I planned things out. Things like I can't control others' actions, no matter how prepared and sweet and persuasive I am. Things like I can't be perfect - even, in any circumstance - no matter how hard I try.

These are the things that Stella taught me, just by being special little Stella. Spunky little Stella, with her own ways of doing things and her own brand of adorable that tempt you to give into her every whim. Are my daughter and I completely compatible? Probably not - and I'm grateful for it.

And last, but certainly not least, nobody would call New York City the most compatible city for someone like me. I get incredibly claustrophobic in crowds; New York City squeezes 8 million people on its cramped shores. I adore nature - rolling hills, streams, animals; despite its great parks, New York City remains mainly a landscape of steel and bricks. I am open and friendly and thrive on people who are the same; NYC is known for its rudeness - people who are too busy or jaded or pissed off to smile or say thank you. I love to live among order and beauty and convenience; my apartments have all been tiny and dingy and filled with complications (like a laundromat that's half a mile away).

But I'm so grateful I moved here nearly twelve years ago. There's a lot I needed to learn, and I think only a place as extreme and distinct as New York could have taught it to me.

I've learned to be much less naive and much more savvy. I've learned self-preservation and defense. I've learned to be assertive and unashamed to get what I want. I've learned to express my displeasure unabashedly, without worry that someone "won't like me." I've learned to do many things on my own: install an air conditioner, get a lease, get a job, go anywhere on the subway, audition for plays, talk to celebrities, haggle with salespeople. I've learned not to allow myself to be a victim.

And although I remain excited about and dedicated to our move, I am so happy that I followed my ex-boyfriend's advice and moved New York City all those years ago. I don't know if I made it here, but I do kind of feel like I can make it anywhere.

What He Said

This wonderful blog entry by my husband, Dave Serchuk, is a must read (in my humble and completely unbiased opinion) for all expectant parents, new parents, experienced parents, people who might be parents one day, and people who enjoy back-seat-parenting others' children. I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

NYC Bucket List

Louisville is definitely our future. The ball is rolling now and can't be stopped.

That's not to say that it's all neatly wrapped up and topped with a lovely bow. The list of things we still need to do include:
  1. Subletting our current apartment
  2. Securing our Louisville apartment (for which I put down a $250 deposit, let me repeat -- $250 deposit - not $1700 deposit plus first and last month's rent, plus our passports and parents' home addresses in case things get out of hand)
  3. ACTUALLY GETTING MY TEACHING JOB, which I'll need to land the apartment and pay for food for our daughter
  4. Hiring movers that aren't so expensive as to completely negate the cheaper aspects of moving to Louisville
But we're getting really excited. Just chatting with my sister on the phone yesterday, we discussed how nice it will be to visit with each other in a casual, laid-back way, not constantly thinking "I only have one more day left with them," feeling the need to suck the marrow out of each and every moment. In twelve years, I haven't been able to just hang out with my family without feeling the melancholy that comes with knowing I'll be leaving them in a short while.

And I'm also so excited to try a new city. As huge as New York City is, I feel like I know it like the back of my hand, and I want something new. Perhaps it sounds odd that moving back to my home state will be new for me, but I don't really know Louisville all that well. I lived about an hour away, in a town of 1,000 people, and Louisville was our exotic big city. Just like many suburban New Jerseyans only know the areas of Manhattan that are easy to travel to, I only know a few parts of the 'Ville. I'm excited to get to know the rest.

Of course leaving New York after living here for 12 years remains a conflicted thing for me. I had a dream the other night that I was already in Kentucky, and I realized I'd forgotten to do some New York-y things before I left. I'm leaving out the more decidedly Dali-esque parts of the dream you don't need to know about, but rest assured: that is the gist of it.

So, this prompted me to make my NYC Bucket List. I have to work to keep it abbreviated, as we don't have a ton of time, and I can't take Stella along to all of these, but I really do want to try to do them all before July arrives. Here goes:
  1. Go see the Mets play at CitiField. I love the Mets (and I look forward to eating Shake Shack food, as well).
  2. Go back to the Bronx Zoo and see the lion cubs.
  3. Go to Coney Island and the Aquarium.
  4. Go (on my own) to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and pay homage to one of my favorite hangouts when I first moved here. How I love that museum.
  5. Visit my old pals, the dinosaurs, at the American Museum of Natural History. (Stella will come along for that trip.)
  6. Perform in the Moth Storytelling Slam one more time.
  7. Walk around all my old neighborhoods: the East Village, the West Village, Hell's Kitchen - revisiting my old shops and parks and cafes - such as Cafe Dante off Washington Square Park, where I wrote my play, A Counterfeit Straight. (Yes, I wrote a play in a cafe, drinking lattes and munching on cannoli. I really went for the stereotype of the small-town-girl in the big city there.)
  8. Go back to Central Park and revisit the big sights - Alice in Wonderland, the Zoo, the reservoir.
  9. Have a real beach day - probably one of the Long Island beaches.
  10. Hang out with as many of my wonderful New York friends as I can before the big day.
  11. Eat my favorite NYC food. That's an entire list in and of itself.
Making lists soothes me, and if I can complete this one, I'll feel even more happy about our move. The problem is, I keep thinking of things to add to it, and there just isn't time for everything. Oh well. I guess we'll have to come back and visit a lot. Darn.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cold Feet, Warm Heart

I haven't experienced a roller coaster of emotions like this since I was going through puberty at the same time that my mom was entering menopause.

I just went through a mini-depression about leaving NYC. Yes, me. The one who's been belly-aching about how much she hates schlepping a stroller up and down subway stairs, the one who bitches about the sour disposition of shop-keeps, the one who would sell her kidney for a parking space so she can run to the grocery store without carrying bags of veggies three blocks to get home.

This is how I roll. I make decisions pretty quickly and easily. I'm the opposite of the Brooklyn Baby Daddy who can take a week to decide what flavor ice cream he'd like to eat. The guy who agonizes over decisions and makes pros and cons lists about the pros and cons lists he's made. The one who can drive me crazy because once he's suggested the possibility of Thai food for dinner, once I've convinced myself that I'm dying for Panang curry with tofu and vegetable spring rolls, he changes his mind and says he just wants a bowl of cereal.

But there is something to be said about Dave's method. He takes a while, he agonizes, but once he's committed to a decision - he's done. Me? I commit. Then I change my mind. Then I change it back. I cry, I moan, I worry.

I could really learn something from my husband.

So, for the past few weeks, I've tossed and turned at night, worried that I'm dragging my entire family away from something wonderful. I've sighed at the Statue of Liberty as we drive across the Brooklyn Bridge. I've looked at Time Out For Kids, marveling at the fact that we could visit any number of museums or zoos or beaches on any given day, just by hopping on the subway. I've watched Stella playing with kids of all imaginable races, religions, and ethnicities on the playground, worried that I'll be robbing her of the diversity I sought by moving here in the first place.

In short, I've been a hypocritical bummer.

But the other day it dawned on me that I've done this before, and that my gut instinct has always been right. I made the decision to move to NYC quickly and easily, then agonized over it after I'd already bought my plane ticket and arranged job interviews for myself. I decided to become a teacher, seemingly on a whim, then worried that I was going to hate it as well as screw up a whole generation of kids. I couldn't wait to get pregnant, and then once I was, I twisted myself up with worry, afraid that I would be a terrible, unstable mother.

Thank goodness I stuck with my initial instincts, because they led me to this wonderful place.

So, now I'm back where I need to be. My amazing brother and his wonderful wife are going to look at apartments and houses for us this weekend in Louisville, and sometimes I have to pinch myself because for about half of what we pay now (which is already a cheap rent for NYC), we'll be living in either house with a yard or a spacious apartment in a complex with a pool and gym. I think about how easy it will be to run errands (parking spots abound)! I think about how it's looking promising that I'll get hired at a struggling rural school on the outskirts of Louisville that has a new principal who wants to turn it around - totally my career dream.

And, most of all, I keep thinking about how we can pile in the car and go see my mom, my sister and her family, my brother and his wife, friends of mine from college and high school that I've rarely seen in twelve years. I think about how we are about to become part of a village, no longer a lone nuclear family in the middle of an enormous city.

We are about to embark on an entirely new journey as a family, and I'm just brimming with excitement. I'm fully, all-the-way committed, no more cold feet.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Time Travel

In that time between waking and sleeping, strange things happen. Especially to me.

Last night, for example, I shot up in bed and proclaimed to the Brooklyn Baby Daddy that Cromwell, our cat, was glowing red with spots. As we both scrutinized Cromwell by the light of the moon, I realized that I was just dreaming/imagining it, and promptly drifted off to sleep, leaving Dave a bit dazed, to say the least.

Possibly even stranger than that, I sometimes forget where I am while in that state and assume that I'm back in my childhood bed in Kentucky, still a kid or preteen or teenager. This happened to me a few nights ago and again I shot up, panicking and scared.

Now is when this post gets a bit sci-fy, a bit Freaky Friday on you. So please, bear with me.

When I was around 16, I experienced one of the most traumatic years of my life. It's not exclusively my dirty laundry to air, but there was domestic trouble involved, a lot of yelling and instability, financial worries and a general sense of unhappiness and unease on the home front. Added to my already toiling hormones, this was not good. I gained weight (my standard response to stress, as evidenced by my current pot-belly), experienced a depression that made me look like a Cymbalta commercial, and even sort-of, kind-of, half-assedly (thank God) attempted suicide. (A stunt that landed me in the "guidance counselor's" office - the misogynist coach who needed more desk time to validate his job and told me that I'd make some man very happy one day, so I should just go ahead and live.)

I was desperately lonely, but only allowed myself to pursue romantic attractions to boys/men who were totally unavailable: my closeted gay best friend, the mopey drummer in the grunge garage band who barely noticed me, Keanu Reeves, and the like. I told myself that I was unlovable - too fat, too emotional, too bizarre to have a boyfriend. I figured that love was something I'd get later in life - when I'd lost the weight, moved away from the craziness, and "found" myself.

In the meanwhile, I'd lie in bed and pretend (this is about to get incredibly nerdy) that I could travel into the future - just for a day, and live 24 hours in my future self's skin. I'd imagine waking up in a fluffy white bed, rolling over to face an incredibly rugged and handsome man, snoozing blissfully. I'd look down at my body, marveling at my svelte belly and flawlessly tan skin. I'd look around the room, taking in its understated, elegant, cigarette-smoke-free luxury. Then my future husband, Paul or Raoul or Xavier (or even, sometimes, David) would roll over and do things to me that I'd only ever imagined or witnessed in R-rated movies at that time. Later, we'd have a delicious breakfast with our adorable kid(s) before going off to our amazing jobs (he did something incredibly lucrative and I was a Broadway actress).

I'm ashamed to tell you how many times I resorted to this fantasy as an escape from my life.

So, the other night as I drifted off, I had this uncanny feeling that I was being pulled back to the past, that 16 year old Randi was finally succeeding in trading places with her future self. And, as nuts as this may sound, for a moment I felt that I should just go, and let her experience my current life.

She might be a bit surprised. We do not live in the lap of luxury. I am not thin, nor an actress, nor do I have an easy, stress-free life. But all my dreams came true.

I'm in love with my husband, and he's good to me. We fight, like normal couples, but we've learned (and continue to learn) how to do so effectively and respectfully. We provide for ourselves and our family with no problem, even if we aren't rich. We have the most wonderful child we could have hoped for, and our lives our filled with love and happiness.

Past Randi would be relieved, overjoyed to be in my place. She probably wouldn't want to return.

And that's the thought that occurred to me before I drifted off, a shattering fear that if I did travel back and exchange places with my former self, that I wouldn't be able to get back here. That I'd be stuck there for another 18 years, waiting to get back to the life I so treasure right now.

And that's what I need to keep in mind on days when Stella won't stop fussing from the pain of teething, when the kids at my school are loud and unruly, when Dave and I argue over who should do the dishes, when I feel stress creep on me because Kentucky has not yet presented a job for me. This life may not be perfect, but it's all I hoped for, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.