Still Here, But In the Moment

Hi. Remember me?

Despite nearly six months of radio silence, I’m still here.

As it turns out, getting married, moving a week later, unpacking, frantically planning a second wedding, trying to keep up with a chaotic work schedule, and 10 consecutive weekends of summer plans are enough to completely shut down my writing muses. Hell, it’s enough to shut down everything. My morning writing habit dropped off the routine in April. We finally managed to unpack the last box a month ago, but our decorations and miscellany are shoved away in empty drawers and any spare inch of closet space we can find, because there’s no time to decorate or organize our house right now.

That musical is still waiting.

All those story ideas that I’ve scribbled in my journal are fading from my memory.

And as I sat down to compose this post, my husband looked over my shoulder and said, “Oh, you still update that blog?” Yeah. We’ve been busy.

More often than not, I’m frantically bouncing between a dozen different things. At any point in my day, I’m completing a work task, pinging V. about dinner plans or a smattering of random wedding details—what color should the suits be? when can we Skype with the officiant? how much should we spend on flowers?—while also trying to find time to keep up with normal life tasks.

I’m excited about our wedding. I am more than thrilled to see so many dear friends and family from all corners of the country. Having a wedding is wonderful and exciting and such a great privilege. But planning a wedding sucks. (Hey, no one said I had to like this stuff.) It’s death by a thousand inane decisions, and each decision only produces a thousand more. What color will everyone wear? And should the dresses be long or short? What color shoes should the ladies wear? Are the men wearing suits or tuxes? And how do we guarantee that everyone gets the same shade of red or grey? Make a decision on what time you want to start the ceremony, and you have to decide if you’ll do pictures before or afterward. But wait—the wedding package only includes a 4 hour ceremony so do we want to lengthen it by an hour? How will people get home? And speaking of that, how should people get there?

I can barely decide what color shirt to put on in the morning, much less plan a huge event with hundreds of moving parts. More than anything, I want the wedding to honor my relationship with V., and I want people to have a good time. Can someone just tell me what to do to make that happen? *

* This is a rhetorical question, for the record. Thankfully, we’ve mostly figured it out by this point. 

With so much going on, my creativity meter has been at zero lately. Five months of craziness has left me mentally exhausted. Nearly-thirty-one-year-old, out-of-my-mind-with-work-and-wedding-decisions me curses twenty-five-year-old-too-lazy-to-write-Peace-Corps-volunteer me. When I had copious amounts of time, and an exotic world at my fingertips, I did absolutely no writing. Instead, I pissed it away on reruns of the L Word and hours of internet surfing. (When you live in a country where you’re paying by the hour to use the internet or using someone’s rare in-home wifi, that’s a pretty astounding feat.)

Normally, I would shame myself relentlessly for not writing during my every spare moment. I’ve been working towards a daily writing habit since graduate school, and I have to admit that I’ve never fully mastered it. When I succumb to laziness or exhaustion, I berate myself, which, naturally, leads to more of the behavior I’m trying to avoid. A riveting TV show or a nap are a great way to shut your mind up when all it wants to do is guilt you. But, no more. Writing is important to me, but no one will die if I don’t do it, and I refuse to look back with regret and guilt on this time of exciting transformations. Years from now, when I recall setting up my first home with my new husband, do I want to remember being riddled with anxiety because I couldn’t squeeze in writing between unpacking, wedding planning, and work? Or do I want to remember the simple joy of finally merging our lives, the pure elation I felt at setting up a shared space and officially starting our married lives together? For now, I choose to live in the moment. So, I have a different plan.

I’ve always thought that part of being a successful writer is having the brain space to let ideas percolate. But with no time or energy for brain space, I’ve decided to take on other creative endeavors, as a means to inch myself ever closer to the creative world I want to live in.  One of my favorite quotes on creativity comes from Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ve quoted her here before, but the words are wise, so one more time won’t hurt.

Whatever else happens, stay busy. Find something to do—anything, even a different sort of creative work altogether—just to take your mind off your anxiety and pressure…. In other words: If you can’t do what you long to do, go do something else.

Go walk the dog, go pick up every bit of trash on the street outside your home, go walk the dog again, go bake a peach cobbler, go paint some pebbles with brightly colored nail polish and put them in a pile. You might think it’s procrastination, but—with the right intention—it isn’t; it’s motion. And any motion whatsoever beats inertia, because inspiration will always be drawn to motion.

So wave your arms around. Make something. Do something. Do anything.

Call attention to yourself with some sort of creative action and—most of all—trust that if you make enough of a glorious commotion, eventually inspiration will find its way home to you again.

Most of me wants to do nothing but lay on the couch these days, but I’m making an effort at making a glorious commotion, even at work. This week, I went to a two-day, work-sponsored Illustrator training to learn how to make computer graphics. By hand, I can barely draw stick people, but few things give me more pleasure than creating a visually appealing infographic or instructional video. I even managed to impress myself with a few of my creations! I created a very spiffy replica of the Salesforce logo, and I even managed to freehand a donut graphic!

 

Kim Donut
Admittedly, it looks like it was done in MS Paint, but not bad for a first attempt!

I’ve also taken up cross stitching; I already have over 50 patterns saved on Etsy and a list of potential gifts for family and friends.

 

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My first cross stitching project
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It doesn’t look like much now, but just you wait….

And fancy hand lettering and doodles have made their way into my journal. Calligraphy classes are also on the horizon.

These are small things, but the effect is big. I feel like I’m slowly growing closer to my creative self. At this point, any creativity is a much needed break from the pull and grind of daily life.
Soon, very soon, I’ll be back to my writing routine. As always, I’ve got big plans. Until then, I’m living life from one moment to the next, no regrets.

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The Wonderful Surprise of Turning 30

When my father turned 30, or so the story goes, he moped around the house the whole day. He was not happy about turning 30; in his mind, he hadn’t accomplished enough to be happy about this milestone. In the meantime, my mother was desperately trying to get him out of the house. She had planned a surprise party for him at another location, and his moping was preventing him from unknowingly attending his own birthday party. In the end, they went out. My dad was surprised, and everyone had a great time. “It was a waste of my day,” my dad later said of his moping. I’d always said that 30 would be a difficult birthday for me, but when I heard this story years ago, I determined that I would greet 30 with open arms and a huge smile.

When I finally turned 30 last month, it was surprisingly effortless to be happy. To be honest, I was ready to move into a new decade of my life. My 20’s were characterized by all that stereotypical, young angst—about who I was and who I wanted to be, what I wanted to do and which direction to go in. After a decade of wrestling with those doubts, I was more than happy to leave my 20’s in the past.

But my 30th year on this planet is off to a great start for a whole host of other reasons as well. Five days before my birthday, V. proposed to me! It was a hectic day in the middle of another feverish work week as I prepared for my first big user conference with my new team. When I came home, I expected nothing other than a relaxed crockpot dinner and an evening of TV. Instead, I found a trail of peppermint patties leading to a beautiful ring and an even more beautiful proposal. I was completely surprised and breathlessly, joyously said yes.

The days leading up to my birthday were spent breaking the news to dear friends and family and family-to-be. Messages of love and congratulations poured in from every direction. Then, two days after our engagement, V’s parents arrived from India, and thus began the whirlwind of merging families and lives. Given that we had only spoken over the phone a handful of times (and even then, never for longer than a few minutes), I was nervous to meet V’s parents. But less than 4 hours after meeting me, his mom cupped my face in both of her hands and asked me to come visit them every day. Spending three weeks with them was nothing but a pleasure. They instantly loved and accepted me in a way that I never expected, and I cherished getting to know them every day over the next three weeks.

Days after his parents arrived, V. surprised me again, this time with a small birthday party. After yet another long work day, I came home to find my closest friends huddled in the dark with V. and his family, all happily yelling their birthday wishes when I walked into the room. V’s mom made us a giant, delicious Indian meal, and afterwards we dug into a box of cupcakes from my favorite bakery.

In the weeks following, friends and family came in from all parts of the country to catch up with V’s parents and squeeze us in warm, congratulatory hugs. Everyone was overjoyed that we were overjoyed. We ate, talked, and laughed, and I watched with deep contentment as V shined, completely in his element with his close friends and family.

Then came the big event: the parental meeting. Three weeks after our engagement, my parents came from Southern Illinois and our two families spent the weekend getting to know each other and, of course, discussing wedding plans. In between talks of multiple weddings, bridal parties and guest lists, astrologers and holy wedding dates (Hindu wedding customs), we also discussed our family values, histories, and beliefs. Our moms told stories of our childhoods, and our dads discussed family and religious traditions. I saw cultures and lives merging over our love for one another and felt a deep and encompassing gratitude.

For the entire month of October (and still now, really) I floated on the clouds of the newly engaged, dreaming of all good things to come. I knew that being engaged would be wonderful. What I didn’t know is that it brings forth an effusive love from those nearest and dearest to you, the type of love that envelopes you in pure happiness and, for a brief moment in time, completely removes you from the troubles of the world. It’s the type of love that suddenly makes you aware of the gentle, constant love that your friends and family feel for you daily, the same one they use to prop you up in your tough times and multiply your happiness in the good.

Planning my life with V. has broken me out of the deep, residual funk resulting from a tough job and a relentlessly hard year. Getting engaged stopped my world for a minute, giving me the opportunity to reflect on the state of my life and all the loved ones who’ve gotten me here. All the opportunities and crazy coincidences and lucky breaks that have led me to this moment. I’ve always known how lucky I am, but my eyes have been completely opened to just how fortunate I am to have two loving families and a multitude of wonderful friends near and far.

The most fantastic part is that if you had asked me at 20 what my life would look like now, I could never have predicted this for myself. I could never have told you that I would spend two years broadening my mind in graduate school, or that I would live in Ecuador for two years. That I would learn to speak Spanish and learn to work, live, and make friends in a culture entirely different from my own. I could never have told you that I would eventually move to the big city, something I once thought I’d be way too scared to do. And, most of all, I could never have told you that I’d be marrying an Indian man, planning two weddings, including a Hindu ceremony, and preparing for a trip to India with my family later this year. If there’s anything I feel more than an immense and powerful love, it is a deep and profound gratitude. All I can think lately is that I’m so grateful for parents who raised me to challenge my fears, to be open minded and kind, to respect other cultures, and to have a sense of self confidence. I’m grateful for V’s parents, who raised my kind, gentle, thoughtful, funny, selfless, smart, and downright fun other half. I’m grateful for my Peace Corps service, which taught me how to fully appreciate other cultures and step out of my comfort zone. And I’m grateful for myself, for waiting for someone who is worthy of the love I have to give.

Life doesn’t always go as planned, but I’m very thankful that mine has gone this way. As I always tell V., life is too short. And if there’s anything I know now, it’s that life is too short to be anything but grateful, happy, and taking on my next adventure with the one that I love. To the next 30 years!