It’s been a while

So much has happened.

I have a new job. It’s a new role on a new team in a new organization at the same company – but in a company as big as Google, that kind of change can be significant, and in this case it is. And I’d been on Maps for nearly eight years.

The house is finally coming along. I am optimistic that one of these days, there may not be painters’ tape on the living room walls and the coat rack that should live in the entryway will no longer loom over the breakfast table in the kitchen and the stone that’s in the garage waiting to be power-washed and then installed around the fireplace may be, you know, power-washed and installed around the fireplace.

I’m still working out. Three times a week, consistently, since late December – thank you Agile PT for running online classes I actually show up to. I think this is the strongest I’ve been in maybe 10 years.

The weather’s changed! I’m two or three sunburns in (and soon I will start wearing sunblock more consistently). Yesterday the temperature felt like early summer: noticeably over eighty degrees (26+ C for anyone reading this not from the US) and after work, after weeding one of the vegetable beds & resetting a handful of drip irrigation lines, I lounged on the patio with a glass of wine until dark. Which wasn’t until 8 pm or so. Delight! (Thank you Ross Gay for that phrasing.)

In the garden, the bindweed is going crazy and I need to get the summer seeds in: zucchini, tomatoes (always an experiment, since I direct-seed them; I have two transplants in already just in case), sweet corn, beans… maybe today, after work again.

I’ve had my first vaccine shot, and the second one is scheduled and coming up soon. I’ve marked ‘maybe’ time off from work on my calendar, so I won’t have to reschedule meetings and can just rest if I have side effects. I’m grateful to work on a team where taking time off if you feel rotten from the vaccine is expected & normal & not controversial or even weird.

I’ve been dreaming again, too. I don’t mean dreaming in a big metaphorical ‘what do I want to do with my life’ kind of sense. I mean literal dreams, vivid ones, where I wake up still able to smell the Japanese barbecue or feel the old brick under my fingers or with my gaze tilted back to see the top of a skyscraper in a far-away city. I think I’m (finally) missing travel, but more than that, I think the past eighteen-plus months of adrenaline spikes and floods, caused more by a job that was a bad fit than by the pandemic, are finally receding from my body, leaving in their wake the underlying, no-longer-so-drowned-over landscape of who I’ve always been.

It’s getting better.

Up close: plants around the neighborhood

A week or two ago, it occurred to me that one way to improve my plant photography would be to, gasp, practice. I’m fortunate to live in an area where neighborhood walks yield a wealth of lovely things to look at, so recently I spent an afternoon wandering about and photographing plants I don’t currently have in my garden, but admire when I see them out and about.

After no doubt puzzling several passersby as I took one photo, then another, then squinted down at my phone screen attempting to check focus and select a reasonable zoom or crop, here are a few of the results. Plants to grow myself another year, perhaps!

Euphorbia (I think)
Pepper tree, with berries (are these the edible kind of pepper? I don’t know)
No idea, but isn’t it lovely? Some kind of succulent.
Plum or cherry blossom.
Another no-idea. The blossoms are just incredibly tiny and delicate.

I’m reasonably happy with these. Once I accepted that post-photo-taking editing was not a thing I’d do, and so whatever I could achieve in the moment was what I would end up with, I started looking at things more closely. I also discarded a lot of photos. It was interesting – I don’t think photography is ever going to become an in-depth hobby for me, but the attention spent on this felt entirely worthwhile.

Get Your Sh*t Together: A (Very Rambling) Book Review

Warning: there is benign & perhaps humorous swearing in this post. Also, this post is not about gardening.

Sometime after the Marie Kondo craze began and everyone started eyeing their socks and asking if those socks sparked joy, I encountered Sarah Knight’s The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck. I read it. I thought it was hilarious, and also incredibly on-target. It wasn’t so much making fun of Kondo’s book, as turning it into a metaphor for gently, thoughtfully, and with much profanity letting go of the elements of one’s life about which one did not, in all sincerity, give a f*ck. I considered which of my friends should receive this book as a present. I tried to read bits of it aloud to my husband, but was hampered in this by laughing too hard to speak coherently.

This brings us to 2020. 2020 has been a year when it seems impossible not to give, to borrow a phrase, way too many f*cks. 2020 has been a year that vastly overspent far too many people’s f*ck budget, including mine. Early December, and I at least cannot remember the last time I felt this exhausted.

A couple of weeks ago, I was eyeing my bookcase, looking for something suitably lightweight. Did I have any humorous graphic novels I hadn’t read? No – but I did have Knight’s second book, Get Your Sh*t Together, and it caught my eye. I took it off the shelf. I read it mostly sitting in the backyard under a tree, moving the chair around as needed to catch the sun. And once again, I kept trying to read bits of it to my husband, but found myself laughing too hard to be able to get all the way through a sentence.

Partly Knight’s writing is just funny. Partly she’s about my age, and so her jokes referencing cultural miscellanea from earlier decades just make sense to me (also the one about remodeling a house, which ends with: “buy a throw pillow. Throw it at your contractor.”). And partly –

Partly she’s right.

I’m overwhelmed. I’m tired. But the stupid thing is, I’m tired based on dilemmas and problems of my own d*mn making. Is my to-do list too long? Fine. I am a grown-up. Either I can make a plan to do the things on the list, or I can decide they don’t need doing. Use a must-do list for the things that have to be done today. Do just those things, and then move the f*ck on.

The profanity helps.

All of this is a long way of saying: the book is funny. If you’re in your early forties and you share at least some of the author’s cultural context, it might be extra funny – but I suspect it’s funny either way.

On top of that – and this is the part I hadn’t quite expected, but I live in hope and in this case it actually paid off – the book is also useful. I found myself staring at my to-do list earlier today, muttering “strategize, focus, commit.” Then I made a list of things to do, and then I did them.

And then I was done, and I stopped working for the day, and went and ate an ice cream bar.

Also known as, and for the last phrase-borrowing of this post, winning.

I recommend the book.