Here we are, with another month passed. November went by in a flurry of busyness, but with so much going on, October feels like a lifetime ago.
This month, we held a small celebration for my brother’s 40th birthday, hosted a friend from England for a week, survived on liquids for several days while Mark recovered from wisdom teeth removal, spent Thanksgiving with family in Reno (and had the trip extended slightly due to fog), went to our first ever Meetup events, bought & put up Christmas decorations, and spent the last few days out of town (me, visiting a friend in Tulsa, OK and Mark on a business trip to Miami). All dietary routine has been thrown far, far out the window. Sleep patterns have been patchy and inconsistent. Quality couple time has been sparse. It’s been reminiscent of our summer travels and relocation period – lots of fun, but taxing (especially since our life routine in San Diego is still so new and not fully developed).
I am excited for a new month and the resumption of some consistency. Typically in England, December was full of social obligations, work events and travel. This year, however, we have a small (nearly non-existent) local social circle, which means our social activities are limited. With me unemployed, and Mark’s work festivities limited to an in-office pot luck, there are no work parties to dress for (or recover from). And, with my brother and his wife living locally and my parents coming to our house for the holiday, we should be in San Diego all month (a first for me, actually!). Add to that festive holiday décor and seasonal flavored treats (did I mention Candy Cane Kisses are my new favorite thing?), and I am one happy lady!
While my aforementioned whining about #firstworld and #middleclassproblems of too much going on might make me sound ungrateful for the privileged life I lead, I am anything but. Last year, I reflected on what I was thankful for on Thanksgiving, and this year, I have been continually thinking about the same topic for the last couple of weeks. What am I thankful for this year?
My husband (again). As life partners, soulmates and best friends, we continue to grow, and that makes us lucky. We’ve known each other for over 7 years now, and we continue to fall more in love, build the life we want and be each other’s cheerleaders. Just one year ago, we decided to take a leap into the unknown and move almost halfway across the world. Despite the uncertainty that decision brought (particularly when we first expected to move without employment plans and then to a place we’d never been), we never felt insecure or worried. We trust each other fully, and any new experience is always better with a partner. We communicate more frequently, deeply and honestly than any other people I know. As a result, we continue to grow together and build a path we’re both excited about.
Family time. My family is nothing if not plentiful – four siblings, ex-spouses who are still firmly part of the family tree, lots of nieces and nephews, dozens of aunts and uncles and even more cousins. We get along well, but are also all very independent. My siblings live in different cities (states) and are notoriously bad long distance communicators, so my moving from Colorado to London was indifferent. We get along well and have fun when we are together, but we are busy and in different life phases, so family get-togethers are infrequent. My last US holiday season was circa 2004, and even then Thanksgiving was with friends and Christmas with quiet with my parents only. This year has been different. My brother lives just a few miles away, and we see him regularly (at least a couple times a month). My sister is a much better texter than emailer, so I can maintain intermittent contact with her more easily being on the same continent. My Mom and I attended a couple conferences together, providing good bonding time and education. After one conference, I made a short drive to see my sister and celebrate her birthday (complete with a surprise cake). Some of us even got together for Thanksgiving and will be getting together again for Christmas. Having been apart for so many years, it’s great to have time together now.
Friends. Contrary to my fearless, talkative persona, I am rather private and introverted. I’ve always gotten along with a wide circle of people, but preferred a few quality friendships with deep, meaningful conversations to wide social circles and big parties. Being a new age gal who relocated to another country just after college and worked in a heavily male-dominated industry, most (all) my close girl friendships have formed online. Is that weird? Resultantly, my best friends (other than Mark, of course) are thousands of miles away. Thankfully, technology is a wonderful thing and I am experienced at long distance relationships (hello, first year and a half of my relationship with Mark). We email, FaceTime, call, and text, making our friendships as (if not more) meaningful as if we had weekly coffee and cocktails. In particular, I have an absolute soul sister in Buffalo, who I am so thankful is in my life. We are very similar, but also have very different talents and strengths. She inspires me to be a better person through her own personal growth and transformation this year. We have a truly supportive, non-competitive relationship in which we celebrate each other’s successes and help add perspective to one another’s struggles. I know how rare that can be in life, especially amongst women, and I feel so fortunate to have a rock.
My home. Last Thanksgiving, I was appreciative of our flat in London. It was just perfect. Since then, we’ve relocated and our new home is very different, but I love it in different ways. Our old home was comfortable, quaint and had everything we needed. Now, we have a bedroom and bathroom to spare, a large living/dining room for entertaining, and a wonderful outdoor space. The extra room is welcomed, and not overwhelming. The flat was also fully furnished and decorated in a way we loved, but we chose to say goodbye to most of our possessions and start over. Decorating from scratch was a neat experience. Not many people get to write and fulfill their home décor wish list in such a short space of time, and for that I am a lucky lady (especially having had some extra help and input from our wonderful new pals at West Elm). I felt a little guilty buying so much in a short time – especially given our usual carefully considered, delayed gratification buying style. I love the end result though. I’m also glad the apartment went from ‘empty’ to ‘home’ so quickly; it allowed us to relax and enjoy the space (even if we are still missing a few key things).
Health. According to our new patient check-ups, Mark and I are officially ‘healthy’. Moving from NHS protection to a private-only healthcare system, I spent a brief period terrified something health-wise would go wrong before our insurance kicked in. We survived mid-August to the beginning of October, and promptly scheduled medical and dental-check ups. We even took advantage of our new fancy dentist and great insurance to get a few semi-optional, semi-preventative care things done, like Mark having his wisdom teeth pulled and me having a fancy new crown installed and new retainers made. In reality, I still have some anxiety getting re-adjusted to US-style medical care and insurance, but Mark and I continue to be blessed with good health and wellbeing (are you reading that, scratchy throat? Please don’t turn into a proper cold, please?). Meanwhile, in the last year a close friend continued to struggle with reproductive health problems, a family friend was diagnosed with (but beat) thyroid cancer, and my childhood caretaker passed away from colon cancer. Mark and I will continue to do everything we can to maintain ourselves – eating mindfully, exercising, and being kind to ourselves – but I am regularly reminded that sometimes that is not enough. Over the last year (the month of November excepted), we also made more improvements to our eating style. I’ve been able to listen to my body and determine how it responds to different food, exercise, and routine. On a vanity level, knowing my body also helps me maintain and modify my weight and appearance.
Good fortune. We were moved to an amazing city, completely by surprise. While some people may be unhappily forced to move because of economic or family reasons, we’re really enjoying San Diego and Mark absolutely loves his job and the company was kind to us during the move and Mark has gotten some great praise. We also continue to be thankful for our prosperity, which is the result of hard work, shared values, diligence, a bit of sacrifice, and a fair amount of luck. I firmly believe we are fortunate to have developed our views young, because it allowed us to get ahead and start building our future early. Many people have a much bumpier, winding road. I am thankful Mark and I have always been on the same page, and didn’t have to struggle to change habits or dig out of holes. We’ve instead been able to live and make decisions based on wants rather than needs and act out of desire rather than fear.
Technology. On a slightly less serious note, I am genuinely thankful for technology. Not only is modern technology the basis of my husband’s livelihood, it is brings us a lot of joy. We love gadgets – especially if we can have lengthy discussions about how to get the optimal technical solution in the most cost effective way (a recurring theme for us). We love entertainment – whether it’s keeping up to date with or researching technology; (in Mark’s case) creating software/apps; or consuming media in different ways that enrich our lives. Of course, phones and laptops also help us connect to friends and family across the country and around the world.