twenty thirteen.

It has been exactly 7 months and 7 days since I've composed a blog entry. Its been hard to whirl up a string of funny anecdotes around my real life as everything that has come out has sounded self-loathing and annoying. These things are the same: 1.) I am still afraid of strangers. 2.) I am still a teacher. 3.) Paul still works 2nd shift, which is still hard and sad and lonely and makes our dining room table look like its laughing at me all the time.

This trifecta of stress has made things easier and harder, like most things. I'm in therapy now for my anxiety disorder and while it has proven extremely helpful, I still find it comical that I have a therapist. It sounds so very East coast divorcee, especially when she encourages me to call her when I'm feeling panicky. Like when a song comes on at the bar and I'm feeling feelings? You know you have THAT song: mine is anything by The Cure. Woof. I have never wanted to be that person crying and hiding in a stall on the phone with my therapist encouraging me to be a person. That has to have been an episode of Seinfeld. That's not my life, right?

There has been a lot of good. Paul's stupid job has afforded a lot of traveling opportunities and we camped and camped and road tripped a lot of the summer away. I started working at a new school, which unfortunately had never made me question myself more professionally, but also gave me Oatmeal, who has taught me more about myself and relationships that I have never realized.

Oatmeal is my guinea pig companion that lives in my classroom from Monday to Friday and comes home with me on the weekends. I have had animals in my life as a kid, and love them, enough to only intermittently eat bacon and slim Jim's and other occasional meat snacks, but Oatmeal has become one of my very best friends. It's hard to describe how great it feels to have a tiny little face greet you in the morning with side kicks and squeaks and sticking his face out of the door of his cage to give his nose a little scratch. We share veggie snacks and I love him enough to contemplate buying five dollar cheeseburger wooden chew toys when he's feeling crabby and not like himself. But I've also felt a little less alone while Paul is working by being able to spend time with a little pig that unconditionally loves me.

Unconditional love is a funny thing. Everybody talks about it but I think it's really hard to do and that's why when an animal decides to be your friend, it's extra special because they are really good at this. You don't have to be witty or charming or funny or smart or listen well or brush your hair or iron your clothes. You just have to show up and they will be really cute and be excited and make a big deal of you just walking in the room. Besides best friends and tiny children and husfriends and life partners and family, where in the world can you get that kind of love?

Life asks too much of me, a lot of the time. I feel like I'm always in an impossible situation with my job and its 95% overwhelming. Emotionally it feels draining always, two of my best friends live plane-rides away and my husfriend works too much. I don't laugh enough.
But today at lunch, Paul started singing Jock Jamz, out of the blue, while we were waiting for our snacker basket. And I laughed so hard my neck hurt.
In the middle of Olga's, I'm laughing so hard while simultaneously cradling my neck with my shoulder and right hand, squeaking, "owwwww hahahahaha owwwww!"
Paul naturally asks, "What's wrong with you??!"

Sometimes I laugh so hard my neck cramps up. So I have to laugh sideways until it stops! It hasn't happened in a long time. But it did give me an idea, a first non-self-loathing blog for the new year.

Everyone looks to New Years for new beginnings and resolutions to keep but those always make me feel bad about myself, so I've decided to refocus and blog more, and share what I'm learning about being in education, navigating feminism and marriage, contemplating children, and how I'm committed to learning how to take better care of myself and my guinea pig friend. And some days I'm just going to post pictures of Oatmeal eating a radish.

My 2013 advice to myself and to you is to love the tiny things: 5 more minutes of sleep, your favorite Greek yogurt on sale, a simple smile from a non-threatening stranger, and in my case, a tiny little guinea pig that fills up a large part of my heart. I know it sounds easy and it isn't because you have to work at looking at the tiny things and force yourself to let the huge things that you can't control just be big and huge and overwhelming. My hope is that the tiny things will eventually add up to one big reserved hug when I really need it. And I hope that for you all, a big well-deserved squeeze, unless you hate hugs, in which I will hope it feels like drinking a large glass of orange juice?

Debbie-Downer tendencies aside, I tip my last Christmas-themed Little Debbie treat to 2013, to getting more chances to laugh sideways and love the good stuff. Happy New Year, dears.