life lessons

6 Things I've Learned in 6 Years of Marriage

6 Things I've Learned in 6 Years of Marriage | Writing Between Pauses

Danny and I got married June 23, 2013. If you’ve followed my blog for that long (and honestly, some of you have!), you know that I blogged about my wedding heavily at that time. Over the years, just like most things, I’ve questioned how much to share about everything in my life. I try not to share too much about Forrest: this is a mommy blog without being the day-to-day, share too much mommy blog I’m used to seeing. I don’t write about my job at all. I even post less photos of myself these days.

But sometimes, it’s good to reflect and sometimes that means sharing more than perhaps I would normally.

Danny and I met in 2007. Can you believe that? We met in McCall, Idaho at our college’s freshman retreat that happened before classes started. We all moved into our dorms on a hot, sticky Idaho August day, then loaded into busses the next day and drove several hours to McCall. I can’t remember exactly when I met Danny, but I know I met him on that trip and he popped up throughout my freshman year. Sophomore year, we saw more of each other, both being in the campus writing club, writing for the school paper, and having a similar, overlapping group of friends.

It wasn’t until junior year that we really became friends. Over that summer between junior and senior year, he watched my apartment for me (thanks!) and visited me a few times when I had mild emotional breakdowns over my roommate (who eventually moved out). It was a rough, weird time for me. Then, senior year, we were in several classes together: a few literature classes and then in capstone.

And then, of course, we started dating.

Without being too sappy, I knew pretty early on (as in, maybe a month in) that we were pretty serious. We started dating April 20, 2011, exactly a month before we graduated. That’s right: we’d had 4 years together, 4 years rotating around each other, and we waited until a freaking month before I moved away from Idaho and he stayed behind.

It was great!

(It really wasn’t great.)

We graduated. I moved back to Oregon. My grandpa was extremely ill. We talked over Skype every day. I cried every day. It was an awful, difficult year, 2011-2012. My grandpa died in November after I graduated. I worked at a local grocery store and cut part of my thumb off in February 2012, then started working at a car dealership, which was soul sucking and made me feel like garbage.

But we made it. We got engaged after 3 months of dating and slogged through a year of long distance together. We planned a wedding and got Danny certified to teach in Oregon and built a home together. We changed jobs and went through the hardest days of our lives together. The months after I got fired. The months where Danny worked never ending substitute teacher jobs. Sometimes I think back to those days, when I made $11 an hour as a full time receptionist and Danny made about $100 a day as a sub, and how we somehow paid all our bills that way. It was so hard and I felt so embarrassed to let on about how hard it was.

This is all to say: in some ways, our relationship started out as totally idyllic. We liked each other—Danny continues to insist I’m out of his league to this day and I insist we are in the same “weird kid” league, both of us loving astrology, the occult, bats, and other weird shit—and we loved each other and that was enough. And even though the hardest parts of our relationship, I’ve felt like I always wanted to keep that part of us: we’re too weirdos who like and love each other, who learn from each other.

I know for other married couples, it isn’t quite that way. Everyone has their own story. But I think there are a few things that are universal, especially when it comes to marriage and relationships. So, without further ado, here are 6 things I’ve learned in 6 years of marriage.

Wedding Photography
Sweet Cheeks Winery Eugene Oregon Wedding

1. Having kids brings out the best (& worst) in you.

I feel like this is one I wish I had been told before I had Forrest. It goes without saying: kids are stressful. And as I’ve written before, I absolutely, positively hated the newborn months. I’d never been more miserable in my life and I was attached to a pump 12 times a day (for a grand total of 6 hours every day!). That’s something that Danny couldn’t help with. He also couldn’t quite understand what I was going through. It’s one thing for men to watch their wives or girlfriends give birth; it’s another thing for them to completely emphasize with how exhausted and wrecked you feel afterwards.

I felt like a foreigner in my own body. I didn’t recognize it; everything hurt; everything leaked; I had to wear diapers; I could barely walk for a week; my skin freaked out. And all at the same time, I was taking care of a new human being and Danny felt totally clueless (and was occasionally unwilling to guess at how to do things, which is generally his M.O.).

Sometimes, I think we are such good parents. But other times, the stress definitely gets to us and we get snappy or we take naps when we should be doing other things. It happens. But I think it’s important to keep perspective when you start to feel like you don’t recognize yourself or your partner after having a child: things won’t always be this hard.

2. It’s ok to be angry.

The most common relationship advice is always “don’t go to bed angry”… to which I call bullshit.

Go to bed angry. Sleep angry. Stay angry.

Anger is natural human emotion. We tend to view anger as a negative emotion (which it is), but also as one we shouldn’t feel, especially as women. And when women get angry at their husbands, they are often brushed off as “crazy,” “nagging,” or “shrill.”

Again, I call bullshit.

My advice is to be angry. Make your anger heard to your husband. Your feelings matter in a relationship and if your anger is justified (your husband seriously won’t stop leaving crumbs all over the counters or drops his socks at the bottom of the stairs or exactly 2 inches from the hamper), then let him feel it & let yourself feel it.

Anger in relationships isn’t bad, but remember you also need to talk it out, express your anger in a productive way, and make sure that your husband understands how you need him to behave. (Put his damn socks in the hamper! It’s right there!)

3. All relationships have highs & lows.

There will be bad days. It’s easy to think that you’ll always be happy, happy, happy. But there will be bad days, hard days, rough days.

When I lost my job in 2014, there were many bad days. I was stressed about money and feeling like a failure. Danny was working hard, but feeling adrift as well. We were dirt poor and had just bought a house, using food stamps, and just trying to get by. Sometimes, it felt like we barely knew each other.

Then, things got better.

Again, I think in the end, this is something that just needs perspective: sometimes your needs in your relationship won’t always be what they were in the beginning. You won’t always be super clingy, super talkative, or super interested in being together 100% of the time. You’ll want distance. Or you’ll want to go grocery shopping alone. Or you’ll just want to sit on the couch and watch Teen Mom without being interrupted or having to watch someone play video games. It’s ok. There will also be times where you’ll want the opposite of all those things. That’s just how relationships are.

Cutting Cake Wedding Photo

4. You should take breaks from each other.

Going along with number 3, it’s important to spend time away from each other.

In 2017, I took a weekend trip to Sunriver alone. Solo. Without Forrest or Danny or anyone else. I drank wine, watched Netflix, took walks, treated myself to dinner, and did all the things I felt I couldn’t do while watching Forrest or cleaning or cooking or whatever. It was amazing. It made me feel rejuvenated.

Every time Danny and I spend a weekend apart, I feel like we’re always 100x happier to see each other than usual. When you spend all your time with one person, you can get sick of them, even if you really love them. I really love Danny, but sometimes I do need a solo shopping trip or a long drive by myself. It’s just better that way.

5. Find routines that work for you & your family.

In my ideal world, I would wake up every day around 7am, make coffee, make breakfast, clean up the house, write a little bit, get dressed, and go do something fun.

That’s not really how it works with a kid and a husband.

Danny likes to sleep late. Generally, he stays up later than me. However, we both get up whenever Forrest gets up, which is usually between 5am and 6am (although he’s been pushing 6:30am lately). This is an early morning for nearly everyone. We’ve gotten used to it over the years, but it is still really hard to wake up at 5:30am every single morning without fail.

As well, Forrest being awake isn’t super conducive to me making my coffee and drinking it alone. I have always preferred to be alone in the morning; I don’t feel like talking right when I get up and I tend to be pretty cranky. I’ve had to adjust my routine; Danny has had to adjust his routine. Forrest gets to run his routine!

This is my way to say: you might have things you really like to do each day, that are part of your routine. As you get older, as your relationship shifts, you might not be able to hold onto those things anymore. I really miss watching Food Network and cooking breakfast every morning, like I used to before I had Forrest; sometimes I miss it so much, I just wish I could scream! But I know life won’t always be this way (life won’t always be this hard) and so I just adjust my expectations & my routine… and move on.

6. Delegate responsibilities.

I know we’ve all seen those articles about emotional labor and about how today, even with progressive husbands, women still perform the vast majority of household tasks.

It goes without saying but that’s true in my life as well.

It’s not really Danny’s fault; he has less stringent requirements for home cleanliness and while I’ve relaxed about mine in some ways (at a detriment to my mental health), I still wish he did more around the house.

I’ve learned over the years that I have to delegate. I can’t run everything on my own. I can pretty much handle one floor of our house and that’s it. It’s either upstairs or downstairs! So in our house, I’m in charge of inside. Danny is in charge of outside. And I stay on top of him in regards to keeping our outdoor areas nice, especially in our new house! As Forrest gets older and can take on chores (he’s still a little young), we will definitely start giving him responsibilities as well.

I don’t want to put the onus on women to delegate chores to their husbands; they aren’t children, after all. But sometimes, we just have to say: you’re in charge of this. Figure it out! It’s not hard!

Thanks for reading! Tell me: if you’re married or have been in a relationship for a significant amount of time, what’s the number one thing you’ve learned?

4 More Lessons I Learned From NaNoWriMo in 2016

When I completed NaNoWriMo in 2014, I wrote a great post about lessons I learned. Reading through that list, I still identify with everything I wrote previously. It's funny, at the end, to see how excited I am for the next year--without knowing that in 3 months, I would be pregnant. It's weird looking back on statements like that and laughing at how much your life can change in a few months (isn't that what blogs are great for, though?). 

I thought I would revisit this post and share a few more lessons I've learned from NaNoWriMo--especially my first successful November as a parent! 

1. I have to prioritize where I put my energy.

I say this frequently, but when I get overwhelmed, I tend to shut down. In November, I often find myself pulled in a hundred different directions: I do NaNoWriMo; I'm working; I have Forrest; and I have an entire house to take care of. Personally, I find it very easy to just shut down and not really achieve anything in that time frame! 

However, I find that if I prioritize, I can get everything done without getting overwhelmed. But that also means, I have to let some things fall to the side. Notice how I barely blogged in November? Yeah, it was because I was trying to do NaNoWriMo, work my day job, and keep myself and a toddler alive. These things happen. C'est la vie! 

2. Get ahead while you can.

In previous NaNoWriMos, I've kept myself to a strict daily word count. I usually didn't write ahead more than 500 words or so. And each year, I've gotten behind and had to spend weekends catching up, which meant I got very quickly exhausted.  

I feel like this lesson is true of everything in life--not just NaNoWriMo. When you can, work ahead. For example, I have a cleaning schedule I try to keep: on Fridays, I tidy the entryway; on Saturdays, I clean the bathrooms, etc. However, if I'm feeling motivated, I'll clean the entryway and clean the bathrooms on the very same day. I know, living on the edge there! 

This year, I ended up writing my first 10,000 words for NaNoWriMo in the first few days. By November 15, I was 15,000 words from winning. I wrote ahead--I let myself write as often as I could without falling behind on my other responsibilities and it paid off. It helped that I was writing a story that I'd been thinking of for months, but having a buffer really made me more comfortable and I was able to write with joy, rather than stressing to stay on deadline. 

3. It's ok to think NaNoWriMo is stifling. 

As much as I love NaNoWriMo (and this being my 5th year completing, I do love it), I also inevitably start to wonder how, as a practice, it inhibits or improves my creativity. 

Ultimately, what we take away from NaNoWriMo is up to us--and it's ok to love it as an idea, but also ultimately believe it to be stifling. You don't have to follow the rules of NaNoWriMo to the letter; it's your novel and your life. Do what you want! 

However, you often see NaNoWriMo critics emerging in early November, talking about how NaNoWriMo is a time for "writer-wannabes" (ok) to emerge and dedicate one month of the year to writing. Not only is this a totally unfair statement which I've seen way too many supposedly professional writers state, it also ignores the point of NaNoWriMo. 

The point of NaNoWriMo isn't to be a professional writer and write your perfect dream novel in a month. NaNoWriMo is about empowering more people to write, to make time for writing and creativity, and to enjoy their lives. 

That's it! That's all that NaNoWriMo is about. 

It's ok to think it's stifling. It's ok to get to November 30 and think, "Well, that sucked." It's ok to feel like you wrote a crapper of a novel. (I have had that feeling many times myself.) But the most important thing is, if you completed a novel, you proved that you can write every day. Enough to pile up the words. And that's pretty monumental. 

4. When I read more, I write more. 

At the end of October, I signed up for Kindle Unlimited. Since then, I have read 46 books.

46 books

I know. It's actually kind of embarrassing. In that time, I have written more, and felt more creative, than ever before. I have started to realize that if I want to write--and I mean, really write in a way that is productive and meaningful--I have to keep my reading habit. Which, thanks to Kindle Unlimited, is totally possible. Even if I'm reading the most embarrassing, sappy romance novels of all time. 

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo this year? What did you learn about yourself, about creativity, or about life in general?

10 Things I've Learned Since Graduating College

I originally wrote this post (and a follow up of "10 More Things I've Learned") for my old blogs, Locked Out and Ellipsis. I have continued to learn things since I graduated from college--can you believe it was 5 years ago? I feel like that's not possible, but it is. Danny and I have been dating for 5 years; we've been married for 2. Where did the time go? Here's my revised list of things I've learned since graduating college in 2011. 

It should be easy to be young, but it really never felt like that. I'm an anxious person and it's always been my greatest downfall. I spent so much time worrying through college and even after I graduated. I felt like I always had to follow the rules; I had do so specific things to succeed. But the truth is: life is way more complicated than that. Sometimes you follow all the rules and things just aren't going to go your way. My experience after graduation is shockingly typical, but I've learned a lot and I'm still learning every day. 

1. Nothing will go how you think it will... even if you get a job. A lot of people I knew who got jobs ended up quitting shortly afterward. That plan you've had for after graduation forever? Prepare for it to change. My plan was to get a job; go to grad school; or move to New York or Chicago to become a magazine editor, whichever was more reasonable at the time. Obviously, none of those things happened. After I graduated, I worked at a deli, a car dealership, and finally, a residential care facility before finally being hired as a copywriter. That was over 3 years after a graduated too. 

2. Not being able to find a job effects your self-esteem in ways you never thought possible. I had on my imaginary armor after I graduated; I really did think I was different. "I'm so talented," I told myself. "Clearly, I will get a job! I'm special!" I am not special. Getting a job these days really is legitimately about luck. Are you the most qualified person who applied? Most likely, no. There are tons of people applying for jobs now. And that kind of sucks. Getting a job doesn't necessarily mean you're the best candidate anymore, because there are literally 200-300 applications turned in for every single job opening. And there are tons of college students, just like you, who are super talented, hardworking, and awesome. And among you are older people with 20-30 years of experience who deserve a job just as much. It must really suck to be in HR is what I'm saying. These are all facts, but it doesn't stop it from being soul crushing to send out your resume 10+ times a day, go to two interviews, tops, and hear back from zero

3. You will feel crushed after being rejected, but it's better to get back on the horse (even if that horse sucks). You know those days when your best friend is mad at you, your boyfriend breaks up with you, you fail a test, your favorite dress rips, you break your phone AND your camera, and your car breaks down!? Imagine having one of those days every day when no one will hire you. It sucks. All you'll want to do is lie in bed and watch movies forever. The last thing you'll want to do is make follow up application calls or write more cover letters. It's soul sucking, but ultimately necessary for your survival. I had a professor tell me once that every time she received a rejection letter, she immediately sent the poem or resume or whatever to a new option. That same day. This is the best advice I ever received, even if it meant that sometimes I cried for 12 hours after receiving rejection emails a record-breaking 15 minutes after an interview.

4. All that free time can add up to something. When you're unemployed (funemployed?) you might end up renting a lot of movies, buying a lot of stuff online, and perfecting your party dance alone in your bedroom. (I know I did.) But you know what you should be doing? Building a portfolio. You might as well work when every day is your weekend, right? When you do get a job, you'll wonder why you didn't blog more, or learn karate, or take up painting, or read all those books on graphic design. So spend time perfecting your social media presence, starting a blog, building networking opportunities, or learning a new skill. 

5. No one stops liking you when you work a terrible job. Remember those five months I worked at a deli? Remember how it made me feel humiliated and stupid every day? If you get a weird part-time job to make a bit of extra money (and fill some of that time), you might feel like some kind of weird, out-of-place alien, but I promise, no one who loves you is judging you. Unless they are a real jerk, in which case, why would you care?

6. Paying bills is hard. This is still the number one fact about my life: paying bills is hard. Establishing a saving account is hard. The minute I started assessing all the things I am required to pay, I realized that I vastly underestimated how much I cost as a human being. Add in a house, a husband, and a baby, and things are even more expensive now. This doesn't even take into account fun, unnecessary things, like internet or a cell phone.

7. When it comes down to it, the trivial things don't matter. When my grandfather passed away, I realized how much time I had spent waffling away the time: watching Hulu mindlessly, lying on my bed staring at the ceiling. We only have so much time, so don't spend it making yourself miserable over the little things. The things that matter most in life aren't related to the economy. I'm not saying getting a job isn't important (it totally is), but spending time with your family and friends, doing something you love, is way more important than worrying about if you'll be able to afford a cell phone when your parents finally cut you off. Some people have to work to survive and that's a horrible, awful reality. If you have people who can support you when things get rough, you're in the minority--so suck it up, buttercup.  

8. You'll want a job so bad, and when you get one, you'll want all that free time back. I'm... not kidding. I wake up at 5am every day, start driving at 6:20am, and get home around 4pm, just in time to make dinner, feed myself and a baby, and then put said baby to bed. This does not a social life make. Go see your friends--I wish I had.

9. You will get a job... eventually. Sometimes, it seems really hopeless. You'll read these articles about how people under 25 have something like a 55% unemployment rate, and then over 50% of those employed are underemployed and barely making minimum wage. You'll start to wonder if it's hopeless. Maybe you should have gotten a degree in something else? Maybe you should, I don't know, apply for jobs in something else? But I promise you will get a job eventually. A real one. Okay, you might be a receptionist, or a data entry clerk. But it's better than slicing deli meat or making burgers, right? The truth is, there will be a moment where everything clicks and falls into place and the world will seem to make a spot just for you. That happened to me two years ago: one day, I got, like, 5 job offers in one day. How crazy is that? 

10. It's not you. It really is the economy. For a long time, I started to wonder if something was seriously wrong with me. Maybe I was flawed in some way and had never known it. All those people telling me I was talented or would make a good editor, or writer, or social media marketing assistant... maybe they were lying or just trying to be nice. All the interviews where the HR manager praised my achievements and told me I had tons of skills they liked to see at the company -- they were lying, clearly, because they didn't hire me.

I gave up more than once. I resigned myself to working minimum wage jobs for the rest of my life -- on my feet until 11pm at night -- never being able to afford a brand new car, or a house, or even a child. More than anything that made me super depressed and not very fun to be around. It took a lot of time, but eventually, I realized it wasn't me. I still have moments where my confidence hits the floor and a lot of it has to do with, well, what I went through. It's exhausting to know you're good and to be rejected over and over (and over and over) again; it's a hard feeling to shake. But you'll get through it. I promise. I'm in such a better place now: I got through all of that, and guess what? I can afford a house, and a new car, and a baby, and a husband who does his best to help. It's not easy, but I got there. Five years later, I got there.