FORCED TO LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE

“I think that somehow, we learn who we really are and then live with that decision.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

I’m in a funk. Now, it’s a well-deserved funk … But a funk nonetheless.

To counteract it, I’m trying to change the way I see some things, so I’ve been looking at who I am lately. Well, not actually who I am … I’m not going to get that deep and/or philosophical on my blog. (Man, that could possibly have some significantly scary results for all of us. Ha.)

I guess I’m talking more about how I choose to spend my time – or even how I’m forced to spend it in some ways.

I’ve been going over the last year in my head, trying to remember what made 2011 great. (Other than the obvious, I mean, you read my last post, right?) In a lot of ways, life in the past 12 months was better than it’s ever been … For a minute, maybe, I’d venture to say everything was perfect. But, as we all know, you only relish in the good because you face the bad, and perfection is fleeting.

I don’t want to focus as much on what’s got me down … So what did make me truly happy? Where was I able to find some palpable joy? From the simple things, of course.

I moved into Hunter’s apartment last March. It was such a small change, just across the courtyard, up to the third floor. (Yes, the one downside to the move … All those flights of stairs make laundry day and grocery shopping even less fun than they already can be.) But, seeing as he had two bedrooms compared to my one, and a lot more windows, it was a no-brainer. Plus, if they could talk, Huxley and Talullah would both tell you how much happier they are here with all of the light … And how much they appreciate how well Hunter loves and takes care of them.

It was nice moving into a new space, being able to decorate rooms to suit both our tastes. Thankfully, we both love music and color, so that was an easy and exciting task. Plus, being on the top floor, I was able to grow a pretty decent porch garden this past summer. (And thanks to the crazy weather we’ve had, there’s some lavender out there holding it’s own even now.)

Despite the fact that we mainly kept to ourselves, we had some visitors this year … Friends and family are pretty important to us, so it was good to see best friends and sisters, but above all, our Moms. Mine came first, in order to help me move, as it’s somewhat become a tradition when I change abodes. (The woman even drove the U-Haul from Alabama when I moved here six years ago. What can I say, she’s like the “Mad Max” of moving vans.)

Hunter’s Mom came later in the summer, long after we had settled into our routine of daily life. (And like my Mom before her, when she took a nap on our couch one afternoon, Hunter and I were thrilled. There was something about them feeling so much at home that made us feel proud of what we had accomplished here.) We now joke that people come on vacation here to relax, as rarely do we leave our neighborhood when guests come … The draw of tourist attractions played out on visits long before. (Although, there was a morning spent at the Lincoln Park Zoo with his Mom, and even Frommer’s would have recommended that on a weekend jaunt for an out-of-towner.)

We ate a lot of Vietnamese food this year … Pho and banh mi were popular choices for us. (Not to mention, I drank way too much Vietnamese coffee, but man … The chicory and condensed milk just gets me every time!) It’s pretty convenient living just steps away from Little Vietnam, which has always solidified my love of Uptown. We also ordered take-out more than ever, allowing myself a break from the year before when I cooked for us every night. (It was early in the relationship then, and I was still trying to impress with my bucket of culinary skills. I mean, some of my cooking is partially to thank for why he loves me so. Just ask him about my scrambled eggs!)

Of course, music remained a big part of our life, but I will also admit to being a bit of a television junkie this year as well. (Cringe.) But cuddled up on the couch is usually where you would find us, catching up on years of missed sitcoms and dramas. Countless episodes of “Dr. Who” kept us entertained, and we found ourselves developing an even deeper love of Ron Swanson and the gang in Pawnee. (Oh, “Parks and Recreation,” could you get any better?)

My job went through a transition, which proved good for my daily working life,  but bad for outside opportunities. I was able to write several articles early in the year that I remain largely fond of … But as the year wore on, I began to see I was running my creative brain ragged, and I had to take a step back from something. It was hard to put writing aside for a while, but it was an unfortunately necessary evil. But it was still a big part of my existence at the beginning of the year, so I did want to share some of my favorite articles from the past 12 months.

(Between interviews with artists and time spent in front of the computer, crafting stories did take some clicks off the clock for me.)

I hold special love for the interview with John McEntire, because it was Hunter’s dream come true. He’s who turned me on to Tortoise and The Sea and Cake, and his passion for the percussionist’s work is intoxicating. But honestly, it’s hard not to love McEntire’s drumming … It’s simple, yet inventive, plus he was a part of Broken Social Scene’s “Forgiveness Rock Record,” which remains in high rotation for me. http://www.jackarcher.com/pop/featured_article/talent_untapped_and_unmasked_exclusive_with_john_mcentire

The weekend of Lollapalooza last year, I was fortunate to interview two bands: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. and Nightmare and the Cat. Both proved to be interesting experiences in their own right. Hunter ended up being with me when I talked to the guys from DEJJ, so it was wonderful to have him be able to watch me work … Plus, they were really nice and personable guys. http://www.jackarcher.com/pop/featured_article/dale_earnhardt_jr._jr._on_track_to_become_indie_success_and_they_can_even_t

I think the time spent with Nightmare and the Cat will remain special to me for a long time. I found Django and Samuel Stewart to be some of the more earnest musicians I’ve talked to over the years. It was surprising to me that sons of two relatively famous artists could be so down-to-earth, yet so serious about what they were putting out into the world. (And well, truth-be-told, the 12-year-old Bananarama addict inside of me still can’t believe I talked to Siobhan Fahey’s boys. Sigh.) http://www.jackarcher.com/pop/featured_article/nightmare_the_cat_brothers_band_together_to_fulfill_their_dream

It’s funny … I’m not big on critiquing award show nominations. I have long believed that opinions on music/movies/art/literature are subjective. Who am I to say what’s the best of the year? I’m usually not right anyway. But this piece for Jack Archer was fun, and I was glad to say who I thought should have been recognized as well. http://www.jackarcher.com/pop/featured_article/and_the_nominees_are_sounding_like_someone_else

Finally, my afternoon with Larry Vodak was an unexpected one. He was such a genuinely nice man, and I feel privileged to have met him. I found stories of how he became who was both professionally and personally intriguing. The design he brought into the Smart Home at the Museum of Science Industry was just as fascinating. http://www.jackarcher.com/fwd/featured_article/scouts_larry_vodak_gets_smart

I see now, when forced to look for the good in life, sometimes it is hard to find it all … For some reason, as human beings, we allow ourselves to fixate on what goes wrong more than what’s right. You just have to remember to not look at what you don’t have, what you’ve lost.

I guess when I take stock of it all, I have to admit I feel like I’m living a life not even I could have imagined for myself.  Today, I can honestly say that I am looking toward the future … And I’m excited to see where the next 365 days will take me, where they’ll take us.

(I’m open to anything as long as it takes me out of this funk!)

Oh, and because I feel the need to be honest, and maybe to shed some light on just how lucky I am, the stairs make laundry day hard for Hunter … I haven’t been down in our basement for months.

But I hauled tons of groceries up day before yesterday, so we’re even.

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