Life Transitions

I’ve been feeling compelled to write more — more of anything, more of everything — and yet every time I sit to write, my fingers go stiff and my mind wanders.

A constant struggle for me. There are thoughts & stories bursting at the seams of my brain to get out, and then when presented with the opportunity, they get stage fright.

Go figure.

To be fair, there is a lot that has been happening over the past several months. Outside the pandemic and civil unrest, which in and of themselves are major points of change and anxiety, I’ve personally been dealing with several transitions all at once that have left me feeling a bit fried.

At the end of July, I moved from Minneapolis to rural Indiana to live with my fiance. A week before I was supposed to leave town, my fiance and his family (with whom I’m also currently living) all got diagnosed with COVID.

So, my kitty and I spent a week in Wisconsin with my mom and step-dad while we waited to see what would happen with my fiance & his situation. During that time, my brother got in a work accident and sliced open his hand in a lathe — so we took in his almost 2 year old son for a few days, which meant early mornings, lots of time spent hovering, an agitated cat, and very little time to compress following a stressful 2-week period of getting ready to move.

10 days after my finace’s symptoms first started, he was feeling better and we decided it was time for me to finally come down there. Fortunately, I never ended up getting sick (not that I’m aware of) and we’ve been keeping a good distance from others for the most part, save for haircuts, getting takeout, and going to the park.

So, here I’ve been for the past month. Living in my future in-law’s home, which is its own kind of challenge. I feel compelled to not be a burden, while also wanting desperately to feel like I have even a little bit of ownership over where I live. But it’s totally not my house, not my rules, not my routines, not my anything. I am stuck in a place of transition, waiting until we’re ready to move out and move on. The anticipation is making me itch.

To add to that stress, my 3 year old cat has had a hell of a time adjusting to all the new humans, sounds, & smells in this home; no surprise there. He’s been very hot & cold, purring one moment and lashing out the next. He gets territorial with his space and lets out a loud yowl to anyone who comes within six feet. It’s caused my anxiety to spike to the point of bringing me to tears at times. What is surprising, though, is how quickly & easily my kitty dude took a liking to my fiance’s new kitten, a 6-month-old ball of terror who roughhouses with my cat at any chance he gets. Honestly, the little one may be the saving grace of the situation—without him, my big dude might feel entirely pent up with no where to spend that playful, anxious energy. They’ve been wonderfully and surprisingly good for each other.

Outside of the home, I’ve been working my butt off to find a job. I spent 6 months saving what I could to make sure my unemployed time wasn’t spent under financial pressure, to make sure I could find a position that felt right. While I’m definitely in a comfortable spot financially, and have the means to be comfortable for quite some time, I felt an immediate urge to secure something, given the uncertainty of the pandemic and my strong compulsion to hold onto what savings I can in case of emergency.

As it turns out, it was not difficult for me to secure two job offers within a few weeks of arriving in Indiana. One organization gave me a crazy low-ball offer and claimed no ability to budge on the compensation package; the other offered me $13k more than the first, doing work that is strikingly similar to what I was doing back in Minneapolis. I was waiting to hear from a third company, for which I was a “finalist” in their interviewing process, but decided eventually to take the offer from the second company because of the compensation, the flexibility, and the lovely team of people I would be working with.

Now, I have to wait and see when my background checks clear to know when, exactly, I will be starting my new job. I may be starting in mid-September, or, I may be starting in mid-October. Either way, I’m feeling much more comfortable and feel like I can plan *just a little bit* for the future.

In-between the cat anxiety and job search, I’ve kickstarted my fitness routine once again, which took a complete nosedive during the spring & summer. My fiance is a really fit & active guy, and while it’s been nice to get back into a routine of physical activity, I’ve found myself triggered in a few ways — triggered by my own body & quarantine weight gain, triggered by his intense & laser-focused fitness regimen, triggered by stress that makes me want to eat, and triggered by his own body dysmorphia that causes him to think his belly is “too fat” when there is, in fact, only a small layer of adipose tissue covering his six pack abs.

Additionally, I’ve been adjusting to the new role of soon-to-be step-mom to a 15 year old kid, who is smart and insightful yet also very much a teenager. There are new conversations, considerations, and complications that come along with stepping into the life of a teenager. We have good rapport and it’s an odd thing for me to think about taking on a teenage son at the age of 31. Of course, he has both of his loving parents in his life; I’m not here to replace anyone. I’m here to be an extra loving adult, a role model, a support. I’m here and ready for it, whatever it means. Really, this is the big reason I came out here — to be with my fiance so his relationship with both his son & I could flourish, without having to sacrifice one for the other.

We’ve been waking up early the past couple of weeks to get the kiddo off to school by 7:45, which is not a schedule entirely unfamiliar to me, but one that I haven’t had to keep since the pandemic relegated me to my home office and days spent providing intense therapy via Zoom.

I’m slowly starting to reintroduce the idea of structure, daily plans, and accomplishing goals — no matter how small — back into my day-to-day life. My fiance has been unemployed since March, as he was working in the restaurant industry and hasn’t had much of a job to return to since then. I’ve found myself a bit irritable with his lack of urgency around finding a new job. I know he’s on UI and has money saved, but I’ve come to learn that I am a very goal-oriented person, and too much free time / unstructured time for too long starts to drive me absolutely crazy. I’ve been gently nudging him toward making some moves on either looking for work or getting back into school / a certification program to pursue a career path that excites him. I’ve found that he and I are entirely different when it comes to how we approach work, and I’m trying not to moralize either approach. It just feels… more urgent to me than him, I suppose. But we’ll figure it out.

So all in all, over the past few months I’ve been managing the following transitions / stressors:

  • Leaving a job without another lined up
  • Moving cross country to a new state, in a conservative & rural area (coming from a liberal & urban center)
  • Moving in with my partner & his parents, for the first time in our relationship, after 6 years of living by myself post-divorce
  • Looking for a job, juggling offers, waiting
  • Pet stress — a sick cat turned anxious/angry cat, introducing a new kitten to the mix
  • Starting back up with exercise after 5 months of inactivity, triggering old unhealthy ways of eating/thinking
  • Just like everyone else in America: an endless pandemic, absolute political fervor, and civil unrest stretching across the country & world

It’s no wonder I feel a bit… restless, depressed, stuck, and ungrounded. Looking ahead, I am hoping for a chance to resolve at least a few of these things — the job, the housing, the fitness routine. Who knows what that will look like. I’ve long since given up on the idea that I’ve got any type of control over what the future will actually bring. But, I’ve got ways to influence the outcome and keep myself engaged and fulfilled in the meantime.

❤ Em

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