Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Jon and Kate + Divorce

I don't watch Jon and Kate + 8, but they have been EVERYWHERE. On the tabloids, on news articles...you cannot escape. Apparently yesterday they announced they were separating (and filed for divorce), one year after they renewed their vows in Hawaii, after having sextuplets and twins before, after 10 years of marriage.

I've been thinking a lot about marriage lately, as is common for anyone heading into, well, marriage. Like almost anyone heading into a marriage, I believe this is forever, and I want it to be "til death do us part." However, with divorce rates as they are, it's obvious that even the best intentions and greatest dreams and plans go awry. So what happens? What changes? Some of my theories, with Jon and Kate as my case study:

- People change. People are always changing. I think people have a very specific, concrete idea of Who the Person Is That I Am Marrying, and as long as that person stays exactly the same, then we'll be good. But they won't. People's political views will change. People's religious beliefs sometimes change. People's attitudes toward certain activities will change. Do you love that person for who they are at their core, or for their attributes? Certainly attributes can be part of WHAT you love about someone, but if you strip away some of those characteristics, do you love who is at the center of it all?

- People manifest their true colors over time (and we can finally see it). From what I can tell, this is definitely part of Jon and Kate's issue. Jon seems more passive and easy going, Kate seems more proactive and demanding. These have probably been their personalities all along. And maybe, for a while, this dynamic worked. But (and this cannot be discounted) they put their lives on display, on TV, and the peanut gallery started to offer opinions about each of them -- Kate was controlling, Jon was a wus, etc. And they probably started to see these attributes of each other as well, and started resenting the other for it. Jon started acting out to create his "identity" because he didn't have as much power in the household as he wanted. Kate started airing her grievances in a public forum.

- Not supporting the other. I read the interview with Kate a couple of months ago in People. This part was memorable to me:
That Kate and Jon disagree is no surprise to fans of their show, in which Kate is often shown nagging, berating or snapping at Jon for failing to perform one task or another. But for all the times she's been shown as abrasive, Kate says she'd been doing her best to support her husband as he grew disenchanted with their increasingly high-profile life. "I've walked through this with him for six months," she says. "First he said he's unhappy, he needs a career. 'Great,' I said. 'Go get a part-time job. Volunteer at the girls' school, at our church, do whatever you want.' Never happened. So I said, 'Go back to school! You wanted to finish your degree? Now is the time!' Yeah, that never happened. Originally, we'd speak together on the weekends. But then he was saying, 'I don't like to speak, you do most of the speaking anyway, why don't you just go?' So I started carving him off engagements so he could stay home with the kids. That worked well, for a while. But then it was, 'Well, I need help.' Okay, we found a lovely girl and she started helping. And then it was, 'I can't live in this neighborhood anymore.' So right around that time, we
moved. Every complaint he's had I've tried to fix. But the bottom line is, choose happiness or don't. Nobody can make you happy except yourself. And I don't really feel he is happy."

So what's the issue here? She's not really supporting him. She's trying to motivate him, but probably not in the way that works for him. She's continuing to tell him what to do. I wonder if she ever asked him what he needed in order to achieve his goals, rather than passing judgment on him for not doing things. I understand that from his side too, he needs to take action rather than just complain about issues, and that really what needed to happen was for both of them to work together to figure out what would make them both happy, rather than her portraying herself as a martyr to his happiness.

- Divergent goals. Jon and Kate clearly have different goals, and the most obvious way this is manifested is with their handling fame. Kate loves it, Jon is not a fan. Of course, as a couple you're going to have different aspirations, and sometimes ones that conflict with each other. The best way to deal with it is to talk about it and figure out something that can work for both of you, rather than demand that someone subsume their desires for the purpose of "harmony." Again, that's just a recipe for resentment.

- Too much, too soon. Jon and Kate got married at 22 and 24, respectively, and they had their first children when Jon was 24. He was 27 when the sextuplets were born. I'm not saying that everyone who assumes responsibility so young can't handle it; however, it's probably good to take a hard look at yourself, and determine what you really want so that way you won't -- wait for the magic word -- resent the other person for being part of something that robbed you of your desires and ambitions. My theory? They achieved some wealth and fame, the world opened to them more, Jon realized he'd really missed out on the carefree, sometimes debaucherous single 20-something existence, and now he's clunkily and ill-advisedly trying to recapture it, despite the real responsibilities he has to his children. I think in her way, Kate is doing the same thing, and her desire for fame and publicity is more important than keeping her marriage together (otherwise, WHY IN THE HELL WOULD YOU TALK TO PEOPLE about your crumbling marriage before you've even filed papers?). I think without jobs, both have lost their idea (and perhaps, the pride) of being the responsible parent, because the show is what provides, and the children are what drive the show. So in short, the dynamic got all screwey, and now Jon and Kate are behaving like irresponsible children themselves.

- I can't quite describe this one in one sentence, but I think it happens to many, many couples who become famous, or where one (or both!) achieve a lot of success individually (at work, for a hobby, having lots of friends, being the life of the party, etc.): they start comparing the attention that they get from the media, from fans, from their work, their kids even, to the attention they are getting from their significant other. Your wife/husband cannot compete, and cannot win in this battle, because you are creating a false dichotomy. One person cannot provide what thousands can. It's not your spouse's job to provide all of the attention you need, and certainly not an equal amount of attention to the fame machine. And you can't be jealous of the attention your partner is receiving for either their accomplishments or just for whatever stroke of luck led to them getting adoration from outside sources.
Usually the showering of attention leads you to crave it, to want it more. But your partner is supposed to be the one to keep you grounded and centered, and to let you know that once whatever it is that's put you in the spotlight has gone away, they will still be there to love you, and that they don't...it's a theme...resent you for your success. The flipside is that even if you're the one recieiving all the fame, and enjoying it, you want to be giving to your partner's needs too, and supporting and encouraging them in their perhaps more modest successes, or simply the ones that aren't as publicly acclaimed.

I'm sure there are many more complicated elements to this discussion, and I may revisit it. But I think the overarching theme is that when love and dreams turn into resentment, it turns your partner into your enemy, and it's hard to survive that without initiating some major changes, and sometimes, changes that are impossible to make. I hope by recognizing the potential for these situations, I can avoid them.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Musings on love

I used to write nearly every day. Continually with a new thought or insight, I'd blog about it. That was a couple years ago. It's not really the case anymore.

I can't say exactly what changed, though I'd say a big part was deciding certain portions of my life needed to be more private. I entered into a relationship, and exposing that to the world seemed almost dangerous. Really, so much of my prior writing had to do with love, and its mysteries; once I'd kind of figured it out, I had nothing more to say.

But now that I'm on the road to marriage, I guess one way I could still talk about love would have to do with my realizations about it, once it became concrete rather than abstract.

These aren't some new or startling insights, really. But I've got to head back into writing by stretching my proverbial limbs with some well-intentioned rambling.

So...things I've realized about love:

- It's absolutely uncontrollable. Not in the sense of how you express it, but in how you feel it. I didn't decide I was in love; I realized it. It sneaks up on you, and you can make very conscious and deliberate decisions in how you display that love...but feeling it? No. That's why breakups are so hard, after all.

- It manifests itself in such different ways. An act of hostility in one relationship could be an act of love in another.

- At first, love is this large, defining force, moving its way powerfully through the psyche, twisting things up, causing cataclysmic change. As it settles, it becomes like a favorite sweater or your familiar bed, something always there that is comforting but is no longer the loudness and neon of something new. That transition can be jarring. But once it happens, it feels better, less exhausting. It's a mellow happiness. It becomes part of your everyday. I'm intensely grateful for it.

- I think your love for someone remains constant. The intensity at which you're feeling it goes up and down all the time, often for reasons entirely external to the relationship. Intensity of feeling and reality of feeling are two different things. They are often confused.

- Love shouldn't feel like work most of the time. There are times it can, times when you are low. But if that's your daily reality, even if it really is love, it might not be meant to be. Love should build you up and fulfill you.

- Often your expectations of what love will be do not really approximate the reality. Consider it like a city you've never visited, but heard a lot about. You'll know what certain landmarks look like, maybe what the people talk like there, and in your mind you'll have a certain vague picture of how the city will be. And then you arrive there, and while it may have elements of your vision, it will be totally different. And you'll still be just as happy.

- Love did change me. I became more empathetic, a bit more open-minded, a lot more forgiving and less judgmental.

I'm fortunate to live in a country where I can marry freely and for love. It's a wonderful thing.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Striking the balance

It's an interesting time to be planning a wedding. Even if you're completely responsible and careful in saving your pennies, working within your budget, you still feel like you're still spending an awful lot of money for one day. It's the way I felt since the beginning. Conflicting forces! They're at work!

On one hand, I'm just a fan of all things pretty, and I'd say my guiding philosophy in what I want for the wedding is "elegant and fun." I want people to genuinely enjoy themselves, and I want to be a good host. I need my photographs to capture the essence of the day, I want my food to be delicious, my cake to me tasty, my flowers to be fresh and beautiful, my entertainment for the day to create a mood of subdued romance during the ceremony and of fun and celebration for the reception. And making these things happen takes lots of research, and frankly, lots of money.

The OTHER hand is my desire to not buy in hook, line and sinker into the wedding-industrial complex. I see sites like apracticalwedding.com and almost gaze wistfully at the intimate backyard weddings, the homemade dresses, the self-arranged flowers, the simplicity and intimacy of an event that's inherently romantic, one in which the trappings of romance are really wholly unnecessary. What difference does it make if you have some kind of rare orchid in your centerpiece, or if the wine is 90+ in Wine Spectator, or if your gown is Vera Wang? NONE of these things will matter in the course of your lives. None of these things are what people will remember, and that you'll probably forget.

So why did I kind of buy in? Frankly, out of necessity and ease.

I want to share the celebration of marriage with the people I love, but to do that, I have to do things back in CA. Many of them wouldn't be able to join us if it were in Denver. My community really is still back there, my close family, my close friends. His family and friends are more scattered and have more ease of moving about. It made total sense to do the wedding out there. But you need LOTS OF HELP when doing something remotely, and really doing things totally DIY when you can't even be PART of a lot of it is unfair. So I booked a site for both ceremony and reception that includes the catering and bartending. Not the cheapest option, but it meets the elegant and fun criteria, and people will be fed and warm and happy. I bought my dress from a boutique, and it's gorgeous. I've hired a photographer (who is super fun, BTW), and will be hiring a baker and florist and entertainment, because hiring people to do things is what you do when the burden of placing it on your community of friends and family is entirely too great.

But we've also discussed things that we want to cut back on, simply because we don't believe they're worth the expense (to us), and we have. We bought an invitation kit at Michael's and are printing them ourselves, for a fraction of what it would cost us to order them. We found potential save-the-date magnets through a business printing site (much cheaper than specialty wedding magnets). And perhaps the biggest money saver, and most DIY element -- we're creating our own non-floral centerpieces, and the favors will be integrated into the centerpiece itself, effectively hitting two birds with one stone. My mom is masterminding the whole thing, and her friends are getting together one night to make them all. To try to explain the idea will make it sound more preposterous than what I envision.

Thing is, with weddings, EVERYONE has an opinion. Even if they're good about not putting it in your face, there are lots of perceptions about what is "right" and "wrong" to do. You can be criticized from everything for not doing letterpress to the meal options to the kind of bar you have...so many things are vaunted as tradition that are not tradition at all; so many things are presented as necessity when really, everything is optional. You cannot please everyone; you really have to do what you like, whether it's going to the courthouse or spending 10K on a dress.

I think the most popular misconception out there is that this day is all about you. NO. IT IS NOT. That's what a birthday is. It is about you and your beloved entering into a very serious and exciting commitment. It's the relationship's day, if you will; it's the only day you're really celebrating your joining as people. And the people at your wedding are those who are celebrating your union, your newly "coupled" identity, your JOINT happiness. At least that's how I frame it in my mind...so I keep things in perspective.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Ready, set, engage

I am engaged. This comes as no new news to any of the two people who probably read this, but there it is. It's a strange in-between time that is only defined by what precedes and what follows it...and I swear, it's that strange limbo that causes industries to bloom.

To a certain extent, I'm giving in to the wedding industrial complex. I booked a rather fancy venue, I'm getting a pretty traditional style dress (I believe) with a wedding party and a typical Christian ceremony. I'm not doing a terrible bunch of things DIY. Part of what prevents this is planning from afar, which is a frustration in and of itself.

Then again, the inability to control exactly how and when I talk with people is perhaps a lesson I should take to heart. Weddings are not some exercise in independence (though independence is a valuable trait). They are a community event, the gathering of those near and dear, and I realize that to an extent, I need to reach out and realize I can't do it all on my own. I need to talk with my mom and coordinate with my wonderful maid of honor and overall reach out to those who can help me, guide me, advise me. I know this wedding will reflect mine and Russ's tastes, and overall be a celebration of our coming together...but the actual legwork? I definitely need help. And it is an exercise of faith, of trust, of reliance...it's a good parallel of what a marriage is. :)

I will say that after reading apracticalwedding.com, it was like a breath of refreshing sane air. It reminded me that overall, this will be one day that's solely the first day of a marriage, which means so much more. I've been second-guessing so many choices in terms of their "rightness," and what I realized is that the only rightness that matters is what is right for me and Russ.

So bring it on, wedding planning. I'll tackle it all, with lots of help, and a steady head on my shoulders.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The best story ever.

me: so I'm in Huntsville and I went to a restaurant with my friend Amy after we finished eating we figured we'd head to the bar to have a cocktail
there was this guy sitting next to me and he started talking with me, engaging in somewhat flirtatious and sarcastic banter
Orshi: lol, i'm not surprised :)
me: at one point i said something and he was like "I would just topple you right off the barstool." and I said "that would not only be rude, but rather injurious." he said "Injurious is not a word."
Orshi: haha love that comment
me: I said "yes, it definitely is"
now to give background, he's been out here on business travel for a year, all expenses paid, he gets more money than we do. just so you know.
(expenses including his $1500 share of rent on his Manhattan apartment)
Orshi: wow
me: so anyways we argue a bit and he's like "I would bet $1000 (i typed that right) that injurious is not a word"
I said "You're on."
because i know, without a doubt, it's a word.
Orshi: NICE
me: a girl at the end of the bar had an iPhone
she looked it up online and said "It's definitely a word." She read the definition from Webster's.
I told him to go to an ATM.
He said that he would pay for $1,000 for me in drinks.
Orshi: dumbass
me: I facetiously said "Well, unless we get out a bottle of Dom Perignon I don't think that would happen"
(I really just thought of the most expensive alcohol I could)
the bartender went to the refrigerator and pulled out what I later found was a $246 bottle of Dom Perignon.
Orshi: holy cow
me: Now before anything was opened, I felt I needed to clear the air.
So I said, "I feel like I just need to say, so I'm totally above board here, that I do have a boyfriend. I don't want to lead you on."
He was like "OK. Open it up"
So me, this guy, my friend, and the waitress all shared a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne.
Orshi: nice

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Little holes.

I'm in a hotel room in Huntsville, Alabama. It's dark and chilly outside, and the room is only slightly disturbed by my presence. I've got some purchases spread on the bed and a few pieces of clothing draped over chairs to prevent wrinkling from sitting in the suitcase. All the sundries litter the vanity counter, in my typical disorganized way. A CD is playing to break the silence -- not one of my favorites, I've decided, but for its purpose, it'll do just fine.

The connection here is only wired, so I need to sit a desk that's too high up. I have to take periodic computer breaks so my hands can get some blood again, regain some warmth. I'm wearing the same jacket I've worn the past four days; after several business trips, you learn that kind of unfashionable efficiency.

I've only been gone from home for a few days, but after learning a life that constantly enjoys company, it's an adjustment to go back to this amount of alone time. I struggle to find things to do on this workless weekend. I've done all the Christmas shopping my suitcase will allow; I watched the new James Bond, and I liked it, but so far no one can discuss it with me.

There are different kinds of acquaintances you make while on business travel. You develop a rapport with the bartender, since he's the only person you talk to while sitting at the bar, eating your meal for one. Of course, they're experts in this kind of conversation, those quick and fleeting connections you cling to in the absence of people dear to you. Yes, you start talking too long to almost everyone -- your bartenders, yes, but your waiters, your store clerks, people in line, even the people you've just met at work, trying to feel something with someone.

These are the times you know what it means to miss someone. It's only been a few days, of course, but it's a slight glimpse into that emptiness you feel when you are removed from the person whose company is most valuable to you.

You go from sharing to having everything to yourself, just left to wondering as to what his thoughts would be. You drink your wine, wondering what he'd think of it. You wear an outfit and wonder if he'd like it today. You hear a song, recalling how it's tied to a certain memory you created with him. You do something rather silly and fill in what kind of joke he'd make about it.

These are the nuances of love. Yes, there's the longing to be held and to hold, to feel the person's presence and hear them, to enjoy holding hands and kisses and the smell and skin and silent moments when you take time to just BE. But it's in the small things that you really miss someone. It's those moments when, because of love, because of knowing that person in that intimate way, you feel it profoundly when those mundane moments are gone.

He's not worried about if we need to take separate cars to work or if we can carpool. I'm not getting something for dinner because I'm not there to cook it and because I don't even know what he wants for dinner. He'll handle that himself. He's taking care of himself. We're taking care of ourselves right now.

And as much as it bristles against my independent state of mind (or perhaps just my stubborn nature), that interdependency of love is part of why we crave it. There are things we need from each other. There is a need FOR each other. Love is giving up part of your self-sufficiency, not in a way that's harmful to the soul, but rather, feeds the soul by giving it more than you ever could by yourself.

These are the little holes of the soul, those dark spots that want the other so much, the pinpricks that are tiny and not disabling, but hurt all the same, the smile that isn't as big as it could be and the days that you'd rather hurry through than savor.

Yes, we all want our time to ourselves, and I definitely take that time. But when you're home and when he's home, you can choose when that time ends. Here I have no choice; I am my company, I'm my friend, I'm all I've got. Sometimes, you don't want to be all you've got.

For me it's easy; in a few days I return home and I get to resume (for a while) my life with the one I love. But it's definitely not that easy for many. There are those whose spouses have to be away for much longer, whose loves have made the decision to leave, whose partners in life have departed this world, and for them, this is much more than this small sadness I possess. And from the very partial way that I can relate, I know no words of mine truly help.

I suppose I write this to try to capture the ineffeable; it's what I try to do a lot. The heart is always striving to say something but lacks the capacity, and I try to give it voice as much as possible through my words. Right now, my heart hurts a little bit.

I think it's really just trying to say that it misses you, love.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The language of obfuscation

1 a: darken b: to make obscure
2: confuse intransitive verb: to be evasive, unclear, or confusing

I'm pretty uneducated when it comes to the world of finance. I can't explain the terminology. Once the terminology is defined for me, I still can't understand it. The words used in the finance world are like a layer cake of confusing.

I think it's intentional. And I think it's how the muckety-mucks on Wall Street have been able to pull this snow-job on all of us.

Take these paragraphs, which are designed to CLEAR UP the issue. I'm not stupid, really. But attempt to wrap your brain around this:

"We all know about the subprime crisis. That's part of the problem, as banks and institutions are now having to write off a lot of bad loans. The second part of the problem is a little more complex. Because we were running a huge trade deficit, countries all over the world were selling us goods and taking our dollars. They in turn invested those excess dollars in US bonds, helping to drive down interest rates. It became easy to borrow money at low rates. Banks, and what Paul McCulley properly called the Shadow Banking System, used that ability to borrow and dramatically leverage up those bad loans (when everyone thought they were good), as it seemed like easy money. They created off-balance-sheet vehicles called Structured Investment Vehicles (SIVs) and put loans and other debt into them. They then borrowed money on the short-term commercial paper market to fund the SIVs and made as profit the difference between the low short-term rates of commercial paper and the higher long-term rates on the loans in the SIV. And if a little leverage was good, why not use a lot of leverage and make even more money? Everyone knew these were AAA-rated securities.
And then the music stopped. It became evident that some of these SIVs contained subprime debt and other risky loans. Investors stopped buying the commercial paper of these SIVs. Large banks were basically forced to take the loans and other debt in the SIVs back onto their balance sheets last summer as the credit crisis started. Because of a new accounting rule (called FASB 157), banks had to mark their illiquid investments to the most recent market price of a similar security that actually had a trade. Over $500 billion has been written off so far, with credible estimates that there might be another $500 billion to go. That means these large banks have to get more capital, and it also means they have less to lend. "

-- Who's Afraid of a Big, Bad Bailout? by John Mauldin, September 26, 2008, Frontline Weekly Newsletter

I kind of get it. That's the best I can do. I understand that every industry has their language, but this is language that affects us, that we need to know. I'm not even sure what "illiquid investments" means...OK, update, it was just explained to me (something you can't sell off quickly).

Language is power. There's the language that unites and divides and conquers. There's language that says love and hate, peace and war, life and death. And there's the language of obfuscation, the terms and words that are meant to hide their true meaning. It seems counterintuitive...to develop words that don't serve the function of passing knowledge. But again...language is power. And owning the language that defines what you do -- it enables you to sweep ugliness under a linguistic rug.

That's what Wall Street has done. They've essentially developed a hundred ways to say "stinking-pile-of-crap investments" and to hide that sanitized terminology under other, even friendlier labels.

Even now, the public resistance to a bail-out is largely due to the muddled language. If you could explain to me, the common person, in a clear way, that "Investment bank failure -> commercial bank failure -> economic failure -> your own economic failure" -- well, we wouldn't have much public resistance, methinks.

But they've built up such semantic walls so the common person CAN'T understand the mechinations that, at a time when we DO need to be aware of how these lofty problems affect us plebes, we are hesitant. Hesitant to help those who have profited from our ignorance, and parlayed our desires into the trough from which their greed feeds.

Their ruin will mean our ruin, but we aren't hurting enough yet for that lesson to hit. It's like having excessive problems with your gall bladder, and being told you need a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. You react. "What? What does that mean? Why would I need that? It sounds expensive!" and you balk and hesitate until someone says "It's a procedure to remove your gallbladder."

But no one is explaining in these real terms. And that's why we're teetering on the brink of total collapse.

I'm someone who loves words and turns of phrase, and I get frustrated when these supposed vehicles of understanding are turned against me. There's a lot of reform that's needed, but perhaps, in the wave of new rules that will surely result from this mess, we should add a clause in there to make the language clear and honest.