She’s Married She’s Single Podcast

My friend Lindsay and I have launched She’s Married She’s Single, a podcast about lifelong friends with drastically different lives and perspectives!

I’m very excited to start this new creative project, both because it will give Lindsay and me a fun reason to regularly keep in touch (the last time I moved to a different country, we wrote letters to each other’s blogs in a project called Letters Between Friends) and because I hope it will create opportunities for married and single people to talk to each other about what they love about their life stage and what they wish they had.

Our first episode, Getting to Know Us, is available on Apple Podcasts.  Check it out today!

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Unless there is a huge announcement, I will not be plugging each new podcast episode on this blog.  However, there are several ways you can keep in touch with us!

Follow us on Twitter:  @SMSSPod
Follow us on Instagram:  @ShesMarriedShesSingle

This is a passion project for us, and we rely upon the generosity of our Patreon donors to fund a better sound for our listeners with professional audio equipment and programs.  A gift of any size is hugely appreciated, and rewards are available at each level of donation!

Finally, we hope to have regular Q&A episodes in which we answer questions about us personally or about marriage/singleness generally.  Email us at shesmarriedshessingle@gmail.com to send in your question!

Saying Goodbye to Greece

It’s been two weeks since I moved back to the States from Greece, and already my time there feels like another life.  Before I lose even more perspective, I wanted to write up a summary of the ways I grew while living in Athens for one and a half years, based on words that end in -ly.

Physically

Whenever I try to be Healthy, I always feel like I am significantly altering my life.  Living in Greece showed me a lifestyle that naturally includes healthy habits.  I walked 30 minutes to work every day, and without a car, I relied upon walking and public transportation to carry me everywhere around the city.  Greek people love to eat, but the food they’re feasting on is generally fresh and natural.  They’re genuinely skeptical of processed foods, and not in that “I hate myself for loving this microwavable meal!” way, but by repeatedly asking me if I was okay because I didn’t know how to cook real meals for myself.  BUT WHY WOULD I, when my culinary helplessness led several people to regularly drop off homemade meals at my desk or doorstep?

And that Greek food!!  I will forever miss running to Gregory’s for a €1.40 cappuccino or to Big Bad Wolf for a €2 gyro.  Never have I eaten so well for so little.

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Emotionally

It was in Greece that I really began to truly like myself, which for me really means feeling comfortable being me.  I credit this with two habits of my workplace:  1) we stressed, from the beginning, the necessity of having people with different personalities and talents on the team to complement each other, and 2) our weekly 12 Steps meetings created space to talk honestly about our worst self-destructive habits amongst people who would say, “Yeah, me too!” or “I can see how that would hurt you, but let me tell you how I also see that this is a strength of yours.”

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Mentally

Despite my complete lack of natural talent in language acquisition, I learned enough Greek to navigate the city on my own, shop for anything I needed, and have conversations with people who knew My Brand of Greek (i.e. could interpret my incorrect tenses and guess what I was trying to say).

In addition to the language, living in a foreign culture also stretched me in numerous ways.  I became frustrated with some differences, fell in love with others, and survived a spate of social anxiety that was pretty debilitating.  My worldview was expanded, my knowledge of politics extended beyond the United States, and I learned to think more critically AND compassionately about both my native and adopted countries.

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Spiritually

One of the things I’ve always struggled with is the feeling that I ought to be perfect.  A classic Good Girl, I figured I could force my way into God’s affection through sheer performance and rule-adherence.  Working at HD helped dismantle the last of those lies. As I spent every day teaching self-esteem and anger management to women whose trauma was close to the surface of their every decision, it was easy to understand their fear of betrayal and their desire to manipulate people to assure their own safety.  Sometimes there were setbacks that seemed to come from nowhere, and my fellow staff members were quick to build up whichever of us was frustrated with a lack of explicit progress.

Eventually I applied this attitude of grace and patience to myself.  I realized that life is about growth, not perfection.  I realized that God is present in moments of vulnerability and community far more than in the perfectionistic performances I often fall back on.  The end result of understanding God’s patience for me was my deeper love of him.  I felt, very deeply, that nothing I could ever do would change his opinion of me.  And that was freeing.

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Socially

If Greece gave me anything, it was an overabundance of social riches.  I became friends with people from multiple countries, had roommates from Ukraine, the US, Greece, and Canada.  I found nerdy friends and travel friends and cat friends.  All the weirdest corners of my interests were suddenly open and accepted.  I had weekly K-Drama nights, one of my birthdays was spent forcing friends to play video games, I celebrated an English Christmas, and I had best friends who knew me, teased me, loved me, and inspired me.

I’ve said it many times before, but there was something especially meaningful about friends made in a foreign country.  Without a social or familial support system to fall back on, I had to rely on people to an occasionally absurd degree, and that kind of dependency forged deep relationships.  I’ve always loved Found Families in media, and the group of people I called friends in Greece were my found family.  I will miss them enormously, and I’m not sure I’ll ever experience something quite like them again.

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To relive more of my Greek experiences,
check out my Living in Greece tag.

My Life as a Nerd

I was rereading some of my old posts, and although I originally marketed this as the story of my childhood as a nerd, it far more effectively tells the sad and hilarious tale of a childhood full of enormous anxiety issues.

My Google Drive is full of drabbles, short pieces I’ve written and quickly abandoned before they got anywhere significant.  This one was called “My Life as a Nerd,” and I totally forgot I wrote it last summer.  I will never finish it, and I wanted someone to see it, so Here, Blog!  Enjoy.


I’ve spent my whole life being a nerd because I learned, from the very youngest of ages, that fantasy is better than reality.  It’s not like I had an oppressed, horrible life.  I grew up in a firmly middle-class family: not rich enough to fly somewhere for vacation, but rich enough to afford the newest technological gadget that interested my dad (a case could be made for inherited nerdiness).

The thing is, I was an introverted, extremely shy kid.  Life was hard for me, even when “life” just meant standing in front of the preschool to show off…

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Expressing Enneagram Four Emotions with Fiction

Sometimes when I tell people I’m an Enneagram Four who has a lot of emotions, I can see them silently doubting me.  And it’s true, in daily life (especially work life) I’m fairly even-keeled and logical.  But one day I was listening to the Prince of Egypt episode of the Good Christian Fun podcast, and I burst into tears when they played a ten-second clip of the song “Deliver Us.”

Everything became clear:  I express my emotions through fiction.

It is in books and movies and television shows that I feel comfortable feeling the anger, longing, and joy that lives inside me.  This is probably why the only time I made progress in therapy was when my therapist finally asked me, “If you had to choose one book to symbolize your life, which would it be?” and I immediately said, “WELL.”

This is also why I can be embarrassingly possessive of my favorite stories.  Here is an actual text conversation with my brother from a couple days ago illustrating how well he knows my neurotic mind:

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I infamously got pissed at my mom when we were watching the season 3 finale of LOST and I realized she hadn’t been keeping up with the show while I was at college.  “I just want to enjoy the thing you enjoy with you!” she said (as an Enneagram Two).  I made her leave, because I didn’t want someone who wasn’t emotionally invested ruining my experience.  When I recently told a friend about this, she said, “You’re awful,” and while I see that, I…would do the same thing again.

I see now that as an Enneagram Four, I very often conflate my emotions with my identity.  I’m therefore very protective of them.  I will not show someone The Fall (my favorite movie of all time) unless I am sure they will like it, because my heart cannot handle someone looking at my soul for two hours and then saying, “Eh.”

Now that I think about it a little more, I think that emotionalism is definitely present in me all the time.  But I don’t trust many people to accept, let alone enjoy, the intensity of my feelings, so I keep them inside.  It’s in stories, which are spaces inherently designed for emotion, that I feel safe enough to let everything out.  So if someone doesn’t know the nerd side of me, they will probably be surprised to hear that I’m an Enneagram Four.

Cat Fostering: Amelie and Nelly Move Out!

At 5:30 this morning, Amelie and Nelly were packed up in crates and left my house to fly to their new homes in England!  I’m so glad that they’ve been adopted, and by people who will love them for who they are.

Nelly will go to an older woman’s home who, twenty years ago, came to Greece and rescued four kittens who had been thrown into the garbage.  Now that they’ve all passed on after a long life, she wants another Greek kitten in their memory.  Amelie was a bit trickier, since she is so shy.  But a middle-aged woman chose her precisely because she wanted to create a safe space for a traumatized cat.  I’m so excited to be updated on how they’re both doing.

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I will miss them, though!  It was nice to be able to open windows (there are no screens in Greece, so I couldn’t do so without risking escaped cats) and deep clean my apartment, but it feels very strange to come home to an empty house.  They’ve been so much fun, especially these last couple weeks when they really took to each other and started bathing each other/fighting each other.

Last night, I woke up around 3:00, which set Nelly off.  I noticed a shadow lurking near the bed, so I stuck out my hand, and Amelie came over to purr and pet herself.  She then jumped on my bed, fought with Nelly for a bit, and jumped back off.  This is the most she’s ever done, so I eventually drifted off to sleep.  A while later I was awoken by a cat curling up between my feet.  Nelly had already returned to her place against my side under the covers, so it was Amelie!!  Sleeping on my bed!!  For the first time ever, and for only two hours before I had to wake up and put them in their crates.  It was very bittersweet, but I hope she regains that level of comfort with her new family as soon as possible!

I have had such a great time fostering Amelie, Nelly, and Hans Harrison (last year for nine months).  I really admire the work that Nine Lives does in Athens, and I strongly encourage anyone reading this to consider becoming a foster parent for animals who need a temporary home while waiting for forever family.  If you can’t do that, I subtly suggest that you drop a few dollars in Nine Lives‘s bucket.  I can attest to the quality of their work, and I wish them all the best as I leave Greece.

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Faith without Doubt is Not Faith

A few days ago I had two conversations that helped me see what has changed in my spiritual life recently.  In the first conversation, I spoke with a young woman who has just moved to Greece and has decided to try to get a visa to stay.  I had to bite my tongue in order not to douse her excitement with “yeah, I thought that too” cynicism.  Later, I spoke with a woman who spent the summer in the same situation I did, waiting for a visa that didn’t work out.  It was hugely encouraging to not feel alone, to vent and laugh together over our mutual frustrations.

In the midst of these conversations, I realized that this visa process cost me my spiritual naivety.  Because my initial student visa was easy to get, I assumed that everything would work out for me if I kept living in Greece.  God wanted me here, so paperwork couldn’t get in the way, right?  Yes, it could.  Now, as I look ahead to a job that hinges upon 1) fundraising and 2) a visa, I find myself incredibly lethargic.  Where I once met these obstacles with excitement, now I’m exhausted.

But what hit me was this:  faith is not the absence of doubt, it’s believing in the midst of doubt (in much the same way courage is not the absence of fear, it’s acting in the midst of fear).  After all, it doesn’t take much faith to naively assume everything will work out for me.  To see my plans fail and then to attempt something similar…that takes a different kind of faith.  Something deeper, and less flashy, and more painful, but something that rests upon a more desperate hope and trust.  God took my life in an unexpected direction before…do I trust him enough to try something risky once again?

The older I get, the more I realize that my relationship with God is far more boring than anything I originally experienced.  This year I’ve felt pretty emotionally distanced from him.  But I think there’s something really beautiful about every little connection we’ve had, because I don’t take them for granted any more.  I’m no longer seeking youth group conferences of ecstatic emotionalism.  I just want a quiet, heavy moment of assurance that I am loved and that God has a plan for me.  I had one of those during my conversations, and it helped me to choose faith, in the midst of doubt, once more.

 

Looking Back on 2017

2017 was nothing like I thought it would be!  I spent six months in Greece, broken into two three-month segments by six months spent in the United States.  In real time, I found a lot of this year stressful because the future seemed so unknown.  But looking back, I can see that the unknown held a lot of wonderful experiences.

I was promoted to a higher level of management at the NGO where I volunteer in Athens.  When I found myself back in the States, I was hired by the library where I worked five years ago.  Many of my coworkers are still there, and it felt like a happy reunion.  I also got to spend a lot of time with family and friends from my hometown, people who know my eccentricities deeply and love me anyway.  I’m finishing the year in Athens, surrounded by my Found Family in Greece, grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to live here.

But what’s a Looking Back without remembering all the places I was able to travel during the past year?

  • January:  I started the year in Seattle, celebrating the New Year with my brother and snowshoeing for the first time.  Mid-month, I flew back to Athens for three months.
  • February:  Luciana, Olga and I spent a weekend in Bucharest, Romania enjoying the snow we never get in Athens.
  • March:  Our organization spent a weekend retreat in Kleitoria, in northern Pelopponese, where we explored caves and ate fish we chose from a tank.  I also went to Thessaloniki with Anthi and Rosie to experience Greece’s second city and eat loads of bougatsa.
  • April:  I flew home to the States in April, and soon thereafter I went to Vancouver for two weeks of training with our parent organization.  When that finished, I spent another weekend in Seattle with my brother before flying home to Illinois.
  • May:  Thinking my time in the States was short, I drove down to Dallas and Austin to reconnect with a lot of my favorite people from my time at DTS.  Later in the month I joined my grandparents on their vacation to Wisconsin Dells, which was a lovely opportunity to spend time with them.
  • June, July: I started working for the library, and ironically, I didn’t travel during the summer.
  • August:  My mom and I flew out to Portland, where we met up with my brother and his partner to roadtrip up the coast to Seattle.
  • September:  I drove out to Rockville, Maryland for a long weekend with one of my closest friends exploring quaint coastal towns and eating a lot of great food.
  • October:  I flew back to Greece for a final three months in Athens.
  • November:  When visitors came to our organization, we orchestrated an outing to Corinth, which I hadn’t been to since 2007.  I later went to Evvia for Luciana’s birthday and was astonished to see autumnal leaves in Greece.
  • December:  Anthi, Rosie and I traveled together again for a long weekend in Rome, satisfying one of my top travel desires.

Guys, I’m developing an unsustainable habit of needing to travel somewhere at least once per month.  This will someday be a problem, but for now I’m super grateful for cheap plane tickets, a good car, and friends who let me stay with them for free!

2017 doesn’t fit into any neat “This Happened” box, and instead I’m left with a lot of disparate but lovely memories.  I’ll take it.