6 Degrees of Desperation
Peyton Dismukes Flowers
“You can't have roots and wings, Mel.” This little one-liner from the adorable movie “Sweet Home Alabama” struck a chord with me. In a pivotal moment of my life, faced with helping my then fiancé in the decision of whether to take a job out of state or stay close to home, I kept asking myself...roots or wings? Roots or wings? Both equally appealing, it seemed neither decision was the right one. Either we stayed in Alabama and kept the comfort we were accustomed to, or we spread our wings to see what was offered outside our little bubble.
No, my new husband and I didn't up and move to New York like Reese Witherspoon's character, but we did move one state over. Only 4 hours from our family and friends, it might as well have been across the country because we did not know a soul in our new city.
Change is a scary thing, especially when everything is changing at once. NEWlywed. NEW city. NEW job. And shortly, a NEW addition.
This new addition is a precious puppy we adopted 4 months after getting married. We immediately fell in love with him and he has definitely enriched our lives, but even this fur-ball of joy brought some stress at first. It was the struggle of who would take him out every 3 hours (a definite feat when you live on the 14th floor of your building), the onslaught of dog hair that suddenly attacked our couch and clothing and of course, the puppy whines that come with bedtime and the sleepless nights we suffered. Those first few weeks were tough, but we kept reminding ourselves... “it will get better.” There were times I wondered if deep down we weren't talking about the pup but rather referring to this new city. “It will get better, it just takes time.”
And it did get better. But along the way, there were many degrees of desperation and lessons learned. There is a theory that any one person in the world is connected, by way of introduction, to any and every other person in the world by only six or less steps. It's called the Six Degrees of Separation and there is even a Kevin Bacon spinoff stating you can connect any Hollywood actor to a Kevin Bacon movie in less than six steps. For this article's sake, I'll outline a Two Are Better spinoff—we'll call it the Six Degrees of Desperation.
So here are six lessons learned while tackling newlywed life in a new city.
1. Grow Up. I'm a "stress crier." I found that term after I googled, “Why do I cry all the time for no reason?” When I go through times of stress, I cry about EVERYTHING. I knew there was a problem when I started crying to my new boss in the elevator because I didn't like hearing my puppy bark while I left for work. That next day, I got teary eyed with the PetSmart cashier because my husband was away on business. Seriously? So embarrassing. Sure there was underlying stress that triggered my teary waterfall but my stress crying was totally interfering with my life. And there are so many other things in this world more important than my feelings. A self pep-talk led to my conscience yelling at me to GROW UP! Now, when I feel the river of stress trying to break through my tear ducts, I toughen up and get on with my day.
2. Relationships are Valuable. This is true on many levels. I've always heard it's not what you know but who you know. Unfortunately, that doesn't help when you're in a new city and the only person you know is no one. But it does allow you to gain a greater appreciation for relationships as a whole. Before moving, I took girls’ night and the laughs shared over margaritas for granted. I found myself wanting to scream across the gas station parking lot to a girl who looked around my age, “Oh! I see you have an ice cream Snickers. I LOVE ice cream Snickers! Wanna be friends?” I told you....desperation. My husband is so fantastic at maintaining contact with his friends back home. In a world where we are constantly connected through social media, it is easy to forget to truly connect. He has taught me that I don't have to let a few hundred miles cloud my friendships. I will forever value the relationships I share with others.
3. Enjoy an Indulgence. We love food. It doesn't have to be designated date night for a trip to a yummy restaurant for us. We will come up with any reason to go out to eat. Much to our enjoyment, our new city has loads of local places to eat with amazing food. A positive side to moving is that every restaurant is “new” to us! We have a handwritten list on our fridge of places to eat, and crossing restaurants off the list has become our guilty pleasure. At the expense of our bank accounts and our waistlines, sharing in this indulgence has helped us on our homesick days.
4. What's a Comfort Zone? It's been said a thousand times: step outside your comfort zone. This isn't too difficult when everything is so new, you don't even remember a comfort zone. My husband and I decided we wouldn't turn down an invitation to anything. We fill our calendars with community events we find online and try our best to attend anything that remotely interests us. This has helped push our comfort limits by allowing us to try new things and meet new people. First encounters can be awkward, but we've learned to “fake it until you make it.”
5. Share the Pants. You've heard the phrase “he/she wears the pants in the relationship.” Well, we've always liked to say that neither of us wears the pants; we both wear shorts. You give and you take. We each know there are certain areas that the other cares about more. Like he knows I really enjoy the 7 pillows on our bed, so he deals with them even though he thinks they're stupid. I respect his understanding of our financials so when he asks me to save all my receipts, even though it's a pain, I do it so he can accurately set a budget. My second point is to literally...share the pants. There's this magical pair of 6-year-old sweatpants that my husband got when he played high school baseball. Seriously, the most comfortable pants in which I've ever come in contact. I used to steal them from his dorm room in college, and we currently use them as a bargaining tool. Just 10 minutes ago, he had them on and I told him I would finish writing this article so we could watch “Mad Men” on Netflix if he let me have the pants for the night. I'm wearing them right now. That's marriage, sharing the pants.
6. Trust the Process. There are going to be days when nothing you do will make it better. That happens whether you're going through a lot of change in your life or just a little. On these days, I usually rely on prayer and a pedicure and trust the process. Just grin and bear it. Just get through the week. Before you know it, the change that caused so much anxiety is now the new norm and you're moving on to better things.
We are six months into our marriage, and our new city is starting to feel less new and more like ours. We are settling in to our happily ever after, and while there are challenges that lie ahead, it's nothing we can't handle. We may choose to go back to our roots one day but for now, we'll enjoy the view that our wings allow.