Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Books, baths and barnacles

It has been a whole five days since I last felt the impulse to blog, and although not much has happened, I feel like this in itself is an achievement: I've been busy enough to not have either the time or inclination to waffle about the progress (or lack thereof) of our visa application and it feels like a substantial chunk of time has passed pleasantly and unwasted. So, we are now further along (as all we can currently do is wait for the interview) and the bank holiday weekend was a lot of fun.

Other than seeing people, this weekend has been one of firsts. I have persevered with patience, preening and prawns. In terms of patience, I have managed to finish a book that, despite being a beautifully woven and complex story (and thus interesting or, at least, fascinating in a morbid, voyeuristic sort of way) was involving and meaty in a manner that wasn't always pleasant. I would go so far as to describe it as draining, at some points. To have continued with it is highly unlike me as, although I am not one to shy away from a challenge should I see the end goal as worthwhile or one that might benefit others around me, I have a - possibly naive or ignorant - resolve about not reading books that I don't "bond" with immediately. While friends and family members will valiantly persist with a novel that they don't describe as enjoyable or absorbing, partly because there's a commitment and partly because there is always the hope that it might improve I suppose, I have never been able to sit down and push myself to read something that I wasn't entranced by. This was never more evident than when I started my English A Level, only to discover that the texts were arduous to me; painfully taken apart chapter by chapter without any real meaning or significance, even with such extensive analysis - in my opinion, at least. I didn't last more than two months on that course, opting instead for foreign languages, Psychology, and books of my own choosing outside of my studies. So, this morning when I finally finished 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' (the fact that it has taken me around 2.5 weeks to do so, even with my abundance of spare time, is evidence that I was struggling with it to start with, as I will devour any book I truly enjoy within a matter of days or even hours), I felt incredibly satisfied. Perhaps this is what I have been missing: by not persevering, I have denied myself the chance of experiencing the feeling of finding out a book was worth reading, even if at first glance (judging by its cover, ha!) it didn't seem so. I must admit to being pretty cut-throat when it comes to selecting a book: I will read the synopsis and the first 2-3 pages. If by that point I am not drawn in, I will start afresh with a new one and see how that fares. I think I didn't with 'Kevin' partly because I felt its draw just from the personal style of writing, and partly because I know several friends who positively rave about how good it is. And it is. I don't want to spoil it for anyone who might like to read it, but suffice to say that it approaches a petrifying and generally unspoken fear of the type of child one might bring into the world, and the impact that having a family may have on a couple's relationship. This is all told from the mother's point of view, retrospectively, in the form of letters to her estranged husband. So powerful was this story that, by the last few chapters, I even had a bath - the second rarity in my quotidian routine, as per this post's title, as in general I definitely prefer the efficacy of a quick, hot shower - in order that I might be able to get clean and finish it at the same time. I took so much pleasure in doing this that I may well do it again, and soon. These were both rather lovely discoveries!

I ate a prawn, and I liked it.
The final piece of my atypical experience triptych was eating prawns. A simple thing, no doubt, but it was one of those occasions when one suddenly decides that perhaps you actually might like a food to which you have previously been steadfastly averse. And thus it was another lovely discovery: I like them. I like prawns. In fact, I even asked if Mum would do a few prawn recipes while I'm still at home so I can find out if I like them in different styles, and learn how to cook them myself (something I'd be a bit worried about doing after 28 years of staunch prawn-avoidance). Who knows, maybe I'll even like seafood at some point. Stranger things have happened.

Today has been a very happy day, then, and I think it's a combination of having had such a great weekend and knowing that there are now only six weeks to go until I see Ben again, and until we can start our life together for real. It's quite an amazing feeling, having a manageable figure; instead of the seemingly endless stretch of time when waiting for the initial response from the USCIS, we now have a period that can be linguistically condensed to "one-and-a-half months" or "just as long as the UK school summer holidays" to wait until something big actually happens - a major step, a physical leap, not just another piece of paper that leads to more paper. Add to that a day of spending time with family and friends; walking in the slightly autumnal weather; eating curry; Skype-ing with brother and sis'-in-law; putting the world to rights over red wine (and G&Ts!) while out for dinner with an old friend; and you have a rather chuffed soon-to-be expat.

I suppose the only thing is that - and there had to be something, though of course I am not looking for there to be a negative - the closer I get to doing the actual leaving, the more I realise what I'm leaving. I know that there will be friends, and walks, and wine, and all sorts of wonderful, warm and loving experiences to be had in the US. I know that it is the right thing - not to mention best decision ever - to go. But I think I saw today what it might be like without me here (without sounding too dramatic, it feels a little like I am disappearing - some friends off doing other stuff, forgetting to invite me to things I might have expected to be included in, not having time to chat), and that it won't really be all that different. I don't think I have much of an ego to speak of, but I am still human, and knowing that I can be left behind even though I'm the one departing is an unexpected wound.

But that's hardly the way to leave a generally happy blog, is it? So I will conclude that I am probably just over-sensitive because I know I'm leaving (which is bound to be a bigger deal to me than pretty much anyone else! Having sophomoric paranoia at this point might be a little foolish.) and make a resolution to therefore make the best of the time I do have, in any way I have control over. And right now, that really should be getting a good night's sleep so I can hit the gym in the morning and feel good about beating an inanimate object that has the sole purpose of making me healthier the more I try to "beat" it. Win-win.

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