Having now attempted this post about four times, I'm just going to write it and stop caring about it being perfect. Forgive any complete acts of duphus-ness or stupidity that might follow as I'm quite good at saying things all wrong the first time around. Tact isn't one of Jules' top five characteristics to look for in a mate, thank goodness!
Jules and I finally got into a bickering match over a 4 dollar Pokemon game at Goodwill. We have named these sorts of conflicts "Mayonnaise Arguments" after the first instance of such bickering that Jules' is still certain was about mayonnaise. In my recollection, it had nothing to do with mayonnaise. And so, the new title was born. A Mayonnaise Argument is basically one of those instances where something stupid triggers an actual problem. We weren't bickering over a Pokemon game; we were bickering over both been stretched so thin that we felt smothered by responsibility. Niether one of us much liked our life anymore and just couldn't figure out why.
One of the great things about living in the city is that there are always new things, great cultural experiences, and a wonderful flow of creativity bubbling up and spilling out everywhere. The hard part is negotiating which of these are important to your life and which need to be weeded out. Somehow, we lost the forest through the trees. I picked up an extra day at work so that the neighbor's daughter could begin learning how to babysit by playing with the Barracuda. I traded a day of work which was laid-back and easy for a crazy, fast-paced night because no one else could do it. Jules took on new, different classes at work because someone needed to. Schedules shifted, life got crazy. More junk food found its way into the house, more days found themselves into my work week, more clutter crept into our house. Where did family time go? When was the last time I read to my son before bed? When was the last time I actually played my guitar? When was the last time I was knitting or sewing? When was the last time Jules actually got to bed before midnight?
Once addressed, the fix has been pretty simple and it occurred to me that our adjustments would benefit many who are trying to convert to a lifestyle of more family/more time/more creativity/less stress.
1) Figure out who is going to be the primary worker and who is going to tend to life. The life-tender should cut back as much working as possible in order to maximize the life-tending. You would be amazed how much money can be saved when someone has the time to actually make things at home. In our house, it makes the most sense for Jules to be the primary worker. Thus, I gave notice I will be letting go of one day a week (hopefully more to follow.) I have also begun tutoring a local boy so that I can work from/close to home. This pays me necessary life money for many fewer hours and much less stress.
2)Go to bed so that you can be productive the next day. Rather than cycling through this dramatic dance of staying up to have time together, then oversleeping and racing through the day backlogged and working too late, only to stay up again to spend time together, just STOP. I began going to bed without Jules. If I get up to make his lunch, his coffee/chocolate milk, set everything out, and see him off, Jules has a much better day and doesn't have to buy anything he has forgotten at home. The day is productive and no one is up late again.
3)Spend time together getting off on the right foot. Jules and I spent an entire weekend cleaning the house, organizing neglected projects we always meant to get back to, taking things to Goodwill, cashing tax-refund checks, buying energy efficient appliances (long overdue tax refund presents), and generally catching up again on making our household the focus. Without starting out well, the entire process of getting back on track would be sabotaged.
4)Be deliberate!We got into this predicament by losing our focus. We were sucked in by all the shiny, fast, quick solutions to many of life's stumbling blocks: More work makes more money so you can just buy the solution, more time away from your family means you can make more money to help your family, new stuff will ultimately be better than repurposing old stuff. Find your own way. Ultimately the outside culture does not yet perpetuate much of a simple life. Stop listening to everyone else and decide what it is that you want.
We are now back on track and once again going full bore into life. The final recognition is that we do not live normal lives and just need to stop trying. Our life might not work for everyone, but it works for us. We don't need to justify it. We don't need to apologize for it. Most of all, we don't need to adjust if for people who don't get it.