projects and writings of T.A. Burkholder
I’ve had the great privilege of sculpting my life into a shape of my choosing. It’s comfortable here. All the curves and angles fit together really well. One reason it’s such a good fit is that the vast majority of my responsibilities are to myself alone. While I honor the trust my clients put in me and try not to be a jerk to friends and family, I don’t have to deal with a lot of typical obligations. I don’t have a boss or coworkers. I don’t have kids or even a dog. My partner and I have always supported each other but what we require of each other runs along the lines of be nice, be honest and don’t leave the house trashed for more than a day or two.
I returned from my trip back east last week and instantly knew that the sweet, carefree spot I’d been resting in all these years was suddenly a little smaller, a little tighter than it had been the week before. My partner has started an intense grad school program which has sucked up almost every minute of his time. He’s always been so supportive of me, so now it’s time to return the favor by taking over some of his domestic duties. Mostly this means doing some of the dreaded grocery shopping, more of the tidying around the house and making more of my own meals (let’s call it assembling or foraging, anything but actual cooking).
I know, I know. All the smallest violins. All the saddest songs.
I also came home with a specific date for my parent’s permanent arrival in Portland. I used to say that one of the reasons I’d come to Portland was to be on the opposite coast from my family. It was said a bit flippantly. Other than some typical angsty years in my youth, I’ve always had a good, if sometimes reserved relationship with my folks. What I was really saying was that I needed space to be myself and a different, more welcoming place in which to explore that. I don’t know how our new dynamic will play out, but it will definitely involve me giving over some of my time, maybe a lot of my time, and will mean taking on an increasing number of responsibilities in the years to come.
More small violins. More sad, sad songs.
This is all very embarrassing to admit. Almost everyone I know gracefully carries far more heavy burdens. All those graceful people are now my role models. The fact that my partner is improving his lot in life by getting his masters degree is an amazing thing and I’m very proud of him. The fact that my parents are smart and kind and thoughtful enough to plan a move out here before they are too old or unhealthy to do so, is also amazing. To call these things burdens is an insult to the truly burdened. They’re simply my new responsibilities, my gentle ushering into a less selfish reality.
I’ve allowed myself a few days of feeling scared and worried about what will happen to my simple, easy life, but I also know there’s a possibility that these changes will be good. Among other things, I’ll learn to truly balance my life, not balance the easy with the simple.
This morning I did some grocery shopping then drove to my partner’s school to deliver some things he wanted. I got all the way there before realizing I’d left all his things back at the house (dork, dork, dork) so made the trip a second time. On my way home, I passed McMenamin’s Kennedy School and decided to treat myself to a quiet beer and book lunch then a visit to their soaking pool, which I’d never been to before. The beer was mediocre and the pool was loud with children. Still, it was nice to have those moments to myself, knowing that in the future, such a respite might actually be deserved.