Sunday, May 22, 2016

Nostalgizing in Lake Havasu

Motu swimming in the channel
during younger days
This week my husband and I spent in Havasu packing up and cleaning out our condo that we sold. We spent the week ensuring all the appropriate documents were signed, arranging for furniture and housewares to be hauled away to a consignment shop, and enjoying the opportunity to take in some hiking and relaxing before leaving Lake Havasu for good. We have owned our Lake Havasu condo for ten years and have been trying to sell it for the last four years simply because we didn't use it frequently and wanted to try another option for an income property. We talked about why we didn't spend more time there and the reasons we came up with were:

  • a long drive five hours from our home
  • scheduling (the condo was sometimes rented when we wanted to visit)
  • work (we like to visit mid-week which requires using vacation days).
We have all gotten older and in the ten years we have been visiting the condo things have changed a lot. We used to order lamb and double cut pork chops from the restaurant we visited, but six years ago due to gallstones I overhauled my diet and eliminated dairy and nearly all meat. Now we order fish grilled plain and without the cream sauce and ahi salads with dressing on the side. Our dog is too old to chase the ball that we used to throw into the river with a "chuck it" and must take the elevator instead of the stairs when I take her out to go to the bathroom. She sleeps most of the day. We went the entire week without television or renting DVDs and instead watched Crackle or Netflix streamed onto our laptops. We spent a couple mornings hiking in the desert enjoying nature instead of lifting weights or running on treadmills at the gym.

And though it was a relief once the sale closed and the condo was cleaned and empty, I found myself being nostalgic about the times we spent there and the rituals we developed. The smallest covered bowls that I packed away reminded me of all the guacamole I had made over the years and packed into a cooler to take out on the boat we rented. We ate dinner at the same restaurant our first night at the condo, brought enough coffee, cereal, and fruit for the first day's breakfast and then went grocery shopping at the local Safeway after a leisurely sipping coffee on the patio enjoying the warm, dry air in the morning. The snowbirds who rented the condo during the summer left odds and ends--a pair of crystal glasses for sipping whiskey, small floral vases, and a large cooler with their name on it. 

I haven't had much use for nostalgia in the past and was always more focused on what was ahead of me than what I had left behind. But this time something felt different. I enjoyed reminiscing with my husband about buying king crab legs to cook on the barbeque and driving to Hasting to rent a couple of DVDs. According to psychologists couples feel closer when they're sharing nostalgic memories. Nostalgia also has been shown to counteract loneliness, boredom and anxiety and make people more generous to strangers and more tolerant of outsiders.

This exercise in nostalgia has motivated me to look forward to building new memories. It reminds me to take pleasures in everyday living and enjoy my family, friends, and my dog as they are now. It also taught me that my photostream is a reliable catalog of memories that reminds me how quickly time passes. I look at photos that seem as though they were taken last summer but are actually two years old, a further reminder to do things now instead of waiting for a better time. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

How to ask for help

Motu on her new bed
We have moved home to California. Singapore didn't work out the way I had hoped so now we are back. We are not in our house because it has been leased so while we are in the same city that is home we are staying in an apartment until the lease runs out on our home, which is still four months away. This is a period of time in our lives that we are asking friends and family for help. 

Be specific. Friends say "whatever you need" when they offer help. We needed help and asked for something specific, which in our case was borrowing a car. We sold our cars prior to moving to Singapore and when we arrived in Los Angeles we had nothing to drive. According to Gretchen Rubin you can be generous by taking when someone wants to help. People offer help when they want to give and by receiving that help you allow other person to experience the pleasure of giving. Still my husband has made minor repairs while using it to show our appreciation.

Play to people's strength. My parents love my dog and they have a truck to transport her plus a yard for her to roam. So we asked my parents to take our dog Motu for a couple of weeks because we couldn't get into our apartment for a few days after our arrival and our hotel didn't allow dogs. My parents graciously drove the six hours to meet us in Los Angeles to pick up Motu and take her to their house. They kept her for two weeks, had her bathed, bought her a bed and food and wouldn't accept reimbursement. Their response to my grateful thanks was that this is what parents do. Knowing that this was something my parents could and would do made it easier to ask. 

Know that asking for help is a sign of intimacy and closeness. While my dog was still at my parents I didn't want to be home for three days by myself without a car while my husband went out of town, so I stayed at our dear friends' house for two nights. They cooked me dinner, let me relax in their home, sit in their massage chair and provided all around good company for me when I needed it. They offered up their guest room for us if we were unsettled and all we had to do was take them up on it. 

Sometimes asking for help is more about paying it forward that reciprocation. Though I would gladly help my friends and offer the same help if they asked, I have difficulty asking for help. It may be because I think that what I am asking is a burden and that I don't have the right to ask. My reluctance to ask for help may be because I think I won't be able to reciprocate. What if I cannot return the favor? I still owe neighbors a home-cooked meal because I haven't reciprocated those invitations. 

Put your pride aside and ask for help. My independent nature is not comfortable with asking for help, so usually my husband asks and we are both the beneficiary of our friends' and family's goodwill. I am not comfortable asking until I see no other options. Like when I couldn't find a can opener the week we moved into our apartment so I walked around the halls of our building until I saw a neighbor and then asked him to use his can opener. I didn't let the fact that he was carrying a small child dissuade me from asking him. Still asking for help can be as sign of strength, not weakness because it allows others to share their gifts. Each of us has experienced the small thrill when asked for advice or to share our resources with others.