Monday, July 16, 2012

Reclaiming My Joy

I misplaced my joy for a few years. Writing and jewelrymaking, the two things that usually send me into the Joy Stratosphere were pushed into a drawer to be looked at occasionally and pondered, but I just didn't have it in me to take them out for a spin. Well, I did do some writing but that was only to keep me in pin money for a little while as I cringed, waiting for the next blow from The Universe. Initially, I was thrilled to find that a professional entity would find my writing good enough to pay me for it...but when you write for money, you can eventually become tense and anxious and burnout often follows.  I decided to take a break.

Now that I am slowly, slowly coming out of the other side of the Dark Days, I'm thinking about going back to both of these joys as soon as I get my place a little better organized. After spending all this time holding myself together with spit and glue, I am sometimes surprised to find myself smiling again at little things. In fact, the other day I laughed out loud at something so silly I still smile when I think about it.

I have one of those little window fans that is actually two small fans encased in one housing together. Unbeknownst to me, each of the fans has a separate motor; I think I assumed that one motor drove both fans, or more likely I never gave it a thought, until I put it in the kitchen window and plugged it in the other day. Almost immediately, the fan on the left went into motion. The fan on the right just sat there. The blades were completely still. I took a pencil and stuck it through the grate, trying to nudge the blades around, thinking that they just needed a little push. Despite my efforts, the right fan ignored me while the left fan continued to spin busily.

I sat down at the kitchen table with a glass of wine and let my mind wander. I thought about all the things I need for my new apartment that I can't afford -- yet. I thought about how tightly I will have to budget to stay here but I didn't worry too much about that; having been a single parent for many years, I'm used to having to budget every nickel. I've almost made peace with the fact that I will probably struggle financially for all of my days. I thought about someone very close to me who is fighting cancer with all his might... and may be losing the battle. At some point, I glanced over at the fan and much to my surprise, the right fan was spinning right along with the left. Ha!

I figured that it might be a little dusty or rusted since the fan has been in storage with the rest of my things for the past 18 months or so; perhaps it just needed a little time to get itself together. My apartment is as hot as Hades except for the bedroom where the air conditioner is, so I keep some of the ceiling fans and box fans going whether I'm home or not, especially now that Bumblebee the cat is back home with me. But I generally turn the little double fan in the kitchen off before going to bed.

This morning, I turned the double fan on, and, as usual, the left fan jumped into action while the right one sat there, motionless. But this time, instead of letting my mind wander, I sat and watched the fan while I drank my coffee. And this time, I caught it -- the right fan moved. Just a little. Stopped. Moved again just a little but then it continued to turn but sloooooooooooooowly, barely moving. And I found myself cheering it on: "Come on, little fan. You can do it! I know you've got it in you!" 

The right fan began to pick up speed, just a little... just a little... and then suddenly, the blades started whipping around, keeping time with the left fan. And I laughed out loud. I laughed at myself, cheering on a stupid window fan. I laughed because  I haven't found much to laugh about lately and I guess I just needed to, finally. Bumblebee the cat sauntered into the kitchen and looked at me, as if to say, "Losing your mind, eh?"  And then I laughed at him.

There's probably a lesson in there somewhere, right? This is an allegory or a metaphor for something in my life, yes?  It's too hot to try to think about it now. I'm just glad I haven't forgotten how to laugh. I was going to say that it's just like riding a bike, but that's not accurate. Let me tell you, you CAN forget how to ride a bike and it DOESN'T just come back to you after several years have passed, trust me... which is why I now have a three-wheeled bike, so I don't have to worry about balancing. Luckily, laughing doesn't take as much effort.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bumblebee is back!

During the time when my life was going through serious upheaval (now to be known as The Darkest Days), I had to give up my cats. Chloe, who hadn't been with me long, had to go to a no-kill shelter. She was shy and skittish, there was no time to find her a proper home, and it broke my heart, but ... it was what it was. Bumblebee, the cat who owns my heart, went temporarily to my ex. We had adopted him together nearly eight years prior, and he'd been with me through all the ups and downs. My former cat, Max, a beautiful black tabby had gotten very sick and had to be put down a few years earlier. I was crushed. Picture a 50 year old woman standing in the middle of a street in Center City Philadelphia, bawling like a five-year-old. That was me the day I took Max to the vet for the last time. A couple of years later, Abel, my ex, had found Bumblebee in the street near his old apartment. He fed him and his brothers and eventually brought him home. He named the cat Bumblebee because he is a yellow striped tabby and when he was a kitten, Abel thought the stripes made him look like a bumblebee. Yeah, I know. Don't ask.

We cleaned him up, took him to the vet, and then he was ours. Abel and I broke up long ago and since he worked far from home and was only home on weekends through much of our relationship, I got custody of Bumblebee after we split.  But we have remained friends, so during the Darkest Days, knowing how devastated I was at having to give up the cats, he  called and said, "You know I have a crazy schedule. I can't take them both, but I will take Bumblebee and you can have him back when things get better."  So, tearful and heartsick, I packed him up and sent him back to his 'dad'.

And now he's back. He's back. He's BACK!  Bumblebee was always a big cat but now he's even bigger. And he's just as affectionate as ever, following me from room to room, rubbing against me whenever I stand still. I've always called him a dog in a catsuit because he obviously did not get the memo that cats are known to be aloof. Aloof? I've had to gently push him off my lap twice today. My legs are bare and he's so happy to be back, he keeps trying to knead my legs and his nails are killing me. He doesn't like having them clipped but he tolerates it if it's done quickly. Note to self: remember that when he starts giving you the "I want to sit on your lap" look, put on pants FIRST. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Forced Minimalism

When life hands you lemons, pick up the lemons, cut them open and throw them in life's eye.

Most of the things that are important to me are in storage in Jersey City. The worktable I bought from Pottery Barn about 10 years ago. The three-wheeled bike that my ex bought me for my birthday a few years ago. My Tivoli table radio. My dishes, glasses, CDs and DVDs, books, all the usual things that make a house a home.  I've had items in storage before but never for very long. This time around, it's been 18 very long, very difficult months. I've missed my things and now it's almost time to retrieve them for good.

So I went to my storage space a week ago to prepare them for the Big Move and found to my horror and disgust that a rat had somehow gotten into my unit. Over the past 18 months, I've had several purging sessions with the help of my daughter. I had placed the purged stuff in large black plastic bags -- which apparently are appealing to rats. My boxes seemed to be undisturbed but the bags showed definite signs of being mauled and when I opened one of them, I found -- tada -- rat poop.


Needless to say, Rat was not in the unit; he'd done his damage and left, thank whatever deity there is -- because if he'd been in there, I'd have had a coronary right then and there.

So. I called the manager of the storage facility. I was advised that they have regular exterminator visits and that I should make my claim with the storage company's insurance company. I called them and got a very sympathetic person who advised me to take pictures of the bags and to try to list the damaged items as best I could. I have no desire to go back into the bags and sort through rat poop, but he suggested that I look for similar items online and list those with the appropriate cost.  I also called the corporate offices of the national storage company and told them about the rat issue. They gave me the name of the regional manager who told me that he would advise the manager that I could leave behind any bags that were damaged and they would dispose of them, despite their 'no-public-garbage-dumping' policy. This storage facility is the only one I've ever used that did not have a dumpster on site. They expect you to take your garbage with you.  In this instance, however, the regional manager assured me that they would take care of it.

Called the storage facility again today to confirm that the regional manager had spoken to the manager and that my file was updated with all the information. The assistant manager told me that he did see some info about the rat issue in my file but NOT about leaving the garbage behind. He said that was "unusual" since they usually do not allow anyone to leave their trash. He said he would speak to the manager to make sure that the regional manager had gotten in touch.  Have not heard from him.

I have not named the storage facility -- YET -- because I want to see how this plays out. I am moving out on Sunday, July 8, 2012. I will call the facility tomorrow. If all is well, I will name the facility and report the good news. If I am met with resistance, I will name the storage facility and bad-mouth them from YELP to Google to any and every other place I can think of.

Did I mention that I got a letter from the insurance company today advising me that they do not cover rodent damage?

If anything else is damaged aside from the things I care most about, I will leave it there despite their 'no public garbage facility' policy and if the storage company balks, I will, as I said, make them regret it as best I can.

I've been feeling highly stressed about this and about the move in general all week and this morning, it reached a crescendo. I felt weepy and out of sorts for most of the morning... but by afternoon, I had some kind of slow-motion epiphany.

I can live with less. I need to de-clutter my space and my life. Having dealt with horrific financial difficulties in recent years, I have had to leave many things behind that were once important to me... and I have learned that many things are just... things.  People can never, ever be replaced but most things (furniture, books, Christmas ornaments, knickknacks) are replaceable. And when you don't have them or you don't see them because they are locked away in storage, you forget that you have them. And when you forget that you have them, you can't miss them, and you don't.

In the past six months, I have had to start my life over again. This is not the first time, but I hope, I hope, I hope it will be the last.  New job, new apartment, new neighborhood, hopefully a new man is in my future...?..... and maybe I will have to start over yet again with fewer things.

But it feels kind of okay. I have more than my share of emotional baggage but  I have been slowly but consistently shedding it. I no longer want or need to have a pile of insignificant things pulling me under. I am seeking a simple, uncomplicated life. And I will have it.