Transition

I may have mentioned before that I don’t handle transition well. Change: it’s scary. It’s unsettling.

John and I just went through a MAJOR transition. We moved back to Maine. We’re selling John’s car (2005 Saturn Ion, Standard, 60,000 miles and in great condition if anyone wants to make an offer…) to become a one-car family because we live within easy walking distance of my job and John is working from home. Oh yeah…we’re also both working 25 hours a week and making more than we did in Massachusetts with a lower cost of living, which means we are (for the time being) partially retired. I can walk to my best friend’s house easily, my youngest sister lives only 20 minutes away, and our parents live less than two hours away. Our apartment is beautiful, and we’re in a position to start seriously looking for a house to buy.

This is  all very, very good, right? Of course right.

So why does change still feel so sucky?

I mean, I can identify the small things. Moving is tough. Dealing with car registration in a new state is a pain in the rump, but okay in Maine, because I know how to handle myself with the BMV, thank you very much. Weevil infestations that come with renting in old building that clearly needs to be cleaned more deeply are skin-crawling. Living in a small apartment with a spouse who is home most of the time is an adjustment. Transitioning from “We socialize on long holiday weekends only” to “We socialize several days each week” is weirdly exhausting, especially for introverts like John and I,  though it’s a good kind of exhaustion.

And there are so many positive things. We have time on our hands, which means we’re not feeling deprived of time if we go to bed early enough to get up at six in the morning to go for a run. We have time to get fit together. Transitions like this are also a good time to trick yourself into thinking you’ve always eaten better, so we’re doing well on our most recent “eat better” challenge. We both have ample time to work on our creative projects…which is why you should be seeing more of my blog again, lucky you. Our apartment has better sunlight. I have sunny space to grow my plants outside of my car. I can start biking again. There are so many farmers’ markets it’s insane. I have connections to people who are connected to the crafty world of Portland. I have many friends nearby for the first time in three years.

Change is apparently still a challenge for me even under these absurdly positive circumstances, however, because I find myself struggling to shake a chronic case of the grumps.

Someone give me a solid kick in the pants so I can move on and feel settled, would you?

Moving Right Along

We’re moving! Oh, you didn’t know? You must be one of the three people who reads my non-knitting posts who I don’t know in real life. Yes, I care about you three SO much that I wrote that announcement and looked up this video just for you!

Forgive my flippancy. It’s just a “be flippant or curl up and sleep” kind of day for my mental energy. Moving is horrible. We don’t have that much stuff, as stuff goes, and I’m super-organized and therefore still half-packed from moving in two years ago. (Moving Tip #1: If it’s going to end up in a closet to be stored most of the year, pack it in a big plastic tub that it can stay in after the move! Genius, right here. ) The process of calling all the utilities and the landlords and scheduling trucks and getting boxes and changing your address and figuring out the insurance change in a new state, well, it’s all just insane. Pure and simple.

Working two jobs on top of the process has my brain split in so many directions I feel like I can’t get anything done. Plus, brilliant me, I decided to try to implement a shift in my eating/exercise habits because I’ve been feeling serious sugar drag. More energy from reduced sugar is awesome…but I forgot that when you go temporarily cold turkey on carbs to reset your brain’s sweet cravings to be fine with whole grains and fruit, there’s a withdrawal period of headache-encumbered crankiness. Yay.

As I’m packing our belongings in this mental state, I find myself throwing a lot of stuff away while hollering, “Dammit, why do we keep so much trash?!?” John, bless him, understands the source of my crankiness and recognizes that I’m yelling at myself. He spends a lot of time laughing at me, which helps me keep everything in perspective. But dammit, I do keep a lot of trash. Maybe it’s the general moving crankiness, or maybe I’m getting less sentimental at this point in my life, but I have thrown away about 75% of the tchotchkes and knick-knacks and greeting cards that I have hoarded over the years.

My rule used to be that I had to keep something for every single memory so that in the future, I would be able to pick up the item and remember the story that went with it. What my ten-year-old scrapbooking self did not understand is that your memory goes downhill pretty quickly once you hit adulthood. It’s frightening. I know for a fact that nothing goes into my Memory Box without being connected to a story I cared about, but as I sorted through it, I realized that I didn’t even have a hint of an inkling as to what half of the items meant. The physical connection just wasn’t enough to trigger the memory, possibly because as I’ve gotten older and made more memories, I’ve had less time to spend handling the objects and remembering. And while it makes me sad to throw away these items that once meant something to me, the truth is that I don’t care about the items. I care about the stories, and those are already lost, because it’s not bad enough that we can’t hang on to life forever: we can’t even hang on to our lives while we’re alive.

See what I mean? I am a royal cranky-pants right now.

What I find myself clinging to is the hope that those stories have been pushed out by memories of better stories I’ve lived. If my brain has a finite capacity for personal memoir, I guess I want to hold on to the best of the best. And with most of my life hopefully still ahead of me (assuming the zombies and robots don’t get us first), I’d like to think that I have yet to live the best years of that life. Always onward, always upward, right? This makes it okay for me to let go of the junk that used to hold a memory. The same thought plays counterbalancing to the anxiety of a major move as well–things have  been nice where we are, really, but they’re going to be even better in our new location, closer to the people we love.

One hopes.

Home Depot? Again?

Did you know that if you spend $25 on tiny packages of hardware at Home Depot for more than three days in a row, they offer to teach you their secret handshake and make you a member of a special club for people with way too much time on their hands? You didn’t know that? Fair enough. It’s not actually true, but my word, it feels like it should be. I am about one trip away from inviting half of the Home Depot staff to a housewarming party.

We have a full toolbox and two bins of varying sizes containing, I thought, everything we could need to hang things, patch things, shim things, and other various verbs that apply to getting things settled, and yet it’s not enough. Worse, we make extensive lists as we set things up and discover a missing bolt or a squashed hook, carefully making note of everything we could need, but once we get home and put them into place, we discover that something isn’t quite working, and we have to start yet another list.

Fortunately, our local Home Depot is in the middle of inventory. Apparently this means that they flood the store with employees from other stores. As I’ve been wandering around looking for s-hooks and #10-24 machine screws, I haven’t been able to walk past two aisles without someone greeting me and asking what I’m looking for. At first I thought the store was a bit overstaffed, as I have always had to cross half the store before finding an employee in the past, until one of the women whose help I accepted led me up an down three aisles before we found what I was looking for—a chase which she apologized for by explaining that she was only at this store for inventory.

The aprons are willing, but their knowledge is weak.

I don’t want to jinx it, but I do finally think that we’ve got things settled within one more trip to Home Depot. All that’s left is to paint one small section of wall and rig up a rack for my pots and pans, so if that turns into another three trips to the store, I may have to find a hat to eat.

Why do people eat hats when their confidence is misplaced, by the way? Can anyone explain the origins of that to me? Why not shoelaces or cravats?

But that’s beside the point. The point is that I’m developing Stockholm syndrome for the color orange, and I can’t wait to once again think of Home Depot as a place that I don’t typically need to visit more than a handful of times in a year. We’re almost there.

I think.

The Times, They Are a-Changin’

It might be a little dramatic to suggest that the times are changing for the world at large any more than they usually do, but the times for John and I are certainly on the move. We moved out of the closet that was our sorry excuse of our apartment for the last year into a yup-tastic condo community this weekend. It’s got a pool and AC and appliances and everything.

And I do mean everything—including neighbors.

We got the keys on Thursday and decided to camp out on the floor so we could stay late getting a few things ready for the real move. I had painted a substantial chunk of the apartment and I just wanted to keep going, and we wanted to assemble and coo over the cunning widdle pre-drilled holes of John’s Ikea desk, which has been weighing down our car for a month. (I admit, we got a bit ahead of ourselves on that one.)

The sexiness of the apartment had us both a little giddy. We have a porch, for goodness’ sake, and an icemaker! As John put it, we will actually need to be watchful of our energy habits in this apartment, because it is luxuriously full of energy-wasters. Not so much an issue in our last place, where our energy consumption was capped by what we could safely plug into two outlets. Anyway, when we finally crashed on the floor that first night, well after midnight, we were so happy with the place that even curling up on the hard wood floors seemed like a luxury.

I’ve been a big bundled ball of nerves and energy this week, between the apartment and the new job which I have more or less been hired for (pending the completion of an Everest of paperwork), so sleeping hasn’t been easy even when I’m exhausted. And while the floor might have felt luxurious, it’s not quite meant to be a mattress, is it? I don’t think I managed to hit a decently sound sleep until something like three in the morning, about an hour before we met our first neighbor.

I had been listening to all the echoing sounds of emptiness in my nerved-jangled state as I was trying to fall asleep, and part of the reason I took so long to drift off to dreamland was the fact that every clunk of the icemaker or hum of the AC turning back on jolted me into an adrenaline-flooded certainty that burglars were in the next room. So when the ceiling above us creaked at four in the morning, it broke my tentative hold on sleep in a heartbeat.

Creak, creak, creak. CREAK. CREak, CrEaK. Creakcreakcreakcreakcreak….CREAK. Creak! Cre…ak? Creak, creak, creak, CreaK. Creak, creak, creak. CREAK. CREak, CrEaK. CREAK. Creak! Cre…ak? Creakcreakcreakcreakcreak….CREAK. Creak! Cre…ak? Creak, creak, creak, CreaK. Creak, creak, creak. CREAK. CREak, CrEaK. Creakcreakcreakcreakcreak….CREAK. Creak! Cre…ak? Creak, creak, creak, CreaK.

Apparently, the floor that forms the ceiling of our bedroom incredibly creaky and we have a neighbor who likes to pace back and forth before even the sun has decided that it’s time to start the day. Sunday morning, same routine. Today I was actually exhausted enough to sleep through it, but according to John, it looks like this early racket is going to be a routine.

This has the potential to be an enormous problem, but I think it may turn out to be a bit of a blessing. My new job (if I actually manage to confirm it) will be dragging me out of bed just as early, which will take a bit of adjustment. Having to work such early hours may be the best coping mechanism for a neighbor’s irritating habits, and having such an irritating neighbor may well prove to be invaluable as an alarm clock.

See? This apartment really does have everything.

So Much Time, So Little To Do

So, um…what day of the week is it? We’re still in June, right? 2010? Oh, good. I haven’t missed too much. Not having to be anywhere at any specified time or place for (more or less) over a month is taking its toll on my awareness of the outside world. Not that I don’t adore certain aspects of having an extended vacation, but I really, really need the structure of my summer job soon to keep me from going crazy. Or possibly driving John off the deep end.

 

The floating timelessness actually isn’t the problem. Sad to say, but I’m fairly content to be drifting in state of oblivion to time for it’s own sake. Having an entire day to watch stupid shows on Netflix, practice my guitar, work on my book, and devour my summer reading books is a delight. The real problem is that we’re moving in August.

 

My sense of time isn’t really so far gone that I don’t know our moving date is still over two months away, but here’s the thing: I can’t wait to be out of this apartment. I am sick to death of having to climb over the bed to get to where my clothes are stored in plastic bins underneath it or, alternatively, stubbing my inevitably bare toes on the immovable base of the enormous office chair that is entirely too big for the space. I am tired of almost knocking pans off the stove with my rump every time I try to turn around in our spaghetti-style kitchen and injuring myself when boiling liquids or deadly knives slide off our absurdly sloped counters. I am disgusted by the indefatigable plague of mice and annoyed by the dripping faucets that the facilities management guy failed to fix. Twice.

 

Taking all these petty grievances with good humor has been an adventure this year, and in all honesty, I really can’t do anything but laugh at my frustration with the apartment. Or at least, I couldn’t, until we signed papers for a new place. Now I can see an end in sight, and whenever that happens, I get hit with “Mouse and Cookie” syndrome. It goes like this…

 

If you give Melissa a vision of a pretty new apartment to decorate, she will start thinking about how the furniture should be arranged. And then, when she realizes she could get rid of a worn out desk if she used the little table for her computer, she’ll have to try it out. And if that works, she’ll have to put the old desk on Craigslist, which will make her wonder: “What other things are bulky, annoying to move, and entirely superfluous to our contentment?” So then she’ll pull out the garbage bags and start organizing things to be sold or to donate to Goodwill…

 

You get the idea. Yesterday I bought CD wallets so I could pull all of John’s 100+ game disks out of the jewel cases, store them in a more attractive, space-efficient manner, and organize them alphabetically. (With his permission. Don’t sound so horrified—I’m not that nuts. Yet.) That freed up space on the DVD rack, and as we were watching Watchmen (2 hrs. 43 mins. = too long for a dark comic world I’m unfamiliar with on a tiny screen when I’m in MCS mode), I realized that I could use that shelf for all our card games, which were cluttering up space on top of John’s desk. It took all my willpower to wait until the credits started rolling to get up and carry out my thought.

 

I am an organizational monster right now. Thinking about how best to consolidate and organize our stuff for a painless move is literally keeping me up at night.

 

I did have a bit of comic relief and amusing human interaction spring from this insanity, so I suppose it’s not all bad. That desk which I put up on Craigslist sold in the first half hour. When I called the number given in the email, I got a man who didn’t speak a lot of English. From what I heard of the his conversation with people in the background, I think they were speaking Haitian Creole, which I don’t speak at all. This made for an interesting challenge trying to give directions. We eventually agreed that I should email him the address, and the family made it to my apartment a while later.

 

When my buzzer rang, I answered and told them to come on up to the fourth floor. I wasn’t sure if they definitely wanted the desk or if they wanted it in one piece, so it made more sense to have them come up. I carried the desk close to the door, opened it, and waited to flag them down. And waited. I was puzzling over how long it took to climb three flights of stairs when my buzzer rang again.

 

The intercoms have pretty poor sound quality, even if we hadn’t been dealing with a language barrier, but I got the drift that they had thought I was coming down. So down I went. On the second exchange, they caught the idea that I thought they were coming up, so up they came. We managed to meet in the middle, and I brought them up to look at the desk.

 

The desk goes together and comes apart pretty easily, but it’s light and small enough that I had really been hoping they would just take it in one piece. Sadly, that didn’t work for them, so I popped the desk upside-down in the hallway and put the Allen wrench to work. Slowly. I’m not particularly swift with the disassembling of particle board furniture, especially in bad light with three people watching me. I tried to make small talk to lighten the awkwardness, but again…the language thing. I smiled a lot and said nice things, and they smiled back at me uncertainly.

 

A couple of the screws weren’t biting into the wood enough to come out easily, so the man took over helping me with the keyboard tray. This made me nervous, because experience has taught me that keyboard trays are massively irritating to put back together if they come apart the wrong way. I tried to steady the mechanism, but I honestly don’t really know quite how these things go together…somewhere in the process, something fell apart, and the twelve tiny metal balls that keep the tray rolling smoothly went flying all down the gray and dingy hallway.

 

It took half an hour, John’s super strong magnets, and four pairs of eyes scouring the hall to find eleven of the balls. We scattered some of them twice more before we managed to discover the trick of putting the tray back together, with some of my neighbors passing by and looking at us like we were out of our minds for wandering around the hall with our rumps in the air and our eyes to the ground, but we did manage to get the roller reassembled.

 

At this point, I was feeling thoroughly embarrassed at how inept I was at taking apart a very simple desk that I’ve assembled twice, and I was also not sure how I should handle the question of the money. We had agreed to $40 on the phone, but I didn’t wanted to be pushy, especially given how much of a hassle the desk had turned out to be. I offered to help them carry to pieces out to their car, thinking maybe I should just let them have the desk if they didn’t offer the mon
ey.

 

When we got down to the first floor, I was behind them. They hadn’t said anything to each other going down the stairs, but they all paused inside the doors, not looking at me. One of the women started digging around in her purse, and I realized she was probably looking for her money. I looked away to be polite, letting my gaze wander around the ceiling, the stairs, the odd patch of missing tile…

 

I know awkward situations always feel like they’re taking longer than they do, but five minutes in a small space trying not to watch someone dig through their purse while you’re waiting to carry something out for them feels like approximately three lifetimes when you can’t make small talk. I have no particular love of chatting for chatting’s sake, but I became very keenly aware of its value as a tool for moderating social awkwardness when I suddenly couldn’t use it.

 

She did eventually find the money, and we parted ways with polite smiles and a sincere conviction on my part that they thought I was a little nuts. Given the fact that I went upstairs to pack a box or two for a move that’s still two months away, however, that assessment would be fair enough.