I’m flying. I’m landing. Skittering along; halting to find I’m the wrong way around.
I’m floating. Above life looking down. I’m on the edge, a precipice with one foot hanging over, saying it’s going to go. Inviting, welcoming the rest of me to come along. Fall or fly? Still, I saw at the chains that hold me there.
I’m waiting. Waiting and moving. Moving around on the set of another play. Other characters are giving me cues but these are not my lines and I fumble them and the audience is not amused.
I’m watching. The clock. An extra hour we’ve been given this week but in the middle of the night as I’m rehearsing the lines it’s a long, heavy hour mocking me there.
I’m heavy. Heavy, floating, slow across the stage. Waiting for sleep but that damn clock mocks.
Believe in yourself and believe in love. Love something. We’ve got to learn to love something deeply. I think it’s love. It sounds sentimental as hell, but I really think it is. To paint a leaf, or a twig, or a piece of dung from a horse, it doesn’t matter; the shadow it casts can be wonderful.
Andrew Wyeth (the Wisdom project)
I really dig some of the philosophies explored by the literary sets of the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly transcendentalism and romanticism. I absolutely subscribe to the notion that the individual locates any true spiritual experience within the self and experience, and that doctrines borne in religious or political establishments were not intended for the benefit of someone like me. I don't see how that has to be so far off from the general message promoted by every one of those doctrines, but then again, everything can be twisted around to say something else.
No doubt my arrival in the 20th century – starting in the sixties and coming of age in the seventies – has something to do with that questioning of establishments in general. But it's more than being anti-establishiment. It's about transformation; about finding those things that elevate my experience from its earthly hangout.
Sometime in the nineties, one of my more esteemed English professors, Eugene McNamara, was lecturing about one of the harbingers of transcendentalism and preeminent orators of his time, Ralph Waldo Emerson. He suggested that ol’ R.W. would not much appreciate finding his essays chopped up into quotes on fridge magnets and stationery on drug store shelves. I recall reaching into my bag and pulling out a small datebook and showing my friend Dale in the next seat the Emerson quote providing insight for the month of March.
I suppose Emerson didn’t anticipate the reduced attention spans of those who would inhabit the twenty-twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I'm afraid we like our ideas succinct.
But I sure would have loved to hear him express this [not succinct] idea aloud in a talk about living a successful life:
To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Emerson might hate it, but let's call him and his really big ideas beautiful thing number 44.
“There’s no secret to balance. You just have to feel the waves”
~ Frank Herbert
I've had a couple of conversations with people lately about a yearning I'm feeling this summer – that some sort of change is wanting in me. I'm not exactly sure what that is, I need to get with a journal and paints and do some serious reflection about what the hell it is that I want.
I've been here before – and it was summer then too. Maybe it's just a desire to hang on to the summer, or to engender in me the feeling of peace and "slowing down" that comes with it. It's summer, but there's peace missing.
Something's off balance. It's not a particulary bad feeling – if one weren't up for changing or growing or enhancing, life would seem pretty dead-end, wouldn't it? Or maybe that's just the ever restless me. I don't feel balanced unless I'm moving, otherwise some sort of vertigo sets in.
Face forward, that's my strategy. If you're always looking down you might miss the signs.
"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving."
So I made peace with his landlordship. No, we didn’t discuss the Matter of the Windows or his Jacking Up the Furnace Policy. Let’s just say we both know it’s an issue that would remain unresolved for as long as I chose to live there. He did say he’s thinking of building a deck for the upper apartment, so perhaps that’s his acknowledgement of most peoples’ need for fresh air and an enjoyment of summer. He probably thinks that the next tenant’s utilisation of a deck space will eliminate any need to open windows – but that’s a discussion I’m not going to need to have ever again.
At any rate, the exchange was friendly and generous on both sides, and I’m glad to be leaving him on good terms. He expressed sadness that I’m going, and I understand that. It’s not about the money for him; it’s about the comfort of having another body moving about in the big house. And it’s hard to find a good tenant, particularly when one is inclined to make much ado over small things. I’m glad to be leaving his control issues and mind games. I’m sad to be leaving behind the friendly, slightly cheeky man who gave me some prints of his bird paintings, which I’ll hang in my new home in honour of his good qualities, and because they’re lovely.
I get possession of my new digs tomorrow and the official move is Monday. I hope to use the weekend to get the cupboard and closet stuff in place, and thus ease SOME of the unpacking pain.
But then I never find moving painful. Well, leaving Windsor and the place I lived my entire life was painful. More bittersweet: moving closer to my family, but leaving my friends; becoming a homeless empty nester, but embarking on a month-long adventure to find love across the ocean in a country I’d never been to before. I couldn’t have known then that it would take years to overcome that shock to my system, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I’ve always loved change – I crave it sometimes. I suspect that now I’m that empty-nester I’m a little too free to run after change any time the whim takes me. I won’t even begin to discuss my thoughts on where this has left me in the love and relationship department. Maybe I should be like my favourite bloggers – refreshingly honest and personally forthright – and lay that out on the table. Maybe in doing that I could affect some internal change in an area that could really stand some improvement.
But not today. I’m too jazzed about the move. It’ll be the fourth neighbourhood I’ve tried in Toronto since 2006. It’ll be different than any type of home or neighbourhood I’ve ever lived. Because in making this decision, I thought that it was time to let go of some ideas about re-creating that kind of neighbourhood and HOME that I had when my girls were growing up. After all, everything’s different now. I AM alone and I CAN follow these yearnings and go where the wind takes me. I truly believe in following the rhythms of the universe, and I’m looking forward to discovering where the path takes me.
As of Monday, everything will be new again. With wide open windows.
Change is the only constant. *~Heraclitus
Me and my landlord have got ourselves into a bit of a standoff sitch. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I signed on for living above a retired bloke. Not that there’s anything wrong with retired people, I love lots of them from the bottom of my heart – it’s just that for many their worlds get smaller again, and for some, their lives are centred on their four walls. Living above someone who carries on most of his existence in the space below would of course mean lots of attention placed on me and what I do.
Back in Windsor we lived next to two old retired guys, both of whom obsessed over their yards. And mine. Dominic and Joe would stand on their porches and watch me cut my grass. Once, when I was finished, Joe walked over to the fence and asked me, “You going to bag that grass now?” I was nice, and didn’t respond that I, who worked and went to school full time and was raising two little girls and managing a house and yard, actually didn’t approve of bagging grass to send off with the garbage man when it’s good for the soil anyway. I just sweetly said “no” and carried on.
I always try to be nice to people. I believe you get what you give in this world and goodness me there’s enough bad feeling floating around out there already. And my landlord is usually a really nice man. He’s got all kinds of Irish charm and he loves to talk. That may be part of the problem – I think in me he was looking for someone to talk to. He’s got loads of people to talk to – he spends hours on the phone every day and visits friends all the time. But I wasn’t signing on to keep him company. I am a nice person, but I am relatively reserved and I abhor small talk and I choose my friends carefully. Maybe it sounds uncharitable, but all I wanted was a nice clean place to hang my hat in a nice neighbourhood and a normal, congenial landlord/tenant relationship.
It became evident that renting there was a mistake right after I moved in and the head games started. It took several days of him playing his TV very loud very early in the morning and me overhearing some agitated sounding telephone conversations, which I sensed I was supposed to be overhearing. I found out through a third party (the agent who took care of finding him a tenant) that my living room was above his bedroom and I was staying up too late and he could hear my TV and me walking around. And that he didn’t like the smell of what I had cooked the weekend previous.
It was a low moment, coming to terms with the mistake I had made. A comfortable home is one of the main ingredients to happiness in my books. Both my sister and a friend of mine assured me he was simply peeing on his territory and the dust would settle, but I knew I would never claim that flat as anything like “home.” Sure, I had rights, but he was making it clear this was HIS home and he wasn’t going to let me forget it.
So I changed things around in my flat and we eased into an agreeable relationship. But there on in I would carry guilt for staying up into the morning hours on weekends, or coming in late or cooking fragrant meals.
Then, last year, he again got to “communicating with symbolic actions” rather than speaking to me, when arose THE MATTER OF THE WINDOWS. He likes his place warm. And as it turns out, sealed shut. It’s not so bad in winter to come into a nice warm place, as long as you’re comfortable enough with yourself to walk around half naked most of the time. When spring came, however, I would – like most other people in seasonal climates – crank open the windows to enjoy the fresh warm days and rid the place of the winter’s stale forced air.
He soon made plain his displeasure in open windows, because every time I committed this offence, he took to cranking up the furnace to an unreasonable degree. I’m not sure what the point of that is – our apartments have separate entrances, closed off from one another. There is no way that me opening a window would affect the temperature of his place. But clearly, if he wasn’t trying to make some kind of point then he was trying to ensure I wasn’t comfortable.
It was late spring – eventually he would switch over to the air conditioning, but this was certainly past the time when I or any sane person would engage a furnace.
This year, unwilling to endure the furnace game for another season, I gave him the obligatory sixty days’ notice and began a search for a new home. He was nice about it. He was going to go abroad for the month of May and said he was glad he’d be back before I moved out. And I was glad because I’d have the month of May to make as much noise as I wanted packing and to open the windows and relish spring. And as it turns out we’ve had the most wonderful, early, warm, sunshiny spring.
With the warm sunshiny spring and continued running of the furnace came a warmer and stuffier apartment. And so again begins the battle of the windows.
I don’t open them wantonly or to provoke him, and I always close them when I leave. But unfailingly, as soon as I open one, I hear him go outside and then come back in and with a growl the furnace rages forth. One night it got up to 87°. Herein lies the standoff. Not willing to suffer in unreasonable dry heat, I open the windows. And he, not willing to endure an insufferable window opener, jacks up the thermostat.
This week I’ve figured out he’s not going on his trip, probably related to the battle of the windows, but I wouldn’t know, he hasn’t communicated any sort of reasoning or plan to me. Maybe he can’t stand the thought of going abroad and me opening windows and him not being able to protect his house from my addiction to the evil, home destroying fresh air smells with his forced air gas weapon.
I am moving soon and it’s goodbye to head games and bad feelings. I’ve got the opportunity to get my new place two weeks early and I’m taking it. This time I’m moving to a condo down in the harbour, the likes of which I’ve never lived in before. I got a great deal on the rent, it’s in a great location and has nice amenities. It's different and it'll be fun. And I’ll be anonymous.
Maybe desiring anonymity is kind of sad, but living in a fishbowl is exceedingly irksome. Anonymous is more agreeable than being the subject of someone’s need to control her comfort level. I’ve reached the end of my nice; the only thing left to do now is say goodbye and go.