I spent so much of 2013 getting rid of things. Being OBSESSED with that process, really. I devoted so much time and energy to purging, sorting, and cleaning my space, it was like a part time (unpaid) job. Bags and bags of items were donated to the Goodwill. Suitcases full of clothing and shoes were dragged to resale. We sold several bigger-ticket items on ebay, and I gave still useful, high quality things to happy friends whenever possible. Borrowed items were returned to their rightful owners (who in most every case, seemed surprised to see the stuff and had not missed it). And I continue to be astonished at the amount of recycling and trash we haul out to the curb every week.
We’ve significantly slowed the inflow of stuff into our house, so basic math would tell me that if there isn’t much new coming in, and what we have now is mostly stuff we love and need, there shouldn’t be much left to get rid of. And yet, every time I say that, we somehow manage to generate another giant discard pile.
How is this possible? I don’t know for sure. I think it’s partly due to the fact that on our first purge, we were still pretty attached to stuff, and were too conservative in what we were willing to release. But as time goes on and we start to notice that items we just couldn’t bear to part with are still hanging around unused, even when we have less to choose from, they start to fall out of favor. We’re also doing a better job of not feeling guilty about getting rid of things that were given to us, and not letting our relationships feel defined by the exchange of stuff.
I also think our continued discarding is a testament to the sheer volume of crap we started with. We just really had a ton of stuff in this house. I did a routine house cleaning yesterday, and I was struck by the realization that I was able to dust certain surfaces that I usually didn’t bother tackling, because they were finally clear of objects and piles of paper. Things that once didn’t have a home are now put away in closets and cupboards because there is actually room for them. Ron has done such impressive clutter clearing in our office space that I was able to sweep out the corner of the room near his desk that has been inaccessible for literally years.
I kind of wish I had kept a count of the number of items we purged in 2013. On days when I still feel overwhelmed by my stuff, I could look at the number and it would make me feel better.
On New Year’s Eve, I took a load of stuff to the Goodwill, because it was my last day to get tax credit for a donation in 2013. As I dropped it off, I thought “It will probably be a while before I need to do this again.”
Only one week later, our donation pile already looks like this:
A couple pairs of cheap shoes with no arch support that I rarely wear, a dog bed Stella no longer likes to sleep in (she still has three other ones in various rooms of the house), a stray Christmas ornament, an XM radio player for an XM radio unit we no longer own, an old CD carrying case, a couple old backpacks, a trash bag full of t-shirts Ron decided to get rid of, and an old-timey popcorn maker. This doesn’t count the suitcase that is completely full of clothes bound for resale later this month, or the video game systems we are about to list on Ebay.
2014 is off to a good start.
We spent some of yesterday taking down the Christmas tree and putting all the holiday decorations away. I love decorating and being festive and in the Christmas spirit, but I am also always relieved to have my normal house back, and to not be vacuuming up stray pine needles all the time.
I started my lagom project after Christmas of 2012 (on Jan. 11th, 2013 to be precise), so as we pulled out all the decorations this year, I realized that I hadn’t done any paring down where that stuff was concerned. We don’t have a ton of decorations to start with, and the majority of the stuff we do have were either gifts we’ve received or things from my childhood – I’ve personally bought very little Christmas decor over the years. The good news about that is there isn’t a tremendous amount of stuff on which to make decisions. The bad news is that there IS a tremendous amount of sentimentality attached to it all for me.
One thing I knew we needed to declutter was Christmas tree ornaments. Lord those things are easy to collect! The first gift I ever gave Ron was two Christmas tree ornaments, because we met each other in person for the first time a couple days before Christmas Eve, so we had planned to decorate my Christmas tree together. That started a tradition between us of giving each other a new ornament every year on the day we decorated our tree. We’ve been together for eleven Christmases now, so that is a substantial amount of ornaments to add to our collection – though we have forgone the tradition a couple times because either one of us forgot, or we were broke. Here is one of the first ornaments I gave him (the biker), and the one he gave me the Christmas after we got married, along with one I gave him to commemorate his love of Stella:
My mom has given me and my sister a new ornament every year on our “Santa” gifts – usually one that matches the theme of the paper she chose that year. She now does ornaments for Ron and my sister’s boyfriend as well, so we come home from her house with two new ornaments every year. Here is a trumpet from a year the paper she wrapped the gifts in had a musical instruments and angels theme:
I also have a bunch of ornaments that my aunt gave me when she had a business that sold holiday stuff – I remember going to her house one summer and she gave me and my sister each a big beach bag full of ornaments – here are just two of them:
At one point my Mom decided she wanted to decorate her tree every year in only blue and white and silver decorations, so she let me and my sister have any of the traditional ornaments from our childhood that we wanted. I took this Santa, that a friend gave my Mom back in the 60’s, I think it was before she even knew my dad. When it was time to decorate the tree every year, I always wanted to be the one to hang it up:
And out of pure sentiment, I kept these ornaments I made in Bluebirds when I was little:
I also at some point inherited my grandmother’s collection of wooden stars – I don’t really remember hanging them on our tree growing up, but they totally make me think of her, so I love them:
And then there are ornaments we got as gifts from friends, like this little felt angel my friend Nikki gave me:
Or these Czech dough ornaments from our friends Petr and Simona, which Stella tried to pull off the tree and EAT this year:
Of the few ornaments I’ve actually bought, the birds are my favorites. I think Ron thinks they’re creepy, but I love them. It’s a TREE, for heaven’s sake. It needs birds:
And I have no memory where I got this one, but it’s candy, and it’s pink, so…lovelovelove:
But in the end, no tree that will fit in our living room can handle the amount of ornaments we own, so a lot weren’t maing it out of the storage box. I decided that this year, we would hang our favorites first, and anything that wasn’t an automatic yes would be under scrutiny.
It ended up being easier than I thought. I’m getting the hang of being less attached to stuff at this point, and I no longer feel that throwing an object away is the same as throwing away a relationship or my memories of a person or event. I put everything that didn’t make the cut in a bag, and let it sit in the corner until New Year’s Eve, when I suddenly remembered it was the last day to make Goodwill donations for 2013, so I grabbed the bag along with our other donations and got rid of it all before I could become sentimental and change my mind. I also got rid of it before I had a chance to photograph it, so you’ll have to take my word for it that we got rid of quite a few. I can’t remember specifically which ornaments they were at this point, which is a good sign – if I can’t recall them, they were not my favorites.
When we packed all the ornaments back up this year, it was nice to not be cramming them all in – everything fit comfortably, with room to spare. It’s nice to think that when we open the box again next year, we will only be greeted by our favorite stuff.
I think I’ve mentioned here before that I am a first class procrastinator. And I’ve never been sure why I do it, because it’s not like having pending things to do doesn’t affect me – it really does. I’m the type who hates to be late, who loses sleep over a looming deadline, and who can’t totally relax and enjoy myself until things are complete.
There are so many things I want to do right now, things I should do right now, things I NEED to do right now, and for some reason I find myself doing an excellent job of staring at my to do list and not doing any of them. I could even write a new blog post, for heaven’s sake, but because I haven’t really made any changes or progress in the last week, I haven’t been particularly inspired to do so. Why haven’t I made any changes? Because I’ve been PROCRASTINATING.
Here is just a short list of what I should have done today – a few of these things will get finished tonight because they have to get finished, but I can tell you right now most of it won’t:
- Run the dishwasher. Yes, you read that right. I don’t even have to wash dishes by hand – I have a dishwasher that does the work for me. I need to gather up the stray glasses of water scattered around the house, and the few dishes that are in the sink waiting to be loaded, and run it. But that would take efffffoorrrt.
- Take out the garbage, recycling, and compost. I actually probably will do this tonight, since tomorrow is garbage day. But I have literally been thinking all day that I need to do it, and haven’t done it yet. My excuse? It’s cold out. And garbage is stinky. I will be the jerk in the neighborhood who is dragging her loud garbage cans to the curb at midnight and disturbing your sleep. You’re welcome.
- Record two chapters of the audiobook I’m working on. I don’t know why it is, but every time I have an audiobook to do I get myself into a position where I am scraping it in against the last possible second of the deadline – where the slightest technical glitch or interruption to my recording schedule sends me into a white hot panic. The problem is I always end up making it, so I’ve yet to suffer a consequence. And like a lab rat, no consequence = no behavior change. I think I might get one chapter done tonight, but I had such good intentions of doing two today. I tried to get two done last night, but then Kramer Vs. Kramer was on cable and I got sucked in. I didn’t even end up eating dinner as a result. I can’t say it wasn’t totally worth it.
- Order new head shots. Why haven’t I done this? I should have done this months ago. (I hope my agent is not reading this.) I probably haven’t done it because I still have copies of my old one that I can use. And unless I’m reaching into the file fifteen minutes before I need to leave for an audition and discovering it’s empty and freaking out, I just don’t tend to feel motivated to do it.
- Go back through my closet and get rid of more clothes, since I really do have more than my closet can hold now that I’ve consolidated everything. UGH. I’m DREADING doing this. I know I need to do it, because lately I have been looking at my closet and thinking, “I don’t have anything to wear.” I have learned this year that if you are looking at your overstuffed closet and thinking that, you must not like a lot of your clothes and you should get rid them. But I still can’t afford to buy new stuff, so I find myself hanging on to things out of fear I’ll pare it down, get sick of that stuff, and then have no options. I know, first world problem. But it’s been bugging me for days and I need to deal with it.
- Take the clothes to resale, and take any money I get from that to the bank to put towards our credit card payment. I don’t think I have to explain to anyone why I am putting this particular trifecta of tasks off.
- Record a couple voiceover auditions. These I will do, because they’re due tomorrow. Deadlines. Thank god for them. But they only work for me if they’re real, and real shame would be involved in missing them. It’s not enough for me to set “fake” deadlines for myself, where I am the only person who would know and disapprove if something didn’t happen. I am not afraid of me.
- Do laundry. I won’t do this, even though the hamper is overflowing. My excuse? I need to record a bunch of stuff and since the laundry is in the basement w/my recording booth, I can’t do both at the same time. Recording will win tonight. Suck on that, laundry! Hahahhahahahaha! At least, that is what I will think until tomorrow when I need clean underwear.
- Read some plays. The play reading committees I’m on are starting up again. I’m excited, but now I’m also starting to feel the stress of how I’m going to keep up with my reading AND get the audio book done. Just typing that sentence made me feel stressed.
- Answer about 7 emails from friends who I really, really like, but I haven’t answered their emails because I’ve wanted to write a thoughtful response and not a quick reply. But now they probably think I’m a creep for taking so long to answer them, which tends to make me feel awkward and delay even longer. If you are a friend who has not heard back from me recently, this is probably why. Please forgive me.
- Clean the house. Ron is currently out of town, and we always try to make sure that when one of us is gone, the other person cleans up the house before they get home so they can come home to peace and comfort instead of chaos and germs. I’m not 100% sure it will happen this time around. Sorry honey. I’m a bad wife. Please don’t be mad when you come home to a pile of mail and paperwork on the kitchen table, every scarf and coat I own strewn across the furniture, and piles of my clothes all over the bedroom. And of course a dishwasher that still needs to be run and maybe some garbage and recycling I forgot to take out.
So you might be wondering, what I HAVE done today, or even this week for that matter, that has kept me from all this stuff? Since I clearly haven’t been cleaning, or working hard or anything else important. Well, I have managed to work out every day, and I did make it to a friend’s wedding reception, and I helped another friend put an audition on tape for a TV pilot he’s up for, and I did some dramaturg type work with a dance company for a new dance they’re creating, and I did complete a couple chapters of the audiobook. But that is not a lot to show for almost a full week of time. However, I have accomplished one thing this week that I am very proud of – I have totally healed Stella’s wounded foot. It has required making her wear the cone of shame, and even with that on, I have to constantly monitor her since she can still reach her toes if she stretches them out beyond the edge of it. I’ve also had to keep her on a schedule of antibiotics and soak her foot in Epsom salts for ten minutes twice a day. It’s to the point where she sees me get the bottle of medicine out of the fridge and runs and hides under the kitchen table. But after a week of diligence, the skin between her toes is healthy and wound-free. And it didn’t cost hundreds of dollars like we thought it would – only $45 for the vet visit and meds, about five bucks for a bag of Epsom salts, and a lot of my time and effort.
Oh, and I guess I DID just write a new blog post. Ha.
For this week, that will just have to be lagom.
These past couple weeks have been rough. Some of it I have documented here – like our plumbing leak and Stella’s foot. Those were kind of the “highlight” bad things – but there have been a lot of other things that I haven’t mentioned.
For instance, about a week ago, I was out on my morning walk with Stella, when I suddenly felt a sharp stabbing pain, like a needle had gone deep into the skin of my left glute – a literal “pain in my ass.” I couldn’t figure out what had happened, so I turned around and started limping home, when suddenly I looked down and saw a couple yellow jackets crawling insidiously on Stella’s head. That’s when I realized I had been stung. I was wearing yoga pants and one had flown up my pant leg and stung me. In a panic, I frantically clawed the yellow jackets off of Stella’s head, getting stung again on the base of my palm in the process. But happily Stella escaped unscathed.
Less than a week later, I was on a film set in a house that had a big apple tree out front, with lots of rotting fruit on the ground. Yellow jackets kept getting into the house, and one of them almost stung the actress playing my mom in the face during a shot. A few minutes later, she and I were talking, when I felt something crawling on my wrist. I flipped up the cuff of my shirt, and sure enough, there was a yellow jacket, who either stung or bit me twice before I crushed him into a pulp – it didn’t hurt as bad as the sting I’d gotten a week earlier, but it left two little swollen puncture marks on my wrist. The crew brought me some first aid cream and ice and outside of feeling like I’d been punched really hard in the wrist, I was fine.
The next day, there was no visible swelling, but my wrist itched like fire, and like an idiot I scratched it with abandon. By that evening, my hand, wrist, and lower arm were totally red, swollen, and hot to the touch. Awesome.
But the real sting came later that night, when my Dad called to tell me that on Monday, my grandmother, whose 100th birthday we celebrated last month, had a massive stroke that was deemed “terminal and unsurvivable.”
It’s not that I’m shocked to hear that my grandmother is dying. She’s 100 years old, so I’ve been kind of braced for that type of news. It’s just that less than 30 days ago, I watched her zip around with her walker at her birthday party, laughing and chatting with family and friends and having a great time. Her mind was sharp as a tack, she knew who everyone was even if it had been a while since she’d seen them. She was alert and focused and completely present to everything that was happening. Outside of needing the walker, her health has been remarkably good over the past few years, and talking to her felt no different than it had when I was a little girl. So even though in the back of my mind I knew this would happen someday, her outward show of health and vitality made it seem so much further away.
I’m overwhelmed with sadness, but I’m grateful for the life she’s had for the past century. I’m happy that she was surrounded by so many people who loved her on her birthday, and that she was aware of them all. I’m glad she has not suffered from debilitating health issues in the last few years. I’m particularly thankful for my two aunts, who she has alternated living with so she never had to go into a care facility, or be alone. I’m sure a large part of how healthy and strong she has been can be attributed to the companionship and care she received from them. She has children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren who will always carry on her stories and memories. My cousin and I both inherited her middle name – Faye. We will miss her, but I have to admit we were blessed with her presence for a good long run. I’m comforted to think she’ll see my grandfather again, who died when I was in high school, who she loved so much.
And I love that my last memory of her will be of sitting by her at her birthday dinner, listening to her recount with delight and awe all the people that came to her party (“All the dental assistants from my Dentist’s office even came! And the man who bags my groceries at the grocery store!”). She was as happy and vibrant as ever. In my mind, that is how she will always be. It helps take away some of the sting.
After my last post, I got a lot of very encouraging and supportive messages from people, letting me know they were thinking of me and sending good thoughts. I really appreciate all the kind words – when everything feels like it’s falling apart, it’s nice to know that at least you have good friends who care about what happens to you.
I will admit though, I’ve always been a slight skeptic on the whole “good thoughts” thing, even though I too have often said to people that I am sending good thoughts their way when they are in crisis. And I mean it when I say it – I am wishing people well, from the bottom of my heart. But I don’t know that I believe it will actually DO anything. And it’s not that I wouldn’t want someone to say that to me – it actually makes me feel good. But I don’t really think good thoughts being sent my way can change anything – all it means to me is that my friends are wishing my situation was different, even though there is nothing they can do to change it.
I know my friend Julie would disagree – she is very “hooey-dooey” (her words, not mine), and is a big believer in holding space for good outcomes, doing vision work and vision boards/altars around dreams and goals, and sending good thoughts. And I will say, a remarkable amount of what she envisions for herself comes true. But I’ve never been 100% convinced that her visioning is what has brought that into her life, outside of how it probably keeps her focused on a goal. She’s a smart, charismatic woman and a hard worker, and I’ve always felt it’s those qualities that are the greatest contributions to her success.
However, since the post I wrote yesterday, and the multiple wishes of good thoughts I received, here is what has happened:
- After closer examination, we have discerned once and for all that the leak in the bathroom ceiling is a plumbing leak, not a roof leak. We will not have to tear out the bathroom ceiling, or hire someone to fix the roof. Our lovely friend Mike, who is a contractor, came over and took a look at it and helped Ron fix the leak with simple plumbing tape. Now we just have to wait for the area that was wet to dry (should be tomorrow), and re-plaster the initial hole Ron cut in the ceiling to see what was wrong. We even have plaster on hand from all the work we’ve done on the basement, so we don’t have to buy any.
- In the process of hunting down the leak, Ron discovered that one of the vents in the crawlspace that heats our bedroom was loose, and so all the hot air that should have been coming into our bedroom all these years has been blowing into the crawl space instead. Brilliant. But glad to know that’s why it’s always so cold in our bedroom – we thought it was due to poor insulation and have used an electric radiator to heat the space. Fixing the hole in the vent will probably change everything up there for the better – and without this leak situation, I don’t know when we would have come across the that revelation.
- While Ron was in the crawl space, he also fixed a kitchen light that has been nonfunctioning since we moved in. We even had electricians look at it at one point, and they couldn’t fix it from inside the house. Ron has had it on his to do list for seven years, but was never sure what to do about it. Once he was in the crawlspace, he could see the problem and how to fix it. It is so nice to have the extra light over the stove now!
- I called the vet about Stella’s paw, which we thought was the opposite paw from the one she had surgery on to remove the grass seed. It turns out we were wrong – it’s the same paw, so it’s likely there is just something going on with the way it’s healing from her surgery, as opposed to a whole new problem. We’ve been soaking it in Epsom salts this weekend (which she hates but whatever), and hoping it might heal on it’s own. If not, I have an appointment set up next week to take her to the vet, but it is unlikely we’ll have to pay for surgery – it will probably just be an office visit.
So maybe, just maybe, all those good thoughts people sent did us some good. And I would be more than happy to be wrong. If you were one of the good thought thinkers, thank you (specifically I am thinking of Sarah M., Val S., Heather W., Leonard M., Ronnie L., Mead H., Cate G., Kathy C., Bonnie H-W., John S., Rodney H., John B., Lindsay T., Lori F., Patricia K., Siobhan C., Danielle F., Michelle M., and Julie J.), but if anyone I didn’t mention held a good wish for us as well, I sincerely thank you too. You might be more magical than you realize.
(And can I also add how grateful I am to have a partner like Ron, who will exhaust every possibility of fixing a problem himself before he hires someone else to do it? If he were not as smart, determined, and resourceful as he is when it comes to fixing things, we would be a lot worse off.)
So, I had a blog post all ready about some things that had improved recently with our finances. Ron and I have been excitedly counting down the remaining months – months, not years – we have to paying off all our credit card debt, and we’d been saying lots of hopeful things about what we’d do with the extra money when we finally didn’t have to make credit card payments anymore.
There has been a slight crack in the ceiling in our bathroom, above the tub/shower. We’d noticed it, but weren’t too alarmed, as there was no leaking or other weirdness connected to it – it was just a crack.
That is not the case anymore. The crack grew bigger, and emitted a fine blackish dust and a tiny bit of water that appeared in the tub below. We finally knew we had to investigate, so Ron cut some of the ceiling plaster away to find we have a roof leak. Fixing it will require cutting away probably a lot of the bathroom ceiling, hiring roof experts to fix the leak, letting everything dry, and then re-plastering the ceiling. We don’t know how to do any of this, or what it will all cost. My guess? It will cost a SHITLOAD. I hope I’m wrong, but unfortunately, more often than not I’m right.
Two days ago, I was remarking on Stella’s recent good health – she is 11 years old, and has had a lot of issues in the past three or four years – everything from weird inexplicable limping, to eye injuries that required a dog ophthalmologist, to nine rotten teeth that needed to be pulled, to a grass seed that got embedded between her front toes and grew into an abscess that required a $300 surgery to remove. But lately, she’s been healthy and spry and not costing us any extra money. Last night, we noticed she was obsessively licking a spot between her toes, and when we checked it out, we found a big gross blistery lump, which I’m guessing will require more expensive surgery.
I think I cursed us by saying she was doing so well. I really do. Because just two days ago, she was FINE. Until I SAID she was fine, of course.
So scratch all that positivity about financial improvement, we are effectively screwed again. Thanks for nothing 2013, you miserable, endless wheel of suffering, punishment and financial shittiness. I will not be making the mistake again of being optimistic until the last effing dime is paid off. If it ever does in fact happen. I’m sure there are people who will feel inclined to give me a positivity pep talk about my attitude upon reading this, but I would not recommend it, unless you’d like a whole lot of pent up wrath and frustration directed with no filter right at you. No one else has been in my particular shoes this year, and those shoes have been relentlessly pinching and uncomfortable. I don’t always talk about it here, in an effort to keep this space from being a long string of whining and complaining. But trust me, it’s been a terrible year. I’m sick of all the setbacks we’ve had – it’s been more than our fair share, and just when I think maybe we’ll catch a small break, some other crappy thing happens.
Sorry, it’s just where I’m at today.