I seem to live in the land of first-world problems lately. About two months ago, my old landlords sold my apartment building to a new landlord, one with the vision and know-how to make this 110-year-old row house really beautiful and great. And while in my head I know that he will do exactly that, I’ve never been one for the process of things. Living life in constant upheaval and change has never been how I’ve felt the most comfortable. Knowing I have no choice in the matter makes me feel wildly out of control. And with these renovations, comes an upheaval of my home, too – I’m going to be moving one floor up, out of the apartment that I’ve spent three years in.
Part of that was my choice. With the renovations comes an increase in the rent, and the second floor’s rent stays the same. It makes good financial sense to stay where the rent isn’t going to be raised. And there are other things, too. This apartment, the one I’m sitting in, half-packed boxes all around me – this apartment was one I chose with my ex-girlfriend. It was one whose walls have absorbed all the screams and fights and tears that the two-and-half-year relationship brought, as well as the laughter and the good times. I’ve written two books here. I’ve watched life on Bloor St. W. go by from the big window. There are memories here, and I’m sad to leave them, but I’m also excited for a fresh start.
It’s just the process. The little, niggling things. Like the constant noise. The fact that I can’t find anything in my sea of boxes. The way my cats are always upset and stressed out. The fact that my home used to be a place of peace and relaxation, and now it’s a place punctuated by banging and stamping and sawing and screaming of various machinery. The fact that my landlord needs to come in to check things a lot (and he does this legally . . . it’s just disruptive) to ensure that his ductwork is correct and the pipes are in the right place. The fact that I was supposed to move this weekend, and then next weekend, and now the first weekend of May. The fact that I lost my piano because it can’t go upstairs. It’s a lot and it’s hard, because my anxiety is at an all-time high.
Couple that with the longest, coldest winter we’ve had in 20 years and I’m starting to feel like I’m going insane. It’s hard to remain positive when everyone seems to want something from you. Call this person about PR for your book. Try to organize a book launch. Try to find bloggers who want to review. Budget your bills because of moving costs this month. Pack up everything. Get rid of what you can. Get the mountains of laundry done. Fire your cleaning ladies because they’re not doing the job right. Hire a new one. Schedule nanny jobs and make sure you’re meeting everyone’s needs. Fight for the furniture store to honour my warranty on my destroyed couch. Be home at this time to move the piano. Go to the post office to mail packages and pick up more. Promote the book on Twitter and Facebook to an uncaring audience. Try to be somewhat social. It’s overwhelming, and it shouldn’t be – there are people who have had it a lot worse and will continue to.
The problem with my anxiety is that it slows me down to a crawl and makes everything so much more overwhelming. I don’t want to go out with friends because it’s more energy and time I have to give to someone, and I barely have enough for myself. Yet, staying here, in this mess of a house, with renovation noises roaring over and under me, is also excruciating. Work feels long and arduous, yet it’s also an escape, quiet time, time to focus on tasks that need to be done – a time to feel needed. The air is warming up slowly and I want to get out and take pictures, enjoy the soft wind, yet it requires getting up, getting dressed, getting showered – more energy I don’t have. More things that need to be done. Even eating is hard. More takeout? Should I spend time trying to actually cook something? Is it worth getting groceries this month if I have to move them by the end? I don’t even know what I want to eat, so a lot of evenings, I just don’t.
And I know it’s ungrateful. I know it’s annoying. I’m privileged and I know it. I shouldn’t feel any way but happy for my life. I try to remember that as I think of so many suffering, dying for a problem like “Should I pack the living room or the bedroom today?” It makes it harder, though, because on top of anxiety, I feel guilt. I feel like talking about it is complaining. I feel ridiculous. And I’m told by just about everyone I talk to not to “wallow in it”. To be more positive. To try to see the positive sides.
There will be positive sides. My new apartment will be ready just as the leaves will start springing out on the trees. The new place comes with a fire escape with just enough room to place a small lawn chair. I can imagine myself looking out over the alley, watching life go by, hearing the sounds of the city that are just a little more muted since the fire escape is in the back. I will enjoy setting up my new place, putting everything away and organizing it. Life will calm down. My anxiety will be put to rest for another winter. It will end.
But I need to get my frustration off my chest because being silenced makes me feel even guiltier. That I’m burdening people with problems they don’t want to hear. And when I go through life, already feeling like most people want me to shut up and go away, it makes me feel that much more isolated.
I’m hoping by writing this, I’ll be able to let some of this go. I’ll find the energy to continue to pack up three years’ worth of memories and things and feelings. I’ll deal with the rollercoaster of emotions and be able to find more peace and relaxation. I’ll stop cancelling on friends, I’ll stop feeling like I’m letting everyone down.
Only a few more weeks – I’m counting on that.