General Ramblings

Finding Happiness: The Next Step

May seems to be a time of change for me. I’m not really sure why – maybe it’s because it’s a month before my birthday, and I’m getting used to turning a year older. Maybe it’s because my ex and I broke up at the end of a very beautiful, very painful May, and I had to get used to being one person again instead of one half of a pair. And this time, maybe it’s because I finally moved from the apartment that I called home for three years.

Now, I didn’t move far. Upstairs one floor is all. But the air’s better up here. There’s less tension. There’s a different feeling, not one of constantly waiting. No, up here, there’s a sense of newness and lightness. And I don’t know if it’s just me, getting used to a new place, or if it’s really like that up here, but it’s a pleasant change. And that’s odd for me. I don’t take to change well.

When I moved into the converted doctor’s office on the first floor of this 110-year-old row house, three years ago, it never felt right. It was supposed to be a new beginning – the start of my new life with my ex. But we left the old place with a lot of strife and issues. We had a big fight the night before we were supposed to leave. It was cold and rainy the day we packed the tiny U-Haul van and drove the seven minutes down Bloor to this new house. And the first night we spent, after scrubbing out the disgusting mess that the old tenants had left, sore and tired, was freezing cold. On that mattress on the floor, wearing two hoodies and two pairs of socks, we lay, shivering, until we found the thermostat the next day and finally turned on the heat. Not an auspicious start to our new life together.

There was romance about it, sure. But it was lost in the frustrations over the landlord’s reticence in fixing what needed to be fixed, in the scare over one of my cats developing pancreatitis from eating a piece of an asbestos ceiling tile, over our eggshell-walking around each other, and after a month, after a month of unpacking and sniping at each other about organization and trying to figure out how to get used to each other, my ex telling me that she hated it in Toronto and wanted to go home.

It wasn’t a happy place, though happy times took place there. I wrote two books there. I enjoyed many nights with friends and family. I fell in love with my neighbourhood, met new friends, met new clients, lost a job and started another one. But it was always overhung with a sense of not belonging and heaviness. It didn’t help that my anxiety, having been in remission for years, came back with a vengeance every winter. It didn’t help that I developed some pretty serious chronic health issues.

What I’m saying with all this is that I have regretted leaving every place I’ve ever lived . . . and when I closed the door for the last time to this apartment, I didn’t regret it at all. I didn’t look back once.

I’m someone who measures my life by anniversaries. Time and numbers have significance to me. And I don’t know why, this time, I don’t feel anything leaving that old apartment. Well . . . not anything. What I feel is relief. I’m relieved.

Because this little mid-floor apartment, with its pretty fire escape and its golden floors, with its open, airy rooms and bright bedroom, feels more like me. Because maybe it’s because I picked it, as opposed to feeling like I needed to move in because time was running out at the old apartment. Maybe it’s because it suits me, my introverted, quiet self, who needs light and air and warmth, and to be up high where it’s quieter and I can think. Maybe it’s because it has more character than the old apartment, which, despite anything I did to it, remained what it was – a poorly converted doctor’s office.

And then I feel disloyal. Because I spent many hours dreaming in that old place. I spent many hours laughing and talking and writing. But I also spent many hours crying, fighting, and feeling like I wasn’t myself. I felt forced into that old apartment as much as my ex did. We both didn’t belong. We found out later that it was because our relationship never could have survived, and wasn’t meant to be, maybe ever.

But recognizing the next step to happiness is to determine why you weren’t happy in the first place. I’ve been almost six years in Toronto and I have been happy nearly all the time, save a few setbacks, except for the three years I spent in that lower apartment. That tells me something.

As you go through your life, you learn what works for you and what doesn’t. I learned that I can’t force something that isn’t meant to be. It was a hard lesson . . . but it was one that I needed to learn.

Because when I closed the door for the last time on that old apartment, I felt a breath of relief from it, too.

And when I opened the door on this one?

All I felt was a warm welcome.

I look forward to many years returning to happiness in this new place. I think I’ve taken a step back onto the right path.

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