Tag Archives: changes

Hey you…get off of my cloud.

The boxes are unpacked, a place has been found for everything, and everything is indeed in its place. The stress of the move has faded like the cardboard paper cuts that hacked away at my hands those first few days in the new apartment. The space feels less like a “new place” and more like home.
Surveying the apartment, it is clear that it will never reach the sparsity that a true minimalist requires, but I think it’s reached a nice balance of stuff to space. Although I still have a few pictures strewn about, a dining cabinet filled with tabletop items, and full size furniture in every room of the house, there is still a good flow. The space feels open and airy, not claustrophobic. As I said in my last post (at least I think I said this in my last post, humor me) my family and I have been very happy since we moved here. There is a completely different energy compared to our last apartment and with that energy, a sense of possibility and an overall feeling of peace.
Ok, I don’t know for sure whether or not it is the new space or lack of superfluous belongings that have brought the three of us to such a zen-like state, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I know that I could probably go even further and purge more of our stuff, but in the short term I am content with the stasis reached on all things material. Though I must admit, I never see myself going 100% in on the minimalist home idea. One tiny chair in the corner of a huge, empty room is a little too “french movie” for my tastes. I like my home to look streamlined, yes, but still feel cozy. White washed walls with a tiny Lucite dining set does not say “cozy” to me.
So, does this mean I fail at minimalism? Ultimately, yes, but fuck that. I may not be the textbook definition of the movement, but when have I ever been the textbook definition of ANYTHING (aside from “fabulous,” natch.) No, like everything else, I am going to half-ass write my own definition. I am going to do minimalism…my way. There are PLENTY of other areas where I can trim the excess in my life.
For example, did you know that right now you could be suffering from “digital clutter?” Of course you didn’t! Who the fuck would?

Has this happened to you?

That is the lamest sounding bullshit EVER.

It’s true though. There are literally tens of blogs written about how people have too much stuff gunking up their desktops, their inboxes, their “clouds,” along with the proper ways to tidy up their digital life, no trip to the troposphere necessary.
I’ve decided this will be my next project. So far, I’m going to be honest, it fucking blows. Not because I have too many errant files or an inbox loaded with garbage, but because I have come to realize that I have dribs and drabs of my digital life all over the goddamn interwebs. Seriously, I am a web-based Hansel and Gretel; I have left bread crumbs all over this virtual forest.
I am not even talking about the now dormant Myspace pages or Livejournals that are out there haunting the internet. Those would easily disappear with a simple click of “delete account” (if I could only remember their passwords!)
I am referring to the various web-based platforms I CURRENTLY use. The website that allows me to bookmark…other websites. The cloud storage website where I store my clouds. The Facebook that apparently houses two of me (don’t even ask me how that happened!) The Twitter page that I still don’t quite understand. The 30,000 different sites I use for photo storage. Pinterest (why!?!). Evernote. My 4 gmail accounts, and (yikes!) my two AOL accounts.
Well, OK I never actually GO to my AOL accounts. One address is older than my daughter and the other was created when J and I were planning our wedding. They’re still out there though…mocking me with their “digital clutter” creating ways.
Or something.
I took a deep breath and decided to start with Evernote, mostly because before this project I forgot I even HAD an Evernote account, so I figured there was no way for it to possibly backed up with virtual garbage.
Much to my joy, I was right. In fact, the account was practically empty save for a few random “to do” lists from 2010 and a handful of blog ideas that never manifested. This would be easy! I deleted the to do lists immediately and quickly perused the blog ideas for any nugget of salvagability. I was about to declare my Evernote house “CLEAN” when I noticed a folder that I missed in my initial once-over.
The folder was titled “READ ME” and it housed one whole document. There was not one part of my brain that could even begin to recall what this folder could be.
Fearing the rabbit hole I may no doubt fall into were I to open the folder, I thought about deleting its contents sight unseen. My curiosity got the better of me though so I quickly hovered my mouse over the folder and clicked on the icon before I could change my mind.
The title of the lone document was “Melissa Makes a List to Prove What She Already Knows.” It was created July 14, 2010. It sounded fairly innocuous, so I opened it. The document fleshed out in one page reasons for staying or leaving my soul-crushing corporate job.

Should I stay or should I go now?

There were 2 reasons for me to stay.

Despite the recession, despite living in a (gorgeous) apartment that cost more a year than the average person makes, despite my total lack of plan or safety net, the “Reasons to Go” column prevailed. I gave my notice two days after that document’s creation.
Looking at the list almost two years later, I feel as though a completely different person wrote it. I can’t believe I allowed myself to be that miserable for a (shitty) paycheck! I can’t believe I let myself be defined by my house and my “things” instead of my character, my actions, and my relationships. I can’t believe I didn’t set my cube on fire and lead the publishing proletariat to freedom (or at the very least smack my boss upside the head with an Intro Spanish textbook.)
So much about my life has changed since I walked away from the “security” of the corporate world. I have made the most amazing connections. I have taken to the streets and been arrested fighting for social justice. I have been a part of HISTORY, for chrissakes! Only one year ago my daughter and I sat in the NY State Senate gallery and watched as the Marriage Equality Bill was passed. You don’t get to experience anything quite like that sitting in a cube creating “one pagers” for fucking textbooks.
The connections I’ve made, the experiences I’ve had, the relationships that have been renewed and deepened, the life I have built in less than two years time feels more mine now than any other time in my life.
I thought about saving the list. Yeah, it’s intended use had passed and could now easily be classified as “digital clutter,” but so what. It was also a reminder of how far I’ve come and keep going on the crazy road that is my life. I may be more sure of myself now than I have ever been, but even the most confident person sometimes needs to bring to mind a time when they weren’t so sure.
I kept the list…in the trash. I figured at the very least deleting the original folder it was housed in gave the illusion of less clutter. Minimalism my way. It may not be the spartan internet presence a true minimalist requires, but who cares, it works for me, and that’s really all that matters.
So far I haven’t really felt the sense of ease one is supposed to feel as they wipe their web life clean…maybe after I delete the 24,485 emails on AOL…

Zen and the Art of Ditching the Japanese Tea Pot Collection

They say (whoever “they” are) that moving is in the top three of most stressful life events, right behind death of a spouse and divorce. Show me a person who actually enjoys moving, and you might as well show me Santa Claus, or the Easter Bunny…they are all figments of our imagination.

Never one to look on the dark side (HAHAHAHAHAHA) however, I do try to find the silver lining in the cloud of relocation.

It isn’t easy. Dealing with realtors sucks. Finding a mover is a nightmare. Packing blows, and unpacking is akin to medieval torture. However, there is one teeny, tiny spec of joy in the chaos that is packing up all of your worldly possessions and transporting them to a new location…throwing them the fuck away.

Don’t get me wrong, we all need things. A bed to sleep on, clothes to cover our bodies, something to eat off of, and an item or two to keep us entertained, to name a few. Then there are the sentimental items. The pictures, nick-knacks, tchotchkes, and other assorted paraphernalia of past lives that seem to grow as time goes on. There are also the collections. DVDs. Records. Your mom’s Precious Moments dolls. Dildos. These are like objects you go out of your way to accumulate in a pathetic attempt to have your material possessions make you seem like you are much cooler than you really are.

Well, ok your mom’s Precious Moments collection is lame as hell, but you get my point.

Finally, there are the miscellaneous items. We don’t know how we procured them, hell we may not even know what they are, but nevertheless, they’re ours. Another physical item that needs to be cleaned, stored, and transported.

I had a problem with all of this.

All.of.this.

The fragments of my past have been slowly taking over every surface of our apartment. Our DVD collection was belligerent and numerous. We attempted to keep them orderly by packing them in special “DVD boxes” from Ikea. This helped us to keep the DVDs out of the way, but took up 3 shelves in a closet. Every plane in our dwelling seemed to be littered with some sort of candle-like substance, picture frame, or ethnic statue knockoff with remnants of the “Home Goods” label still affixed to the bottom.

It was madness, I tell you…madness.

Then we decided to move. Suddenly what is always a horrific incident of terror shone in a new, glittery and gay light. Instead of stressing over the moving process, I was going to embrace it. I was going to use this time to throw our shit away.

I was going to be ruthless. No picture frame was safe, no DVD could hide. It was going to be a glorious time of soul-cleansing home purification.

And it was.

At first, anyway.

To start off on the right foot, I attacked an area that would have a serious impact right away. I removed every picture frame from my “Family Gallery Wall,” took out the picture, placed it in an album, and threw the fucking picture frame away.

Sooner or later…Meca Gadget will get you!

I have to admit it felt good! From there I moved into my kitchen. I tossed cookbooks that had never been cracked open, and fondue pots that never worked. I chucked a drawer full of kitchen gadgets that over the course of the year had somehow managed to become intertwined and turn into Meca-Gadget, the most useless monster on the planet.

No, despite my love of cooking and entertaining, if it hadn’t been used, had no discernible use, or became infused with it’s neighbor it was gone.

Next, I voraciously attacked the cabinets and tossed everything from the only glass left from a set of 8 to a gross amount of trifle bowls (what the hell is a trifle, anyway!?!)

Once the kitchen felt sufficiently barren, I moved on in a similar, “take no prisoners” fashion through every room in our apartment. With each bag of trash or box for donation, something miraculous happened.

I began to breathe easier.

It was as though removing the physical “stuff” from my life was lightening the emotional “stuff” as well. I was on a role, and very excited by the lack of moving boxes I seemed to require. This feel-good cleansing of the senses and spirit came to a screeching halt when I entered…the bedroom.

Now, you might think that it was my dresser or closet that gave me pause, or my boxes (and boxes) of shoes. It could very well have been the several bins of purses and other accessories that were hemorrhaging from under my bed. You might think that, but you would be wrong. I had no problem slashing my wardrobe, ditching my shoes, and bagging my bags. It was a project, yes, but staring at a streamlined closet of items I actually wear was a wonderful reward.

My nervous breakdown de jour came when I looked up at the shelving my husband had installed to house the Japanese teapot collection we had suddenly found ourselves in possession of post-wedding. So tormented about the future of these ceramic pots was I that I did the only rational thing possible…avoided them all together.

Remember that scene in “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” where the gangly protagonist masterba, goes into a burning pet store and proceeds to save all of the animals?

I’m tired of these motha-fuckin snakes…

You don’t? Fuck you, it’s my story. Humor me.

One by one Mr. Wee goes through the pet store and saves each animal grouping like some high-water wearing Noah. That is with the exception of a slimy cluster of snakes. Each time he passes the snake’s tank, he stares at it in disgust, and moves on to the next creature knowing that eventually he would have to contend with the slippery reptilian mass. The scene ends with him running out of the burning pet store screaming; a pile of snakes in each hand.

Those Japanese teapots were my snakes.

I did a fantastic job intentionally avoiding coming to a decision about their fate. In the beginning, it was easy to do. But with each bag of garbage and moving box marked “Fragile” (it’s Italian), I was one step closer to having to contend with my own reptilian mass…of porcelain.

That day came two days before we moved. The days leading up to it had been long and emotionally fraught. My husband and I were both close to our max stress level. We went from having all of the time in the world to “leisurely” move (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA) to feeling incredibly behind as the result of another death in our family (yeah, we have that kind of luck!)

Two deaths in two months makes you realize that none of your stuff…

None.of.it.

…actually matters in the grand scheme of things. Yes, this teapot collection that had been lugged around to five different apartments was a lovely reminder of my wedding day, but so was my husband, and he didn’t need to be wrapped in newspaper every time we moved, or dusted weekly (he’s very active, so the dust doesn’t have time to settle.)

There was a lot to do, and we were trying to get through everything without breaking down. I thought having my husband there as I executed my ruling on the teapots would be helpful. He is always the rational one. The practical one. The stone-cold emotionless “realistic” one.  The one who wanted to keep the collection for sentimental reasons?!?

Oh hell no.

After torturing myself for WEEKS over what to do with those damn pots, I finally grabbed those snakes, and Mr. Suddenly Sentimental was NOT going to change my mind.

I did what any woman who was standing steadfast in her decision would have done in such a situation.

I stood there like a deer in headlights for what was probably a good ten minutes. I then threw out all of the rationalizations I had told myself as to why it was time to purge the pots. Unfortunately, the more he understood my reasoning, the more confused I became. The entire (dusty as hell) pot collection now sat on our bed. There was so much more to do; yet I felt paralyzed. The snakes had bit me. They had won.

I knew I couldn’t take any more time on this issue. I had already spent one breakdown too many on whether or not to part with one particular physical item or another. I needed to end this. Like pulling a bandage off a gunshot wound, I attacked the pile of pottery and threw them into a trash bag, a lump in my chest the entire time. I tied up the bag and added it to the pile of trash waiting to be removed from the house. It was finally over.

We have been settled in our new space for over a month now. It’s larger. It’s airy. It’s clutter-free.

I have not been this happy in a VERY long time.

I have by no means become a full-fledged “minimalist” but there is definitely something to be said for purifying your home of possessions and keeping the clutter at bay. I don’t know that it will necessarily lead to enlightenment, but it sure as hell keeps you from spending the weekend cleaning which opens up a world of possibility for you to go out and experience life rather than sit at home with your stuff.

I know that there is still a lot more that I can do. Two medium plastic boxes sit in my closet full of old journals/yearbooks/photos/Ghosts of Melissas Past that I can probably whittle to nothing, but I think I’ll save that for a day when I have nowhere to be and an extra bottle of gin lying around. Some snakes bite harder than others. I need to be prepared.

Making sure Mr. Sentimental has plans is probably not the worst idea either.


Memories are Made of This

“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” John Lennon

 

There are only so many, “oops my bad” intros I can have to explain away why, for all intents and purposes, this whole project is FUBAR, so I won’t even bother.

Suffice it to say I have always had the best of intentions for keeping up with this blog and its underlying theme. Unfortunately though, it would appear that intentions are like opinions, and well, we all know what they’re like.

You can have your life mapped out to the minute, but when the universe has something else in mind, (which she often does) that map becomes about as good as the theoretical paper it’s written on.

Indeed the universe was not impressed with my map and proved it by snatching it out of my hands, setting it on fire, and throwing it at my head.

In the plainest of terms, my life basically blew up in the last month, and I am just now clearing away the debris. This foundational explosion of my existence however, wasn’t all bad.

No, I am lying, it was really, really, REALLY bad…but not unlike the spectrum of light that appears through the clouds after a rainstorm, the aftermath is proving to be quite a thing of beauty.

Just over one month ago my husband’s grandfather by lineage but father by actions was taken to the hospital. It was clear that this was the beginning of the end.  How soon that end was to be however came as quite a shock when he passed away just 12 days later.

You may ask why the death of my in-laws patriarch would rock my life in such a major way.

Or you may not, whatever, I am going to tell you anyway.

From the moment we were introduced he took me in as one of his own, but more than that, my daughter became his world.

Avie and Papa, celebrating life

I can still hear them playing up in his room, him trying to coax her to say, “I love you” and her dancing around, oblivious to the spell she had cast. Though her and Mama had become fast friends, Avie was incredibly coy with Papa for the first few months that he was in her life.

Our first Christmas as part of their family, I was able to convince Avie to record a message to Papa on an electronic picture frame. She simply said, “Hi Papa, I love you.”

When he opened the meager gift Christmas Eve, and was shown how to make the gadget work, he beamed. More than anything else that lay before him wrapped in shiny holiday paper, this gift was everything. He proceeded to play the message over…and over…and over, until I am pretty sure we all went to bed that night hearing, “Hi Papa, I love you… (click) Hi Papa, I love you…(click) Hi Papa…”

Avie and I came into his life when his health was starting its slow decline, but we were still lucky enough to bask in his presence and energy. And boy, what energy! Those early Sunday dinners, though nothing special gastronomically, were by far some the best memories I have of my in-laws. Sitting around the table, long after the pasta had cooled, and the vinaigrette had begun to congeal slightly at the bottom of the salad bowl, we would listen in awe, as Papa would regale us with amazing personal narratives that almost always seemed to end with him threatening someone’s life, or punching someone in the face.

Lingering over limoncello and legend became a regular Sunday affair and before long the sun was setting on our first summer together. J and I went to his grandparents for our usual visit one Sunday in August, but there was nothing usual about it. It was one of those late summer evenings where the air begins to hint at a cooler time to come, enticing you to squeeze all of the life you can out of the remaining daylight.

Dinner came with its customary show, but the real entertainment happened after the meal was over. J and I brought over a Dean Martin record that I had given him as an early token of our budding romance. While Mama did the dishes, J and I put the record on the turntable in the dining room. For a brief moment, the sounds of the Italian crooner drifted through the house and transported us all back to a different time. Through music and memory, J and I got to experience a sense of Mama and Papa’s early amore, all while living in the moment of our own. We danced and sang, we laughed and watched as, for a short while, any ailments that had steadily attempted to eat away at their already fragile bodies seemed to vanish, and through Dino’s words, they were again able to live la vita bella.

Time marched on, as it has a way of doing, and the Sunday dinners became fewer and far between. Soon, Mama and Papa required assistance in the house, and despite the fact that J’s mother took on the task; dinners were never quite the same as those first summer gatherings.

It’s easy to disassociate yourself from the reality of your loved ones failing health. Your own life becomes a distraction and before long 8 years have passed and you’re standing over the casket of someone you just kind of always expected to be there.

Though this wasn’t the first death I had experienced by far, it definitely hit me in a way that I wasn’t at all expecting. I have lost blood relatives of all ages. I’ve seen friends lose their parents, and I’ve cried over the loss of friends my own age. No death until now however has made me examine my own mortality in such an explicit manner. I don’t know if it’s just my age, but it’s as though Papa’s death has shifted all of us one step closer to the great precipice, and it became painfully clear that I am just not ready to fall to the other side.

I immediately took stock in my life at its current state. All of the parts that I had been unhappy about but felt too paralyzed to truly fix suddenly appeared in crystalline focus. One by one I placed each life fragment into two mental piles, “toss” or “change.” Obviously I can’t toss my health, but I can change the amount of exercise I get and what I ingest into my body. Despite the fact that school was an expensive commitment I had set up for myself, I had never been truly happy there, and as of late felt that it was more of a waste of time than anything. Though I worried about what my next steps would be were I to quit, and still worry, nevertheless I made the decision to put my MSW studies on hold. It has only been two weeks, but my general demeanor has lightened, and the load off my chest is immeasurable. I’ve been saying that I wanted to hone my photography skills for the better part of ever, but always seemed to find less constructive ways to occupy my free time. I’ve since been picking up my camera every chance that I get in an attempt to self-teach as much of the craft as I can. I honestly love it.

So, what does this all mean? Do my loved ones have to die in order for me to cut through my complacency and actually live rather than merely exist? Perhaps, but fuck, for their sake, I hope not! I prefer to think that this was just one unfortunate incident I needed to finally push myself in the direction I have been so afraid to move toward on my own. Papa’s life, more than his demise, has served as a reminder that it all really is fleeting, and it’s up to us to make our own memories, so that one day we too can sit around the dinner table regaling our grandchildren with stories of living la vita bella.

 

 

 


Eating the Elephant…or Why We Suck at Resolutions

There is something electric about the beginning of the New Year. The air is ripe with possibility. Our minds are open to change.

Resolutions are declared, and they WILL BE ACHIEVED.

The first few weeks of the year are full speed ahead in pursuit of our goals. Gyms are alive with pudgy men and women in brand new workout gear. Cigarette sales are down. The cobwebs in one’s closet, attic, mind are wiped away.

Yes, January 1st through 15th is some of the most productive time in our lives.

Something happens on the 16th though. The excuses start. You begin to miss a day or five at the gym. You bum a smoke or 3 from a coworker. You head down a shame spiral and as a result go on a shopping spree in a vain attempt to make it all go away.

Sound familiar? No.

Well, fuck me, I guess I’m the only asshole.

If you’re willing to take a moment and own the fact that you’re a loser too, you’ll be comforted to know that it doesn’t have to be that way. You can actually make the changes you dream of when you’re in a Veuve Clicquot haze on 12/31. What’s more, you can make them last.

They say that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. While I am hoping that it was no one’s resolution to eat a 15000lb mammal, the idea still applies.

It takes roughly 30 days for a habit to stick or a change to be made. Consider it the “trial period” to a better life. If one maintains focus and consistency, whatever they’re trying to achieve, be it implement a regular fitness routine or quit smoking, should be accomplished in time to write your next rent check (or mortgage payment, you poor bastard.)

This got me thinking, which I try so hard not to do during the holidays. As of New Year’s Eve, I was still having a hard time nailing down a resolution of my own (insert off-color joke about it being easier if it had been Easter, here.) I had close to 12 different ideas floating around in my head. Each presenting their own stellar case for why they should be my last resolution before the world ends.

Then it hit me like the cheap prosecco I pounded after watching Gaga and Bloomberg drop their balls (disturbing.)

12 resolutions. 12 months. 12 monkeys. Brad Pitt. World War Z. End of the world.

FUCK! I have 12 months to make 12 changes before Jesus comes back to Earth to fight the Mayans.

Or something.

But seriously, if it takes 30 days for an old habit to die or a new one to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of your desire (hot), why not go for the golden calf and bang out one a month?

I don’t have an answer to that question.

No, instead I am going to be the asshole that actually attempts this tomfoolery. Not only that, but I am going to chronicle all of this nonsense; the good, the bad, and the barely legal, right here in this blog. As I said, I have in my mind what I want to do for each month, and should probably disclose that now for the sake of accountability.

I won’t though.

For one, life changes in an instant, and I don’t want to be held accountable to doing something that seems like a good idea now, but will make no sense when I reach its scheduled month. Second, I am not looking for fair weather readers who are only going to be interested in my tales of utter embarrassment and near death experiences three months from now when my resolution is to challenge my comfort zone (I may have said too much.)

I will tell you that the first resolution up is to get back into my regular gym routine that had been drug out into the street and shot at point blank range when I quit my job a year and a half ago. I will also tell you that it is now January 8th, and I have yet to actually implement said initial resolution.

Yeah, if you’re looking for some sort of Tony Robbins fucking “shoulding all over yourself” kind of life coaching, you might as well piss off. It ain’t that kind of rodeo.

If, however, you’re looking for a real person, who curses (a lot), who fucks up (see)…(a lot), who is willing to try anything once, except when she’s not, who sees the error of her ways, except when you’re wrong (and you’re usually wrong), and who’s just trying to get through her life without being so fucking cliché (www.twitter.com/sof_ckingcliche) then stick around and enjoy the ride.

Oh, and feel free to join me if the changes I am making are something you would like to apply to your own life. After all, the world is going to end on December 21st. What do you have to lose?