Sunday, June 6, 2010

paint chips and procrastination

What is it about moving into a new home that sends one completely over the edge? They say that, when it comes to stressful situations, moving is up there with losing one’s job or having a close friend die or getting a divorce, but why? Why can’t it feel like an exciting fresh start? A new adventure? An opportunity to purge oneself of excess belongings? Why does it make one — okay, why does it make me — feel like I want to pick up and flee?

That’s a bit of a prologue to my apology for being in absentia for nearly three (!) months. I’m always a bit of a procrastinator, but three months of stalling is quite an accomplishment, even for me. Here’s my long excuse: When last we spoke, I’d been summarily booted out of my fantastic apartment in the heart of the city, just five weeks after I’d moved in. (Really, it felt as if I had just unwrapped the very last teacup and placed it in the cupboard when the knock came on the door.) And those five weeks of domesticity came after close to two years of trav’lin’ light, with nearly all my belongings in a mysterious storage unit in the Bronx. So I’d been blissed out to have a place of my own once again, and deeply enjoying picking out new furniture, arranging my books, having friends over, getting to know the neighborhood.

For those of you who have gone through it, you know that there’s nothing quite like apartment-hunting in New York. Even in a “troubled” economy, it’s a blood sport: if you find something that looks good, you’ve got to pull the trigger pronto, because it ain’t gonna be there tomorrow. And you’ve got to kiss a lot of toads (gloomy, cramped, dingy toads) before you find anything that’s (a) livable, and (b) relatively affordable. To go through this twice in the span of a couple months was enough to send me in quite the spiral, leading to my neglect of the following: friends, family, books, work, journal, therapy, exercise, and, of course, you.

I’ll spare you the gory details of the Great Apartment Search, Part Two, except to say that I just couldn’t find a place that I clicked with (and comparing everything unfavorably to the One That Got Away). I finally got so sick of the whole damn process that I threw in the towel and signed the lease on a less-than-perfect place (which, however, has more closets than I’ve ever seen in a New York apartment, which is nothing to sneeze at and is, to be honest, probably the reason I took the place). Then I went through agonies of renter's remorse, followed by the conviction that I would love the apartment more if I painted it, followed by agonies of choosing colors and taping walls and painting till I dropped.

And now here I am, in the final stages of cleaning and unpacking and sorting, and trying not to continuously compare the new place to the old, and trying not to let the new place symbolize to me this whole period of upheaval and discombobulation. (It doesn’t help that I keep reading about my old neighborhood, which has become the new “It” zone — it’s like getting unwanted updates on an ex who’s doing fabulously without you.)

What I am trying to do is get back in the swing of things — reconnecting to people, responding to embarrassingly old emails and messages, focusing once again on work, and creating epic, multi-page to-do lists. And, perhaps, looking ahead and thinking about where I’m headed. As part of my re-emergence, I had drinks with a friend the other night who’s going through her own upheavals and crises. We got on the subject of trying to balance living in the present with planning for the future, and she said, “I keep catching myself saying, ‘I just need to get through June,’ and then realizing how crazy that is — ‘just get through?’ Really? That’s the goal?”

The past few months seemed like a kind of limbo as I lived them, with no routine, no real structure, no home base, just getting through the days, flip-flopping between lazily enjoying my lack of responsibility, and freaking out about what the hell am I doing with my life. From where I’m sitting now (my genteelly shabby living room), I have a bit more perspective and can see that this hasn’t been just an aimless interlude, that there were some positives: I re-confirmed to myself that, despite the hassle and the expense and the perfidy of its landlords, I choose to be in New York for the time being. I found that my friends are even more amazing than I’d realized, as they offered help and commiserated and generally stepped up when I needed them. I had the opportunity (*sigh*) to confront some of my chronic anxieties about money and work and the future, since they all rose up en masse and tried to take me down (an experience that also got me back on the therapy track, thankfully).

And, Gentle Reader, there’s this: I met a wonderful guy who turned out to be astonishingly supportive and helpful and sweet during this whole kerfuffle (and who helped paint the kitchen and the bedroom), and you know what? We went and fell in love.

How’s that for burying the lede?