In the last couple of years as I've learned what is really important to me and learned to let go of what isn't, how to say no to things and how to check in with myself about what I am doing and how I am doing it. Moreover, I've learned how to identify for myself what is important to me, how to turn off all the voices of what I "should" be doing or who I "should" become, what my body "should" look like or how much I "should" love myself even when it's hard. I got tired of shoulding and wanted to instead be living and enjoying my life. Thus, I have created a practice whereby I check in with myself about my priorities. I try to do this every week, but basically it comes up for me when I feel off balance.
We’re in our third week in LA!
Dara went on her first business trip back to NYC on Saturday. She’s in leadership development consulting and packed up her sleeping bag coat to go back to the frigid temps for meetings.
I had a visitor for the weekend–my BFF from Girl Scout Camp, Spunky came down from Sacramento to help out at the house. When we planned the trip I told her, “This whole thing is probably going to be just house projects.” I had no idea the gusto with which Spunky would throw herself into the tasks before her.
Since I don’t have a guest sleeping situation yet (we’re still on the airbed), Spunky stayed with Rachel, her BFF from childhood. I actually feel like I’ve known Rachel for the entire 18 years I’ve known Spunky but we’ve never met in person. And now we have and she’s only 10 minutes away from me and is giving me her spare banjo! The top of my bucket list is to learn to play the banjo, and I had to sell my old one a long time ago. Life is really beautiful and opening up here in this new place.
I had three big tasks for me and Spunky on Sunday and we whipped through them in an hour. She kept looking at me and saying, “What’s next?!” I have never felt her intense glitterdone energy before, usually when we hang out we go out to eat or sit on the couch eating pie in loungewear and watching TV shows.
I had visioned for a house with lots of daylight. I lived on a second floor of a six floor apartment building surrounded by other four and six floor buildings for four years. I had no natural light and could barely keep houseplants alive. In the new house we are surrounded gloriously by windows and light. There’s a house behind ours on this lot so with that comes an intense lack of privacy. Dara and I have been discussing our $2400 furniture budget at length. We’re spending a huge chunk of it to move furniture down from my mom’s place, but getting blinds for privacy and insulation became really big priorities in the end.
My friends Lexi and Jamison have been huge inspirations to me in the moving process. They bought their dream home in September (I got to be their lawyer!) and I visited a couple of times before we moved away. They’re a couple hours North of NYC in the Hudson Valley. A STUNNING farmhouse with lots of gorgeous nooks and a tremendous garden. It was great to visit people who had just gone through the moving process because they gave me great advice and better expectations about how much work and money goes into setting up a house. Lexi said, “There’s just always something else you need.” And Jamison told me how good she got at going to IKEA.
I met both of these babes separately, Jamison in 2004 at a conference for fat queer activists and Lexi through my then-roommate when she stayed on my couch. Now they are making a home together! It’s pretty magical when two of your favorite people get together like that!
Along with those inspirations, I loved their honeycomb blinds. They are simple and beautiful and insulating and filter in daylight. Hoppvals were the best and most economic choice for blinds, even as it is $300 to put them on all of our windows. Jamison said she got really good at installing them so that helped me feel not intimidated by the idea.
I’ve learned a lesson from my Mariah Carey closet installation process already, which is that my first idea might not work so it’s probably best to start small. (I returned $76 worth of supplies to Home Depot after that lesson, $40 in supplies I’m going to use for other parts of the closet.)
Dara and I went to IKEA last Thursday for blinds, sundries and to explore ideas for future furniture upgrades. (We really want these desk chairs.) We set an intention to enjoy our time together, explore and have fun. This was to prevent IKEA Fighting which is apparently a Thing people do. (As seen in Season 6, Episode 6 of 30 Rock, here’s a cute snippet of IKEA Fighting on youtube.) I didn’t know IKEA Fighting was a Thing until Jacqueline sent me the episode after Dara and I got into That Huge IKEA Fight of 2014.
We spent 6 hours in IKEA Burbank and had a great time. Setting the intention and having clear boundaries and expectations was super key. So was making sure our human needs were met. We went to the restaurant twice, once for coffee and water, once for a meal. The vegetarian meatballs are really good–sweet potato, quinoa and black beans. And if you join the free IKEA Family thing you get a free coffee or tea every time you go to IKEA.
Because of my “start small” lesson about big projects, we only bought blinds for the front bedroom where we were planning to relocate. Spunky whipped through installing them and we discovered our measurements didn’t account for enough overlap so we needed different size blinds. Since she was so fast I had her measure out the kitchen and meditation nook for blinds, too, since that is the windiest room in the house because of the old windows.
On Sunday evening after working on the house all afternoon, she left me with a list of blinds to purchase from IKEA. I was able to be in and out of the Burbank IKEA on a Sunday night in an hour, including returning stuff and having to get stuff on the Showroom and Marketplace floor. I set an intention to be fast and had taken the time to really acquaint myself with the store last week.
Spunky came back the next morning ready to work in a tank top, we are having surprise summer temperatures during Winter here in LA. This is great for our really cold house with not great insulation. She knows a lot about windows and home improvement as a homeowner. Apparently there’s all this lingo and anatomy to windows, who knew? It reminds me of when Spunky lived in Minnesota for a few years and became an expert about farming.
Spunky surprised me with a bag full of cleaning supplies from Target. In addition to these amazing hand embroidered tea towels she made me, her generosity literally made me cry. Especially as she left town and gave me a chalkboard, something Dara and I have been wanting for the kitchen but haven’t found one on Craigslist in our budget. Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers are right, you can’t make old friends.
She got us this ceiling duster thing I never would have splurged on, but seriously you can dust ceiling fans, baseboards and ceilings in 95% less time. And then you can throw the microfiber dusters in the washing machine. It’s the future.
Spunky said she had fun doing work on the house. I’m having a really hard time finding it all fun, my feelings of overwhelm and frustration have kind of clouded stuff. I can’t wait to have her back in March to help me get our garden going. AND I can’t wait for it all to be done so I can throw a party, THAT is what I find fun!
Turns out moving furniture from the Bay Area to LA is really expensive! When I said yes to taking stuff from my mom I didn’t think it would cost much and I was again wrong wrong wrong about an element of this move. Hiring movers ended up costing roughly the same as renting a one way uhaul, gas, insurance and saved the time and effort of doing it ourselves. Not only the monetary cost–the logistics of going through the moving quotes and coordination process once more after having moved into this place and dealing with things on this end was not an efficient or practical use of my time or money and even moreso, threshold for frustration. In the end, we will end up with way nicer furniture than we would have gotten on craigslist, but I’m really at a deficit for mental and emotional health right now.
Since Dara’s been gone, I’ve been able to really sit with my feelings and notice what’s going on. Everything is new and hard. I don’t have the day to day confidence someone has when they know where everything is. Even simple things like getting the dog’s eye medication prescription refilled is a long process. I’m literally creating new neural pathways every day mapping out my new life.
The closest I’ve ever felt to this in my life was when I moved to Camden, NJ from Davis, CA for law school. Everything was new, scary, exciting, full of possibility. But I was 1,000% less checked into my body, my mental, physical and emotional health. At least then I moved into a fully furnished dorm and didn’t have to deal with setting things up.
Spray painted the best rated dishrack on Google under $25 to prevent rust, the biggest complaint in the Amazon reviews.
When Spunky was here it was a good distraction, but in her absence I’m breathing and realizing. I decided I need to take a break from working so hard on the house. Part of moving out here was to let myself have a break from seasonal depression and have easier access to good mental health. I don’t want to overwhelm myself. I don’t want to feel stressed out. Stress is supposed to support us when we are in danger and the rest of the time just floods you with toxins, spikes your blood sugar and wreaks havoc on your health!
Today I’m writing, did a great tapping meditation for turning overwhelm to calm, and putting myself in a better place. Once Dara gets back I will go spend some time doing what I know will reset me to a calm place and head to a $20 day spa and soak it out in a hot tub. (Macy has been having stress diarrhea and one of the best ways to keep her calm is not leaving her alone, so I couldn’t run off to the day spa yesterday like I otherwise would have.)
I’m also working on sitting in gratitude about everything. In one day I received a bag of citrus from my neighbor (a mix of lemons and grapefruit) and from my aunt (tangerines). I got to go have dinner with my aunt and learn all sorts of new things about my family. My friend Andy came over and helped with power tools and a saw! It is so hot I’m wearing summer dresses and it’s not below freezing like in Brooklyn.
My friend Andy was our very first houseguest and came over to support projects in the closet installation!
The gifts of LA are tremendous. It is my overwhelm that is making it hard to enjoy them! Gratitude practice, meditation, focusing on self care is not the exact antidote for being overwhelmed, but they are good helpers.
I’m also reminded of the power of six months! Spunky and I used to use this for heartbreak, but it’s true for all major life changes. In six months my house will be together, my Mariah Carey closet will be finished and all of the boxes will be unpacked.