A Long Time Comin’

It’s been a long time comin’, my dear
It’s been a long time comin’, but now it’s here
It’s been a long time comin’, my dear
It’s been a long time comin’, but now it’s here
— Bruce Springsteen

Standing in the windy walkway of the two-story office building, waiting for my appointment to arrive. It’s one of those plain, sad buildings that could be anywhere – and contain any type of business. I see names on doors I understand – Axis Chiropractic, Helping Hand Home Healthcare – and those I don’t – Smart Data Resources, Brown & Associates. (Dumb Data Resources and White & Associates would not be any clearer.)

I’ve come in the back way, so it’s a minute or two before I move to the front and look out. And it’s another half minute before the scene across the street registers in my brain. It’s a bare lot. A huge pit/hole in the middle. Bulldozers chomping away at the outer edges.

Wait! What was there? Oh yes, the Mexican restaurant, the classic one that stood for decades. When my appointment arrived, she reminded me that the restaurant’s parent company had filed for bankruptcy three years ago and that the restaurant across the street had been shuttered for two years.Construction 2

So, although the change seemed abrupt to me, it had already been going on for awhile. Perhaps this is true of most change. Change is the constant, not the exception, even if we can’t see it.

I’ve been thinking about change a lot lately. My life has been full of changes. Nothing has ever stayed the same for long and if it does, I get restless, start pushing at the edges, seeing what I can move. And if I can’t move something, then I move myself. A new job, a new neighborhood, a new activity. I’m getting restless now, ready for some changes. Choices lie ahead.Construction 3

According to my recent fortune cookie, I am in for some exciting changes – There is a prospect of a thrilling time ahead for you. Well, hmmmm …

I like that better than the fortune I got a year ago – Be content with your lot. One cannot be first in everything.

I’mConstruction 1 not as restless as some, those I know who are adventurers, who live/love to travel constantly. But I’m not change-adverse either, clinging to the rug that has been yanked out from under me, hoping it will take me for a magic ride and that I don’t have to get off.

Maybe most of us are a mixture. We love some changes and dread others. And that can change too.

There’s been times that I thought
I couldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able to carry on
It’s been a long, long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come
Oh, yes it will
— Sam Cooke


Way Stations

A way station.

A place to stop and rest while on a journey.

I’ve made use of way stations, large and small, throughout my life.

As a kid, the tiny train station halfway between home and school. It was only a mile to school, but to my sister and me trudging along the highway in the snow in the Montreal winter, often below zero, it seemed never ending. Not to mention numbing. Despite our layers of clothing, hats, gloves, mittens, we froze. The little station was our warming refuge. We climbed the stairs, ran in and hugged the pot belly stove. Then made it the rest of the way to school hands and feet tingling.

A big, white Victorian hotel in the Green Mountains of Vermont. My grandfather knew the value of way stations, always stopping between Montreal and Cape Cod, stretching our 400-mile journey into two days so we could relax and look out over rolling lawns and play shuffleboard, and so he and my grandmother could enjoy their scotch at gloaming (Scottish for twilight). This was a treat for my sister and me, since if our father had been at the wheel, it would have been a mad, crabby, eyes-on-the road dash each way. No stopping for ice cream, let alone overnight lollygagging.Windansea bench

Other images float up from memory. A bench overlooking the ocean or outside a store, a cubbyhole in a library, a shady spot under a tree, a stoop or doorway, a friend’s spare bedroom or hidden garden, a wide wall next to a museum, a shack in the woods, a diner on an empty road.

Most airports, yes! I have always loved airports, the excitement of new journeys, leaving and arriving, sitting and watching. Today they are less restful, with security checks, long lines, more frequent delays. But there is more to do – eat, drink, shop, gamble, get a haircut, manicure, massage, watch TV, hold meetings, use computers and gadgets, even sleep in some. If I ever blow the whistle on someone, I could hang out like Edward Snowden in the Moscow Airport, although from photos, it didn’t look as if he got a haircut during his weeks there.

Windansea shackActually, I’m living in a way station today. That is what my current house feels like. It does not have a sense of settling in for the duration, or much duration beyond a year or two. I moved to get out of the storm of rising costs, rents. On my journey, I’ve known for awhile I need to simplify, but I wasn’t quite ready to leave a home I loved. But here I am! This way station is comfortable and convenient. It appeared at the right time. It is a place to rest and reflect awhile, to rejuvenate, before I get back out there on the road.

Looking for the Perfect Pad

Someone said to me recently that I was “the Queen of apartment hunting.” He knew I usually have good luck finding a decent landing pad when I’m forced to take flight. He told someone else she should ask me for advice.

Tree House for Rent Actually, I am more like the Joker, staying a dance or two ahead of the royalty. But here are my tips for finding the perfect pad. In addition to talking to everyone and walking around neighborhoods, I search online once or twice a day. I can tell now just by looking at ads what they really mean and what the pads will look like.

cozy – claustrophobic.  So small you can spit or throw spitballs at any wall from anywhere. And soon you will want to.

charming – dilapidated. So outdated even the era has been forgotten but the termites are having a good time.

near beach – closer than Yuma, Arizona.

minutes from beach – if you get in your car west of Yuma and drive fast.

ocean view – often means peek view, a tiny sliver you can see from your shower window or up on the roof.

near night life – party town. Forget sleeping.

friendly community – common patio or courtyard. The party has come home. Forget quiet evenings and weekends, privacy and sleeping.

off-street parking – can be anything from carport to shared driveway. First come, first parked. Not good if friendly community.

street parking – good luck.

new floors and carpeting – how new? Got rid of ’70s shag in 1997? Fake wood with a decade of scuff marks? Linoleum with an impressionistic pattern of heel and peel marks?

recently remodeled – how recently? Veneer and stainless steel do not a new kitchen make especially if the oven is not self-cleaning and the refrigerator is not self-defrosting.

laundry room – see my blogs, The Laundry Room, Part 1 and Part 2. Start stashing your quarters.

laundromat nearby – good luck.

There are words in ads that have no meaning whatsoever, such as:

  • amazing
  • awesome
  • miraculous
  • spectacular
  • one of a kind

Apt. for Rent If an ad sounds too good to be true and the rent is low, then it probably is too good to be true. It’s one room in a house, or a vacation rental and not available year-round, or it’s being sold, or the creepy manager wants to sleep with you.

Good luck.

Out with the Old, In with the New

The Los Angeles area beach city where I grew up is no longer recognizable. Most of the original bungalows and small homes are gone, replaced by looming McMansions, some spreading over two or three formerly tiny lots. The corner drug store with the lunch counter and the old five and dime are long gone, replaced by expensive, blingy boutiques.

The transition is my current beach town 100 miles south is similar in the business district and slower in the residential neighborhoods. There is a 2-story limit on height and loud objections when new neighbors (such as Mitt Romney) want to overwhelm the neighborhood or block beach access. The residences here are an eclectic mixture of beach bungalows, remodeled homes, estates, and condos and apartments in styles ranging from stark and modern to Tudor and Mediterranean.Old cottage 2

On my block, three cottages have been or are being torn down in the last year. One came down completely and is now a private school playground called Field of Dreams. One stands empty and boarded, devoid of its front porch where a family used to sit every day under a pergola of bougainvillea and morning glory. The third stands bare, stripped to its studs. At first I thought it was coming down too. A bulldozer ate up the lawn, but left trees standing like sentinels in the dirt. In back, workers stripped down a matching guest house, but then built it up again with fresh wood, a handsome roof and railings. Perhaps the same restoration is planned for the master home? It will live on beautifully for several more years, even decades.

A few doors down, my cottage-like duplex is in pretty good shape for being 64 years old. It stands alone between two large condos – one square and plain, one graceful and rounded, Spanish pink. In back of me is another large, 2-story building with two apartments, our carports and our laundry shed.

I’m still not used to being on the ground floor after living upstairs in a sunny space for eight years. However I had to move. My rent was raised astronomically and I lucked out in finding this affordable and convenient accommodation around the corner.Old cottage

I’m trying to like it. It has a remodeled kitchen, new flooring and carpeting and a fireplace. But I’m fighting claustrophobia and missing my view out into the world so much. I haunt the streets and alleys (called lanes here) looking for another perch.

Until I find it, I will make the best of my current space. I will examine all the nooks and crannies holding my possessions and my life. What do I need and what can I let go?

I want my next perch to be smaller and simpler and to bring with me only what I truly need. I want to make peace with lost homes and dreams and hold onto those worth pursuing or renovating.

Walking on Both Sides of the Street

Acknowledge. Respect.
Analyze. What showing me?
Let go.
Trust I will do the right thing.

This is my little mantra. It popped into my head 10 or 15 years ago. I don’t think it’s plagiarized. At least not the exact words. The spirit, perhaps – a distillation of discovery wandering down many paths, including reading, writing, counseling, sharing with friends and solitary reflection.

It’s not a mid-boggling breakthrough or a marketing plan for polishing personas, mine or anyone else’s. It just works for me, reminding me to pay attention to all my feelings. Reminding me not to label feelings good or bad or positive or negative, but to just accept that they are and I can let them guide me, especially in conjunction with realistic, rational thinking.

It seems to me that when therapy first became popular, the self-help movement was telling us to get in touch with our feelings. No more of the stiff upper lips of the Puritan or Victorian eras, no more dusty old rugs with feelings swept underneath. Let them all out and don’t keep them inside and make yourself ill.

But then this movement took another turn onto the sunny side of the street. Yes, get in touch with your feelings, but mostly positive ones. Avoid bad negative feelings, and by extension, negative talk and people. Why are we now attaching value judgements to feelings? True, some are pleasant — and some are not. If we go out into the day with a sour face, we often get treated less well. If we feel good and smile and speak kindly to people, people often smile back. Most of us would rather tip the balance over into feeling good.Happy Face

But why ignore unpleasant feelings or pretend they don’t exist? If we have a physical pain, we pay attention, seek medical help if it interferes with our lives. So why ignore mental or emotional pain? Pretending it’s not there isn’t going to make it go away any more than ignoring an infected finger or heart attack is going to cure us.

For me, my little mantra is telling me to recognize what I’m feeling, accept it, mull it over or toss it around, figure out what to do. Do I need to change jobs, make new friends, spend more time alone? Do I need to take a trip, take up a new hobby, or just rest? Decide what to do and move on! If the unpleasant feelings persist and I can’t move, then get help! It helps to move the body too.

Sad FaceI say we avoid unpleasant feelings at our own peril. They are there for a reason – a sort of early warning system. Maybe even seeing them in someone else can help us by triggering something we need to think about. Recently, I read in a yoga magazine that we should avoid all negative people. This seems harsh. We may not choose to hang out with severely troubled or self-destructive people, but what if someone we meet is going through a hard time, or feeling sad one day? Do we instantly conclude they are negative and turn our backs? If we do, we may be missing out on learning something, or making a new friend.

Walking through life, we need both the sunny and the shady sides of the street.