Posted by: Erica | April 19, 2010

Unplugged-Part II

A Loose Connection and a Blown Fuse

For the previous year, we lived in an oppressive environment.  Relocating to DC, I had fears about feeling overwhelmed by a concentrated population, so Martin looked for us a home that provided privacy.  We brought with us several years worth of accumulated household goods, so Martin looked for us a home that was spacious.  We also came with three dogs, so Martin looked for us a home that was pet-friendly.  And, we had to adjust to an inflated cost-of-living, so Martin looked for us a home that seemed to be a bargain. 

You always see things more clearly looking back, but what we settled for was a home that was so secluded that it exaggerated the feelings of isolation and loneliness we were already facing.  It proved to be a house that was in such a state of disrepair that pets could hardly damage it further.  And, the bargain price-tag bought us a year of dealing with landlords who treated us like we were less than worthy of their consideration.  The level of discomfort I felt in this environment surely hindered my ability to connect to my new surroundings, but I was in such a state of distress that I really didn’t realize it.

I became de-sensitized in order to survive.  I came to anticipate confrontation with our property managers on issues that should have been well withing the range of common courtesy–the acquisition of a functional stove, the repair of a broken dryer, for example.  By the time December rolled around and we received the nearly thousand-dollar electric bill in the mail, the result of a mal-functioning heating unit, I was already prepared for the possibility that our lease would not be renewed.  Martin’s emotions, however, became increasingly frayed.  God bless him, he held out hope that the situation could be resolved amicably.  He was disappointed, of course.  We are still awaiting their decision on the return of our deposit (Martin is also optimistic about that), and then we will have to decide whether to seek a return on heating costs through the legal system. 

In the meantime, we have nearly completed a move from that rental property to a new one in a nearby community.  I cannot tell you how much of a relief it has been to unplug ourselves from that situation and relocate to a neighborhood where we’ve found much better reception.  The people living in our new subdivision are friendly; some have brought over baked goods, others have offered their help with our move.  Our new landlords seem eager to help, as well.  I called to report a problem with the thermostat and the issue was addressed within the hour.  All in all, I have met more people in a week’s time than I have in the entire duration since our move from Illinois–a welcomed change! 

If there is an aspect of your life that keeps you negatively charged, my advice is this:  there is incredible power to be gained by letting go. 

I have been practicing this wisdom a lot in recent days.  We have downsized our living quarters by a stunning margin.  For the past 6 years, we lived in a 2-story house with both a full-sized basement and two-car garage.  We moved into a one-and-a-half story split-level with no garage or basement storage, excepting what we have re-claimed as such in a corner of the utility room.  We have, literally, parted ways with truck-loads of our belongings, either to the dump, Good-will, or yard-sale customers.  Squeezing into our new residence called for drastic measures–I threw my dried wedding bouquet in the trash. 

Like every cloud, our situation is not without a silver lining. A couple of months ago, I watched a commentary on CBS Sunday Morning.  Suze Orman had strict advice about the instability of the current economic climate:  no person should depend on any outside party, the federal government included, to safeguard them from financial tragedy–tighten the belt on your personal budget and prepare for the worst.  Folks, Martin and I just dropped a pant size.  And it is nice to have some fiscal breathing room!

Our decision to cut back on our possessions and living space will save us $500 a month in rent alone.  We also hope to save on utilities.  It was hard to let go of what we perceived as valuables, things I had collected and saved for years.  But, with those initial feelings of loss beginning to clear, I am already seeing the potential benefits in store.  We are growing our savings, cutting our debt, and have started a fund for Ansley.  Of course, we are also planning some indulgences–a trip to the beach, tickets to a Blues festival, those sorts of things.

With all this moving business going on, and my creative ambitions in tow, I have been thinking of Virginia Woolf’s advice that a woman must have “a room of her own if she is going to write.”  Well, we have barely fit our furniture in this house, with each room having to become multi-purposed.  So, I had already surmised that this prospect would be quite out of the question.  None-the-less, when Martin propositioned me out-of-the-blue the other day–must have been divine intervention–I was ready with my response.  “If you had a room to claim for your own,” he asked, “what would you use it for?”   

“You know what,” I answered, “forget a whole room.  I won’t even ask for one.  Just give me a new laptop and an hour of free time every day.”  And, you know what?  He agreed!  He suggested I purchase my own personal computer in the next month or so.  I think maybe this is the more empowering thing for our modern times, anyway.  No space, no quiet time volunteered from husband and child?  No problem.  I’ll just grab my MacBook and retreat to my car like they suggest in those “Mommy like” minivan commercials. 

Ah, it is good to disconnect from time to time.  Feeling over-powered?  Why not unplug from some stress, seek out some positive energy, and go wireless?


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