breaking (it) down

I’m on the verge of really taking this house apart. Until now it’s remained mostly functional though every day the ratio of bags and boxes to furniture tips in favor of the former. But the functionality is going to change in the next few days.

The kitchen will get mostly boxed up. The contents of the bathroom shelves will be discarded or put into toiletry bags for travel. More papers will be sorted. More clothes donated. More CDs imported to itunes. More decisions will be made—how many books can I bring? How many pairs of socks? Electric Kettle?

More tears will be shed. These are not sad tears, but it begs the question: what exactly are “happy” tears anyway?

It’s easier to comprehend sad tears. The tears of grief, loss and longing all make more logical sense than tears over something beautiful, touching, or tender. But lately I’ve wept tears of gratitude.

It’s a cleansing and a release. I’m giving myself permission to feel all of the emotions associated with this big step that I’m taking, and I’m not suppressing anything. This doesn’t make me feel weak; it makes me feel strong.

The support I’m receiving is blowing my mind. Boatloads of validation, recognition and encouragement are pouring over me. These people I love so dearly are buoying me up in a way that makes me believe I can’t fail, and that intensity is making me weep with gratitude.

I weep for my employers who graciously accepted my resignation and told me it was bittersweet—they’d miss me, but they’re happy for me—and, “Can we have a signed copy of your work when you are published?”

I weep for the friend who, when this plan was in its infancy stage, said, “Don’t let anything get in your way.”

I weep for the friends who unashamedly tell me they’ll miss me, and though I can’t promise I’ll be back to stay, I remind them I’m leaving a (small) storage unit here, so will be back. I’ll miss them too.

I weep at the thought of not coming back here, but I know I need this opportunity to see, feel, and feast on new things.

I weep for the friend who made me a box set of CDs. With liner notes. Amazing.

I weep for my co-worker who gave me a phenomenal massage the day after I officially made my decision and at the end, when I was handing her the cash I’d already carefully counted out, she said, “No. This one is on me.” I resisted, but she did too. “Keep it for gas money,” she said, “And when you’re cruising along and you come across a beautiful canyon, think of me and send some of that good energy my way.” She told me she’d been feeling a little down and my excitement lifted her up and allowed her to remember that anything is possible and she’ll get her adventure soon.

I weep for everyone who understands that giving and receiving are the same.

I weep for one of my favorite couples who had me over for dinner last night. He sent me off with an atlas, and she gave me a romance novel she couldn’t put down. I weep for the people who get each other.

I weep for the friend who says she’ll come over with a trailer at the end and scoop up all the leftovers and cast offs. She’ll store them in her boyfriend’s warehouse and as new people move to town (or return, because that’s what happens around here) she’ll be able to give them a table, chairs, a lamp, a dresser, a soup pot, etc.

I weep for all of my Missoula friends who say they will visit. My writing project could be toast(!) if everyone does, but I sure hope most of them make it down so I can share my experiences with them.

I also weep for the friends I’ll live closer to; the friends I can meet halfway if we each drive two easy hours.

I weep for my generous landlords who are giving me a couple extra days into January so I don’t have to be completely out on New Years Eve, though that would be appropriate since I moved to Missoula twelve years ago on New Years Eve. Twelve whole years ago. WOW. Thank you, Missoula.

I weep for this community that accepted me right out of the gate and that has grown up alongside me, for this community that lets me go when I need to, but that doesn’t hold a grudge and always welcomes me back.

I weep for the friend who I visited a month ago who encouraged me to talk about how I was feeling and through my instantaneous sobbing my response was, “I need new scenery. I need to feel lost.” I weep for the recognition that trip gave me, and the friends who were there to talk, listen, and share.

I weep for everyone who is willing to be authentic, honest and true: You make the world go round. Your vulnerability is noble.

I weep for the friends who tell me they’re proud of me. For the friend who toasted me on Thanksgiving when she said, “A lot of people say they’re going to do things but they don’t follow through. Jaime Stathis is not one of those people.” (She said this because of my drive to collect clothes for Hurricane Sandy victims, but I heard her voice encouraging me as I made this leap.)

I weep for the friends who remind me that I’m making an investment in myself and that I’m worth it.

I weep (in advance) for the friend who is dropping something off for me this morning. She said I don’t have to pack it up and take it with me. Did she bake for me?

Okay, maybe I’ll stop all this weeping so I can enjoy a delicious treat…If I don’t have to pack it, then what could it be if not a baked good? #icanhardlywait

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” Winnie-the-Pooh

UPDATE: I didn’t have to wait long. My baking machine of a friend delivered a sweet box of four homemade holiday cookies. Salted chocolate chip, Polish apricot, Mexican wedding, and powdered sugar dusted chocolate. They’re as beautiful as she is, inside and out.



 To thine own self be true. –William Shakespeare

In less than a month I’ll have lived in my house for two years, which is the longest I’ve lived in any one place since I was sixteen. Some quick math tells me it’s about a 60/40 split in favor of twenty-two years of meandering.

It’s strange, though, because I value home. When I move into a space I’m quick to set up shop, flatten and recycle boxes, and act as though I’ve lived in the place forever.

I arrange lamps for optimum ambient light. I make my bed, put my books away, hang pictures, and situate the kitchen and bathroom. I buy some flowers, light a candle: I’m home.

I’ve loved every place I’ve lived in. I even loved the one that took two days of scrubbing to rid the kitchen cabinets of (what seemed like) decades of grease. I loved the ones that seemed too sterile, too noisy, too smelly from whatever was cooking downstairs.

I’ll stay up all night to scrub a stranger’s filth with steel wool and make sure all my shirts and hangers are going in the same direction, but as much love as I feel for my new (obviously semi-temporary) homes I quickly fall into my old patterns. Before I’ve sent my second rent check I’ve already started to wreck the place. I don’t mean wreck-wreck, I just mean making it more “homey.”

Piles build. Doors become overwhelmed with bags and coats. My toothbrush has to fight for space near the sink. Ponytail holders and bracelets cling to every doorknob. Junk mail discovers my new house then lands prime real estate next to the recycling bins, which don’t take themselves to the sorting center. The kitchen counters have teas in various stages of brewing and miscellaneous bowls of half-finished this-or-that and it often looks like someone got called out on an emergency in the midst of making dinner.

My nightstand book pile grows taller every day. My clean-enough-to-wear-again clothes piles exponentially increase. And then there’s the clean laundry in the hamper, the poor things in a perpetual purgatory of “go back in the dryer to de-wrinkle or just hang up?” And as with every unanswerable, million-dollar question: not a lot happens in limbo.

Six years ago I was getting ready to leave for Honduras, and a couple of friends came over to help me sort through the stacks of clothes all over my bed. I was as attached then as I am now to my Missoula uniform—yoga pants and capilene zipneck tops—and I had more than a few stacks of the components ready to go to the Caribbean. Another stack contained more than a dozen assorted swimsuit pieces, and as my friend eyed the two piles she says, “You can’t take it all. You’re going to have to trade the Patagonia tops for the string bikinis.”

She said I could bring one “favorite outfit” and the rest had to stay. I pouted, but she was right. The bikini pile went into the suitcase, and the other pile into a Rubbermaid bin that I marked in Sharpie: “Stays in Missoula.” With that indelible pen I scratched out passé labels from other stages of life. A label from a cross-country move said “Children’s Books,” one from an across town move said “Kitchen Stuff,” and from a time when we were staying put for a minute, “Lucky’s food.”

Six years later I’m not going anywhere (just yet, but never say never), but feel a similar urge to purge, clean, and sort. Because we’re hovering on the edge of fall in Northwestern Montana it is time to put most of the summer stuff away, but in the transition it’s a good time to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Even—and maybe because of—our short summer here, an array of bathing suit pieces drape and droop over door knobs, towel racks, and backs of chairs. Those have to go into storage, with one or two suits left out for hotspring-ing. It’s sweatshirt season now, and another few eye blinks and we’ll be into down jacket season. Transitioning between seasons is the easy part; it’s actually getting rid of stuff that can be problematic.

There’s a lot of attachment in things, and it can be hard to let some things go. There’s the “I paid too much for these shoes” that aren’t comfortable and “These earrings were a gift and is it rude to get rid of them?” Then there’s “I just don’t feel good in this,” and “This may have been who I was, but is it who I am now?” They are small questions imbedded in bigger dilemmas.

I’m a strike while the iron is hot kind of girl, so yesterday when I was invited to a naked ladies party I pulled out a couple of tote bags and filled them with everything I WOULDN’T bring on a road trip/adventure. (There’s a link in “naked ladies” to get you to my friend Melissa’s blog post about these parties in case you don’t know about them. It’s not what you think; it’s better!)

I made a rule while I was doing this: no second-guessing. I suppose second guessing can be useful, but I find it to be stress and anxiety inducing. There’s a pragmatic place for second guessing. If you’re trying to decide to buy a car, house or vacation you can’t really afford; if you’re on the verge of kissing someone who isn’t your spouse; if you are not in tune with listening to your gut.

Sorting through clothes and accessories is not a big life decision; there’s just not a lot at stake when you’re getting rid of a shirt that doesn’t flatter. I decided to move to an island thirty miles off the coast of Honduras with more spontaneity than what I’ve used in my decision making over getting rid of a $200 pair of shoes that 1) are old, and 2) hurt after more than four hours. (Note: They’re just like this except in black, if you care.)

The regular questions rush in: But they’re classic! They’re great for weddings! You love dancing in them! All of these things are true, but they have not made as appearance at the last batch of weddings I’ve gone to in Montana where cowboy boots and (gasp!) clogs are fine for a wedding where the terrain is not likely to be level. In fact, I don’t think the soles of those shoes have ever hit Montana soil, though they have made a couple of trips to Vegas. The question: exactly how prepared do we need to be for what may or may not ever happen?

Research has been done that suggests second-guessing leads to unhappiness, obsession, and self-judgment. Second-guessing is so interesting in that it is dual-faceted; we can do it with anticipation or with hindsight. We can basically do it all the time if we choose to, but why would we choose grief?

Anything that doesn’t fit right went into the bag. Getting rid of the t-shirt that is too close to my skin color was easy. The blouse that makes me feel like I’m in someone else’s costume: also easy. The earrings from an ex-boyfriend: a snap.

I do not need to jeopardize my mental health with miniature decisions that, over time, degrade the ability to make bigger decisions and feel confident with the outcome whatever it may be.

Should I stay or should I go? Well that’s still up for grabs, but for now I’m keeping the shoes, not out of choice, really, but because I can only find one. I live in a small house with only one closet, which means I should be even more selective about what I keep, but it unfortunately means I stuff things into recesses and corners where they’re difficult to discover. We do this with our thoughts and feelings too, but that’s a different blog post.

While waiting for the stars to align in one direction or another I’ll focus on what I can control, which is my clutter, my intentions, and at the end of the day: myself.