Notice to Quit

Two days ago, I arrived home to find two mis­sives stuck in my front door. The first was a lovely mes­sage from neigh­bors invit­ing me for drinks before a book­store read­ing that night. The sec­ond was not so lovely: I’d been served with a 30-day Notice to Quit, the first stage of evic­tion proceedings.

The legal notice wasn’t alto­gether unex­pected –  for var­i­ous (good) rea­sons, I’ve been unwill­ing to sign a lease for the upcom­ing year, and I knew that the own­ers weren’t happy that I’d opted to go month-to-month.

But “not unex­pected” isn’t the same as “totally fine.”  I could feel my whole body clench­ing as I thought about what came next.

By the time we got to the book­store, I’d calmed down a bit, bol­stered by my neigh­bors’ warmth and con­cern, as well as their canapés. Still, I was feel­ing no small dis­tress when I bumped into my writer friend Cathi (on break from her own author tour for her ter­rific new novel Gone).

That’s great for your blog!” was her wry response, after my story spilled out.

The words caught me by sur­prise — and the sur­prise itself sur­prised me. She’d reminded me of some­thing I already knew. Why hadn’t I thought of that?

If you’ve been read­ing this blog, you know that I’ve been giv­ing a lot of thought to the power of writ­ing to trans­form painful expe­ri­ences. I’ve writ­ten about it here and also here and here. It’s not a goal I set out to achieve but some­thing I’ve sim­ply watched hap­pen. A won­der­ful and mys­te­ri­ous cre­ative alchemy.

But this time, that go-to strat­egy had totally eluded me. I couldn’t help being curi­ous about why that was.

We grow through stretch-not-break chal­lenges. That was one of the first thoughts that came to mind, an idea gleaned some years back in an adult psy­chol­ogy class. Too few chal­lenges? We stag­nate. Too many? We get overwhelmed.

Legal pro­ceed­ings are stress­ful in the best of cir­cum­stances, and for me the push to move tops off a num­ber of other stres­sors. A sick cat. Sick me. An ongo­ing search for work. The more I thought about this, the more things fell into place. That I’d stall out when con­fronted with another big chal­lenge makes total sense.

Accept­ing – mak­ing peace with – this fact feels like a first step for­ward. Stress is hard. Stress takes a toll. That’s a fact of life. Feel­ing unmoored and being slow on the uptake, is sim­ply cause and effect. So that’s what I’m sit­ting with, this sense of how things are. I have no idea what comes next, but this is where it starts.

© 2012, amy gut­man. All rights reserved.

17 thoughts on “Notice to Quit

  1. I remem­ber receiv­ing those notices — that sink­ing, empty sensation…They don’t call it the ‘pit’ of your stom­ach for nothing.

    We have an ongo­ing strug­gle with a neigh­bour — I won’t bore you with the details — and the trick­i­est thing is push­ing myself to look at us and our pesky demands from her per­spec­tive. We do force such weights of inter­pre­ta­tion onto events or actions that prob­a­bly can’t sus­tain them in the greater scheme of things.

    But leav­ing a house always involves a cer­tain amount of mourn­ing and trav­el­ing through that pas­sage­way to accep­tance, like any other change…
    Dad Who Writes (Gabriel) recently posted…So what have you been lis­ten­ing to lately, Dad Who Writes?My Profile

  2. Dear Amy,

    This res­onated, par­tic­u­larly, for me—as I am sure you can imag­ine. More than once I, and my friends and fam­ily, have used the term A Per­fect Storm.… to describe the events of the past cou­ple of years. A dif­fer­ent form of being unmoored of course—with a dif­fer­ent set of stressors—some eas­ier and some harder to address. You are remark­ably resilient, on so many lev­els, so though I am con­cerned for you, I am not worried—and I very much look for­ward to the next blog post on the topic, and the next and the next. look at it this way, per­haps, you have added more sus­pense to Plan B Nation! You have become—for the time being only we hope —a page turner in the tra­di­tion of the suspense-memoir. :)

    • Thank you, Betsy! I love that way of look­ing at it — I am writ­ing a *dif­fer­ent kind of sus­pense novel* these days, and one in which I’m play­ing the star­ring role. :-)
      amy gut­man recently posted…Notice to QuitMy Profile

  3. Occa­sion­ally I think about whether we have a nat­ural set-point, where we’re com­fort­able with what we can con­trol in our lives and what we can’t. Think­ing back to when I lost every­thing (busi­ness, house, man, etc.) in late 2001, it wasn’t so much the lack of resources or dis­rup­tion of every facet of my life. What most drained me was the lack of con­trol I had over any­thing hap­pen­ing around or to me. Amy, I won­der to what extent, on the one hand, you’re try­ing to get main­tain or gain trac­tion and on the other are con­fronted with a piece of paper with the power to redraw your every­day life.
    Sharon O’Day recently posted…Get­ting to Rad­i­cal HonestyMy Profile

    • Absolutely. The ques­tion of how to make peace with hav­ing lit­tle con­trol over much of life is a big part of what ani­mates my writ­ing of Plan B Nation. And, per­haps para­dox­i­cally, think­ing — and writ­ing — about these things is a huge source of mean­ing for me. Great to see you here. Thanks so much for read­ing and tak­ing the time to com­ment!
      amy gut­man recently posted…Notice to QuitMy Profile

  4. This was really help­ful for me to read today, Amy. I wish you peace, health and renewed energy as you search for the right place to move and pack up. I hope the move brings you to a really joy­ful place.

  5. Both are true. It is 100% true that this hurts. I’ve never known a notice to quit not to hurt. It’s the stuff of Dick­ens (Charles, not Emily for those in Northamp­ton!) It’s also 100% true that you are becom­ing a dif­fer­ent per­son. I can’t say I know any­one who would not be impacted by this. That per­fec­tion ideal of “some would not be” is not help­ful, and it’s a way to belit­tle our own jour­ney. Or at least it is for me. You have gone fur­ther in your jour­ney, and would know about your own heart.

    And you have the tools and tal­ent to address it: sit with it, breathe, clear your mind and see what needs to be mourned and what things open up. Make your lips smile as much as you can. Do what you can to have self-compassion. A lot of it.

    I real­ized that self-compassion was what I am miss­ing. I’m invis­i­ble to myself often. Stuff hap­pened this week, and I am engaged in a com­pli­cated act of stand­ing up to my per­fec­tion­ist, oth­ers could do it bet­ter, self-belittling ego.

    Why today? I got my own notice-to-quit of sorts. To quit deny­ing the impact of the pain of oth­ers’ actions on me!

    Here’s my brief story: This week I was mugged on FB (an imposter who trolled my friends for fake solic­i­ta­tions). This brought up past trauma — times when I’d been mugged both phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally. My mind put parts of the trauma here and there in dif­fer­ent areas and stored them there so I’d not be over­whelmed, apparently.

    The FB response to this ongo­ing crim­i­nal behav­ior was to send me a note that it would take 20 days to resolve the issue. That’s an out­ra­geous response when my friends and I are get­ting mugged in real time. No bank does this when you report theft, and FB seems to be much more cap­i­tal­ized than most banks!

    Guess what: those times in my past where I was mugged I found a lot of out­ra­geous behav­ior from peo­ple who were empow­ered to stop the mug­ging. Addi­tional retriggering.

    I finally wrote a high offi­cial at FB with the secu­rity team’s let­ter and said essen­tially, “I’m a sin­gle mother with a start up spend­ing valu­able time chas­ing a crim­i­nal that you all have allowed to feast on me and my friends. GET OFF MY NUTS.” (well, I didn’t say that; my teen sons wanted me to say that.) No answer from the exec but within 12 hours the imposter was off the site.

    Today I went down to a lake, took off my shoes and socks, and in the grass did yoga to rebal­ance my chi. I smelled the grass. I lis­tened. I looked at nature and asked what it had to teach me.

    The answer: I feel that the solu­tion to the exter­nal world is to truly care and love me, even when life is out­ra­geous and offen­sive. So today after I fin­ish this post its off to self-compassion affir­ma­tions so I can see and care and love me in the midst of the many things I can and can’t control.

    This is very com­pli­cated stuff. It’s not straight up. I hope you are able to take care of your­self the best you can.
    Alle­gra Jor­dan recently posted…Com­ment on Maxim #1: Calm, fuzzy minds by JimMy Profile

    • So many won­der­ful things here, Alle­gra, thanks so much for tak­ing the time to share them. You got me think­ing about how the Notice to Quit — dis­tress­ing in itself for prac­ti­cal rea­sons — likely also con­jured other metaphor­i­cal Notices to Quit I’ve received at other times in life. Havi Brooks, one of my favorite online pres­ences, often says: “Now is not then.” (It can, of course, be a chal­lenge to sep­a­rate the two.)

      And yes, yay for self-compassion! Life is unbear­able with­out it.
      amy gut­man recently posted…Notice to QuitMy Profile

  6. Another great post Amy. I under­stand the con­cept that too many stres­sors can over­whelm — the prover­bial straw that broke the camel’s back. That one would have an emo­tional response — in the extreme one might think “I’m being evicted. I’m going to be home­less. I can’t deal with this now.” — instead of a rea­soned one, such as imme­di­ately tak­ing steps to plan the relo­ca­tion (find place, start pack­ing, etc), is not unex­pected. What inter­ests me is how one devel­ops the resiliency to hear some­thing like your friend’s com­ments and move from the emo­tional stress response to a prag­matic plan of “What’s next?” I don’t think that we can elim­i­nate stress. As some­one who tends towards the control-freak end of the con­tin­uum, I hate that I can’t con­trol every­thing and must remind myself that it is unre­al­is­tic to think that I can elim­i­nate all my stres­sors. What each of us must do is to fig­ure out what tools can help us rec­og­nize and move beyond the emo­tional and phys­i­o­log­i­cal responses in a healthy man­ner, espe­cially in the event that we don’t get the timely nudge in the right direc­tion from an out­side source like a good, insight­ful friend.
    Anne Camille recently posted…Travel Theme: ParksMy Profile

    • Yes, yes, yes! I love every­thing you say here, Anne. Your point about being inter­ested in *how* we develop resiliency is one that really res­onates with me. One of my main inter­ests in think­ing about Plan B Nation is unpack­ing the notion of resiliency — very much as you describe it. It’s def­i­nitely harder to bounce back when you’re tapped out and resource-deprived.
      amy gut­man recently posted…Notice to QuitMy Profile

    • I’m def­i­nitely think­ing of you as I go through this, Molly. Very impres­sive how you nav­i­gated your own tran­si­tion. Was that just last sum­mer? Hard to believe.
      amy gut­man recently posted…Notice to QuitMy Profile

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