5 things I will do, and 5 things I will not

Photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt

Yes­ter­day, I headed out to buy cat food. I parked my car, went into the store, pulled out a shop­ping cart, looked around … and real­ized that I was at Sta­ples.  (True, the pet store is just next door. Still, this is a first.)

For the past few days, I’ve been unusu­ally dis­tracted and dis­tractable, anx­ious, and unset­tled. Being threat­ened with evic­tion will do that to you. At least, it will to me. My thoughts are shoot­ing in all direc­tions, but every­thing seems hazy. I’m doing my best to get things done with­out know­ing what to do.

Back home from errands, it occurred to me that I need to sim­plify. I need to be clear about what I’ll do – and what I will not. Here’s my first crack at set­ting down a set of per­sonal guide­lines (a sort of mini-experiment within my exper­i­ment of nest­ing).

I will:

1. Write some­thing every day. (Because writ­ing always makes things better.)

2. Get at least some exer­cise every day. (And yes, a walk counts.)

3. Look for a place to live.

4. Do some­thing sooth­ing / nice for myself each day.

5. Frac­tal flower pitch­ing.

I will not:

1. Expect myself to be oper­at­ing at full capacity.

2.  Tell myself I shouldn’t be so dis­tressed — or any­thing else that I, in fact, am.

3. Do one more thing that I don’t want to do unless I really have to.

4. Draw con­clu­sions about what any of this means

5. Give myself a hard time for eat­ing weird meals (cot­tage cheese and car­rots any­one?) or rely­ing on pre­pared food. (Yes, I could make it more cheaply myself, and I will again. Just not now.)


So in the course of the day, I took a long walk, did some writ­ing, and checked out real estate list­ings before spring­ing for a rasp­berry lemon­ade at Cup and Top. At the moment, mak­ing lemon­ade out of life’s lemons feels a bit beyond me. But real lemon­ade on a sum­mer day is a pretty good distraction.

Life Experiment #7: Nesting

Nesting Storks

Last week, I was served with a 30-day Notice to Quit, the first stage in evic­tion pro­ceed­ings. I’m not happy about this, but such is life. This is my real­ity. So what am I going to do?

Not sur­pris­ingly, I’m really anx­ious. I have a house­ful of stuff – books, art, fur­ni­ture, dishes, appli­ances, writ­ing projects, not to men­tion a cat. The idea of mov­ing in less than a month is hugely stress­ful. Friends have reas­sured me that, prac­ti­cally speak­ing, I likely have far more time than the legal paper sug­gests, given our state’s landlord-tenant laws and the nature of judi­cial pro­ceed­ings. But things are already unpleas­ant enough. At this point, I just want out.

Still, get­ting out takes time and effort. Much as I might wish it oth­er­wise, I can’t mag­i­cally snap my fin­gers and be some­where else. The ques­tion: How to make the best of this par­tic­u­lar bad sit­u­a­tion? How to go about reduc­ing its impact on the rest of my life?

A com­ment from my friend Alle­gra was help­ful here, point­ing out how the specter of evic­tion likely evokes past threats and rejec­tions. “I’ve never known a notice to quit not to hurt,” she observed, speak­ing metaphor­i­cally. Sep­a­rat­ing the past from the present strikes me as emi­nently use­ful. How much of my reac­tion is about now? How much is about then – about newly retrig­gered pain surg­ing from the past. (“Now is not then,” Havi says, over and over and over.)

That said, I’m def­i­nitely con­fronting a very real present-day chal­lenge, one that goes to the core of how I live and work. Even if I don’t want to fight evic­tion, I already feel embat­tled. It’s affect­ing the qual­ity of my days and my abil­ity to get things done. I have a hard time sleep­ing. I awake awash in cor­ti­sol, already on overdrive.

Years ago, I took a class in Early Freud at a psy­cho­an­a­lytic insti­tute in Man­hat­tan. (“Early Freud, that’s great. Stuff even Freud doesn’t believe any­more,” a friend dryly remarked.)  Most of what I learned there is long for­got­ten but one prin­ci­ple stayed with me. “Never deal with a neu­ro­sis by attempt­ing to uproot it. Always work to build up other aspects of the per­son­al­ity,” our teacher said (or some­thing pretty close to that; it’s been a long time).

I see an anal­ogy here. On the one hand, I could focus on the bad thing hap­pen­ing. Or I could train my sights on the life and home I’m hop­ing to cre­ate. What are the qual­i­ties I want them to have?  Where – and how — am I most likely to find them?

And here’s where the idea of nests comes in (another thing inspired by Havi). What are the qual­i­ties of a nest? (It holds EGGs. It’s a place where small crea­tures grow from help­less­ness to self-sufficiency. It’s a prod­uct of instinc­tual needs. That’s a start.) What am I look­ing for in my nest? (Safety. Sup­port. Ease. Con­tent­ment.) How can I cre­ate it? (That’s what I’m sit­ting with now.) The nest metaphor feels espe­cially apt given the sus­te­nance I’ve gained in recent months from both bread­crumbs and bas­ket weav­ing.

So that’s it: Life Exper­i­ment # 7 will be all about nest­ing, watch­ing how the metaphor works and (I’m hop­ing) starts to shift things.

Update on Life Exper­i­ment #6: Present Me is delighted that Past Me got rid of some of these pesky nag­ging tasks, espe­cially given the pres­sures Present Me now faces. I sewed on the but­ton! And did some 20 other things besides – got my bike tuned up, hemmed a pair of linen pants, got a long-overdue hair­cut.  I didn’t make it through all 30 things, but I def­i­nitely made progress. And as I’ve learned through these Life Exper­i­ments, that itself is cause for cel­e­bra­tion.