Break ups are a strange and furry phenomena. A once solid union becomes divided and one becomes two over a breakfast of soggy Cheerios and crossed arms. Like a gruesome chainsaw accident, a limb that was once familiar and necessary becomes detached. Sometimes it can be reconstructed and reattached, but it never feels the same. The nerves are severed and the normal sensation is lost to a ripline of stitches that run far below the surface and deep into the vital blood and muscle cells.
There may be fifty ways to leave a lover, but they’re all expensive. Going to Africa twice was cheaper than moving across Canada once. I am left at a standstill, suspended in time between couch cushions and an October 1st move-in date. I am pacing, waiting for the go-ahead to start work as the governing board of massage therapists seems to be preoccupied with Facebooking and tweeting when they could be reinstating my massage license.
I have found a posh place to lay my whirling dervish head, and this was a gigantic relief (see previous blog post https://julestorti.wordpress.com/2009/08/31/free-to-a-good-home/ to revisit the horrors). I live out of two bags stuffed with a somewhat poorly selected wardrobe. Did I really need to bring 12 belts, 8 watches and only two pairs of jeans? As the nights breathe and exhale the bracing fall air, I hope the rest of my longsleeved clothing arrives before I’m seasonally challenged.
My patience has been stretched to a spandex consistency as of late, but I’ve developed Teflon no-stick skin. My resilience stems from three months of living in a sopping wet jungle in Costa Rica, four months in Uganda eating shit and goats and another month in the dark and dust of the Congo. I can live anywhere, under less than desirable conditions– as long as I have my New Balance running shoes, occassional access to the Internet and gin.
When I first moved out west in 2006, Wanda had a loose moving company connection through her hairdresser’s mother’s cousin’s nephew’s daughter. There was a guy in Thunder Bay named Ari who could move my stuff from Ontario to Abbotsford for $400 bucks. This was a very handsome figure, considering a basic U-haul rental starts at $1,650, plus $6,000 in gas to roar across the prairies eating Twizzlers and canisters of Pringles for breakfast I leapt at the cheapo deal and boxed my stuff for pick-up the very next weekend at my parents house in Brantford. I threw a pack over my shoulder, zipped up my laptop and boarded the Westjet flight to BC, never imagining that my stuff wouldn’t arrive for another four months.
I went to Abbotsford in August 2006. My stuff didn’t make an appearance until January 4th, 2007. This was after a hundred “missed” phone calls to Thunder Bay to the always-sleeping wife of Ari. There were periodic updates of mechanical breakdowns of his transport truck. My stuff at one point was in Edmonton–then in storage in Calgary, apparently. I asked for photos to serve as proof that my things still existed and weren’t in some trailer park in Thunder Bay covered in chewing tobacco and hotdog bun crumbs.
Come December, I threatened Ari that I was going to contact the police. I told him I was LIVING with the police. He retalliated by threatening not to deliver my load. Oh, good one! At that point, I couldn’t even remember what my oh-so-important belongings were anymore. I was tempted to save the $400 and tell him to take my stuff and stuff it.
So, obviously I can live without “things.” Every break-up has enhanced my minimalist lifestyle even more. Although, I find myself buying the same things repeatedly: shower curtains, laptops, bookshelves, gin. Or, I give items away and then need them about two weeks afterwards and am required to just suck it up as poor timing. Like the time I decided to chuck out all my massage therapy college notes from a decade ago. Surely I would never use them again! Little did I know that months later I would be moving to BC and be heading back to school to upgrade my RMT license. This is why I am never throwing out my Michael Jackson faux leather Thriller jacket, because now I know I’m going to need it.
Because I lost my faith in Ari the mover, I’ve been researching other, hopefully more credible options, like Fred’s On the Move and Two Small Men with Big Hearts. The Small Men offered a guaranteed quote of $1,750, roughly a dollar a pound, with a 1,500 pound minimum charge. This is the cost of emotional baggage, all 1,500 pounds of it. Well, the books probably weigh a thousand, the other 500 pounds goes to tea lights, Puma shoes and a pressed leather headboard that would flatten a small child if it fell over.
I have to see my books again because I can tell you where, when, why and how I bought each and every one of them. They are an integral part of me, even though I could probably go to the local library, check out 370 books and pay a lifetime of late fees and it would ring in cheaper than sending all of Margaret Atwood’s hardcovers and African bird guides back to Ontario.
As I walked through Cabbagetown last week, mentally unpacking my boxed up stuff that is still sitting in Abbotsford, I absently followed signs to an estate sale on Seaton street. My god, it was like a Boxing Day sale as soon as I stepped inside the charming old Victorian home. It was like the cabbage patch doll craze of the early 80s when mothers turned into boxers, fighting for the bald-headed dollies to give their precious children. I avoided the crowd that was swarming the Blue Willow collection in the kitchen and took the stairs to the third level. Everything was for sale. Everything–right down to the cans of lemon Pledge, the Holy Bible, the furs in the closet, the chandelier and the Ensure bars in the cupboard. The artificial Christmas tree was plugged in and listing on the back patio with five boxes of slides and old projectors with a $10 TAKES ALL sign. Ten dollars. I wondered where this person had travelled to, and if they were watching with disappointment from Heaven as the most valuable memories in their life, captured on film, were priced the same as the red wine-stained tablecloth and Thigh Master.
Is this what it comes down to? Your life is sold at a discount to greedy hands who dismiss the life that just passed in hopes of a bargain? Who wants to buy Pledge that belonged to a now-dead person? Isn’t that weird?
I spent the weekend with my parents in Brantford, sleeping in my dead great-grandmother’s bed which still gives me some heebie jeebies. I’m not sure whether the Pledge under the sink is from Wal-mart or a dead person though, I’ll have to ask my mother, because she likes dead people’s belongings.
With a bit of financial resentment, I’ll have my things shipped to Toronto, and hopefully they will arrive in 2009. What has become clear in the last two weeks is that I don’t really need any of it. Some Africans wear the same shirt and pants for years. I could adopt a similar signature look. And do I really want the flatscreen TV that I watched for 26 minutes out of the corner of my eye while drinking wine with my brother the night he set it up? It was a Sheryl Crow spotlight on Muchmusic. I paid for access to a thousand channels for a year, and watched none.
I’m not a collector of anything (aside from the above-mentioned books, and a lot of thoughts). I do come from a collective mother and grandmother though. My great-grandmother (who will probably pay me a visit in her old bed tonight) collected over 100 salt and pepper shakers in her lifetime. For what? A really eclectic estate sale?
What I eventually realized in the dull hours of sleepless nights spent on the couch, is that I do collect friends. And they have been my greatest cheerleaders, defensive quarterbacks, wine-pourers, secret-keepers, late night chatters Facebookers, avid blog readers and African correspondents. In my time of need, I’ve had offers of beds all across Ontario, promises of zen, laughter and even a campfire with S’mores and stars.
What I know now is that the stuff that always moves with me, without expense, are my golden friends and family. They follow me to all the places I insist on going, even the bloody Congo, and wait patiently for my return.
Even though I have taken up all the available “T” space in several address books belonging to friends and relatives, I am welcomed back each time and reminded that the important stuff has been with me all along. What can’t be sold at an estate sale, wrapped in newspaper and shoved in a box, or weighed by movers calculating my life in pounds–is what’s integral in life.
And now for the fine print:
Thank you in no particular order to Dax and his couch and midnight watermelon chats, my always supportive parents (who have moved me more in 35 years than themselves in 60+ years), great-grandma for her bed after 2 weeks on Dax’s couch, Kiley for offering a bedroom in Banff AND a gym membership, Pam and Jann for a reliable laughter reel and daily affirmations, Rodney for his massages and for introducing me to Teri and Rob and Mojito Mondays, Kelly for giving up her posh apartment to live with me (again), Connie, Nicole and PJ for promises of full-bodied wine and conversation, Andie for those Friday visits out west, Carol for not understanding but still willing to email me, Karin, Kim K., Martine, Linda and Dee for just always being there like dew and the breeze, Suzanne–for that Blue Dog latte afternoon that got me to thinking, to the chimps in the Congo who brought the buzz in my head to a calm, to Brit for missing me, to new friends on the horizon: Sass, Sara, Sue, and Heidi & Leslie who are distracting me with the lure of Twitter, Jenn B., Denny and Toni who take me back everytime I return from wandering off, to Gillian who wants me to have whatever makes my heart happy–even though it saddened hers, to Lynne (and Al) for crying tears of chardonnay when I said I was moving to Toronto, to Michelle who is going to fly in from Rankin Inlet or somewhere way the hell up there to prepare a french rack of muskox, to my faithfuls: Kim V., Johanne, Chantal and Kaitlin, the far aways: Merryde, Mary Lou and Ju, to Ryan now in Melburne who has a bed there for me too, to those I haven’t even met yet but care for–Jules, Rona & Leanne W., and even bigger thanks to the five extra very, very special people who I have blindly overlooked and will get proper shit for.
And to Wanda, for letting me go, against her will.