February 9, 2024
On the 12th I will have been in the new apartment for two months.
It took me a long time to get unpacked and settled in. I had a bed that needed to be put together, and finally I found a man who lived down the hall who was willing to do it. Jose. He’s a lovely man, in his 70s. He’s very kind and tells me interesting stories about the people who live here with us, and some stories about the people who have passed. It’s a senior building, you see.
Last week, my couch finally came, and Jose put that together for me, too. So I have all the furniture I need. Really, I only need just a desk, a bed, and a comfortable place to sit, and I have way more than that. The apartment is small, and I have too much shit. Way too much. Oh my.
I’m cooking a lot, so I kept buying stuff I need to make the things I want to make. I have too many pots and pans and bowls, now, so I have to store them on the counters and in the oven. I mean, it’s not quite as bad as it sounds, but I have more than enough of what I need to cook up just about anything I want.
I’ve started to cook things I’d never have dreamt of cooking before. Like chicken piccata, and French onion soup with homemade croutons!!!
I made salsa from scratch. I made a big crockpot of red beans and rice that was so good. I made too much and couldn’t eat it all within four days, so had to I throw some away. But I met Betty down the hall, and she told me she really likes spicy food, especially chili, so I made a big crockpot of that and took her half. I think maybe that’s the secret to making too much food — take some to Betty. Jose might like some too!
I have enough mugs and glasses and pretty toile plates that I can fill up the dishwasher and still not run out. I have some paisley plates, too. I have pink champagne flutes and tall pink wineglasses with blue stems. I bought shabby chic sheets. An expensive set from Amazon with tiny pink roses. I shouldn’t have spent the money, but I did. And then I found the same line at Ross and picked up another set for $19. Score! I also got some big thirsty towels. They’re grey, a departure from pink. But my shower curtain is blue, so grey is nice. (I need to not go to Ross anymore. I bought a pink soup pot just because it was pink. For real. No more of that nonsense.)
By some magic of the universe, I found a part time job. It’s 8 hours a week for $16 an hour, so I’m in no danger of making more than the $1100 a month social security allows before I jeopardize my benefits. (The government builds in disincentives for people on disability to work. I need to write about that, but it just puts me in such a bad mood.)
My part time job is with a small business and the owner is lovely. She’s a bit older than me. She feels bad about paying minimum wage because she’s seen my resume. But that was then and this is now. Plus when she talks about her systems, I ask her things like, “Is your database on a server or is it in the cloud?” And somehow that’s impressive to her.
She says she wishes she could pay me more, which makes me giggle because I was open about being on disability and she does not get she’s doing me an incredible favor by giving me the opportunity to make an extra $500 a month. I try to explain that, how I’m so much happier now, how I wouldn’t go back to that life for anything. I don’t need much anymore, you see. My life is so different than before.
It’s just nice to have enough extra to buy pink soup pots and shabby chic sheets. But no more of that! I have more than I need now! It’s also nice to afford to buy a roast once in a while. Or steak, but that’s a luxury. Oh my goodness, beef is expensive. I mostly buy hamburger and chicken thighs and pork chops. And I sure eat a lot of eggs. Eggs are good, though, for the budget and for the body.
I haven’t been to Starbucks in so long I’m losing my points, so I need to get to a drive through soon. I will.
I don’t leave the apartment much. I spend most days studying at my desk which overlooks busy Northeast Portland. Tabitha sleeps on the ottoman beside me with the fake fireplace just beyond. I found peel and stick wallpaper that looks like tile, so I “tiled” the fake fireplace. I love it so much.
I'm rereading this, and I realize I risk appearing materialistic. In actuality, I'd be lucky to make $1000 if I had a garage sale and sold everything I own. Which again, makes me sound materialist. I think what I'm trying to say, here, is that although nothing I own has significant worth, each item represents an independence I have not had in the 4 1/2 years I served as my mothers caregiver. I never felt at home in her home, I always felt like a disruptive presence, one she resented a great deal. And I believe that's exactly what I was. She had no respect for my privacy, I'd routinely come home and find trinkets that were in my bedroom, in my dresser drawers no less, re-appropriated for use in the living room. I tried very hard to overlook that. I tried very hard to not let things matter because they're just things. But a few things actually do matter. And I don't think that makes me selfish or shallow. Because even if I were to lose everything I have, it would have been fully mine to lose, and I'd have the option to replace whatever I chose, or nothing at all.
The miracle of this new place, this new life, is that my mind is clear, I’m not anxious at all. Not one bit. I still have days where I’m sad for no discernable reason. That hasn’t changed. I doubt that will ever change. And that’s OK. I can manage, I know how to manage.
I try to get out every third day or so, it helps to have the part time job twice a week. It helps a lot. I don’t like to drive too far too much, because it’s $65 to fill up my tank. But I did go to Volksfest in Mt. Angel last Saturday and I’m so glad I did. I stopped at a vegetable stand on the way back, and bought jam (strawberry rhubarb!) and onions and apples and eggs!
I’m making deals with myself about today. It will be Friday Night Date Night in just a little bit. I need to do SOMETHING. And tomorrow is Saturday and I’m caught up with school, so I should check out Saturday Market along the river downtown. I don’t know. That’s a lot to think about. I need to make a pact with myself to do one fun festival thing a week. Just one.
I’m as poor as I have ever been, and I am as at peace and satisfied with my life as I have ever been. I didn’t think I’d make it to this place in my mind and my life, but I did. I Persevered. And it has made all the difference.
We earn the life we were meant to live by fighting for it.” -Joe Goldberg, You