i'm so glad we made it to this point.
i'm so glad i found you in my apartment.
let's share our story, sanctuary, and a few tips learned along the way.
when my ex left in september, i looked around the apartment with, well, hatred. for one, his stuff was still there. everywhere. and anywhere i looked, all i saw was him. all i saw were memories. good memories. bad memories. even his empty coffee cups were there by his desk.
but even beyond that i felt hatred. i hated how the apartment needed work because it hadn't been renovated in a long time. i had wanted to be in a different neighborhood and now the desire had blown into need. we had talked about redecorating the apartment, but i had wanted to do it with him and there never seemed to be time for that. the apartment felt drab and dirty and disorganized. my super hated me. the dog barked at people in the elevator.
home, the apartment, was not my sanctuary. and, i felt at the time, that my sanctuary had just walked out the door.
tip #1: people probably shouldn't be sanctuaries. you may feel calm in their presence. you may feel safe in their presence, but they are also human and have their own shit going on. you need a relatively dependable sanctuary and it is probably best to find sanctuary options that aren't people. unless you are a baby. then a person is probably your sanctuary.
i called my parents and complained about how i needed to move.
i remember my dad trying to explain, softly, that the lease had just been renewed. my apartment is a good price and has a good amount of space for the neighborhood.
basically, there was no way in hell i could move.
i hung up and cried.
two days after my ex left, i began moving all of his stuff into a corner. everything i could move on my own. i began to pile it up in a corner. a corner i didn't have to stare at day-in and day-out. it began my mission to get his stuff ready for his departure. i wasn't interested in pretending that he'd come back. he wasn't coming back and therefore i wanted his stuff out and while i couldn't control when it actually left, i could control its location. and once i started moving his stuff, i began to see where the holes were. i began to see what space i would have without his stuff there. i would need a rug, i would need a coffee table, i would need something for the wine i had, i would need knives, i would need lamps, etc. at first i was overwhelmed by it all and then something shifted in me.
i hated where the couch was. it cut off the living room. it was awkward. and one day, i came in to the apartment and couldn't take it anymore. i began moving the couch myself.
tip #2: don't move couches on your own.
i couldn't lift it, so i dragged it. my ex's rug was getting stuck in the couch legs and i cursed him and the couch, but i kept moving the couch until it was across the room and facing the opposite direction. i went downstairs to my super and her assistant. "the ex is moving out. can you help me lift my couch?" i said. i figured, perhaps if i were honest about what was happening, they would like me more. i was right. they came up immediately.
they helped me get the rug from under the couch. they replaced a battery in the fire alarm. they asked if i needed help with anything else. i said no. they looked at me with concern before leaving. i smiled and shut the door and sneezed.
did i mention how dusty my apartment is and how i am allergic to dust?
the next two weeks i began changing the apartment as much as i could. i added bright rugs and a new desk. i added new lamps. i moved other furniture around, finding new homes for things. i put up new artwork and such. when my ex came to pack his stuff, he noted how different everything looked.
"did you do this yourself?" he asked.
"yup," i answered.
two days after he had moved out completely, my living room felt completely different than when i had lived there with him. my bedroom was in the process of feeling that change. my ex even noted it after coming back for something. he emailed me to say that the apartment looked great.
and it did look great.
tip #3: take your time redecorating. i definitely didn't and spent way more than i should and only now realize i was doing a little retail therapy in addition to making my apartment feel like home.
it was brighter. the layout made more sense. i bought plants and the apartment felt alive with green. it was better organized and, in general, less messy on a day-to-day basis. i didn't feel the need to go do work in cafes. instead, i could sit at my desk or on the couch and work. i began inviting people over. lots of people. and they would come into my apartment and sit on my couch and on my floor or stand in my kitchen. i couldn't have fit them all before. i wouldn't have invited them before. but here they were... i no longer felt a sense of dread when walking into the apartment. i felt calm. i felt safe. i felt cozy. i felt like i was home which, i realized later, i hadn't felt in a space in a very long time.
my mom and i moved nine times, i went to boarding school and then to college and then to grad school and in that time moved into a different room/apartment almost every year, and then i lived in boston for a year, and then i moved to philly where i moved five times, and then i moved to new york. to this apartment.
this is the longest i've lived in a place consistently since i was maybe 13.
this apartment had become my sanctuary.
there are times when i remember how it looked before and i remember something. i remember that this is the spot he was sitting in when he said he wanted to leave. this is the spot i was standing in when he left. this is the spot when...
i wrote a poem a little while ago that talked about my apartment and how it had become a little safe haven. i ended the poem saying that now that my apartment is my sanctuary, i don't want anyone fucking it up. one of my biggest fears is dating someone new and having them come into the apartment and mess up the good energy i've worked so hard to foster. my apartment has become my preferred place to be--which is good and bad. i often find it hard to leave. why go someplace and be uncomfortable when i can stay home and be comfortable?
tip #4: leave your apartment sometimes.
i love the apartment, but i also recognize other places as sanctuaries:
that bench by the hudson i haven't been to in a while, that place under the tree by the charles river in boston, any bookstore in the world, my meditation cushion when i actually sit on it and meditate, my running shoes, my yoga mat, whatever book i'm reading at the time, the pup standing on his hind legs when i come in the door--that spot right there, that moment, lake atitlán in guatemala, that mountain by the town i lived in in nicaragua, that first sip of tea or coffee in the morning, the light coming into my bedroom window...
tip #5: collect sanctuaries as you go. you never know when you may need them.
(this is day twenty-nine of april love)