You. Here. Now.


When something, or something close to the something, happens a few times, it’s a good idea to sit up and take note*.

While catching up on my reading, a sense of the familiar washed over me when I spied a gem of an item from Gretchen Rubin, the Happiness Project curatrix, about using the finite to explore the infinite. She didn’t phrase it that way: her post is about the fourth vow of the Cistercian monk, which, not to put too fine a point on it, is to stay put.

She talks about it from the perspective of a married person, because she is one, but I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately from the perspective of (a), someone bound by my own circumstances, which are a combination of love and rent control and high housing costs; and (b), of a person bound by a dog I love dearly, which requires a certain amount of daily care including, according to the whisperer, at least one (and preferably two) long daily walks.

My place, you see, does not accommodate dogs. By which I mean should I get busted with a dog on the premises, I would likely be tossed out of my rent controlled apartment on my communist ass, 10-year good tenancy be damned. So in order to be with Arnie, and The BF, because neither of us feels right leaving the highly social and infernally sweet Arnie quite literally by his lonesome, I must needs be at Arnie’s, which…well, which is problematic for a whole hornet’s nest of problems. Let’s just leave it at “it’s a five-and-a-half-mile drive each way”, making it less than ideally convenient or green, and leave it at that.

Were money no object, my “problem” (in quotation marks because let’s face it, as problems go, it ain’t much these days) would be solved immediately: purchase a small property across the reservoir, a spot both quiet and private, relative to my current circumstances, where I could both be on my own and be with The BF and Arnie when I felt like being with them but not at The BF’s. But money is very much an object these days for many of us, and housing prices here in L.A., while falling fast, are falling from a rich-people-only high that will have to fall much further** than they have thus far before yours truly can buy in.

In the meantime, if you think yours truly would move out of a rent-controlled apartment which she’s occupied for almost 10 years, you have been smoking something that ain’t Camels.

A few other folks close to me are going through the same thing right now; there are probably a lot of us in L.A. going through this exact thing. There is more anger and fear among the general population, and the general population is getting more and more tightly packed into less and less space as people lose jobs and move in with one another. (I’ve been seeing it happen for a while in my neighborhood; based on our increase in population density, it was clear at least a year and a half ago that the economy was in the shitter.) We are stuck, and we are crammed into spaces next to where other people are stuck, and it all ends up being something that rhymes with “stuck”, take your choice.

One thing in particular is getting me through this, and that is a foundational principle of feng shui, variously known as the art of placement, wind-water, or “that woowoo bullshit” depending on who you ask. And that is this:

If you desire a change to something new, do everything in your power to make your peace with where you are now.

As I described it to one intimate, this means quite literally (in feng shui, anyway), that if you want to move to a nicer/bigger/awesomer space, get the one you’re in ship-shape first. They say it in the feng shui book. Well, this one, anyway, which is my favorite. And the crazy thing is that sometimes what happens isn’t what you expect will happen, sometimes something really cool will happen in a totally different area of your life that has nothing to do with what you’re working on in cleaning up your damned living space, but something will happen. I don’t know how or why, it just will. Plus your house (or apartment, or yurt, or what have you** will also end up all spiffy. And so, as the kids said at some point in distant time, it’s all good.

Hawk-eyed readers will note that I did not stay in my marriage, so what the hell am I doing yammering about fixing up what you’ve got? To which I would humbly and respectfully reply, trust me, I feng shui’d the shit out of that relationship before I opted out. And I’ll never know whether I can credit the work I did while in it, but as I was moving out of it and for some time after, I had the crazy kind of buy-a-lotto-ticket-stat luck that you idly and wistfully dream of from the depths of your personal hell.

So I sit in my place, and I work on my stuff, pulling on a thread of an idea, decluttering and cleaning surface by surface, mending and patching and making better rather than making do. And for my poor, aging, neglected body, I’m hooping 10 minutes by 10 minutes, and plotting my return to the SCD that carried me out of Crohn’s and into health.

And I work in hateful QuickBooks…and then I don’t…and then I do. And I get to Inbox Zero…and then I don’t…and then I do.

I like to think that with each circle around the mountain, I run into the same problem at a slightly higher elevation, as Julia Cameron talks about in The Artist’s Way.

But through all of it, no matter how bad it gets sometimes, and it does, even in between great days, and sometimes smack in the middle of the best of all days, I stay here, now, or if I wander, I put the puppy on the mat and start again.

Where are you now? Where do you want to go? And how can you be here now to get yourself somewhere else?



*And by “take notice,” that can mean quite literally to make an actual note, especially if time and engagements prohibit you from deeper examination in the moment. On the piece of paper you always have on you, with the writing implement you always carry, make a note at the moment something has occurred to you as being like two other things, because three times is the charm, and, without getting too ominous on your ass, the fourth might be the time you don’t get a do-over. In this case, as I was conveniently parked in front of the computer, I just used that as a giant (and very expensive) notepad.

**Yes? I got it right?

***A phrase my friend, Carly, who has made a lot of BIG juju happen with the feng shui, uses, and which I fully intend to start using because it is cool. And whatnot. Which is also cool.

Image by bobmarley753 via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.


  1. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh! Just exactly what I needed to read. Feeling bound by circumstances. If only I could take my glorious, glamorous apartment with me wherever I go in the world.

    And the quote:

    “If you desire a change to something new, do everything in your power to make your peace with where you are now.”

    feels a little like it was meant for me today.

    Thank you!

  2. I find it fascinating to hear about how the economy is affecting things in the US. Personally, I’m all for moving out to the middle of nowhere with my woofs and laptop but I don’t think the rest of the family are keen.

    I stayed put in academia for ten years because A) it was what I knew and B) it was what I thought I shoud do.

    That nearly killed me.

    Being a housemom to dogs and living in the more country-esque burbs of Stockholm I’m saner and more energised but I don’t rule the world anymore. You don’t get to be master of the universe translating and copywriting from a home office.

    But I get to smell the pine trees in the forest everyday when I take a walk and I smile quite a lot.

    So not staying put was a good thing. Now I want to move even further.

  3. Just enjoying your prose today. (Is prose the right word?) This post has such a lovely rhythm and flow to it! Deeeelightful!

    I suppose I could clean a closet or two… appreciate the hubby … yeah.

  4. Joely – Thanks, and glad I hit the right spot. Doesn’t always happen so, you know, worth noting.

    Jon – But you stayed until you were sure you had to go. That’s the thing. Plus a job, however career-like and nice, is not a marriage or, dare I say, even a vocation. And those monks will be the first one to tell you to move on if it ain’t working and you’ve given it your all. I mean, Sound of Music, right?

    Alexis – Thanks, and sure: prose sounds good to me. And clean closets and lovin’ up hubbys always sounds good.

  5. Years ago in my first long term relationship of seven years. I went on a week long “improvement” session sponsored by my work. I decided to apply those skills to my relationship as well. Doing things to improve myself. To be a better partner. What happened astonished me. I finally opened my eyes to things I chose to ignore before. Suffice to say I left that relationship. I now take better care to see what is before me in a new light. Making sure what I choose to sweep under the rug does not sweep myself with it. Maintaining a house and doing for others is a great way to keep life in check.

  6. I loved “mending and patching and making better rather than making do” It’s nice to watch someone do the little things with awareness. Just taking back your space, or making small adjustments to your health can be empowering. I forget that when I’m trying to do Everything That Must Be Done Right Now. Thanks, Colleen.

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