Change and the kitchen sink


While I learned a great deal during my 10-year* stint shilling cars and corn chips for The Man, so much so that I’ve finally realized I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, I’ve often wondered whether eight years would have done it…or five…or even three.

It was supposed to be three, after all: my initial “plan,” such as it was, was to use the three years in advertising as kind of a high-level day job while I figured out what it was that I really wanted to do. Strangely, or not, three years stretched into five and then eight, when The Chief Atheist finally talked me into chucking it, an act of kindness for which I will be forever grateful.

Of course, we do things as long as we need to, even if that seems overly long by some external form of measurement such as the Loved Ones’ Yardstick. While it was, I’m sure, patently obvious to almost any outsider that I overstayed my welcome in advertising (or acting, or almost every relationship pre-Surfer), it was anything but to me. Change is easy and obvious unless you’re the one who has to do it.

What I’ve wondered over and over, both here on the blog and endlessly, in my head, is what makes it so hard. Yeah, yeah, I know: fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. Fear, period.

But there’s something else that’s stopped me over and over that’s less about fear and more about cluelessness: the way in which I wanted to change was so big, I literally had no idea of how to go about beginning. It was easier to lie in the arms of the devil I knew than to go on a hunting expedition for the devil I wouldn’t know if he walked up and stabbed a pitchfork in me. So I didn’t: when I finally leapt, it was into this manufactured idea of me as screenwriter, not into the adventure of finding my real, meaningful work. I was not much into organic growth and walking the path back then.

I’ve been revisiting the idea of change and resistance to it recently not because I’m uncomfortable walking the path career-wise, to the contrary, I’ve become almost frighteningly comfortable with not knowing what the hell my destination is from a work perspective. No, these days the change roadblock is all about how to move forward with my primary relationship from a logistical standpoint. The BF and I have been discussing cohabitation, which at this juncture would mean me moving in with him, as he has the big, fat, honkin’ house and I have the small (albeit delightful!) rent-controlled apartment.

House for apartment? Quiet for noise, roll-over commute for 11-mile pain in the ass, fresh air and a view for stank and the apartment building next door?  SOLD, you say!

Not so fast, I say. While I’m all for the amblin’ path with my life’s work, complete with dead ends, misfires and back-tracking, there are additional physical realities involved in a move, and irreversible ones at that. Should I find this particular route is out, so am I, at least, priced out of Los Angeles’ still-insanely high rental market.

And why would this route be out? Putting aside my neuroses and my ferocious desire to cling to Several Rooms of One’s Own, there is the not small (for me) matter of horizontal vs. vertical space, and what should reside there. For me, the answer is “as little as humanly possible” and “fill ‘er up”, respectively; The BF, on the other hand, sees every flat surface as available storage space, and has some strange phobia prohibiting the installation of shelving. I shit you not.

Moreover, everywhere I turn, I see Opportunities for Improvement: a better way of managing everything from food prep to reading material; he just sees his house, and, most likely, me unhappy with it. (For as gifted an actor as I could be on stage, I am hopeless at hiding my actual human emotions, especially when confronted with three years’ worth of spent oatmeal tins in prime kitchen storage space. I may actually have cried a little when I saw those.)

The point is, we were talking BIG differences. A BIG difference in clutter thresholds (we are, amazingly, about even when it comes to tolerance of actual filth). A BIG difference in privacy needs. A BIG difference between what I needed to feel secure about thriving in a space and what I saw spread out before me.

Until, that is, the kitchen sink.

It is new, the kitchen sink (see above). It is white and it is shiny and it reflects light like a maniac, like a sumbitch, like that three-sided tin foil thing my mother used to stick under her Bain de Soleil-ed face back in the ’70s. (I have a thing about light that’s only grown worse as my eyesight has, too.) As a purchase, it was not strictly necessary, the previous, stainless-steel sink held water and soap and dishes perfectly well, albeit a little less glamorously. It lacked a spare outlet for the housing of the new water filtration system we’d agreed on to replace the ecologically and financially expensive bottled water delivery that preceded it, but as The BF pointed out, he was more than capable of drilling a hole right into the countertop to accommodate the bastard. Only I didn’t want to accommodate the bastard; I wanted it properly seated in its rightful place on an actual sink, where overflow water could be caught in an actual drain, not mopped up from the counter by hand. I am a girl, and I like things nice. I also had a need to be seen and heard and accommodated in some way. To his credit, The BF saw, heard and made an outstandingly generous accommodation. (For the record, that quick, cheap home improvement project is rarely either. And cast iron sinks are heavy.)

I am still thinking about how it might work (or might not), me giving up my little place and moving into this big one, but it does not feel as big or impossible now because we did one small, okay, medium-to-medium-big thing. Which, if I examine it carefully (and you know Virgos, we examine the crap out of everything), was really one medium-to-medium-big thing following some other, smaller things: me, test-driving a shared workspace in the office and extended stays on a bed not my own. Him, respecting my 12 square feet of horizontal desktop and finding me a smallish rug so my feet didn’t hit cold floor in the morning.

The small thing is the David to big, bad Change’s Goliath. Or, to put it two other, equally hackneyed ways, the journey of a thousand miles really does begin with one step, and doing one thing different(ly) really can alter your entire world.

You do not, as it turns out, need everything and the kitchen sink. Sometimes, the kitchen sink itself is more than enough…


*A small side note: the extra couple of years as an ad ho may or may not count, since I really was using it as a “day job” at that point, dropping in for a month or two to make my nut for three or four, and lather-rinse-repeating as necessary until my new vocation, acting, required my non-stop presence here in the City of Angles. (And no, that’s not a typo: you’d know it if you lived here, too.)


  1. Uh oh — I get the feeling this blog is going from a B-ticket to an E-ticket ride. I hope it is as much fun for you as I’m sure it will be for us readers.

  2. I love this: “and you know Virgos—we examine the crap out of everything.” I’m half-Virgo and I completely understand this. I think it’s great how you’re handling this situation. Change is always scary, but it doesn’t have to be this terrible frightening thing that we can’t deal with. I’m very impressed with your insights here!

  3. You have a 50/50 chance, and that’s with 100 % commitment on both sides. From my experience, pets are easier to live with….Good Luck on whatever you decide. Your blog is a joy to read. Namaste.
    Santa Fe Artist/Designer, Suzanne Silk

  4. Jim – Haha. You’re dating yourself. See you at the Haunted Mansion.

    PP – For me, change will always be frightening, but it doesn’t have to be life-stopping anymore. Chip, chip, chip away, with a variety of implements.

    Suzanne – Sigh. I know. And I know that nothing is forever, not even my rent-controlled apartment, so at some point, I’ll be moving forward regardless. Thanks for your kind words. I’m going to go give Arnie a hug. He is awesome to room with!

  5. It is wonderful to see you toying with the outside of your comfort zone. I wish you the best of luck.

    BTW, the BF, he’s not a Scorpio by chance is he? :-)


  6. As I read your post this morning all I could think of was when my partner first moved in with me (yes it was ages ago like 16 years) into my one room apartment and she asked me where she should put her stuff & I just looked at her. Like “you’re going to put your stuff here? but it’s my space. I didn’t know moving in together meant like sharing space”. Ah when two young, naive, only children merge. It took a while but the flow and sharing happened. Even the toothpaste (squeeze bottom and roll or squeeze middle) thing just is… Took a shift of perspective and a good hard look at what I wanted more (another 2 feet on the shelves or someone I care deeply about). Always ongoing and all these years later I still run into that “next thing” but just keep walking the path because it is so very worth it when you’re with the right person.

  7. Hey – a relationship needs to keep moving forward — like a shark, right? You don’t want a dead shark on your hands, do you?

  8. Why define yourself as astrological sign? Just let go. Surely you can change.

    I live with much messier person. If I was less wise I would make more of a problem out of this. Given the choice of mess or love I easily choose love.

  9. Paula – Yeah. My two co-habs so far were both them moving in with me. Who thought I was SOOOO generous and accommodating and flexible…until the little matter of “where does my wagon-wheel coffee table go?” came up (cf. When Harry Met Sally on that one.) It is interesting, the shoe being on the other foot. To say the least.

    E. – Agreed. But does moving in have to be part of the moving forward, I wonder? Truthfully, if money wasn’t an issue, I’d buy a (very) small house nearby, or rent a place that allowed dogs as well as boyfriends. God, I’m impossible, aren’t I? Or aren’t I?

    EJ – The astrological hoo-hah is more of a tongue-in-cheek thing. I enjoy looking at myself through the lens of “Virgo” just like I do “INFJ”, “Irish-Swedish-Jew” and “hardass.” Of course, I do have it in the tagline of the blog, so of course, it looks like I take it seriously. Maybe I should rethink that.

    Anyway, the crux of your note is dead-on: love is always the better choice. Thanks for the reminder.

  10. OMG…I love the way you write. Top notch and down to earth. I’ve found there’s only two things in this world that matter. Everything changes and everything ends…period. It’s black and white without a bit of grey anywhere. I’ve learned to embrace most of the change and without the fear of failure. In fact the faster I fail, the faster I get where I want to go. Is it scary…yes. But know that you can learn from yesterday, live in the moment and plan for the future but you’ve got to move through the change and make it work for you. When you let it decide for you is when it gets out of hand. I refuse to let change lead me anywhere. Instead it opens doors for me to embrace the opportunity.

  11. No, moving in doesn’t have to be part of the moving forward. Then again, it didn’t work out well for Woody and Mia, living across the Park from each other (although there were other contributing factors to their breakup. Ahem.).

    Of course, all of this is easy for me to say; feel free to turn it right back in my face if (when?) I’m faced with the exact same decision.

    If we didn’t live in the most unaffordable city in the country (hooray! We finally placed first!), I’d say that was a fantastic idea. Oh, well.

  12. Bill – Wow. Thanks. Can you just come back everyday and say nice things about me and smart things about everything else? “I refuse to let change lead me anywhere.” Balls out, buddy. That is sweet!

    E. – Oh, I will. :-)

    Honestly, I don’t know what will happen, only that I’m committed to moving forward, not backward or staying in a holding pattern. So like the lady said, Fasten your seatbelts, etc.

  13. Ms. Colleen…I’m there if you need me. Been through a ton in this life and there’s been a lot of waste along the way. Not enough time to be worried. You’ve got my e-mail and I wish you the best. One thing that works is when I “changed” my attitude about how I do everything. It’s not about me but about what I can do for others. When that happen, my stuff lined right up. Try it, you might like it.

  14. Colleen and BF,

    I think you might pull through.

    Not that you’ll ever get to stop with the pulling …

    My husband and I have dramatically (sometimes painfully) different ways of occupying space and I suspect we will always grapple with this. But the more compatible and joyous parts of our relationship seem to be allowing us sufficient grace and understanding about the other’s needs and we’re managing to share a home.

    That whole Kitchen Sink thing, wow (I’d read the craigslist story awhile ago, with delight). So you–individually and collectively–shared the angst and joy of that project; that’s the obvious positive. The more cool thing is, how extremely hot it is that after all the ups&downs of the kitchen sink install, The BF w/could write such a beautiful and hilarious craigslist ad. Irresistible.

    So, I think you’re onto something. And I wish you the best.

    p.s. I just bought a cast iron sink to replace a little stainless steel one; I hope there’s not a craigslist post in my future.

  15. Aw MAN! What a great way to let me be taught something while I’m busy nodding and chuckling and remembering and riding that E-ticket, too… Your writing is like a french braid.

    When the BoyPie and I met (what a story THAT is!) he owned a condo that he leased out and moved into a single (that’s zero rooms) that he had me along to choose. I had been renting my wonderful, cheap, pre-Koreatown upper for over a decade (6 rooms, inside laundry room, garage, walk-ins!) and didn’t/couldn’t give it up for over 2.5 years… but we were always at his place for many reason. When we moved into his vacant condo for two years, he agreed that we should rent furnishings so it was all new to both of us, it was a new space, newly laid out, just for us. Then we sold that and rented a place together, then bought a place together, now lease that out and rent together… we just celebrated 15 years and I attribute that entirely to having two bathrooms in all but the single.

    Could you two lease his place out and rent or buy somewhere that’s brand new for both of you? With both names on the lease? And if yo’d just been dating this BF for a year, I’d suggest that you install a pal/subletter/relative in your apartment so you’d not lose it… but at this point in your sitch, that might be like holding tight to your dollar bills so hard you don’t open your hand to the twenties within reach… gotta let go of the broke mentality at some point. I SO get it about space, differences, and storage (which is why the BoyPie has his own room and bathroom to muck up), but (as someone who’s hosted family for months on end in my own apartment) I know that it’s much easier on everyone when you start fresh together. So he doesn’t feel you changing him, and you have room to make it your own and not feel like a guest in his place…
    Aw gee, you wrote this in May — too much/too late!

    Still — a GREAT piece, thanks.

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