Stress, according to some, is created when reality doesn’t match our expectations. Change your expectations, the theory might go, and voila!, stress evaporates. Expectations, it turns out, are complicated layers of thoughts and feelings that don’t always behave, well, as expected.
I knew that getting home to San Francisco wouldn’t really mean being home. Our condo would have no functioning plumbing, and we were still waiting for both repair and restoration bids to come in before work could even begin. Really, I did know, I swear it. As we made our way south from British Columbia, visiting friends and relatives and relocating every few days, I yearned to be in one place, our place, while I also tried to keep very clear on the notion that we likely wouldn’t be living in our place for more than a month after our return.
We arrived back in San Francisco last Thursday evening, and have been staying in a sweet in-law type apartment via Airbnb not far from our old neighborhood in Noe Valley. We will move tomorrow to another Airbnb for the whole month of April. The place is closer to our condo so we can visit the cats, and oversee construction and repairs, among other things. We know and like our host “Cat”, and the place is sunny and spacious, so staying there is an attractive arrangement in an unattractive situation.
As I knew, the plumbing repair has yet to begin, and is estimated to take 2-3 weeks, minimum. So we will continue to live out of suitcases, and commuting to see and feed the cats, for the next month at least. David jokes and says that I am now both unemployed and homeless…
We do realize this is all first world drama, and that we are incredibly lucky with our lives. I keep looking for bright sides: we will get new wood flooring for our entire second floor (kitchen, living room and dining room) and for the entry and office on the first floor. We will get new paint in most of rooms on the 1st and 2nd floors, something we had wanted to do last fall, but simply couldn’t handle one more project before leaving for British Columbia. And we have a lovely, warm group of friends who have excitedly welcomed us back no matter where we live.
For my part, I’m not sure which part of me should or will show up at any given time. There’s the fire-breathing-mad me that is angry about a few things even though I recognize how easy it is to source outrage. There’s the me that has a lot of professional experience, handling challenges, being resilient, and managing processes, projects and people to good ends. There is the me that is looking forward into this adventure of a year, and is a committed optimist. And then there’s the me that wants to take the first available ride back up to British Columbia to peace and beauty. And these selves bubble up seemingly at random, which only further confuses me. I do recognize that I can bring a firm but diplomatic style to our situation, and to our engagement with the management company and vendors overseeing our plumbing repair and restoration. My competent diplomat self needs to talk my fire-breathing self, not to mention David’s, into staying away when we deal with problems.
This has led me to ponder what I believe about people. Are people basically well-intentioned, but occasionally make mistakes? Or are they driven by fear, ignorance or the desire for power? These are obviously questions at the two ends of a spectrum, and I know that people behave across a range of shades of gray. Watching my different selves show up during this time, and navigating a variety of feelings, including some that I’m not proud of, has me thinking deeply about what I expect of myself and others, and my what basic operating assumptions are.
What I do know is that I want to limit the amount of vitriol in my life. This year’s political season has me dispirited and pained, and frankly, feeling a little hopeless. I don’t want to be near or with people who spew mean (or racist or misogynist or bigoted) thoughts, let alone be that person. For example, driving in the city is stressful, but more so if we assume and act like every other driver is an idiot. Right now, life in this world feels hard enough, and probably is for many people on the receiving end of the meanness.
All this to paint the picture of how unsettled I feel, and how cranky this sort of stress makes me. No doubt I am also underestimating the basic shock of returning to urban life after two months on a very quiet and beautiful island. While I think I have managed my expectations, my stress and confusion say otherwise!
So: I am starting to bring my focus to what moves me forward, setting good things in motion, continuing my meditation practice and daily writing. This week I started a Whole30 food ‘cleanse’, which I’ve done before and have found really useful to help me remember over the next 30 days what clean and healthy eating feels like. Next week I’ll return to my early morning bootcamp routine, which I know will be a significant challenge. I’ll also try to keep my fire-breathing self from taking the lead in any situation. Mostly, I’ll practice looking for the gifts in this disruption and believing that it will abate. We’ll be home soon, this time for real. Well, at least until the next adventure begins.
PS. Now that I’m back in the Bay Area, I’ve decided to experiment with a weekly posting schedule. Until further notice, Wednesdays will be the day!
PPS. For the curious, our homeowners’ insurance covers our relocation costs– we have great insurance: Liberty Mutual, check them out.
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