Tag Archives: work

One Year Later

IMG_2704 - Version 2

Two days ago we celebrated the one year anniversary of moving into our little house in the woods. They say it takes the first week of a vacation just to start to relax and enjoy yourself. I’m wondering if it takes the first year of living on Salt Spring to unwind all the inner springs and let the watch finally run down.

Who knows if I’m actually at that point yet. What I do know is this: over the last two weeks I feel like I’ve acheived a perfect balance of work-life-fun-chores. Over the last two weeks I’ve settled into a workday ritual that ends abruptly at 3:00, at which point dilly-dallying and puttering take over. The weekend – and we have three days of it here – is given almost entirely to household chores, but done in a meandering, highly distracted way. And when the sun shines, that supercedes all previous plans and we head outside.

Only over the last two weeks have I started to implement 30 minutes of staring idly into space (while sitting outdoors) into my productive workday. And, most importantly, I regard it as a necessary activity!

Neither of us has acquired a taste for kale yet, but my little yogini consumes vast quantities of seaweed snacks. I, on the other hand, do not. She has set up a “yoga oasis” in her room and invites me in to do relaxation poses, complete with eye pillows. That’s my kind of yoga!

I am extremely fortunate to have a seven-year-old who adapted so effortlessly to such a big change, and who makes friends so readily that within days of starting grade one she had found 4 best friends. (They continue to be giddy, silly buddies into Grade Two.) As a result of this social circle, I get to hang out with a pretty fantastic collection of moms.

Lots of quality Grandpa and Grandma time, mild (soggy foggy) winters, blindingly gorgeous summers, greenery and silence, and wonderful friends.

We’re doin’ all right.

the dizzy dames

the dizzy dames

the moms

the moms

If You Can’t Keep Your Wits About You, At Least Have Some Idea of their Whereabouts

Our belongings arrived on Saltspring Island some time in mid July.

We drove into Mom and Dad’s driveway on July 27th.

And yet, on November 13th, I’m still awaiting the arrival of my brain.

I see it nowhere in my packing list app…


I’m finally making an effort though, I’m acting as if my brain was here in hopes that it will come out of hiding. I’ve finally set up my office and today was my first day of turning my back on my mess of a house, and walking out to the workshop where my office is, to sit at my desk at 9 a.m. sharp.

Business as usual!


I am struck most right now by the view out the window, which looks the same as the scenic photo on my calendar. I’m living inside a calendar photo!

Step 9: Art Books…. mmmm art books…

This is a much harder decision. I have quite a number of very large and very heavy coffee-table-style art books that I never look at and love dearly. Gleaned from library discard sales, yard sales, and other strange places, I cannot pass up a good art book.

Once upon a time I made cut-out animations using chopped up illustrations of paintings, so my immediate impulse was to hoard materials for more films. Sadly this interest of mine has yet to make the jump from 16mm film to digital techniques, so I’m not sure if I’ll ever get back to it.*

At the moment all these lovely books are chiefly being used to press leaves. What to do? Take them or leave them?

*For the curious, here’s my cut-out film from 1992: All the Great Operas (in 10 minutes)

Step 6: Discard

We’re talking about the files. I have a low, two drawer, legal sized filing cabinet that was once full of files but is now empty and for sale on craigslist.

Once upon a time I was in possession of a grandiose 4-drawer model, bigger than a fridge, all the better to house my blossoming work files and the multitude of brilliant ideas I had for projects, but the thing was impossible to move. Staircases that change direction were simply not navigable. The first time I changed residences the behemoth suffered an ignominious fate – huddled in the back yard under a tarp until I found someone to give it a new home.

So this 2-drawer is already a modest step down, but I’m pruning my paper trail even further. For the Saltspring move I’m aiming to reduce to three small plastic file bins. A meticulous culling has begun – one tray for transferring to digital files, one tray for the recycling bin, and one (big) tray for shredding.

I jumped right in, starting with the easy stuff, like the tax receipts from 1998, and instructions and warrantees for things I no longer own (Sony Walkman??!). Then things got more tedious, as I waded through files page by page. Tedious with a little nostalgia and quite a bit of cringing. Not quite through it all yet, but have emerged with a couple of insights.

Lesson One. Must let go of the (perceived) wrongs done to me by others. I had a file dedicated to landlord grievances, another with notes of troubled financial dealings with roommates. Why did I keep all this? In case of legal challenges? The incidents are gone – into the past, out of sight, and – now – out of my records. It was all so depressing to look over that I can’t allow myself to dredge everything up here. I had forgotten about the ridiculousness of it all, the details, and also how crazy and stressed it made me.

Lesson Two. Recognize who I used to be and be glad I’m not that person now. I always remembered past battles at work and home with a vague self-righteousness, but it wasn’t until I read some of my responses to difficult situations that I realized who I was then – what kind of person stress and conflict turned me into. Snarky. Impatient. Dismissive. Exasperated as all get out. It’s a struggle to just let go of the who’s-right and who’s-wrong. What does matter now is the one thing that I should take out of this, the one thing I have to keep in my mind every time I sigh and doubt and tell myself I was a fool to give up lucrative and glamorous television work*. And that is this:

It made me miserable, and the more miserable I got, the more miserable I was to other people.

Recently I came across a quote from the Dalai Lama (in a Tweet no less – what a world we live in!!) that perfectly addresses this dilemma:

The real source of happiness involves one’s state of mind, outlook, and motivation, and one’s level of warmheartedness towards others.

Simple. And unfortunately, the nature of my previous job and the general effect big city living seems to have on me is that I lose all traces of warmheartedness towards others. Not always, and not all the time, but in a creeping, insidious kind of way. Others may thrive here, doing this work. I do not. So it’s time to get out.


* re. “glamorous” tv work: one of my favourite Simpsons moments had Bart touring Krusty the Clown’s television studio. Starry-eyed, he turns to a cameraman and says something about how lucky he is to work there. The cameraman, deadpan, replies, “I wish I was dead.”