What Doesn’t Kill You

I’ve always prided myself in my ability handle change—and sometimes, even, seek it out. This is my inner artist speaking. If I see an opportunity to make something better, more functional, or more pleasing to the eye, I can’t resist the urge to do something about it.

Sam is constantly accusing me of “hiding” things in our apartment. What he calls hiding, though, is actually reorganizing, purifying, de-toxing. After four years together, he’s figuring out my various systems: things that hold things are very important, as are ease of movement through a space and smooth pillow cases and quilts. Items used daily may be left out on the little ledge in the bathroom; things used only once in awhile need to be stored in the hall closet.

My rules about object placement champion functionality first, then aesthetics (coming in at a very close second). And I reserve the right to change my mind about where things go. At any given time. Do I sound like a crazy person to you?

My tendency to want to change the world is really more about changing my world. It’s all about control. I’ve come to believe that I’m an artist because within the boundaries of an 8 x 8in. space (or 10 x 10in., or 11 x 14in. space, etc.), I have complete control. Everything that happens in that space happens because I put it there—when, where, how, why.

In my head, the battle that wages between change and control is glorious and epic. Like something from a comic book. BAM! Two arch enemies, equal in might and intellect meet on an illuminated battlefield! WHAMMO! It is impossible for one to defeat the other!

When I’m feeling particularly sorry for myself, I whine to my friends at home that, “everything in my life has changed!”—My daily existence is completely different. I don’t have a job. I have an entirely new set of friends, new running partners, new running routes. The language is different, the money is different, the people are different, the weather is different. Our apartment takes longer to clean. The vegetables take longer to clean. It’s kilograms, not pounds. It’s meters, not feet. It’s kilometers, not miles. It’s Celsius, not Fahrenheit. My iphone doesn’t work, and my feet are ALWAYS DIRTY.

In an attempt to control my new situation, I cling to things like never before. Weird things. I was devastated when I lost the crappy, temporary bike lock that I purchased here. I am hesitant to toss on my “new” cell phone (circa 2001), having just mastered its limited texting capabilities (even though the poor thing is giving up the ghost). Just six months ago, I would have been excited to see the blah bedroom rug being rolled up and lugged out of our apartment. Instead, despite the fact that I requested it be removed, I felt a major twinge of regret. And then, a bad haircut nearly sent me over the edge.

All of this has me asking: Can an individual potentially tolerate endless change? Does it depend on the nature and severity of the upheaval? Change is inevitable, for sure—our lives are always in flux (to some degree). But what is too much change, and can I successfully, gracefully make it a way of life?

Many thousands of years ago, nomadic peoples had systems in place that supported their portable lifestyles. Then, humans created agrarian societies in an effort to control the unknown—namely food production and consumption, but eventually also reproduction and the accumulation of wealth. But life in the foreign service feels more like the zombie apocalypse than the modern dilemma: each day brings a brand new set of challenges; I have to rely heavily on individuals that I have only just met; I have only a few personal possessions from my previous life; and there ain’t no cure.

While I can’t control my situation, I can control my expectations. And actually, not everything in my life has changed. In fact, the important stuff is the same, or stronger: I still get to ride my bike; my best friends are still my best friends; I talk to my parents more than I have in years; Hank is still in my life; Sam has been an endless source of strength and humor; there is still art:


Two young artists on the balcony.

…and of course, dogs:


Mishka with her new friends, Thomas & Daniela.


One thought on “What Doesn’t Kill You

  1. Karen says:

    Keith sent me the link to ur blog & I’m loving the opportunity to get a peek into ur world…always a fun& interesting read:)!
    Love, Karen
    PS Hang in there…u’ll look back on this experience in awe & w/ delight
    …if for no other reason than U SURVIVED IT;)!

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