Friday, July 15, 2011

Stability and Quality of Life

Frequently, these past couple of weeks, I have stopped to think about my quality of life. I reflect often on my improved quality of life this summer, as compared to July 2010. At that time I was at kind of a crossroads, and a year before that, I was just arriving in Portland and getting used to a new life. I've thought the most about this time of year in 2010, and that's what I'm going to write about today. My thoughts about July 2009, learning to accept that I had a new life, and learning to be an Oregonian, are worth writing about, but some other time.

About a year at this time, I was in the midst of moving. Also, some medical stuff was going on, and is still, in a way, going on, but a year ago, it was really just beginning and consuming my thoughts much more than it is today. Additionally, this was before I had any job security or even, technically, a job. I was still considered an intern at that time. It wasn't until August that I had a six-month contract and a real position.

At that time, I was afraid to go home. I was living out of an overnight bag in someone else's home. I took any opportunity to house sit that came my way, so that I'd have a bed to sleep in, a shower to bathe in, and a kitchen to cook in, without fear of harassment in what was technically my home or of intruding on someone else's home, which is how I felt making myself too much at home in the place where I was staying--with a friend who had lots of roommates.

Now, I never worry about harassment at home. And that is just the beginning of how my home has improved my quality of life.

I realized yesterday, during my lunch break, that I have a strange habit of going to work with my own fork and cloth napkin in my purse. I started to ponder how I developed such a quirk. It was a habit I formed at the place I worked last summer. How did that happen? It may have started because I stored some of my cookware at work. There were two reasons for this. When I wasn't really living at my home, I wanted to be able to use certain things, like my coffee grinder and my French press. I didn't want to clutter up the kitchen at the home where I was staying, and I also found that keeping my French press at work meant I could wait to make my morning coffee until I got to work. When I moved to the next place, where I did not feel harassed, I still felt that there wasn't a lot of room in the kitchen for me to store, use, or clean my things, so the French press and coffee grinder continued to live where they did until this winter, when I got my own place. (And soon after, quit that job, although the French press most likely had nothing to do with that.)

Anyway, those are the reasons I initially brought kitchen items to work. As I felt less able to prepare my daily meals and coffee at home, because of harassment at home or because of a crowded kitchen at home, I brought more and more items to work. To prepare my workday lunch of tempeh-avocado-arugula sandwiches with ease, I'd stop at Trader Joe's before work, buy my sandwich components, and at lunchtime, open the desk drawer where I kept a chef's knife and a bamboo cutting board for slicing the tempeh and the avocado.

It felt normal at the time.

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I actually might have started bringing my own forks and spoons to work before even that! This habit was actually related to the workplace more than my home. The kitchen at the last place I worked--and this is no reflection on the staff--was often gross. No matter what the staff did, things just happened, such as inexplicable sink clogs. For awhile, however, the real reason I brought my own silverware to work, was that we never had any dish soap. It was always watered down inside a bottle that had probably been in that kitchen not only before I started, but probably before the at-the-time executive director had started. It may have been there, perhaps, before I moved to Portland. While the organization, much like my life at the time, was in transition, the dish soap did not get replaced. The same bottle became empty, and subsequently became filled with water, its contents growing weaker and weaker. It was because I never trusted that my forks got clean, or that the fork I was eating off of from their drawer was clean, that I would bring my own clean fork to work and then bring my dirty fork home to clean.

You can see that I had to REALLY think about this! And it felt normal. As normal as keeping a cutting board and a chef's knife above my hanging file drawer.

Things feel stable now. I suppose I can start leaving my forks at home.

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