It’s been 17 months we’ve been living in a 10x10 room together.
A 10x10 room in a 7500 square foot workshop.
A 7500 square foot workshop this is a thriving workplace we happen to live in.
A workplace we happen to live in that’s been the scene of 500+ days of varying degrees and duration of discomfort.
While I stepped into this living situation and 100 square foot existence with a slightly bowing bookshelf shouldering the weight of nearly 10 years of self-help books, countless hours on a yoga mat seeking (and in the odd class, even finding) alignment, an iPhone jammed with the names and numbers of wildly wise humans whose coaching and mentorship I trust with my every cell, I couldn’t find my way back into my body, and back to the anchor that I left behind when I moved in.
And then in a breakdown in work, a fitness class, a conversation and in a date at the end of July, the source of the discomfort and friction finally had a name: Jess. #ItMe.
In the beginning…
…there were reservations.
Our 100 square foot home is in the showroom of my partner’s business. Just next to the manager’s office, kiddie corner to the engineers’ desks and a short sprint across the room to the bathroom, the room sits comfortably in the epicenter of a bustling woodworking shop.
My solo-living-self was shook at the first conversation about living in the shop together. A fast ‘oh heck no’ slipped past my lips before I could think - and I maintained that position for the few months that followed.
Then as our want to live together intensified (and as I quickly started to see I had a very expensive closet I seemed to be paying rent for), the dialogue about shop life kicked back up.
We tested it for two weeks. And it was simple enough. I didn’t escape to my apartment during those days to get a real taste for what living and working out of the shop space would be like - though I did rack up a healthy coffee shop bill in that time.
So again: it was simple enough. The two weeks flew by. The perk of learning to live with less while living with my love really gave me, at the time, all I needed.
So we went all in.
And it wasn’t long before what the warm embrace of solitude that my homes had offered me for so many years came calling - with no where for me to turn to collapse into those comforting arms.
Where do the feelings go?
Shortly after I moved in I got one of those phone calls that stop time: a member of my chosen family facing a scary diagnosis. And surgery. The next day.
In years —or apartments past, I should say—grief- or any emotion-filled days would be spent fully embodied, fully feeling, freely crying. All probably in my best/worst sweatpants and absolutely NOT clean hair. Definitely in the bathtub.
This time, with love and compassion running strong from my man, and the tears running hard and fast at wildly unpredictable intervals in the day, I was in a box. Literally: a drywall and non-opening-glass-windowed case of emotion.
A simple trip to the bathroom felt daunting; like I was exposing an insanely vulnerable part of myself to the staff milling about, eating their lunch at the table just outside our door. I was swollen and bleary and not social - and yet on display whenever I left our room - from popping to the toilet to grabbing an apple from the kitchen.
Consciously or not, the freely-feeling part of me hardened that day. I took it on that I didn’t want to disrupt anyone. That I needed to contain my experience - ‘it’s a professional space, after all’, I reasoned. So I put a cap on when and where I could feel and express.
And while my friend pulled through that day and put the surgery behind her - I didn’t leave that day renewed or clear; that hardness stuck with me into the months to come.
Popping bottles…and cleaning up the mess.
I had a couple freak outs - better labelled as blow ups; good ‘ol bottling it up skills from 20 years ago, making a resurgence in present day. Champagne bottle pops - but not the celebratory kind. Cute.
The blow ups led to more talk, more conversation - eventually. I had a hard time articulating what I needed. I came off confrontational, unable to find my own balance in the space, so making big, bold requests to simply get out.
There was always peace on the other side of the talks - an understanding that we were there by choice and for a purpose. What never did find peace was that part of me that had turned from a subtle whisper to a yell; the part of me seeking the space to be messy, to flop around. To relax. To unwind. To be out of the box.
We started talking about what would happen next and lovingly concocted a big vision. We hatched plans. They slowly materialized. And even with the light at the end of the shop tunnel, in the slowness of them coming to be I found myself coping more; ‘getting through’ days - but also ‘doing’ lots in the process; falling out of my best practices around work, taking on way too much, feeling more anxious than I knew (slash know) what to do with.
Also, always exhausted. Always overextended.
Unknowingly seeking the feminine….among other things
All the doing wasn’t ‘working’ - but I was making it work. Kinda. Actually, not really at all. I was just doing. Doing my best…but really just doing.
Getting by. Working weekends. Filling time. Feeling meh about a lot of things.
Then June came around, and I had a thrice reckoning.
The beginning and speedy end of a new client
A ‘The Class’ experience where for the first time in as long as I can remember I had an inability to move my body in a way that’s always felt completely natural and innate (fluid, free, without care, not so dang upright - like I defined an awkward white person with seemingly zero rhythm pogo-sticking around my yoga mat with deer in the headlight eyes trying to find some kind of reference in the room—whilst not looking creepy, of course—to what letting a body be ‘free’ looked like
A call with my coach where our conversation landed on feminine leadership and I confessed it’s something I’ve avoided understanding (#oof)
Which landed me in this understanding: I’m all yang these days. And this human needs some yin (ying? Ying Yang or Yin Yang? Jury’s out. Or correct me in the comments).
I remember talking about needing some softer spaces in the earlier days of living in the shop. Some quiet. And I’ve definitely grappled with the expectation that the structure we call 'home’ should provide that - while being in a space that didn’t offer that most days. I saw myself waiting for it to happen for me - I haven’t always been the one going in active pursuit of it like it’s the lifeline that it is, or embracing the moments of quiet when they’ve popped up.
OTHER than the times I’ve called friends crying and asking if I can sit in their bathtub. If I’ve put my butt in your bath in the last year - I BOW DOWN. Thank you for hosting me and my epsom salts.
The thing is: the shop is not the source of all the discomfort, breakdowns, over-functioning and over doing that’s defined the last year and a bit.
It’s true. AND what I’m not going to do tell you that a fart smells like roses.
I never adjusted to knowing someone could walk into our ‘home’ at any time of the day. I functioned as shipping and receiving personnel/greeting team/sometimes cleanup crew (ugh the maggots in the summer) in evenings, on weekends. It was loud; machines and air compressors ran long hours, and staff were there most of the day. I’d drown myself in white noise when I needed to get writing done and couldn’t bring myself to leave the house again to find some quiet.
I complained sometimes. I didn’t others. It’s been every single shade along the spectrum of WTF to absolutely awesome.
But what I’m learning is the timing of its entry into my life simply has made it a 7500 square foot mirror reflecting the imbalance I’ve been somewhat unknowingly living in.
Overall, it’s been a teacher. An opportunity to learn faster ways of finding grounding. A reminder to find the sweet spot - whatever that looks like - and of the value of safe space to feel, be and express all aspects of myself. The importance of finding/creating those zones + experiences if they’re not the place I currently call ‘home’.
And a chance to see that I was the lid, the cork, the blockage in the free flowing-ness of it all.
It’s not a dramatic realization - though it’s felt dramatic at times. Confused at what I was feeling and unable to put my finger on it, I’ve fought for some kind of relief and justified and rationalized and excused and questioned it upside down and backwards. I’ve pointed my finger at every corner of that living space, and sometimes the people in it in an effort to have some source to hold on to that proves I can’t feel how I want to feel. That it’s about everything going on around me.
Yet it’s actually simple: that I’m the one. I get to create my days. I get to stand for what I need to feel the way I want to every day - in body, heart, mind, soul, all of it. And that it’s time to do it regardless of circumstance.
And so - what’s changing.
We have the opportunity to move out of the shop - and soon. And when it was less a maybe and more a ‘it’s happening’, every cell in my body relaxed, knowing that space is coming. And quiet, too; lots of it.
What I’m realizing in feeling such a sense of relief in knowing we’ll be in a different space soon is that there’s more work for me to do in making my own body my true home - and instead of looking outwardly to anything outside of me, to refine that lifeline within.
YES, to also creating a home that feels safe and with healthy boundaries and that nurtures both me and Jon individually, and as a couple.
AND, to cultivating a caring for myself that can be amplified by spaces, places, great people and rad bathtubs, instead of dependent on them. One that’s rooted in connection to and with myself. Trust in the voice within. Honour to her needs and boundaries.
So thank heck for shop life. Thank the hecks for the opportunity to bump up against myself. To find new ways of understanding my needs. To be aware of my tendency towards muscling through life - and to the opportunity to navigate forward with more softness, more flow, more trust, and more listening.
Thank goodness for the experiment. No thank you to doing it in the future. And good gosh does the clarity in that feel dang good.
In the name of forgetting and remembering, and finding our way back to what we know. And in the name of being in process - whatever yours may be. May you (please do) find your own duality and listen to what that subtle self of yours is saying.
And for fart’s sake, to bathtubs.
Now - a note:
It is a privilege to have 100 square feet with a bed, a blanket, and my loved ones nearby. This is absolutely not lost on me.
And there are thousands of children in detention centers along the US/Mexico border whose basic human rights have been stripped and whose basic needs are barely being met. Let alone being able to experience the atrocities with their family nearby; they’re alone, unwell, and not being cared for.
Together Rising has been raising money to support Holly Cooper and her team at the Immigration Law Clinic at UC Davis in their efforts to save kids in detention centers through their inspections and advocacy. Their funding has run out and in order for them to continue their work, they need support.
If you can, please donate. And if you can’t please share their story where you can.