7.5

7.5

This time last week, I had no idea where I would be living today. My sublet was ending on Friday and I had known that for over a month and had been searching for the next place for just as long but… nothing. Nothing had come together. So I had booked a mover with only half helpful information – a pick up address with the drop off location still TBD. Awkward. So awkward. And frustrating. And annoying.  AKA: So very New York. And I’m not gonna lie – it was hard. Emotionally more than anything else. Moves are usually stressful due to finances, but thanks to my job, my side hustles and tax season, money wasn’t even an issue. What was a very real issue was the feeling of not just being uprooted, but feeling completely un-rooted. And being stuck in this cycle of not really belonging anywhere. Or to anyone.

Moving in New York is nothing new to me. I just did the math and since arriving 90 months ago (in October of 2009), I have moved 12 times. That’s an average of once every 7.5 months. Can you imagine that? At some point every year (twice in the really good ones!) packing up everything you own and moving it someplace else. It is exactly as fun as it sounds. And absolutely exhausting. And I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I moved on Friday night and by Sunday evening, I had every box unpacked. “Seriously?!” One of my friends was shocked (and I imagine, mad impressed.) “It took me 6 months to get to the last box!” Which isn’t unusual at all, but the way my vagrancy is set up, I just can’t afford to wait 6 months to unpack a box I’ll be repacking in 7. So if there’s something I can leave boxed up for 6 months, it’s something that I can leave behind. And I do. Not just when I move, but in day-to-day life, I’ve gotten really good at realizing that things are just things. And letting go of them. Because it’s all just stuff. And whether it’s something I bought or something that was given to me – if I got it once, I can get it again. Bad days and general annoyances aside, my life is on an incline, it’s getting bigger, better, stronger all the time. I’m not where I want to be, but I’m not where I was and to be afraid to let go of something because it’s the best I’ve ever had and “what if I never get it again??” is to be afraid that this is as good as it gets and that God has done all He can. But I know that isn’t true.

And that’s what I had to remind myself of in the moments when I just wanted to walk away from everything. Those moments when everything about the situation was screaming how much I didn’t matter, didn’t belong and didn’t have anything to show for all the years here. And honestly… there were some moments when if a door had opened someplace far far away, I would have thrown my cat in his carrier and run through it. But NOTHING was opening up. Except in Brooklyn. And I never got that desperate.

Ask anyone who knows me how I feel about Brooklyn and they’ll probably tell you I hate it. In fact, you can ask around and even people who don’t really know me can probably tell you two things: I love cats and I hate Brooklyn.  They are well-worn facts from the folktales oft told about Jani The Cat. But are they true facts? Well… they are like Lifetime movies: based on real events, but exaggerated for entertainment value. I don’t have any real issue with Brooklyn. I just don’t have any use for it. I feel about Brooklyn exactly the same way I feel about the artwork on the wall across from my desk at work – it’s there but who cares? And what most people don’t know is that once upon a time, I almost moved to Brooklyn. I actually got selected in one of those housing lotteries and was thisclose to moving into a brand new building in the Crown Heights area when the subject of pets came up at the lease signing. And being the crazy cat lady that (anyone can tell you) I am, I had to turn down the keys to that brand-new-elevator-with-laundry-in-the-basement apartment.

But because we had already gone through all the paperwork the management office asked if we might be interested in living in another other building they had. In Washington Heights. And that was how I ended up living (and loving!) uptown. Which is where I ended up building a connect group. And building friendships. And a life. And I know it’s different for everyone, but for me… I just have a conviction that uptown is where I’m supposed to be. So even with the clock running out and the possibility of being homeless skyrocketing, I would see ad after ad featuring open spots in Brooklyn, and I never even considered it. And no one ever suggested it. Not seriously.

Which is crazy, right??

You’re literally days away from have NOWHERE  TO LIVE and you won’t even consider putting your crazy conviction aside.  Well… I’m also on the edge of NEVER MAKING IT, but still can’t quiet this conviction to keep writing. And I’m definitely within spitting distance of being SINGLE FOREVER but still can’t shake the conviction that there is someone great for me.

So this move, was a different test of faith from the million before it. It was a trial by fire of believing a particular area is where you’re supposed to be and waiting, against all reason, for a door to open. And you know what? A door did open. This time a week ago. I set up an appointment to go view a room that had just popped up on Gypsy housing. It was a little more than I wanted to pay for another roommate situation, but the pictures looked pretty nice and desperate times, right? So I went. And I met the new potential roommate. And I thought, “Yeah, okay. This could be good.” And I was pretty sure that it was going to work out, but I didn’t want to say anything until the sublease was signed and the deposit was in. And that didn’t happen until Thursday evening. So I didn’t know for sure for sure until the day before I was moving.

And it wasn’t until the day after I moved that it hit me what an amazing door I had walked through. In the borough/area I love. In the best building/apartment I have lived in so far. Cat-friendly. With an elevator. Laundry in the basement. In a spacious bedroom. With two windows. And two amazing views of the Hudson River, GWB and New Jersey.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…

It is an Ephesians 3:20 kind of situation through and through. And it’s a new touchstone to remind me (and hopefully a testimony to encourage you) that you’re right where you’re supposed to be AND right about where you’re supposed to be. And what is for you, is for you and the clock may be ticking, but it’s actually on your side because it’s counting down to the open door that is just for you.

(And yes: 7.5 months from now, this sublet will be over and I’ll be moving on again, but I’ve already decided that I’ll be buying. And I’m already looking forward to seeing what “better than I can ask or imagine” is going to look like in that situation/process.)

Spaces

Spaces

I cleaned out my storage unit in November. Emptied it completely and (with the help of a wonderful TaskRabbit) hauled everything away. Some of it to my place. Most of it to Goodwill. And when I say most of it, that’s the God’s honest truth. It would be a safe estimate to say that I shed 80% of what I had been holding on to for somehow, somewhere, someday. “Are you sure you don’t want to keep this?” the TaskRabbit kept asking me about different things and while the hoarder in me kept wanting to reconsider, I was resolved to be resolved. So I said goodbye to boxes of clothes and shoes, pieces of furniture, dishes, shelves, odds and ends; with some unopened/brand new things in each of those categories. And you know what? It was hard. And it was expensive. And annoying. Having to get up early on a Saturday: hard and annoying. Catching an uber to and fro: expensive and annoying. Hiring a TaskRabbit: expensive. Letting go of the way I thought my life was going to go: hard, expensive and annoying. Because that’s why I had the storage unit, right? To stockpile things I used to have space for while waiting to have space again. Somehow, somewhere, someday…

So what made me give it all up? Two realizations:

#1. It wasn’t fair.
Things are meant to be used. It’s what they (non)live for. And me keeping them locked away was feeling more and more wasteful. And selfish.

#2. It wasn’t worth it.
I’ve had some type of storage space for nearly three years. And as I have moved and my living situation has ebbed and flowed, I have downsized as needed, but averaging it all out, it would be a pretty accurate estimate to say that storage has probably cost me around $4,000. And NOTHING I had in storage was worth $4,000. Maybe all of it together was worth that much. MAY. BE. But, sentimental value aside, with any long-term storage arrangement, there is going to come a point where the cost of holding on, is equal to and then higher than the cost of replacing. And to be completely honest, I probably crossed that threshold 4 months in. Maybe five. MAY. BE.

So I set a date to shut it all down. And I remember getting there that morning, unlocking the unit and just immediately feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of sorting through it all. “Maybe the taskrabbit will cancel and I can just save this for another day… maybe I should just cancel the taskrabbit and save this for another day… maybe I should just keep saving all this for someday…” The second thoughts were there, but I had already given up my sleep-in so too bad, too sad – it was happening. And it did. And afterwards…

It felt SO. GOOD. I actually felt freer. There was something liberating about knowing there wasn’t a bunch of stuff waiting to be sorted. And something exciting about not knowing how I was going to replace any of it. Not that I would have to worry about that anytime soon. Or so I thought.

But three weeks ago my roommate got a new job. In a new city. And she’s moving today. As we speak. So when I go home tonight, it will be to a now unfurnished apartment. So all that stuff I gave away… well, I was thinking about it this morning and you know what? I’m still glad it’s gone. Maybe even more glad. Because instead of stocking this new year with old things, I get to wait and see what God has next for me. Will it be annoying and inconvenient when I go to reach for something (a toaster, a kettle, a couch) and it isn’t there? Yes. But will it kill me to be without it temporarily? No.  “But Janice,” I can hear some of you saying, “Wouldn’t it be better to have something than nothing while you wait for the next thing?” Good question. And the answer, for me (and probably for you), is NO. Because most of the time, when I have something, it’s really hard for me to make space for the next thing. Because why should I? If it ain’t broke, why fix it? And if there’s no space, why fill it?

If I had to sum up 2016 in one word, that word would probably be “loss”. From celebrities to politics to friendships because of politics… I feel like we all took a lot of Ls. And those were the public, widespread ones. On personal levels there were breakups, financial issues, plans that went awry, relationships that went off-track, hopes that were disappointed – I feel like 2016 left us all with new uncomfortable spaces. And old spaces feeling emptier than ever. In December, I had no less that three friends who went on Bumble streaks. And I myself spent about 36 hours on Coffee Meets Bagel before remembering that nothing is actually better than something when something is just a bunch of nothing in disguise.

So for those of us who entered 2017 with spaces in places we’re not quite sure how to fill: good.

When hard pressed, I cried to the Lordhe brought me into a spacious place.
Psalm 118:5

God is a creator. He specializes in making something out of nothing. It’s kind of like His thing. But He seems to like starting by clearing something out first.  So what do you have in storage? And I don’t mean just physical storage units, I mean in the back of your mind and heart. What old habits, relationships, apps or coping mechanisms are you hanging onto? And why? Maybe it was the best you could do in the past, but do you think it’s the best God can do now? Or next?

Lowkey, I’m excited by all the blank spaces I’m facing in 2017. Because I have no idea how to fill them, but I know someone who does. And I trust that He will. Because NOTHING is impossible with God. So He’s always up to something.

Any Minute Now

Any Minute Now

Yesterday was a weird day. I woke up and everything was fine. Showered and got dressed, and everything was fine. Got to work and everything was fine. Had been at work about an hour and everything was still fine, but then all of a sudden – I was anxious. Full on knot-in-the-pit-of-my-stomach-I’ve-got-a-bad-feeling-about-this anxious. And I had no idea why. And I couldn’t shake it. All day. I did ask for prayer backup in the late afternoon and that took the edge off, but by the time I got home, all I wanted to do was go lay on the living room floor and pray. And journal. I felt like I really needed to journal. So I really needed to find my journal. Because it had been awhile. Well over a year according to the date on my last entry. And as I read through those last recorded thoughts from August 2015, it was eerie how similar the thoughts I had on that day were to the realities of yesterday.

  1. All The Single Ladies. In 2015 it was a ministry idea proposal I had written up and submitted in hopes of helping my church change the conversation around singlehood and single women. I had high hopes for it and was asking God to help it get off the ground. Yesterday… I had just gotten a text message setting up a meeting, to talk about getting a ministry off the ground in 2017… to change the conversation around singlehood and single women.
  2. “Leaving Nazareth”. In 2015, it was a script idea that I was telling myself to get off my ass and get writing because I thought it could do really well. Yesterday, it was a script I was reminding myself to get off my ass and finish because it actually has a deadline coming up in January. And I still think it could do really well.
  3. Some guy. In 2015, I was trying to make sense of some conflicting signals coming from a conflicted character. “What is this? Where are we? Is he…” Yesterday, I was not thinking about him (or anyone) AT ALL. I only added this here to laugh at myself and THANK GOD for the prayers that He answers with “Nope.”
  4. Any minute now… for a few different reasons, on that day in 2015 I was convinced that my life could completely change for the better at any moment. I was so full of hope, practically just waiting for the phone to ring with an offer, a “yes” or some kind of recognition that was going to change the game for me. Yesterday, knowing that call never came (yet) I realized that I still had that hope…

Here’s the thing. Judging by the amount of Facebook statuses I’ve seen begging 2016 to just be over already, it’s a pretty safe bet to say that it wasn’t the year most of us imagined. By pretty much all measurable standards, 2016 has been a garbage year. A dumpster fire of epic proportions. And pretty much everyone will be happy to close it out. Myself included… but also… I’m not mad at 2016. And I think when a lot of us look back at all the bad, the worst and the ugly that happened, if/when 2017 is better – it’ll be because of seeds that were planted and roots that went deeper in all the sadness, the madness and the chaos.

I’ve been struggling a lot lately because I’ve been comparing my progress with the progress of the people around me. Friends have been moving and starting companies and getting roles and doing shows, and yes they’ve been working hard and struggling, but they’ve been having visible triumphs. And meanwhile… I haven’t done anything. This has easily been my least visible year. No shows, no internet presence, no nothing. And that definitely wasn’t the plan. I recorded things this year. That never went public. I wrote things this year. That just didn’t go anywhere. I even filmed things this year. That were never edited and never released. In fact, yesterday, I tried to turn the tide – tried to set up a rendezvous to get already shot footage so I could edit it myself and get it released in 2016. “No problem, how about Monday?” said my friend (and The Universe). So okay. That’s a wrap for me in 2016. There will officially be nothing to write home about in this year.

And that’s okay. Because all that footage, all those songs, all that writing — it still exists. And a lot of it will (hopefully) find its footing and find a place in 2017. And you know what else will probably show itself in 2017? A lot of the lessons learned and the growth and strength that were required in 2016.

All month I’ve been encouraging myself and the people I know not to count 2016 out just yet. As long as there are still minutes left in this year, there is still possibility, anything can still happen. And as we’re literally in the last days of it, I still believe it’s true. And while I’m not counting out the possibility of a life changing phone call or encounter, I’m more aware than ever that the greatest power to change my life forever, for the better is in my own hand… it might be in what I choose to do today. Or it could have been in something I did yesterday. Or maybe in something I wrote 2 weeks ago. Or filmed months ago. I don’t know.

I just know our lives are changing all the time. Moving closer to the big moments that we’ll remember as milestones, but milestones take miles to get to. So we shouldn’t count ourselves out or discount the quieter days (months/years) of our journey.

However this year was for you, I pray that 2017 is better, but I hope that you don’t buy into the idea of 2016 as a total loss. I bet you’ve grown more than you realize, learned more than you know and are better, faster, stronger than you think. And it’s not for nothing. It’s for whatever’s next. And it’s gonna be great. Any minute now…