Tuesday, June 30, 2015

My life as a 10 x 10 storage unit

When I first started carting over my books and boxes to the storage unit, I thought that the cube of space was a little grim, but plenty of room. Then I thought I would never be able to get all my furniture in there, and I waffled back and forth over whether it would be fine or I was going to have to jettison random pieces  at the curb. It turned out that everything fit, with a teeeny bit of leftover space, and mainly because my movers were good at stacking high and Tetris-ing everything in there.

Now I am freeloading off my sister, in the bedroom that holds all her junk and the furniture my niece grew up with (some of which is old crap from my childhood and even handed down from my sister's childhood, which is oddly depressing), and I am struck by how similar the space is to the storage unit and is maaaaaybe 10 x 10. This might be rough.

I am even more struck by how different our priorities are. Sure, she bought a place in the heart of Silicon Valley and I know your money doesn't stretch all that far, but although she bought something cheap, she didn't buy the cheapest --- I know there were places that were cheaper that looked less of a "dungeon" (her words). This place is a bottom floor condo in one of the zillions of apartment complexes built in the late 70s/early 80s that got flipped into condos sometime in the 90s. There are only windows on one side of the unit, and only a couple at that. Other units are on all other sides. Even if access to light and a view was unimportant to her, the closed-in layout means it is over 90 degrees in here most of the time --- and my sis refuses to put in air conditioning. It is tough to fall asleep here at night. Hell, she refused to get a bed and slept on the floor of the living room for years after her divorce --- which she only changed when my brother got a new bunk bed for his son and gave her the old bed! It's like she was punishing herself for the divorce or something.

In return for staying here I agreed to grocery shop and cook (which I like to do and she hates) and I crammed the last bits of my pantry into her crowded kitchen. Dudes. She lives off canned soup and applesauce. All the food in her freezer is over 5 years old. She mentioned the other day that she hates eating. She doesn't like coffee or beer. How are we related?

And this morning while I was making my coffee, a bug sauntered across the stove. Taking his own sweet time. I think it was a roach. I've offered to clean out her freezer, and now I guess I'll do all the pantry cabinets too. How are we related?


Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Well, given the way sexual reproduction works, you and your sister in theory could have completely different chromosomes, and not be genetically related at all. Statistically, it's unlikely, but it could happen.

But ew to bugs, and ugh to heat, and omg to not liking to eat.

Susan said...

I'm sorry it's so grim. This does seem an odd way to live, but then I've realized there are lots of odd people. I know many people who basically don't cook. Don't get it at all!

Earnest English said...

Clearly you are there to open new vistas of food and wonderment in your sister's life. I know Eat, Pray, Love is problematic (see Bitch Magazine's categorization of the book as the lit of the privileged), but it sounds like your sister has forgotten how to eat and enjoy life. Clearly, you must help by making lovely foods that will reconnect her with herself.

Too bad about the a/c though. How would anyone survive there?

Contingent Cassandra said...

Those little roach bait thingies are pretty effective, I've found (our building has a pretty good ongoing control program, but every once in a while I need to supplement. They work in a few days for me, but I'm starting from a good control baseline, in a cooler climate. YMMV, but they're not terribly expensive, so buying a package or two and setting them out can't hurt.)

At least it sounds like you have several projects to work on that will produce visible results. That's good for warding off despair/depression.

Which is a good thing, because otherwise the surroundings/situation sound very depressing. Conditions that make it hard to sleep (I can't sleep in the heat, either, or do brain work much over 80 degrees, as I discovered when my apartment's 50-year-old a/c system was malfunctioning the first few summers I lived here. But that was fixable, and, once I realized the heat was a significant problem, I fixed it. Not having a/c at all, in a place that isn't your own, is much harder to fix) and not enough light would both be significant concerns for me, since I don't function well without sleep or light (and my sleep patterns get disrupted if I don't have access to natural light, or I have to sleep and wake way out of sync with natural light).

So self-care (and self-monitoring) and making plans to escape to more favorable surroundings sound like high priorities. Different people have different priorities, and your sister's approach to life may well work for her, but it doesn't sound like it will work well for you for long (and even if you can improve the kitchen situation, you can't conjure up light or good sleeping conditions). Even if her way of life isn't really working for her, don't get too caught up in trying to improve things for her now (beyond the point that makes you feel better/improves your own temporary conditions). You can always re-introduce her to the joys of cooking (and eating) after you get your own place by inviting her over for meals.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry this is so rough for you. hang in there.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

I too have no idea how I'm related to my family. My sisters and mom are so different from me and our priorities are so totally opposite. I get it.

If you're in Silicon Valley, go outside as much as possible to escape the heated icky apartment. Any of the parks would offer a better situation. Or go chill at Stanford. I used to do that when I was working on my diss. Made me feel like an imposter but it kept me feeling like I was part of academia.

All this sucks. I'm sorry.

Anonymous said...

I just sent you an email suggesting some networking--I'm in the area and working in university admin and would be happy to talk to you.

For hot nights in Massachusetts w/o A/C, I used to dampen a sarong, squeeze it out, and wrap myself in it to get to sleep. But that might work better in humidity than in Silicon Valley.