volume nine

officially out of vegemite

Hello friends!

I sit here writing this week’s newsletter from my dining table, which is not my usual writing spot at all. My first volumes were written on my balcony in the sun, situated on the third floor of my building, engulfed by a giant tree creating the perfect curtain of privacy, but which also came with the constant readiness to jump inside at the sight of a too-close-for-comfort squirrel. However, it’s too cold to do that this early in the morning now. When summer left, I started writing from my office, and now, I am here.

Let me back up… remember that beautiful studio loft I said I was moving into? Well, it’s so much more than just a beautiful new spot. This week, let me bring you on my journey to it.

My current apartment has been my saving grace in so many ways. This time last year, with the promise of winter approaching and case numbers still on the rise in Montreal, where I had moved in March of 2020, I was terrified of how my mental health would cope over the cold, dark and lonely months. For context, I moved to Montreal in March of last year for work and the timing couldn’t have been better. I arrived the day the city shut down, so among many things, my time up until October 2020 spent in Montreal robbed me of meeting new people, robbed me of making friends and robbed me of finding a support network which we have all so desperately needed, especially over the last eighteen months.

I had none of these things, except for two very wonderful people: Thomas and Raphaël.

So back to this time last year, when I moved into an apartment upstairs from them (with a neighbour between us don’t be ridiculous, I wanted to give them some space) and this is where I have been nesting ever since. Nesting being the keyword because boy oh boy have I ever been like a little bird collecting things to fill in any gap I see, hang something over any mark on the walls, install various things to make a kind of shitty apartment not so shitty...and it has all been worth it. 12 months being neighbours with them (and then, in turn, the neighbour between us too, Fred) has made for a year of friendships and bonds formed and strengthened, bubbles in the time of high cases so I was never alone, Christmas Tree shopping buddies, UNO tournament competitors, artistic conversations and dream pursuing cheerleaders, shoulders to cry on, people to laugh with, pals to daydream with, an Aussie to miss home with, listening ears to complain on bad days with, extra arms to grocery shop with, company to cross the street to stand in the sun with a morning coffee with…

It is more than safe to say I survived the worst part of the pandemimoore and the brutal Montreal winter alone in a new city, thanks to my beautiful, kind, loving, fun friends.

But now it is time to shed layers. The city is slowly but surely reopening. While we still have a long way to go globally before there can be any kind of whatever normal will be (reminder that vaccinated people are really sexy), Montreal has been bit by bit showing off to me what I was told I would fall in love with for so long.

For the first 15 months, whenever anyone asked how Montreal was treating me, I would lie and say it was “yeah good thanks, weird but good!” while simultaneously refreshing the search on apartments in Halifax. Now when they ask, I can say “it is wonderful!” and mean it. Until I could see it for what it was, it was lonely, isolating, boring… I was angry for having come here when I did. Now I see that, as usual, everything happened exactly as it was supposed to (including despite my best efforts of desperately wanting to start fresh again and my stunning rental history) me being unable to secure an apartment in Halifax and having to remain here in Montreal and stick it out. All these things I can talk about, now they have passed.

So now it is up to me to prioritise: where I spend my money, how I make my money, how I spend my time. The first step to align all of this is to downsize, shed the layers of materialistic things that do not serve me, create a sanctuary and save on rent.

Introducing my new apartment: meant to be. Out of 30+ people I managed to be the first to respond to the advertisement. (Look Woody Harrelson in Natural Born Killers believes in fate and so do I). The current tenant moved there for the same reasons I am seeking to — shedding the layers and making room for what counts, but is now moving on to another venture with their partner so all of the handover conversations have been so in sync and that giving-me-goosebumps good kind of vibe. In a serendipitous moment, I happened to get my hair cut the day before I found the apartment and the lovely guy who cuts my hair and I discussed various places in the city and rent prices and neighbourhoods and all that jazz so as a result I went home and expanded the radius of my Kijiji search. Voilà — have I mentioned yet that everything was meant to be?

So as I move into this destined-for-me phase of fewer expenses and more chances to put my money where it counts: like saving for travel, experiences that I will cherish the memories of forever, giving myself the freedom to be flexible in employment as I shift into a different pursuit(s), setting myself up to succeed in my creative endeavours and having the time and finances to give back to others, I must also shed my layers in order to be ready to float into this next chapter without baggage.

So this brings me back to the dining table, which full disclosure has now become the couch with the top button on my jeans undone. Over the weekend I sold my big clunky IKEA table disguised as a desk, I sold my super cute and unnecessary lime green puffy office chair, I sold my fold-out couch meant for all the guests I couldn’t wait to host that never came, and now the spare room is empty.

In one of my first Writers’ Hours sessions, the daily Words of Wisdom shared were:

“What are you willing to give up in order to have the life you keep pretending you want?”

Never has a line struck me so hard. I wrote it down immediately and hung it above my desk. The quote is from (bisexual icon — happy biweek!) Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote Eat, Pray, Love among many other things duh. Liz embodies so much I desire: the pursuit of passion, the pursuit of knowledge, the pursuit of balance, the pursuit of creativity, the pursuit of love for self. The even more magical part of this quote is that it was given to her by someone she admired. When Liz was young she was complaining about having so much other work, too many distractions, life was too hard, so many obligations...she had no time to do her creative work, she had no time to pursue her passion for writing. This writer she looked up to challenged her with this thought — to give up things in order to make room for the things she claimed she wanted so badly. So how far was she willing to go? How far am I willing to go? What am I willing to give up? It turns out quite a lot. Nothing is a burning desire for me quite like the desire to shed my layers right now, live simply and create the space in my home, my heart and my calendar.

Moving apartments is so much more than a change of space, it’s a complete and utter change of life. It is going back and moving forward all at once. I am making space for everything I want and need by getting rid of everything I am willing to give up.

The quote now hangs above my dining table which will be my desk for the last few weeks of living here, and then in my new oasis too. Because having a desk separate from my dining table is just one of the many things I am willing to give up in order to have the life I keep pretending I want.

I love you,

Lauren

xoxo

Three things I struggled with this week:

  • So there are many ways my current apartment sucks, the people in charge of it included. Repairs (if done) are never done in a timely manner. Have you ever had to time your laundry so that it doesn’t bother your neighbours? Not because it is loud or because you share a laundry, nope you all have in-suite laundry, it’s not what you think. It is because if anyone puts laundry on, the rest of us have strobe lights that bounce along with the whir of the washing machine the entire time, or lose power to certain appliances completely until the load is done. This has been asked to be fixed for 12 months. I tried to time a laundry load this week for the same time a maintenance man was coming to fix my toilet (four days after it broke) to prove how bad it was, and then he was hours later than he said he would be so we disco partied in the middle of the day for no reason.

  • I came home from a night out to find squirrels had chewed through the walls of my building and were now living in them. This happened in a matter of hours. It has been almost two weeks and promises of repairs with no result. Watch this space if I wake up with a squirrel in my bed I will never recover. Please pray that myself and my things get through the next few weeks unscathed.

  • With the approach of winter, I remembered that last winter I was consistently asking them to repair a window, which was missing a glass pane on one side making my apartment impossible to heat in minus one million degrees. It was never fixed, so thank goodness I will be somewhere else this winter!

Three blessings from this week:

  • Despite the title of this volume, I got my hands on a (very marked up in price) jar of vegemite, thank god.

  • My old roommates from 5+ years ago were in town on the weekend! They were my roommates in Halifax (after I escaped a roommate situation with an old high school friend who loved drugs and partying and generally being an inconsiderate human). I lived with them for around a year and we remain friends still to this day, great friends in fact, and I am blessed to see them continue to thrive in life. Time flew, in particular, one night out in Little Italy with one of them (hi Julia, hi! Thanks for reading). Who knew such great conversation over a delicious pizza could pass so many hours? Friendships like that are the best kind.

  • So what I already listed (and then some) is why I can’t wait to leave my current apartment — and as a result of my frustration, in what was not my finest hour, I raised my voice on the phone to the management and it got pretty heated on both sides of the call. The next time I spoke to them I apologised for raising my voice — and I meant it. Are they still hopeless? Yes. Did they apologise to me? No. Does any of that matter? No. It was fucking beautiful to say sorry and mean it, because I was also saying sorry to myself.

Three goals for the coming week:

  • Continue to shed the layers and try not to get frustrated by people wanting me to deliver items that clearly state pick up only. Patience Lauren!

  • I attended the Writers’ Hour 100 Days of Writing workshop this week. Do you know as of this week there were only 100 days left in the year? YIKES! I have set myself the goal to write 1000 words a day for the last 100 days of the year (so 100,000 words for the rest of the year)! I am giving myself complete creative freedom based on how I feel that day. Maybe I will work on the newsletter, maybe a short story, maybe I will journal, maybe I will write so much about nothing… I will track it all in a spreadsheet (of course I will) and see my results on January 1st 2022.

  • I purchased the “Forest” App. I can set myself time limits to not use my phone and if I succeed, it plants a digital tree for me. As I stack up minutes spent and digital trees planted using the app (aka not using my phone) I gain points. If I get enough points, a real tree is planted! I can set up to 10 reoccurring reminders to put the locks on, which I hope will soon become a few new habits. What times of the day are hardest for you to put down your phone? My goal is to turn Forest on for the first two hours I am awake, at the time I start work for two hours, during Writers’ Hours, after 9pm every day so I am done with my phone after that, and when I finish work for at least an hour so I am not immediately moving from one screen to another. I am going to track my screen time each day in my 100 days of writing spreadsheet, I will share the results with you as I go!

What I am enjoying this week: HAPPY BISEXUAL AWARENESS WEEK! When I moved to Canada and found out they refer to fortnights as “biweekly” I was like GREAT! That means every week is biweek, and you know what? It really truly is.

I am grateful for and always enjoy Zachary Zane’s Substack BOYSLUT, but this week was extra dear to my heart.