It took a whole morning. Well, with the build up to it included. When I awoke I knew it was time, to start the process of clearing.
By mid-day I had cleared the drawers. No biggie you may think in the grand scheme of things, but deciding what to keep and what to let go of is a task way bigger than the dimensions of this mahogany writing desk I will be leaving behind.
From old business cards, stickers with a peace symbol on it, staplers, marker pens, notebooks, contracts, more notebooks, bills, past medical documents and a whole draw of cards from ex lovers, through to the ongoing functional items – passport, pens (that still work, just about), needle and thread, nhs card and so it goes on. Every few minutes something peeping from the paperwork, proving to be too sentimental to let go of – my father’s old watch, a photo of a family Christmas in Barcelona back when I had curly hair, and a ring that supposedly marked a relationship progressing to marriage (er, it didn’t). And then there’s this piece of nostalgia, and then that.. an awkward looking plug (for which country? god knows). I am then sat surrounded by piles, thinking, well why wouldn’t I want to keep all this? One day I will want to contact that reiki healer I met in a jewellery store in Islington in 1998. People love stickers, especially adults; it brings the child out in us. Marker pens still come in handy even if we do live in a no-printer required to return era. Won’t this mosquito repellant plug-in be a godsend the next time I’m in Goa (if I remember to pack batteries – oh look, another duracel AA floating around in a drawer…). But in the end, from somewhere (well, actually, from the basis of necessity and knowing how much storage costs), I cleared the drawers.
And it’s not just the desk. I started with the “easy” bit. Since then I have cleared cupboards, store rooms, shelves, tables, wardrobes, under-bed and corners of each room. Astounded and vaguely impressed-stroke-stunned at how much a one bed city flat can take – not just things by the way, but the memories, the reflections and, yes, the experiences.
During my time here it’s not just utility bills, ugly mugs given as gifts and even-more bed linen that has accumulated – so have the small and big milestones in my life. Meeting people I’ve gone on to have relationships with. Meeting people I’ve… er… not gone on to have relationships with ;). Starting my own yoga business, working beyond teaching in clubs and gyms. Closing a yoga studio that’s been with me as long as this flat has – I found the hall the day after finding the flat (us Capricons don’t muck about). Losing my father. (Pause). Developing a new role in family, work and life in general. Days, weeks, months spent on the sofa in the front room nursing the pain caused by a chronic health condition. Equally, days, weeks, months, evenings and weekends on aforementioned sofa, drinking tea, eating fine chocolate, meditating, doing yoga, writing – and ranting at the news. The rickety stool in the cupboard size kitchen has been home to my derriere nearly every morning since I’ve lived here, my meditation spot (as a result of it’s three legs being uneven, the stool leans back easily against a radiator; maybe that’s my meditation hack; a warm back and a cuppa in hand). Indeed, I learnt to properly meditate and the meaning – and often meaninglessness – of ‘life’ in this flat. Oh, and the number of late nights, and the conversations, the early mornings of slipping back in doors, and how that has gradually, by stealth, transitioned to early nights and waking up with the sun to read and contemplate. When I moved in it was nights of trance (and other things, nod wink). Now, it’s mornings of Rumi and Ram Dass. It is in this flat that I have left one era – the live, live, love, love and gather materially time of life – and find myself entering another – introversion, the search for peace and, since post-40, yearning for… less.
20 or so large refuse bags have been filled and deposed: Brent Council now the recipient of years’ of my life. You’re Welcome. Yet, you wouldn’t guess if you saw my flat now: I will still need burly men, at least two, to help me pack and vacate. (Before I get scolded by the woke police, I can tell you every removal company I have contacted comprises ‘burly men’).
Yet. While the flat has filled top to toe and sideways in the time I’ve been here, I know I have lost a lot and not gained much. I say this without hint of victimhood. This is the passing of time and what feels like the nub of adulthood: time certainly takes away, even if on the outside it seems we’ve accumulated.
And so, in less than a month, I will be leaving this one bed flat – nay, home – I’ve lived in for more years than I can remember (even the estate agents have lost the original paperwork I’ve been here that long). When I clinched this flat – that sits in a tree-lined avenue of an otherwise chaotic inner city enclave in London – it had nothing but a sofa, bed frame and – desk. It was how each room looked out upon trees that clinched it for me instinctively. It is in and around this flat my work and even my identity – what everyone knew me as – grew. The flat itself flourished, with paintings on every wall, chandeliers dripping into the main rooms, bookcases rising up to the ceiling yet still not space enough with books piling up in nooks and crannies. Pretty much all spiritual reads – this too a marked shift from the previous 30 years of my life which was absorbed in fiction and news. Wardrobes with clothes from across the decades, latterly ‘comfy’ being the main driver of choice. Dressers so used their handles have been twice re-glued on, cabinets, mirrors, arm chairs, that futon, shelves with pretty or ethnic things, plants – of course plants (they each have names and have been more faithful than any of the lovers who’ve been fed and watered here). The kitchenware transformed with the help of Habitat. And, somehow, space for shoes (oh to have a room just for one’s shoes – I never found my Mr Big – well, not yet).
So it’s not only Habitat that has had its day now. Not only Habitat, a huge UK flagship brand success, that could no longer put up with rising rate hikes. A 40% rent increase on my flat means – I’m outta here too. Ghastly yes, but the timing is, well… timely. Habitat now thrives online – and so do I. I love meeting my students and sharing the teachings online. My clientship has expanded as I am able to reach those I would not otherwise have been able to. My studio hall in the neighbourhood may be being turned into flats, but my work and mission goes on. I will not sell out. And, as my body and mind enters this new time in life, so my soul has been crying out for a space closer to nature.
And, well, if the moving gods – nay, God – stay on my side – I will in 2022 be living by the sea. (More on that another time, do wish me luck). Till that move, I am, gratefully salvaged, at age nearly 47, by my Mother. Packing up the flat I am preparing to move back to the family home, to sleep in the bed where I retired after reading ferociously for one exam after another. At least I will have good bedfellows nearby. Chaucer, Austen, Wordsworth, Blake, Camus. Their spirit lives on in that blue floral bedroom.
One door about to close, but it has been closing slowly, my body has felt it. Perhaps you know that feeling too, whether you are woman or man or both or neither, when something in your bones and spirit speaks to you more often, till it becomes a daily whisper, it must be heeded beyond heard.
But I know this much from life. Anywhere I go, however much I clear out, and whatever I choose to let go of, the spaces will be filled again, and I am ready to receive.
Wishing you all, a peaceful end to this year.