Downsizing, Decluttering and Doing Better With Less

A decade ago when I walked away from my more than three decades of marriage I found it challenging to down size my belongings and wound up leaving a lot of things behind. I left him all the house equity, the new truck, most of the three bedroom house full of furniture and many other joint belongings. I didn’t care about many of those things because they represented a life I wanted to leave behind. What got to me were the sentimental things, the photo albums, the family keepsakes collected over the years and my beloved books. How was I ever going to part with my hundreds of books?

Well, I will tell you. I parted with many of them book by book. When storing many of these things at my former marriage home was no longer an option, I took what I could stuff into my one bedroom apartment and drove the rest to the thrift store. Book by book. Ornament by ornament.

My years of dabbling in Interior Design after earning my Interior Design Diploma saw me building collections of textiles from zippered cushion covers to draperies and bedding, cabinet hardware as well as scads of different styles of art. It wasn’t hard to find storage for these items while living in a house. There was always a spare room, a large shed or garage and ample crawl space. Condensing a house full of memories and things I loved down to a one bedroom apartment didn’t happen overnight. It took me quite a few years to get it right.

The funny thing is I didn’t plan it, I just inched into it as changes in my life occurred and decisions had to be made. Like many of the jobs I have held in my life, I just seemed to land in the situation I needed to, learning to declutter by coming into it all sideways. That was how downsizing and decluttering happened for me. It was little by little and as I went along, I really began to see just how much mental, emotional and physical real estate these things were costing me to keep.

At first I was a bit angry that I had to even consider getting rid of so many things I had collected over the years. Then as I drove car load after car load to the thrift store, it seemed I could see clearer and clearer with each trek. What had befuddled me and torn me in half to think of parting with became an easy call as I realized what really mattered to me. The more I had to do it, the easier it became.

For a few years I lived in a two bedroom apartment but the square footage was actually less than my previous one bedroom suite. Recently I had to move again, not by choice but a serendipitous move for me it was. You see, I had to downsize again because I am now in a studio suite that simply will not contain all the things I once owned.

My photo albums matter to me so I have all twenty of those with me. Some books I know I can never part with including all those with my mother’s hand writing in them when she gifted them to me and a collection of literary classics she gave me in my thirties. I was able to pass on to beloved young family members some treasures and gifted other young loved ones with some books and furniture they could use or sell if they wished. It felt a bit like coming full circle to be giving these things away and  not feeling badly about it in any way. My emotional ties were not severed, they just weren’t involved in the practicalities of it all. It was as if my higher self knew this was the right thing to do for all concerned.

My clothes closet was another story altogether. I had hundreds of hangers, over a hundred pairs of shoes and I bet you I had 20 black dresses. When I knew I was moving to a studio apartment near the sea, I knew I would no longer have two closets. My new apartment has very little storage. Off to the thrift store again I went with bags and bags of clothes and shoes I had not worn in years. I whittled it down each week until I was left with 15 hangers not including coats or jackets. This was a massive downsize for me. Gone were the desert boots I hardly wore, the spiky silver sandals I bought for a wedding and never wore again. Gone were all the black dresses save one because, I now know, one is all I really need. Same for my drawers. I had three dressers and am down to one with only what I need in it. And, oddly enough,  some days that still feels like too much.

I think it feels like too much because it is still needy, still needs care, maintenance, cleaning and still takes up valuable real estate. This is the way I view “things” in my life now. I have to really really love it. Or need it. Or I can live without it. I know this now because I am doing it and happily so. Having too many things can absorb a lot of time and that doesn’t make me feel happy. I know many who declutter talk about the sense of freedom. I don’t know that I would call it freeing but it certainly frees up a lot of valuable time. I remember a friend who was downsizing years ago saying “If I have to dust it, I can live without it.” At the time I couldn’t understand her thinking. Now, some twenty odd years later, I get it. She was right. If I have to dust it, clean it, maintain it, store it or otherwise spend my valuable time on it, I don’t need it.

Doing better with less wasn’t something I planned but I am grateful for it because I now look for ways to continue living minimally. Have you ever had to downsize or declutter? How did you handle it and what did you learn about yourself in the process?

When Home Is Not Where the Heart Is

Where we live can make us very, very ill. High pollution areas are treacherous for those with asthma or any other breathing disorder. And nobody will ever forget Julia Roberts in the movie “Erin Brokovich.” Many “Erin Brokovich” folks are working hard daily to improve living conditions for many around the world. But what about not knowing that where you are living is making you sick until after you move? This is exactly what happened to me.

When I first found my last place to live I was excited because it meant I would be moving back to an area I had once lived in for 15 years so I knew it well and was looking forward to living closer to people I love. Living near those I love worked well for those four plus years because it meant no long drives for dear ones to visit me daily or on weekends, easy access for getting together for errands or outings and celebrations. But the joy stopped there unbeknownst to me until my recent move to a new above ground apartment near the sea.

The suite I rented for over four years was in a mansion, around the side gate, along a walk to the back of the house with a pretty yard to a staircase 15 steps down into the ground. No problem, I told myself, I am able so the walk and stairs are no biggie and not seeing any trees or green would force me into going out more. Or so I thought. The windows looked out on a 15 foot high concrete wall. No problem, I told myself, as I gathered “fake greenery” and fashioned a “drape” of it to hang on the concrete wall outside my main (and only) window in the kitchen/living room. The area had only one park nearby and it was not a proper park, just a play pad for tiny tots, really. No problem, I told myself, I have a car, I will drive to parks and green space more often. A dear friend came to see my last suite when I rented it and said, “I just wish you had more windows.” No problem, I told myself, I will just “whiten, lighten and brighten” up the space with paint and fabrics.

As life would have it the area had “devolved” into what I said it would eventually, a ghetto, if the city did not control the negative growth and high influx of criminal elements. They didn’t. In time, I realized with all the deaths of innocent people due to stray bullets of gang violence, the daily crime and the accompanying drug addicts and other unseemly traffic in the area, the area was nothing like it once was when I had lived there for 15 years in the first home I ever owned. No problem, I told myself, I won’t go out at night alone anymore. The problem with that idea was that I was soon too nervous to go out in the day anymore either with the high crime in the area, the addicts dogging you for money or trying to steal your purse as happens almost daily near the bus exchange now, the stray bullets causing almost monthly elementary school lock downs and crack heads tweaking out crazily in broad daylight on the street right outside my house. It was no longer the peaceful, pretty and safe community I had left all those years ago and likely never will be again.

Staying home more was okay. At first. No problem, I told myself, I will just write more. I had no way of knowing that the stresses were already taking their tole with such force that I would soon be in far too much pain and much too ill to write let alone do my own self care. I even stopped writing altogether as the physical side of me started deteriorating so rapidly.

One month into my new apartment I was surprised to see my nails were returning to their former pink glory from the grey, whitish look they’d had and the fragility of rice paper was diminishing. As I type this I can feel my nails which I could not for the past couple of years because they simply would not grow or what tiny growth they had was quickly torn away by the merest of task. This has ceased. I also noticed my hair was dulling in color, looking very unhealthy and falling out a lot at the old place. Aging, I told myself, just aging, soon you will need to buy a hair dye from the drug store, that’s all. Just over a month in my new place and my hair is lustrous, the hairbrush is back to normal instead of enough hair to build a blanket every time I use it and the color has returned. Yes returned. Best of all, I am no longer living in the bathroom. I spent over a year being so ill with my intestinal disorder that doctors recently found has naturally worsened with age. Little did I know that all the stresses of adjusting to my former neighborhood were the greatest triggers for worsening this disorder which resulted in losing over 50 pounds last year. I no longer have to stay home near a bathroom. The only sad thing about it the weight is I could stand not to gain it all back but it is slowly creeping it’s way up. Still, it is a good news situation.

I did nothing extraordinary. I was under no new treatment from any source. I simply moved away from the place that was making me so sick. I am getting better and better every single day. Once when I lived where there was black mold my asthma railed daily and I had to buy very expensive air purifiers just to breathe. That, however, was far more obvious. “Black mold” to me now is any place that does not contribute to our well being. If we are in a job or living in a place that is “black mold” to the heart, soul and mind, we need to address that as best we can to put ourselves in a position of joy. Not everyone can instantly change where they live or their work but we can do small things to improve the situation for ourselves until we can make the big changes that will nourish our soul once again.

If someone had told me that where I live was making me so sick, I had to get out of there, I would have argued with them and said no, it’s just aging, it’s just my body, it’s just life. Nobody did. Nobody ever asked me if where I lived might be affecting my psyche and therefore, my physical health. Nobody knew. I didn’t even know. Until I moved.

For me, it has been like getting my whole life back, having a new chance to live again instead of slowly die as my mind, spirit and body were obviously doing where I was. They say we should never say never but I know one thing for sure: I will never willingly live down in a cave or bunker style home in a crime ridden area again. It nearly killed me the first time and I’m not going to assist in that if I can help it. Each day as I gain back more strength and feel less pain, I realize how much where we live can deeply and even gravely affect us.

Painting all my furniture white and using light fabrics did absolutely nothing to “lift” the heaviness of living in such oppressive darkness where now in my new apartment with a view and the sea right out the front door, my pretty fabrics and white furnishings fairly glow. Just before Christmas when I was watching the children of a young thirty something woman I used to provide daycare for myself, her two sons entered my old place and the six year old said, “How can you live here, you can’t even see when the sun is shining!” Indeed, wise child, indeed.

Have you ever lived where it was not good for your well being? How did you cope until you could move?

(c) Janni Styles

Voices are Vital: Silence Changes Nothing

Many of you already know my story and while it is not the prettiest, I am one of the lucky ones and I know it.

I have a nice, peaceful life filled with many people who love me and appreciate me just exactly as I am which is just exactly how it should be for all of us. Sadly, it too often isn’t so for many. A recent spate of young women dying at the hands of their partners has me talking about these matters again and I know you’ve heard this before, too, but with that innate sense of justice I can never seem to shake since childhood I am compelled to share yet again:

“Once you witness an injustice, you are no longer an observer but a participant.” ~ June Callwood

A dear friend recently interviewed me for her blog and I would like to share that interview with you. So many angels lifted me through those awful years after the assault and Lisa was one of those kind souls who was a bright guiding light on some of my darkest nights. I failed to mention in that interview that I am working on a book I hope to have published by 2020 at the latest, please God and the Angels who watch over me. If it seems I am meandering a bit, I am but not without intent. I mention my story again as a trigger warning because in this interview I talk about what happened to me again.

Recently I stated this “If we stop talking about what must stop happening, it will never stop happening.” This is why we must never stop voicing the truth and keeping it front and center.

Facts can be hard for some to take but for others, they are a sign of hope, a sign of strength and a sign that they, too, can have a better life. On that note, I will say goodnight and share with you my recent interview, enjoy:

Celebrating Women: Janni

 

 

The Travelers

I am not a well traveled person

Unless you count human hearts

Those I’ve traversed in numbers

Proved loving among fine arts

 

So many electric connections

So many eclectic perfections

 

Time building loyal bonds

Over miles of emotions’ dark night

Down back roads of human minds

Shared relief in laughter’s early light

 

So many winding paths to wander

So many heart seasons to ponder

 

Entire mountain ranges undone

Stone by vast heavy stone

When wearied hearts thought

Themselves battling all alone

 

So much love from so many

How can some not have any?

 

My stories aren’t of destinations

No photos of grand places I’ve been

I’ve been to the heavens of hearts

To places that are felt not seen

 

If tomorrow should I fall

I’ve done the best travel of all

 

My stories are of navigating souls

Who loved me pure as I they

Souvenirs will never line my shelves

Our hearts is where they stay

 

© Janni Styles

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rose Series: Hearts

some roses are born to love

some live just to poke holes

they are the misery dwellers

you must stay away from those

some roses are born for the love

they won’t let their thorns prick

hurting other roses so foreign

mere thought leaves them feeling sick

some roses were born of pure love

giving safety, protection and lift

they know all roses can live out this love

you just have to give away your gift

(c) Janni Styles

 

The Bike Series: Tilda

Matilda was born to a dirt poor clan in the great depression. She survived it all to tell of times when she finally “made it,” of not having to scrape for every bite of food anymore and of those times when she was without a man. “Of course,” she’d say, “back then you were nothing without a man.” In as many words she explained why so many women had “settled,” including herself. There was no one or nothing to fault. It was just the way in those times. Oh well, she’d say,  I burned three men out, they all died on me so that’s enough of that for me. Tilda, as those of us fond of her liked to call her, danced every Saturday night at the dance hall right up to the weekend before she peacefully passed in her pretty bed in the little two bedroom bungalow she had lived in for fourty years, the last twenty of those years happily on her own.  My memory of her always goes immediately to a pair of red leather lace up almost knee-high boots. She just had to have them when she saw them in a store despite the hefty price tag. She was already seventy by then. Even in her eighties she tied those boots on as often as she could. Tilda with her walker to stabilize herself, prancing through the mall showing off her red boots as if she wasn’t a minute over twenty. I still think of her from time to time, how she started life on such a rickety bike but by God, she knew how to ride.

(c) Janni Styles

The Rose Series: Arosen

Gathering the firstborn in her folds:

Oh petal, whyever do you cry?

No sad tears

Mother Superior

teacher to inferior

keeper of interior

internal contusion

years of confusion

a healing rosalution

No, this is not sorrow

escaping my learned eye

dark hearted flowers

said I couldn’t do it

it is for them I cry

they cannot see we are

born winged to fly.

(c) Janni Styles

The Rose Series: Sister Rose

As a child Sister Rose wanted to be a true sister in every sense. To serve the Lord, what more could be so pure? As a ten year old she was often left with four children not her own who she cooked for, cleaned for and kept safe from harm. Well, as safe as any child herself could until at age eleven it all became too much for her wee mind and she tried to exit the world. The angels kept her here, they told her you cannot cross over yet, who will the little ones turn to if you are gone? The child rearing and caring drove Sister Rose to breaking commandments, to stealing food to feed those four hungry mouths. That is what a good and pure sister would do, wouldn’t she? Commandments aren’t always to be heeded are they? Again it became all too much and thirteen found her nearly dead. Again the angels said, you are needed, you are not finished your life’s work yet.  Sister Rose spent the greater part of her life serving others, saving others, being there for the hurting, guiding the wayward and rescuing the lost. Don’t tell her about missing out on a safe childhood, the high school prom and such frills of life. Don’t tell her about missing out on those years in the convent getting closer to Godliness. Don’t you dare tell her she does not know who God is. She served as fast as she could learn how, her training and convent the world thrust upon her tiny shoulders years before she was grown enough to know what adult shortcomings meant. And all this long before she ever learned the meaning of intrepid.

(c) Janni Styles

The River Runner

one slippery rock

slid me barefoot

into roaring turbulence

ankles yanked by undertow

surface rapids no measure

of rogue currents below

tearing my born will apart

no besting a black river heart

frozen over cold

too hard to think too much

thoughts of home and kin and heaven

and of shores I could not touch

mind succumbs envisioning

one lonesome rocking chair

half love no love at all

one wing dangling in clear air

brain numbs, body slams

against herds of wordless boulders

everywhere glass shoulders

I clung

for every

breath

I clung for

very life

hurling over the falls

that left me

nearly dead

Oh, that almighty river

I rode

a long mapped

bloodless vein

inside

your blighted head

(c) Janni Styles

The Rose Series: Seven Sisters

Witness those grown humans

Rosie said to her six sisters

they sure are prickly posies

and they don’t even have

any thorns

Every year the same nonsense

talking to this one

or not speaking to that

maligning sister or brother

behind their kindly backs

Mother Superior of Roses

please halt those double talkers

who hold nothing in abeyance

full mean estates exposed

by fork tongued surly word hawkers

Fifty years on

we’ve bloomed every single spring

faithful, loving and true

just to witness all this sniping

they almost unconsciously do

Being human is oft over rated

I fear, so glad am I to be a rose

so many human faces splinter

leaving loyal blossoms heavy

heartened by a hastening winter

(c) Janni Styles

The Rose Series: False Virtues

Sister Rosa, please do tell

why so many see writing truth

as speaking unwell

 

They are mistaken, said she,

the false virtue they protect their own

for the dead are long gone and free

 

Never mind what they all do

nevermind what they all say

just you keep on being you

 

They all know you speak facts

they lived through it all, too,

just don’t be unkind or nastily wax

 

Truth is a light many wish to dim

just keep writing truths no matter the chatter

it is always worth it to grow a new limb

 

More joy to be had from more blooms

to silence the naysayers wittering

about bodies long since entombed

 

They forget the soul is flying high

they know not what true loyalty is

just keep writing truth across the sky

(c) Janni Styles

 

 

 

 

The Rose Series: Best Things

Nodding together in the wind

the roses spoke softly:

some humans spend their

whole lives

searching

never realizing the simple things

are the best things

opening a new bar of soap

the fragrance of fresh cut grass

resting your head on a soft pillow

reading by a sunny window

Look, there go more seekers

racing to places and acquiring

things they think they need

Oh, what will they do

when all the petals fall

when lingering to touch

a rose

is no longer possible?

Their heavy heads bowed:

Will they still remember us?

(c) Janni Styles

Never Enough

No matter the warnings

no matter the knowing

now is never a good time

to see loved ones going

 

Yes they may soar free

no more suffering or pain

we take the hurt of knowing

we’ll never see them here again

 

Never enough time to remember

all the things we needed to say

the world darkens in an instant

while we long for just another day

 

Heaven is our hope for them

death makes us all believers

the only way we can make sense

of all life’s too early leavers

 

No matter the comforts we speak

no matter the sooth saying done

longing of the heart never ceases

we just want them back not gone

 

(c) Janni Styles

The Rose Series: Tarnished

once trust is soundly breached

there is no timely repair

rivers of roses never enough

to get you both back there

once your love is violated

by those possessing fork tongue

no apology will ever suffice

what’s been said is done

please keep your tarnished roses

give them to someone else

I deserve the purest flowers

you never deserved myself

(c) Janni Styles

The Rose Series: Light Blooms

Oh Primroses! Oh Primroses!

Breaking winter’s back

Hardened earth will not stay you

Nor the brilliance you pack

One beacon of perfection

One harbinger of spring

Your gentle hearted openings

Of which the angels sing

Cold hoary frosts forgotten

Growing joyful by osmosis

Burdens fall from velvet shoulders

OhPrimroses! Oh Primroses!

(c) Janni Styles

 

 

 

 

Kindness Karma

you’ve only to sit back

watch the heartless get what they deserve

karma goes direct

it does not swerve

doing nothing is the same

as being actively unkind

“nothing” karma always returns

when something is needed down the line

so let the bitter hearted do whatever they do

don’t get mixed up in karma not meant for you

if they ignore the hurting

instead of being kind

they’ll never truly know

genuine connection of humankind

queen karma always visits

though she may be  somewhat tardy

wherever there was cruelty

she returns to strike the hardy

withholding love or kindness

a sorrowful legacy to impart

kindness always leaves the kind

a very peaceful heart

better to be kind whenever we can

a kindness insurance for the soul

in living a life of grace

love shining out the everlasting goal

(c) Janni Styles

 

Surviving Difficult Times: PTSD and Trauma

Many of you already know what I went through these past few years so I will not repeat my entire story. Let me just share with you what I have learned about surviving difficult times including this very recent period of losing my brother in October and my sister in November and the ensuing grief that often chokes me because it is so hard to get used to the world knowing they are no longer in it. Initially I was thrust into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from a physical assault in 2012 (though many believe I was suffering from it long before I walked out of my more than three decades marriage due to the shocks I endured in that relationship). What happens with me since the onset of PTSD is that I can easily be triggered back into the full blown symptoms by life events, losses and abrupt changes to name just a few. Still, I am at a place where I hope to help others with what worked for me as I clawed my way out of the darkness to where I am today. While I still have PTSD it is not as severe as it once was and hinders me less because I have found a few ways to help myself survive difficult times. You or someone you know may appreciate what I have to share with you today.

Surviving Difficult Times:

  1. If you have any people in your life who are negative, critical or even in any small way unfair or abusive, avoid them. If you are struggling to get through a difficult time these types of people can only add to the burdens we are already packing. Yes, we may love or even be related to some of those people but tolerating any criticism or negativity from people we love is often more hurtful than from those we don’t know as well. This only exacerbates the situation we are in. Someone unfairly chastised me royally on a social site for posting a “funny” she obviously disliked. This triggered me and I did answer her but she blocked me. Clearly she is neither safe nor compassionate and blocking me was probably the best favor she could do though at that moment in time it just felt like more abuse. We need safe, loving, healthy, kind-hearted people around us when we are experiencing difficult times. This doesn’t mean you have to end the relationship(s), only that you may need to avoid those insensitive, cantankerous types until you are through the rough patch you find yourself in. Avoidance worked well for me and is still working well for me.
  2. Surround yourself with loving, healthy people wherever possible. From your health care providers to your social circles, clean house as often as need be to ensure that you are being supported by only those who are “safe” with good and kind intentions. Nobody needs ill intending people in their worlds at the best of times but at the worst of times those people can just feel like one more source of aggravation and abuse we simply do not need or deserve. They are also extremely draining, the last thing you need when trying to build yourself back up.
  3. Find your happy place or space. This can look like your own cozy bedroom, a favorite park or an activity you enjoy from reading to running. You choose what it is that makes you feel better and if that is music, baking, camping out, visiting a friend, doing yoga or escaping into a good movie or a book, whatever, it doesn’t matter as long as you have a few moments or, perhaps, hours, away from what is constantly overwhelming you. Retreat as often as you need to into your happy place or happy space. Friends, books and long walks or writing are my go to’s for a break from my personal life challenges. I found it helpful to keep adding to my “safe” go to list as I went along and discovered things that were helpful for me. Often I still prefer to have no stimulation, no noise, no light, and just being still with myself. Somehow it re-energizes me and I am able to get back on the bike of life and pedal my way forward. When everything and everyone “hurts,” finding our happy place or space can take a little time but that’s okay too. Just go gentle on yourself as you find what works best for you.
  4. Tell people what you need. This was the hardest of all for me. Learning to be my own best advocate was fraught with challenges I could not foresee. Once when the bank overcharged me for something I panicked because I did not have enough money for my rent (this was all reversed by the bank and I did have enough for my rent in the end).  Meanwhile, the talks-too-fast clerk kept repeating herself and would not hear any of my questions. I started to cry and the bank manager and security people all came over which made me cry harder. Finally, stuttering severely as I do when PTSD triggered, I was able to tell them I have PTSD and requested a note be put on my file (I wrote the note which said: I have PTSD. Please be kind and patient with me. Sometimes English sounds like gibberish to me if my PTSD is triggered. Please speak slowly and please repeat yourself if I need you to. Thank you.) Nearly five years later that note is still there and the service I get at the bank is impeccable, very considerate and caring. With others I may decline an outing or a visit at the last minute because I just can’t take any stimulation that day. Knowing what we need is half the battle. I spent a lot of time asking myself what do I need because there were moments when I truly did not know. If you can figure out what your needs are, asking others to honor those needs is the best way to take care of ourselves in my opinion. They may not understand why we need what we need but that does not matter. They may never understand. What matters is we know how to take care of our needs to avoid being triggered or overwhelmed by all the things in the world that are out of our control.
  5. Seek professional help. If you have an emotional or mental condition that needs attention don’t try to manage it all by yourself. Talk to your doctor and if you don’t have a doctor, try to tap into your local community services to see if there is a Health Unit or other source of support or help they can guide you to. Trying to manage it all by yourself is not advisable. I do not know where I would be if I had not sought and availed myself of professional help. Going to trauma counselling for two years after I was assaulted not only gave me a safe place and professional people to help me heal but it also gave me many skills I learned from one trauma counselor. Simple exercises like counting my breath or counting the items in a room, anything to distract me from feeling panicked, overwhelmed and unable to cope still help me to this day. Luckily for me, where I live we have some terrific community services and I was able to get help for the legal process of court which took three years and also a lot of emotional support and guidance. Without the help I received I know for sure I would not even be here. Seeking professional help is always wise.
  6. Believe. Believe there is help available for you and don’t give up on trying to find it. Believe there will be better days because as black as this moment may feel, there will be better days eventually. I didn’t think there would ever be better days when I was in the midst of just trying to cope but there were and those then rare days helped me believe there would be more. Believe you deserve the help. None of us deserves to be hurt, lied to, criticized, abused or assaulted in any way, shape or form. When we have been good people and always done the right things in life it is hard to imagine why anyone would want to be so cruel to us for any reason. But some people just are as recently happened to me online and in the real world when I shared the loss of my brother and sister. However much it hurt us, this is not as important as changing what we can for ourselves. We can block/delete online and in person we can leave, move away from or distance ourselves from harmful people and situations that are not good for us. It just takes time, professional help and focused effort to reach the place that is best for ourselves. Believe you deserve the best in life because you do.

These are just a few little things I share today as I work on grieving two of my siblings in three weeks. Of course the loss of my brother and my sister has triggered my PTSD, the panic, the shaking, the loss of sleep, the general sense of being in an unsafe world with unsafe people everywhere. I know if I can lean on my supports and do the six steps above as often as necessary, I will weather this storm of emotional tests, eventually. There is so much more I could add but this is plenty for a blog post, I think.  Please note this list of what worked for me may not work for everyone and that is okay too. I am not a doctor or a professional in the field of trauma. I am just one survivor voice who could not find much that wasn’t academically written on the subject of trauma and PTSD. To that end, I hope to help others who need to hear from someone who has been there and shares her findings, not so much experience as findings because this is what I wanted for myself when surviving my difficult time in life. I wanted to talk to other trauma survivors, hear how they coped, learn coping techniques and I just couldn’t find that kind of basic easy to digest material out there. There was much on how the brain works but it didn’t help me one whit to cope or realize that I would survive this. So far so good, I am here, breathing and sharing.

Questions and your thoughts are always welcome here.

See you next time.

(c) Janni Styles

Gee, Elinor, I think you’re swell!

Recently I lost my littlest brother. It was shocking because he was so young and had no known health issues, grew a garden and lived a pretty ordinary life of hard work and spending time with friends and loved ones.

Two and a half weeks after losing him, in the first week of November I lost my older sister. By today’s standards she was not old either, still in her sixties. The shock of both of these losses has completely numbed me. I feel as if I am living in a bad movie and hope soon I will wake up.

I wrote my brother a poem I published here and would write one for my sister but her poetry (which I have as well as her letters and cards to me over the years) outshines mine in my opinion.

When this song (see link below) was released, I thought it was about my sister and really, for me, it still is. I have much to say about what I have learned about how cruel, abusive and self centered human beings can be in the face of such devastating losses. There is also much good to say about those who “get it” and how no matter the few words they say, it is very comforting to my fractured heart. That will all be in another post. Just not up to writing it at the moment. More about my dear sister will be published here, too, but again just not up for it at the moment either.

Sorry for my absence here, will be back more as soon as I am up to it. For now, enjoy this song about my dear sister up in heaven. She really was swell.

The Housing Crisis That Never Was

For the past several years the area I reside in has been rife with rumours of a housing crisis. This usually means low vacancy rates, minimal available housing and panic stricken buyers and renters out bidding one another in a frenzy like I have never before witnessed. In my opinion somebody set people screaming the sky is falling when it never really was.

There is an abundance of vacant housing tied up by absentee buyers  just holding those properties. In the midst of this so called housing crisis, I overhead someone say he thought he lived in his 15 story Vancouver apartment building all alone because he never saw anyone coming or going. Such is the life when the owners live out of the country or just buy properties to “wash” their crime stained money. So why doesn’t the government step in and order these properties rented or, if owners refuse, order them sold. Even if the government introduces new, helpful legislation, they are notorious for being unable to enforce same as many renters are learning first hand as I type.

Recently after 4 1/2 years of unremarkable tenancy, I was forced to seek housing myself and jumped right on the panic bandwagon, a bandwagon that served the housing market well if you were a property owner selling up or a greedy landlord wanting to increase rents. Many of us, great, long standing tenants, were displaced by the greed of a market driven by panic.

Rental properties were holding “showings” as realtors do when selling homes. Except the only product they were really selling was panic. If enough people panic for long enough, the greedy landlords can profit greatly by ousting long term tenants under false pretences to double and even triple rents. What is both sad and frustrating about this is that very little legislation exists to stop these landlords from doing this. And existing legislation around eviction notices and rent increases are so full of loopholes, if a landlord wants you out, they will keep hammering at you until one of those loopholes work.

My own appeal for wrongful eviction was pretty solid and I was told I would likely win because the bodies of authority were getting tired of these landlords doing this, especially in the area I was living in. Fortunately for my former landlord, I had some unexpected health issues and did not have the stamina to see my case through. I suspect many of us in this position just give up and move on, letting these abusive landlords “win” by sheer exhaustion. Though I have been reading in the newspapers of quite a few “tenant wins” these days so let’s hope that trend continues

Not only were these greedy, abusive landlords hammering their long term tenants for the sake of the almighty dollar but many of those tenants were buying into that fear which had them believing they had no choice but to pay more than the legal allowable rent increase rate just to keep a roof over their heads  I will be one of the first to enjoy watching these greedy landlords scramble to fill their vacancies because the signs are all now here loud and clear that their feeding frenzy is grinding to an inevitable halt.

At first, when searching for a place to live, I panicked, too. I looked everywhere instead of exactly where I wanted to be. I went to see the most dismal windowless dungeons on earth, lined up with others who were also anxious and panicking. In just a couple of weeks I began to realize there were actually a lot of rentals available. I was seeing a lot so there had to be. The listings reflected my findings. The longer I looked, the more there was to look at.

Fortunately for me, I wound up in a lovely apartment in my old neighbourhood I had left 4 1/2 years ago. The thing is, even in my own building of just 45 suites, there is always a vacancy or two or three. My landlord manages three apartment buildings within blocks of one another here and each one has vacancies every month. The rental listings are actually increasing and, wait for it, rents are starting to fall. The local news just reported tonight that landlords are offering incentives to try to get their properties rented out and this is exactly what I said would happen.

My experience in the housing market taught me two things. Everything comes full circle, it is just a matter of time and jumping on the panic bandwagon acts like a lightning rod of contagion between humans. Much like questionable media sources drive the “frenzy” of the moment, panicked humans create more panic even when there is nothing to panic about.

I even had a good friend living in the area I wanted to return to say: “Good luck, there are pretty slim pickings around here.” She lives right here within two blocks of my apartment building. And she was wrong. Very, very wrong. So wrong that as I check listings and walk the neighbourhood these past couple of months I see listings and vacancy signs that have been up since I moved back. One place near here was online from January to the end of March. It was a pretty apartment, reasonable rent, great location and the ad was renewed every week for nearly three months.

When I was buying and selling jointly owned homes with my ex, I remember the realtors pressing panic buttons on us with their incessant verbals about limited availability and rising prices, talking of buying and selling before the “housing bubble burst.” We researched housing bubble analytics and history only to find everything around us defying what the “false hype” would have us believe. This was some 20 years ago and there is still no sign of what they were fear mongering  us about back then. Luckily, we never bought into their “panic think” and we never had any problems buying, selling or renting temporarily between purchases. I wish I had just remembered that before my recent rental search. Still, it has all come back to me as this “false housing crisis” house of cards begins to fall.

The moral of this story is, whether you are seeking a rental or looking to buy a property, don’t panic. There is plenty to choose from and, if tonight’s newscast was any indication, there will soon be a whole lot more properties to choose from for a whole lot less money.

(c) Janni Styles