On Monday, I wrote a Facebook post about the after-Easter-weekend slump. I wanted to remind people that after a high-energy time, it’s normal for creativity and motivation to be low, and that’s OK. The fact that today I’m writing about toilets, much to the chagrin of my brainstorming partners (a.k.a. my kids), pretty well proves I’m right there in the slump with everyone else. I do find it both appropriate and funny, though, that immediately after I posted on Facebook, I met with the plumber about replacing some old, small, and frequently problematic toilets at our house: appropriate because it does feel like creativity has been flushed away, so toilet-shopping is the perfect thing to do, and funny because toilet-shopping inevitably reminds me of our final weeks in Taiwan several years ago.
In the midst of really important stuff like getting travel documents finalized and packing our things to move back to the Texas, I was mildly obsessed with a leaky porcelain throne in our Taipei apartment. Here’s a portion of that memory from the original Texpat blog:
For the last 6 months, we’ve had an annoying leak in the apartment. Clearly some pipe in the bathroom was leaking beneath the tile and seeping out to the wood flooring in the bedroom. We’d go away for awhile. The engineers would fix something, replace boards, and then pretty soon the water stain would show up again. When we came back from our final big trip to Palau, they assured me it was fixed. Yes, I’m happy to report that leak WAS finally fixed. But with the first post-vacation flush, water started seeping out of the porcelain itself and puddling on the tile floor. Someone cracked the toilet. Not a happy day, mostly for poor Mr. Lee, the hardworking, kind-hearted head engineer. How sad he looked to tell me, “No use it. Tomorrow… plumber.” The kids and I made a nice out-of-order sign.
Tomorrow came. Two plumbers and an engineer walked into the apartment. It didn’t register with me that they had a medium sized cardboard box on a trolley outside my door, so I proceeded to do what I always do when working with repairmen [due to my limited knowledge of Mandarin]: go into a kind of interpretive dance to explain the problem. I am suddenly having flashbacks to that day, specifically the point where I got down on all fours in our small bathroom to point out the leak on the toilet. This elicited an embarrassed, “Yes, yes, yes, ok, ok, ok” from the three men who I now realize were getting a view of my rear end. It was soon revealed that they were not there to repair the leak. They were taking away our toilet and replacing it with a smaller version.
Gone is our nice, big (read: wide-seat) Kohler. Sitting in its place is Toto the Too Small. It is narrow, and it is low. Parts of you hurt if you linger too long. Your magazines fall off the back because there is a 6-inch gap between the tank and the wall. Suddenly our castle is without its throne. And so [I’ve come to grips at last that] it’s time to move to another castle, a Texas-sized castle with well-equipped bathrooms.
That last sentence means, of course, that when we moved into our current home in 2008, the toilets I’m now looking to replace seemed like perfection. That makes me smile, and makes me start thinking:
It’s good to be between writing projects at the moment and have the luxury of deciding on things like bathroom fixtures and toilets. There’s no emergency. There’s no overwhelming international move on the horizon. I can take my time. Not every day has to be about adrenaline and drive. Rest is good.
It’s good to be well-settled into this life. When we left Taiwan, we thought we were just “moving back” and that we’d pick up where we left off. But that’s not what happens after you return from someplace else. Instead, you find that you’ve changed. You are grateful for the changes, but you find you need new ways of doing things as you embrace what’s become a new adventure in what you thought was an old place. I needed to adapt to a new rhythm that is now my very normal life, and that is comforting, especially when I’m not feeling particularly imaginative, productive or courageous. Rhythms are good.
It’s good to know that today, whether I write anything at all beyond these few lines or whether I get much of anything else done on my to-do list, I will have spent time, both in person and on the phone, with some people I care about and who care about me. Yes, I will need to hide my phone for awhile to get a few things done, but to know I’ll probably have a funny video or a sweet text waiting for me afterward makes me profoundly grateful. Relationships are good.
It’s good to laugh over things like toilets and to anticipate the look on my kids’ faces when they see I wrote another post about those porcelain necessities despite their objections. It’s good to know that for at least part of the day my husband and I will try to one-up each other with silly banter over IM until one of us concedes and sends the “laughing till I’m crying” emoji. It’s good to admit that I will probably watch a few cat videos before bedtime instead of doing a few more productive things. That’s the stuff that sometimes comprises real life around here.
And real life? It’s very good indeed.