Where I live.

January has not started out as I’d hoped. I began 2016 filled with enthusiasm for the year ahead and the changes that it promised, but that enthusiasm was quickly replaced with the less-than-bright-and-shiny realities of the day to day.

Immediately after the glow of the holidays wore off, I found myself surprisingly unmotivated: sluggish, fatigued, even a bit depressed. In December, life was moving fast and I struggled to keep up, but the manic energy that it brought also seemed to serve as a sort of inspiration. Words and ideas flowed out of me. I had so much to say, and writing felt easy.

Not so, lately. Every day, I sit down to work on a new piece: a stage play I’m planning to produce in early summer. And every day I find myself frustrated, tugging at a narrative that hasn’t quite shown me how it is meant to unfold. Little by little, I’m getting there, but the progress has been a maddeningly slow one of scribbling words into my notebook and scratching them out, throwing out more than I’m keeping, writing and re-writing.

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And then there was yesterday. Running out for groceries, I shifted my car into reverse, and heard something that sounded like a motorcycle revving its engine. Is that me? I thought. I turned off the engine and the sound stopped. Turned it on and there it was again. What in the hell? I had never in my life heard a sound like that come out of my almost stealthy quiet Prius. Exiting the car, I smelled gasoline in the air.

Calls to Toyota and Triple A revealed what had happened: someone had stolen my catalytic converter. Prior to yesterday, I’d never even heard of a catalytic converter, but it is amazing how quickly Google and a couple of mechanics with I’m so sorry faces can turn you into an expert.

According to Auto.com, “the job of the catalytic converter is to convert harmful pollutants into less harmful emissions before they leave the car’s exhaust system.” Without it, not only does your car become a major polluter, it makes a roaring sound akin to having a pack of Hell’s Angels riding shotgun. Not pleasant. As the apologetic mechanic at my local Toyota informed me, there has been a rash of catalytic converter thefts all over L.A., due to the fact that it contains valuable metals that are then melted down and sold. And as an external part, they’re relatively easy for an experienced thief to remove (by sawing them off!) within minutes. Now the kicker: because of the recent epidemic of these thefts, catalytic converters are on a national backorder and mine could take up to eight weeks (and cost thousands of dollars) to replace. Eight weeks? Without my car? In L.A.?

I suppose you could say that this was the punch in the gut that turned a disappointing January into an abysmal one.

Later, as I’m on hold with my insurance company, trying to figure out if any of this is covered, it hits me that it’s not just the money, or the hassle, or the fact that I feel stranded without a car that has left me so shaken. It’s the fact that for the first time in the nearly two years since I moved to this (mostly) quiet residential neighborhood, I feel unsafe. Yes, I live in a big, dangerous city, and yes my neighborhood is tucked away right off a busy intersection, but the street where I live is populated with nice people: young working professionals and families with kids and dogs. I know – and like – my neighbors. I walk everywhere, striking up conversations with friends and strangers alike. I don’t feel scared walking home at night. And yet, someone still came along and did this: hacked up a piece of my car in plain sight. It’s the car that has faithfully and reliably carried me around this city for eight years. The car that my mother gave me. I feel sick.

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Through my living room blinds, I see the late afternoon sunset beginning to streak the sky pink. I get off the phone, take a deep breath, pour a glass of wine and go outside to my patio. I’m lucky, I tell myself, as I breathe in the sunset and try to calm down. This sucks, but it will be OK. Maybe I’m not supposed to drive for a while. Maybe I’m supposed to slow down and simplify and focus on my writing. Maybe I’m supposed to move – the thought creeps in without my consent.

No, I think, as the rosy glow of the waning sun fills in the blue sky behind the majestic, lone palm tree that towers stoically above my roof. I don’t want to move. I don’t want to run away, just because things are difficult. I’m reminded of a saying from Lao Tzu that I posted on the Facebook page for my blog only yesterday morning, before I knew about any of this stuff with the car:

Stop leaving and you will arrive.

Stop searching and you will see.

Stop running away and you will be found.

I was attracted to the quote because it reminded me of my writing, and my tendency to abandon long form projects whenever I get stuck or when inspiration runs out. But maybe there’s a bigger life lesson there. One about endlessly searching for something to make me whole again, and always coming up short.

This is not the start to the New Year that I wanted, not at all. But maybe, buried underneath everything that’s icky and uncomfortable, maybe there’s something in it that I needed. Maybe instead of running away in search of something better, this is where I will be tested, and where I decide to stand and fight.  And maybe, in that fight, I will learn something about myself that I needed to know.

Maybe.  Or maybe it’s just a really crappy January.

Until next time, friends.

30 thoughts on “Where I live.

  1. Hang in there…at times we can lose our creativity but it’s in those not so “magical” times we find the places within our soul screaming to get out. Looking forward to reading more!

  2. What an odd thing to steal! (though theft of a writers catalytic converter provides a catalyst for her writing is sort of Lao Tzu-esq – Stop driving and you will….?). Your posts are always worth the read.

  3. Ever heard of “Everything will be ok at the end; if it’s not, it’s not the end” It is a bliss that the theft only took that converter, let just stay home and focus on the writings. You felt stuck but you are still good at it, keep it up! Or may be God wants you to ditch your car for awhile and appreciate that beauty of nature surrounding you.

  4. I am sorry you had to deal with the rats, pulgas and cockroaches of the L.A. Basin Sarah. Catalytic converters yield big cash at the metal scrap yards, it’s the precious metal with them, but to replace then it way up there. Your car is on the lower end in replacement coast, around $ 385 – 385. It’s an easy job for them, they just lay on their Backs and reach under, put a wrench to the two or four bolts turn and they walk away with an easy pinch.

    -The Best thing people can do to make sure they have a Catalytic converter come morning. Is to drive the Car into your nearest Muffler shop and pay $ 10.00 – 20.00 dollars to the mechanic, to put your car up on the hoist and take a wielding torch to the bolts that are holding on your Catalytic converter and have his wield the steel Nuts onto the steel bolts, then that Catalytic converter is not going anywhere.

    -And it’s going to be a muffler shop or Toyota that takes it off and replaces it next time anyways. Most likely you’ll be replacing your Prius with a new car before the Catalytic Converter burns out. L.A. Blows…

    -Singer Song writerJackson Browne had his Pontiac Lemans stole decades ago while it was parked in front of his house; so he replaced it with a old car, that no one wonted to take. I think it was an old 1951 Chevy coup.
    Sorry it happened to you, Sarah. Hugs.

    • Wow! Thank you so much. I get the feeling you really know what you’re talking about. I can tell you that the price of metal and subsequently catalytic converters has risen substantially. And they’re in very high demand. Fortunately, I got lucky and found one. And I’m high tailing it to a muffler shop. Thank you! 👍

  5. I love the Lao Tzu quote you left in here. Perfect. I find when I have days like these that I miraculously find something in that day to pull me back to who I really am and reminds me of my journey. I listen a lot to Allan Watts myself.

  6. Sometimes taking some time off to rest, recoup and simply do what you want is needed. Although you may feel frustrated with your writing at this time and wonder what happened to all of your enthusiasm, a break may be just what you need. I wish you lots of positive energy for the rest of the year. Maybe January is your month to get out all of the bad stuff.

  7. Breath!!!!!!!!! it’s all going to fall into place. On the bright side you some really good material for this blog post ;).

    Ana @http://urnaturallysimple.com

  8. Sorry about the car. I think you could be right. EVERYTHING happens for a reason.
    I too have struggled to write as the new year moves forward. I have missed a couple of goals. I am not letting that stop my desire to continue onward. Hopefully, we can both pick up right where we were and create magical works.

  9. Well, I can see how all of this can derail one however, one can see this sort of thing as an opportunity. First, I think eight-weeks is a bit much for any part and would take the challenge of finding your part much, much sooner. Let me know. Now, as I was noting, So perhaps taking mass-transit, yes even in L.A. could afford one with all sorts of characters to take note and perhaps use in a work of fiction. I’ve found many things to chat about when spending time on a bus or trolley. So many possibilities and i’m only thinking about the people one can come across during a day of bus hopping. I’ve found when taking the trolley in San Diego (my home town) I was able to see my city from a completely different vantage and discovered many things to be totally different than what I had assumed they to be.
    Yes, having a car under repair does suck however, take it as a chance to see L.A. from a different point of view. As for your justified sense of being violated, I can only offer to you; These rogues were after a plain commodity and nothing more. Yes, it was your very own car and I’;m certainly not trying to make light of the situation however, stand tall, do not let these common thieves endanger your spirit or the sanctity of your home or neighborhood. I bet you’re not the only one to be stricken that same evening or the very week and within a couple of blocks of your car. A quick call to the local police precinct might yield some useful information and you never know what can come from information of this kind when leveraged properly. The point is, take it as it comes and make good use of what come your way.

    Anyhow, I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you all of this, I have in your resilience and I’m we are all looking forward to the “Lemonade” you make out of these lemons!

    Sincerely and with respect,

    JAS

    • All of this is great advice, thank you so much. Striving to keep my attitude positive throughout this experience. And you’re right – it only took a few days to get my car back. Eight weeks was the worst case scenario due to a shortage of the parts.

  10. Hi Sarah! That really sucks! I think you’re in my corner of LA too (from your pictures, not stalking, I swear!). I feel pretty safe in my neighborhood too, so it can definitely throw your whole world for a loop when something like that happens. I’m glad you didn’t get hurt. Brock Buildersteel had some super cool advice! And regarding the writing, I’ve felt that same way with my own writing (as do all writers, right?), and even with my little private practice. I get so frustrated and down when I think things are going to happen one way, and they just don’t. So I put it down for a while and do other things that interest me. The hardest is getting over that guilty feeling, like, “Ahh I should be writing right now.” And you mentioned moving – maybe don’t uproot your home just yet, but maybe try moving your body. Do you like museums? Or dancing in your living room? 🙂 Wishing you all the best!

    • Thank you, Jessica! And I don’t think you’re a stalker. 😉 Yes I think all writers struggle with the writing. It can be a really difficult and lonely process. Yes! I love museums (and dancing). The Getty Center is one of my favorite places to write, actually. And when I’m stuck on something I’m working on I like to take a break and go for a run. That usually helps get the thought process going. Thank you for your good wishes!

  11. I like the quotes you mentioned in this post, reminding us sometimes running away is always not the option. I was reminded this by someone else months ago, when I was running away from something and someone. The person told me about “carpe diem”. Now, unfortunately I have to start over again the process. If I may say, running sometimes seems to be the only option left, when one might feel suffocated by all the heavily haunted things of a place. I live in Finland, and I am travelling now to Sweden, and today is a Valentine’s day and the weather was so beautiful and I have different views to stare at, a different lake to pass through, a different forest to wander around. And even if my problem is still within me, part of new freshness was brought to me. I feel more assured to move to a new place to live. There is nothing which could be changed at home; but maybe I am the only factor that needs to be changed.

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