As I move around my apartment, scrubbing the walls around my windows in preparation for my yearly tradition of covering them in a layer of insulating and draft-blocking plastic, I am struck by how much of my life is taken over by what are essentially coping mechanisms for things beyond my control. I’m also struck by how many bugs have died in the three weeks since I last pulled my carpet back to sweep the half-inch of space between said carpets and my patio door, but that doesn’t really make for an interesting blog post topic. The entire process I’m going through is one meant to mitigate the fact that my apartment complex has absolutely terrible windows that not only leak cold through them like a sieve (thanks largely to their terrible metal frames) but that are so poorly installed or maintained that they don’t even block the wind. It’s much more difficult to detect when the entire frame is uncovered, but putting the plastic over them makes it clear that there’s wind blowing through them almost constantly.
Driving the coping point home is the fact that I have a little flood light I carry around with me as I work because the rooms I’m in don’t have overhead lighting and the places that make sense to put lamps for day-to-day use don’t provide much light to the areas around my windows. Plus I’m doing this at night because the sun sets at half past four in the afternoon and every single weekend has been either too cold or too humid to do this, leaving me with a single lucky warm day to do all this work before the humidity moves in tomorrow. I also have to move several heavy curtains out of the way, removing them from the wall entirely, that I put up to block the sunlight that now streams into my apartment every morning since the tree that used to offer me shade when I first moved in was allowed to die by a landscaper who thinks the best way to trim bushes back for the winter is to run them over with a lawnmower (about half of them died last time he did this, so who knows how many will return next year).
In fact, I need those curtains because the changing clocks of the country I live in and my job require me to shift my natural sleep and waking rhythms so they reflect not the natural light and dark cycles of the day but a rather arbitrary decision that farmers need more sunlight for their work and everyone else can get fucked. I’m being a little facetious about the farmer thing, but daylight savings time should have been ended decades ago and we’re still sitting in a position where it might yet go longer despite an effort to end it by part of a single branch of the government. Plus, the work thing is the greater villain of the two, since it is seen as “normal” that I should work in a large three dimensional rectangle without visual access to the sun and I’m frequently framed as the problem for complaining about it to my boss whenever my seasonal depression leaves me unwilling to engage in small talk or meetings.
After finishing putting special tape on my walls, which promises six months of use but will probably only deliver three or four if last year’s data holds true, and carefully applying the large sheets of plastic to them, I move on to other winter preparation tasks like replacing the oscillating fan in my office with the space heater I bought two years ago. After all, not only are the wall heaters incredibly expensive despite being described as “eco-friendly,” but they also don’t do a sufficient job of providing heat to my apartment no matter what, forcing me to rely on additional products that are probably just as expensive to use but infinitely more effective. My landlord never got back to me about addressing the lack of sufficient heating in my apartment, after all, so I’ve taken matters into my own hands in exchange for a slightly larger write-off on my taxes.
Finally, once the heater is set up and tested, I continue puttering around my apartment as I pull out blankets and towels I use to help isolate heat to the in-use parts of my apartment, adjust rugs meant to prevent cold from leaking through the floor that seems to rest directly on the exposed concrete foundation that supports my corner of the building, and think once again about buying tapestries to cover my walls for a bit of extra insulation. There’s a lot of time and effort that goes into the process, but it’s still not that much in the course of a month or even a week. A thought I had while making an important decision this week when I turned down the opportunity to move.
Despite knowing that I’d have to do all this work just to avoid unhealthy levels of cold, I chose to stay here because moving would mean being far from my job, my friends, and the now-familiar comforts around my apartment. It meant that I’d be spending four times as much of every day just trying to get from place to place and that adds up quickly when you work five days a week. Today’s anti-cold efforts took me two hours and the rest, spread across the next two days, will amount to maybe two more as I tweak and adjust things. All winter long, I’ll spend maybe ten hours working to cope with the cold in my draft apartment, but that time would be eaten up by extra travel in two weeks at most if I moved. Seems like I made the right call to me, all things considered.
Still, either choice would have been a coping mechanism in some way. Choosing to move would have been done to cope with isolation, the cold, and the frustrations I feel dealing with my landlord. Choosing to stay was done to cope with my current stress levels, my desire for comfort, and to make my day-to-day life as efficient and fluid as possible. I didn’t make either choice because of my own desires for something good. I just chose the least costly option, which is sort of the crux of most coping mechanisms, you know? I’ve got more examples, but I’m pretty much out of blog space so I’m going to go clean my dusty glasses and then put in some artificial tears to clean out all the dust that probably fell my eyes while I was working. After that, I’ll probably try to adjust my light timers so that they’re set up to go on while its still light outside instead of an hour after dark has fallen.