Bank managers and chaos-tamers

If you had to carry out a series of complex financial transactions, who would you rather work with, a sympathetic, helpful young woman with no inhibitions about making phone calls in the middle of a meeting to gather information about anything she is unsure of, or a busy, important-looking man in a suit, with the attitude that anything he doesn’t already know is not his concern?

The document I had been waiting for for months finally arrived the day before I left for Michigan and Joseph and Emma’s wedding. Since I had been advised that it was coming, I had already made appointments at the bank where Peter had a private account, where I now have one too, and at the bank where we both have business accounts, and I had my list of amounts and bank details for all the people waiting to have their deposits returned ready to go.

Much to my frustration, however, the insurance money I needed to cover the deposits is by no means automatically or simply transferred to Peter’s account, even though it is listed as belonging to his assets. Therefore, there was not enough money in his account to cover the deposits, so I was stymied yet again. By the time I had run around all afternoon collecting information about where and how I had to apply to actually get the insurance money, I had already decided which bank to have it transferred to. By then, though, the banks and all the other offices were closed, so there was nothing more I could do before getting on the plane in the morning.

My plan in May of being able to finish clearing out the workshop before the wedding, so that I could return to make a relatively fresh start and devote attention to my translation work, that plan didn’t work out very well either. Nor did I take into account the effects of jetlag, when I promised people I would be ready to work again in mid-June. I returned on Wednesday, 13 June, and basically slept through until Friday, missing several important dates along the way. And a workweek consisting of only one day is not at all sufficient for meeting deadlines, especially when most of it is spent at the bank trying to sort out international money transfers.

Far from making a “fresh start”, I’m now behind with everything and struggle every day to catch up. When people kindly ask me how I’m doing, if things are calming down, if I’m able to catch my breath and focus on getting on with my own life, I have no idea what to say. The obvious answer is simply: no.

Looking with dismay at the chaos still reigning in Peter’s workshop and office, just before I left for Michigan I realized it was time to admit defeat. I forced myself to sit down and write a call for help, collected email addresses from so many wonderful people who all offered any help they could give, when they sent condolences, added a few from my private email correspondence, and sent out an appeal for “chaos-tamers”. And people responded – generously, creatively, even happily!

Some people with dust allergies or a general lack of enthusiasm for chaos responded that they couldn’t help me in the workshop, but would be happy to go for a drink with me – a much appreciated and often needed offer that I will be happy to accept over the weeks and months to come. Others, who would have liked to help, were busy helping or being helped with similar tasks elsewhere, which I found very reassuring, as it helped me to believe I wasn’t imposing too much on anyone. And on various different days over the past weeks, some twenty people have come to the workshop, bringing all their talents and interests and imagination and different views. They have sorted, discarded, organized, cleaned, washed, shifted, measured things, so that a usable space is actually emerging. Again and again, I had the feeling, this is what an ideal society could look like; this is how it could be in a world that I would be happy to live in – so different from banks and insurance companies and telephone companies and bureaucracy.

What surprised me most was when I realized that what had been Peter’s office is beginning to revert more and more to the appearance it had when I lived in that room, the space I made for myself to live in so many years ago before I met Peter, where he later moved in with me. That reminder that I lived for years by myself before I met Peter was encouraging, motivating, strengthening. Some of the differences are important too, though: in the same place where I had a large old dark brown cupboard that I bought at a flea market, now there is a delightfully authentic retro kitchen cupboard from 1960. It belonged to Peter’s parents when they were first married, and they have contributed it now to furnishing this space and what is to happen here. Especially when I remember how Peter’s parents were not exactly happy about it when he moved in with me and then even announced his intention to marry me, the support and encouragement that I continue to receive from his parents, his sister and her family and all his relatives means so much to me. Over the years, my in-laws have become so very dear to me, and their support and approval is so vitally important. Now every time I look at this kitchen cupboard, it starts to bring tears to my eyes.

Now that I actually have the legal document I needed, I can continue juggling all the bureaucratic tasks that could not be completed before. Now that I finally have access to Peter’s bank account, I can sort out all the bills that still need to be paid, all the business that could not be finished before. Now there is hope that someday I may actually be able to close his account. The chaos in my own office has been tamed now, but not yet domesticated, so I can devote some attention to my own work, but not yet my full attention, even though my own bank account is reminding me that that would be a good thing to do at this point.

Recently a friend asked me what I want, what I need for myself, and without even thinking about it I answered that I just want to sleep and then spend the next day in bed reading. That’s not quite true, though. All I really want is for Peter to come home and finally take over his share of all these annoying tasks that still need to be done. And it’s his turn to clean the kitchen, too. There are days when that almost seems more realistic than being able to sleep and spend the next day in bed reading, but I know I only wish that were true.

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