It’s time

It’s time.

In the midst of an unrelated exchange recently, I suddenly and quietly said to a friend, “I’m going to give up the Workshop now.” He stopped, looked into my face and asked, equally quietly, “Does it hurt?” When I whispered, “yes”, he hugged me and I left quickly as the tears started to flow.

It’s time.

This hard decision has been growing for some time now, as various factors have come together. My three-generation flat-share has come to an end, as my flatmates have moved into a place of their own to get ready to welcome a new baby, so that leaves me with an empty room at home, a space I have never really occupied for myself. Much to my surprise, my beautiful desk, my lamp and my bookshelves will actually fit into that space, and the lovely women who built the desk for me are still here, willing and able to help me dismantle the desk and newly assemble it at home. After carrying the costs of my office and the Workshop by myself for four years, I have to admit that I am quite tired of barely having anything left to live on and having to rely on the generosity of my in-laws to be able to get by at all sometimes. And I am tired of ultimately carrying the responsibility by myself, as even with all the enthusiastic contributions to the Workshop from all the people using this space, I have not been able to establish any continuity, so the responsibility inevitably always returns to me. I’m tired, and I can’t afford to become completely exhausted.

The last straw, though, is the construction site in the courtyard below, which has been growing louder and busier since August. After years of standing forlornly vacant and neglected, the old tax office building on the other side of the courtyard is finally being renovated for the Art University. Although I am very happy for the Art University, I wasn’t prepared for the “staging area” for the construction work to be crowded into the little courtyard just outside my windows. With all the noise and activity and reverberations from extensive drilling work, I’m feeling increasingly claustrophobic and stressed.

It’s time.

After receiving notice about a change in the building management two years ago, I was talking on the phone with my mother-in-law, who was in the hospital again, about my worries that I might be forced to give up my office and the Workshop, depending on possible new plans for the building. As we spoke, I moved close to the window, where the reception is better, and at some point noticed my hand resting on the wall. I said then to my mother-in-law that I would just rely on this building. Over the years it has rearranged itself several times so that I could stay, so I decided to trust the building to let me know when it is time for me to go.

It’s time.

I have been in this building for thirty years now, since I first came to Linz in 1985. I was living here when I met Peter, and then he moved in with me. After we married and moved to a proper flat of our own together, he set up his workshop here, and when I started my own business in 1994, I took over the third room in this corner, which has been my office since then. Thirty years is more than half my lifetime. Yet what are a mere thirty years in relation to the five hundred years that this building has been standing here?

I stand by the window with my hand resting gently on the wall and add the thirty years of my story to the long history of this house. I trust that my story will merge with so many, many stories of past and future generations to become part of the spirit of this house.

It’s time.

After Peter died, the question quickly arose as to whether I should just close his workshop and work from home in Urfahr, but I could not bear to even contemplate that possibility then. To begin with, I needed my office more than ever at that point. This has been my space since 1994, the place where I feel most secure and sheltered and certain, sitting at my beautiful desk, surrounded by my most important books, reassured by my work that enables me to earn my own living. At the same time, I could not imagine just giving up Peter’s workshop and office to some random person or enterprise that might come in, spread out, fill up the space. The rooms are too intimately connected for that. Opening the Werkstatt am Hauptplatz in November 2012 proved to be the ideal solution, and I have never regretted the decision.

With the Werkstatt am Hauptplatz, the Workshop, I created a new space, filled it with new life and new energy, and despite the financial burden of it, all of the people who have come into this space have made my life so much richer. Yet this has also changed the space. It is no longer Peter’s workshop, where various people spent long hours talking with him while he planed and carved and built his instruments. More and more, people who come to the Workshop now never really knew Peter, if they ever even met him at all. When there are events in the Workshop now, when I give my usual introduction, more and more it has the sense of: “Once upon a time there was a violin maker who worked in this space …” When I stand in the Workshop to speak, I am no longer Peter’s widow, first of all, but now I am simply Aileen, the person responsible for this space, the person to talk to here.

With reassurance and encouragement from so many kind, generous, thoughtful people, I’m working on not seeing the decision to give up my space in this building as an act of surrendering in defeat. Although I was not able to “grow” a community attached to the Workshop, so to speak, other projects, initiatives, inspirations, and even other spaces have grown out of it, and a broader network has formed, of which I will still remain a part. I have established that even though Peter is dead, I am still here, very much alive and still an active participant in the life of this city. Instead of constantly pushing at my own limits, I hope that reducing the responsibility I carry will now allow me to become more active in other areas, where I hope that I can be useful. Just because I will be working from home in the near future, I have no intention of becoming a recluse.

It’s time.

For even longer than I have been in this building, I have worn a ring in the shape of a snake on my right hand. It is a symbolic reminder that sometimes it is necessary to let go, in order to make room for something new, and as old as the ring now is, it also reminds me of how many times I have already had to do that. For months now, I have spent so much time staring off into space while twisting the ring around my finger, trying to reach a decision, but it is time to stop twisting the ring around my finger now: I can do it again. As I was packing up my rucksack at home to walk to the office the other day, my mind already whirling with what would be waiting for me there, I happened to glance up at the picture of Peter hanging in the hallway, and suddenly I had the feeling he was smiling at me from the picture, nodding in reassurance: it will be okay.

I am not giving up in defeat, I am not abandoning the memory of Peter and his workshop and our life here together. I am simply putting down a heavy load, so that my hands, my mind, and my heart can be open to whatever may come next.

It’s time.

my office

my office

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2 Antworten zu It’s time

  1. terrry sagt:

    Good for you. You were able to read the „signs“ and to make a decision at the time which is right for you.
    Especially the line where you mention that you are tired, yet cannot afford to become exhausted, resonates with me.
    Take the time to give up a load before the time is taken from you. 🙂

    Take care.

  2. Victoria sagt:

    What a beautiful post. The Workshop was there when we really needed it and I thank you for that! I wish you all the best with this new phase of your life. A beginning is always exciting 🙂

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