To say that my life resembles a Blues song right now would be a fair statement. My life hasn’t left me and my dog hasn’t died, but comparable things are happening. In fact everything seems to be an utter mess. For one thing, my residency permit for Turkey has expired so I need to get a new one, but the government just changed its entire system a month before I went to reapply and that change means that everything is done online first and then you have to go to the local capital over an hour away for an interview. I also now need to get a police check and for that I have to schlepp a toddler to Istanbul for the day to present my paperwork “in person”. Who has the extra 1000 TL that it would take for such a journey and never mind my frayed nerves of steel. So my husband’s idea is to send in my paperwork without the police check so that the authorities have me in the system and will not continue to fine us a daily fee for overstaying my welcome. I think that is the stupidest idea ever but he assures me that it speaks to Turkish mentality. He thinks that they’ll just call us up and request the missing information and then we can better deal with the problem as by then the tourist season will be over and we can all schlepp our butts to Istanbul with money we do not have. Right. At any rate, I am already 30 days late with all of the hoeing and hawing trying to figure out this and that so I guess that it is worth an immediate try because my fine is probably 3000TL already. Needless to say, I hope that my husband’s cultural knowledge pans out. We’ll brace ourselves for what happens there…
Another problem is our residence itself. It is in a fantastic location, but when we moved in it was not yet finished. By finished I mean there were little things that needed doing such as the hardwood floor along the tricky beams, or the putting in of the extractor fan in the bathroom, ditto the one in the kitchen above the stove top and some other minute cosmetic stuff. We have now been here for over two years and our landlord despite his initial promise has done none of these things. In fact any finishing that did go on in here, seems to have disintegrated in front of our eyes. The caulking in the bathroom, the grouting between the tiles in the kitchen, the siding around the doors; all seem to be falling apart and creating a path for ants, cockroaches, and other insects I have never even seen, to march into our house and take up residence. That’s summer. In the winter the house is a mould factory, which according to people here is ‘normal’ (yes, the same annoying word is used in English, French, Italian and Turkish) and we are confined to sleeping in the living room. Any attempt to fix this problem is futile if you a) are not going to do anything about it in the summer months when the mould is eradicated by the sun which the landlord won’t and b) you have a flat square roof with poor drainage which all of the houses around here do. My husband tried in vain the first winter we were here to fix the problem with special paint but it was a band aid that lasted until this winter. So the obvious solution would be to move right? However, trying to find a mould free, suitable family home in the area of town we desire is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. For some greedy reason, folk here would rather try their luck at renting out their properties for exorbitant prices in the summer season, than have a year round renter for a fair affordable price. That said, they are more open to suggestion in the winter months so we are waiting until the end of October when the seasonal workers leaving will create more flow in the market. Hopefully then there will be a decent landlord with a good house who is tired of the tourist gamble and would rather have long term renters in. Fingers crossed.
To move we are going to need about 4000 TL for the first couple months of rent, moving costs and deposit, so my husband has this amongst other debts, bills and daily living costs to consider and he is working twenty-four hours a day to this end. This year he is driving one of the family cabs instead of doing his past job of running a restaurant with a couple other friends. What with the economic crisis in Europe (not to mention the increasing divide between the haves and have nots and what is essentially the eradication of the middle class), the horrible shooting in Tunisia affecting all tourism to Muslim countries and Turkey’s just declared war on ISIS, this tourist season is the worst in 15 years mainly because there are hardly any tourists. The transportation sector of the economy seems to be an essential service so my husband is faring better than most but his taxi is in a quiet area and he has to hustle to find customers who are then negotiating hard for discounts. Taxi driving is a tough profession. You are always waiting around for a ‘good’ job and it could come at three o’clock in the morning so your sleep is forever disturbed and that can make a person nuts. So when I do see my husband he is usually knocking on the door of insanity unless he is asleep or holding it together to drive. This means that our family life is nil until the season is over and the money looks like it will be over before the next tourist season begins again in April 2016. It is cruel to never see your husband and father because he is working all of the hours God’s sends when even those hours, because of geography and economy are still not enough. Sometimes I consider moving to the village and picking tomatoes just so we can spend more time together…then I snap out of that idea and just accept our depressingly dire personal economy.
In fact because of economics I cannot have a lot of things and material things I am not bothered about, but even to go to the beach for instance, costs here. Most of the beaches are paying beaches and the public beaches are full by noon when I am still eating breakfast. It is so hot outside that we do not venture out regularly during the day instead we go out for a few hours in the late evening, because even at eight o’clock at night it is still 30 degrees in August. That means that bedtime is very late and waking-up time is equally late. So my daughter and I are confined to this strange existence where we wake up, eat breakfast, watch some cartoons, play with toys, have a nap, wake up, eat a late afternoon meal, play some more, get ready to go out, have an excursion outside for a few hours, come home for a snack and then go to bed. This is at worse a little boring for me but for my daughter, I feel that it is a tragedy because she needs fresh air and fresh experience. She also needs friends but a crèche is 1000 TL per month and there are not any play groups around. They are just not part of this society because extended families tend to create their own circle of fun for their children. Cousins are friends and family. My daughter’s cousins live about an hour and a half away and the only international playgroup that I know of is a 30 minutes car ride. I needless to say do not have a car or a solution and it pains me deeply because as every parent knows you only want the best for your child from day one. I feel like I am cheating my daughter out of valuable experiences that her mind, body and soul need in order to grow despite the creative activities I try to come up with at home.
Considering this, the best environment for our child, my husband and I have been talking about trying to immigrate to Canada, but for me to sponsor him I have to prove that I have at least a year of money in the bank to support him. I do not have this money unless we consider it with a negative sign in front of it, then I most definitely do. The other option is to get him over to Canada on a tourist visa so I can at least work whilst he takes care of our daughter but to do that we need to show that we have money in the bank for us to travel with, we need to show that my husband has a reason to come back to Turkey, and we need to prove that he has insurance which all working people get through their employers. My husband’s cab is still in his father’s name (it costs 5000 TL to put it into his name) and he therefore cannot get insurance for a self-employed person, additionally, he cannot prove that he has a business for which to return. He cannot get insurance through his father because his father would have to be working and he is retired. If he was shown to have someone working under him then he would lose his pension money so he cannot give him a guarantee letter either. Looking at things, I guess a tourist visa is not going to be feasible until we get the money together to put the taxi in his name. Which seems like it might be never…
Okay, I could go on and on and on, but you get the drift. For a middle class Canadian chick who grew up with the best things that my parents and society could offer me, my life is not where I want it to be or probably where it should be but here the rub: it doesn’t matter because I am non-happy. What is non-happy? It is kind of like contentment, or peace, or being. It is the point of the previous description of my life. You were probably wondering why you were reading 1500 words of “woe is me”, if you even made it that far, and it is so that I could convince you of how totally screwed up everything in my world is and then impress you with the fact that I couldn’t really care less. You see, I did care and I was as much a mess as my life. I was under a huge amount of stress. I was crying one minute and laughing the other. I was arguing with my husband and losing my patience with my child. I thought that I would soon be carted off to the Funny Farm until one day I reached my breaking point and instead of breaking, I just STOPPED. I finally stopped wanting my life to be anything that I thought it should be. Wanting it to be something that would make me happy. I stopped chasing the “Happiness Rainbow” and I have never felt better. I got off of the “Happiness Wagon” and have never looked back.
Yes, that’s right! Do not delude yourself that there is such a thing as happiness or of the comparable concept that we have been sold. Happiness is the greatest con of modern times which was ushered into being by the advent of radio and later television. Those inventions required advertising and advertisers had to sell products. What makes people buy products? The innate promise that product holds which is happiness. If you buy the latest fashions you will look trendy walking down the street and this will make you happy. If you buy this new chocolate bar, it will taste great and eating it will make you happy. If you buy this popular brand of vodka, you will drink it, get drunk and be happy (okay, that might be slightly true). If you redesign your kitchen then your friends and family will fall over themselves gushing about it and that will make you happy. Can I stop now? If any of these things made you happy then you wouldn’t need to keep buying and acquiring them. If I could find a chocolate bar that would deliver to me a constant stream of happiness then I would by the world’s supply (on credit of course) and keep doling them out to everyone I knew. Sadly, or happily, none of those things exist. We just started watching TV at a young impressionable age, and our unfettered, open minds got changed into believing that there was this thing called happiness that we could buy or get or find. We can’t. No matter how much TV, media, society, advertisers, each other or ourselves insist that we can be happy, we can’t.
Are you depressed now? Don’t be depressed because depression is just a change in the brain that occurs when we chase happiness and realise that we can never attain it. As I have just explained, there is no such thing as happiness and therefore no such thing as depression. Let me therefore tell you what there is: experience. That’s all folks. Experience. My husband came home to sleep this afternoon, so I took the opportunity to go to the pier and get some fish as a treat. I left the baby with him and off I went. I do not think that I have been toddler free for months now and it felt weird but good. Without having to cast my hyper-vigilant eye over my daughter, I was free to amble on looking at what was around me. I walked down our road staring at my feet going along the old stone cobbles. I took note of how each was a slightly different colour, shape and size. I saw how they all fit together in a haphazard organisation. They for a few moments, were fascinating to me. They were the whole world and everything in it. I lost myself totally in ancient paving stones. I was experiencing them.
You see that was and is enough. Walking along alive, alone, attending to the world for that moment I wasn’t thinking about all of the problems in our life. I wasn’t bemoaning where I was and what I was doing (as hot and sweaty as it was). I wasn’t thinking. I wasn’t judging. I wasn’t analysing. I was being. When you stop chasing happiness then a lot of habits fall away. The biggest habit is thinking which is an enormous, destructive timewaster that keeps 99% of the planet from truly living and loving. If we are chasing happiness then we are running away from the things that make us unhappy and we tend to think about those things constantly. For instance, I could ruminate on my post-baby body and how it has changed because obviously before I had a baby it was better and I was therefore happier (note the sarcasm). So this belief sits in my mind and goes with me through my day. Imagine, if it came along with me earlier in the day. Instead of walking along noticing the fascinating details around me, my brain would have been focused on a constant dialogue of crap designed to feed my body belief. So I might see a young beautiful girl and think: Ugh, I used to have a body like that. Now I don’t at all. My stomach is so flabby and my stomach muscles will not go back into shape. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I could walk along and find a hundred things to fashion into my obsession about my body and all of them instead of lifting my spirit would bring it down. However, if I reject the notion of happiness and accept that nothing can give it to me, even a perfect body, then I do not need to feed my ego monster mind with thoughts about things that prove to me my unhappiness.
Getting complicated? It’s simple. If there is no happiness and nothing can make you happy then nothing can make you unhappy, so you have nothing to complain about. You have nothing to think about, worry about, or fret about. You are free to just be. You do not have to write in your gratitude journal every day. Or write out an imaginary check for a million dollars from the Universe. You do not have to stop eating gluten and start eating kale. You do not have to do anything because there is nothing to do but be who you are right now in this moment. Right now even though I have just detailed much of my messy life, I am not thinking about it. I am not defined by it. Instead, I am sitting here listening to my daughter’s cartoon emanating from my IPhone which she is holding in her hands. I am feeling her little foot tapping against my thigh. I am hearing the crunch of the cracker she is eating. I am feeling the waves of cold air from the air conditioner blow over me. I am feeling my fingers touch the keyboard one by one as I type these words. I feel my hands and my face and my feet and my butt and my thighs and my arms. I feel non-happy and it feels good.