Sunday, September 6, 2009

Mastering the Art of Moving--A REAL Labor Day Trick for Me

“The trick, of course—and it is a hard one to master—is to think of home not as a place we go to or come from, not as something inherent in the world itself, but as a place we carry inside ourselves, a place where we welcome the unfamiliar because we know that as time passes it will become the very bedrock of our being.” Verlyn Klinkenborg, NYT

Last Tuesday we arrived at our new home. Boy, do I feel beat.

How discombobulated my life is. Everywhere I go, I am surrounded by walls of brown boxes taller than I am. Awash in a sea of beige newsprint, wrinkled and smooshed, packing paper. Out of these cardboard containers tumble precious items, junk, necessary equipment, assorted odds and ends I can’t explain. Over and over, I pick up things and wonder: “How did this get here? What should I do with it? Why did I bring it along? Will it fit in here? Should I keep it or dump it?”

How fearful I am behind the wheel as I struggle to figure out exactly which road will take me where I want to go. All around me, other cars hurtle toward their destinations with the surety of creek water parting to avoid a stationary rock—that’s me!—in the midst of the flow. I grip the steering wheel white-knuckled, praying my Missouri license plates will buy me a crumb of driver’s compassion as I dither desperately trying to choose the correct lane, exit, or ramp.

How tired and ill-at-ease I am. Bursting into tears at the worst possible moments. Trying to be jovial, upbeat and positive, but sure that I am fooling no one. My body contends with a seeping sort of exhaustion. I fight the urge to lie down, pull the covers over my head, and sleep away the days. I’m not sure that it’s sleep I need so much as order. With order comes a sense of mastery that makes all activity less burdensome.

I keep wondering, “What on earth have I done? Why did I put myself through this? What did I hope to accomplish?” And yeah, I know the answers. It's all good. It will just take time.

There have already been moments of stunning clarity when I think, “Ah, this could be home.” And other joyous times: A small jolt of triumph and exhilaration when meeting my friend Emilie Richards for coffee in a nearby town made me nearly crow with joy: “I did it! I drove here! I navigated the beltway!” A sigh of contentment when I opened our mailbox and found items addressed to me, in this new home, postal offerings that followed me here. A stifled laugh when I awakened in the night and walked into a closet rather than the bathroom. (Fortunately, I was cognizant of the difference!) A shared moment of excitement when David and I saw the red fox pup who lives with his brother and mother behind our house. The little guy was sunbathing and grooming himself. After he'd licked his fur to his satisfaction, he ran over and pounced on his brother. How we laughed as they tussled with each other!

I try to take each day as it comes. Right now, after unpacking some of my office, I feel weepy. The sheer volume of stuff overwhelms me, weighs me down. Before, it was tucked away neatly. Now it’s all spread out, cluttering surfaces, and shaking a metaphorical finger in my face as if to say, “Why didn’t you sort this earlier? What were you thinking?”

I don’t know what I was thinking. Maybe I was on auto-pilot. Maybe we’re all on auto-pilot most of the time, and a move such as this forces us to be very, very present. Takes all our energy to cope with new surroundings, smells, flavors. Since all those senses are stimulated non-stop, and I’m struggling to cope, no wonder I want to go curl up and take a nap.

Tell me, how have you coped with moving? What kept you going?

For me, this is a Labor Day to remember!


Karin Corbin said...

At least you have your best friend with you in the new home. That makes it instantly home wherever you go.

Take some Chromium supplement, about 400 mcg a day for a while, overnight that will chase the weepy blues right out the door.

Camille Minichino said...

It sounds so familiar -- especially the part about unpacking something and saying, HUH? Why did I think this was worth moving?

In general, though, I like "clean starts" -- a chance to be creative about where things go. I like having new spaces to fill and to move about in. I'm sure you'll feel that energy to re-create your home, as soon as you have a little rest!

Meanwhile, I'm going to check out that Cr supplement. You can never have too much positive energy!

Sheila Connolly said...

Our last move (six years ago now) was made easier by the fact that my husband's employer (the US government) paid for packing and shipping; and also by the fact that we found a house we loved. It was interesting that every piece of furniture we had, found a perfect place that fit. No more, no less. Of course, we filled the attic with boxes, but at least somebody else carried them up there.

The hardest part was leaving our former town behind--it was a wonderful place, and we were very much engaged in the community. As we get older, it gets harder to work your way into a new community. I'm lucky to have friends around (and writers groups are a big plus!). Is it "home" yet? I really don't know.

Just take it one day at a time. And welcome those favorite possessions as you unpack them and find a new place for them.

Monica Ferris said...

I'm impressed at the deeply philosophical comments the move engendered. You may feel brain dead but obviously you aren't. Good luck in your new home.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Oh, ladies, thanks to all of you. Karin, I'll check out the Chromium. Sounds good. Camille, I listened yesterday to "de-cluttering" podcasts, so I think I'm up to make that clean start. Sheila, it's lovely when a piece of furniture just looks right, isn't it? And Monica, I think the NYT piece contributed to my being philosophical. I actually clipped it out and brought it with before the move...

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

By the way, Sheila, I've been told it takes about three years for a place to feel like home. We'll see, huh?

Betty Hechtman said...

Reading your blog brought back memories when we moved from L.A. to an area in Orange County called Fountain Valley. I remember feeling so uprooted and uncomfortable with my surroundings. You sound like you are already settling in. With the loss of your mother along with moving to a new area, its no wonder you feel teary and overwhelmed. But I'm sure you know, time helps everything.

Terri Thayer said...

Joanna, you'll get there. This is a good move for you and your family. It'll feel like home before you know it.

I'm so glad I moved to CA. I can't imagine my life if I hadn't done it. Take some deep breaths and try to imagine it as an adventure.