Tuesday, May 31, 2016

How We Got Here, Why We're Leaving, Part the Second. . .

(Find the first part of this here

As much as I have written here about the travails, emotional and physical and logistical and otherwise administrative, of moving, I have shared only the tip of the iceberg, truly. Yes, I've mentioned tears and meltdowns, but I've generally tried to minimise those, or to include humour, a self-deprecating comment, or a brisk assurance that I'm back on the path. And yes, I've referred to the stress and the physical strain of having to sort through 20+ years of family memorabilia against a looming deadline that requires coordinating truck and tide and barge and ferry and storage availability -- but I haven't mentioned that besides joint and muscle pain and constant exhaustion, I've been experiencing itchy skin flare-ups and my larynx is increasingly raw from acid reflux surely exacerbated by fretting. You know that I'm worried we'll ever find a home we love at a price we can afford in the place we want to be, and you even know that I wake in the night thinking about this. (Since I began writing this post several weeks ago, we have found and bought our next home. I'm leaving this in, however, because I want to emphasise the difficult components of this move in order to explain why doing it now was right for us.) But I'm not sure I've ever said how acute the panic can be at 3 a.m., the pounding heart, the sweat-soaked sheet, the muscles of every limb tensed.

I am, overall, what Lisa calls a Sturdy Gal -- I know she's using this label in reference to Style in contradistinction to her Grand Dame and Artsy Cousin, but I think it applies effectively to my general approach to life. I like to think my sturdiness is manifest in my having raised four children, guided perhaps by a practicality forged and honed by my being the oldest of twelve children. A plethora of responsibilities in that role, I think, prepared me for those years of diapers and toddler falls and childhood illnesses and adolescent sulks and rebellions, and, arguably, sent me into the world with a certain pragmatism. Yes, I'm a worrier by nature, but luckily my ability to hold a larger perspective balances those worries and steers me through most situations. I tend to see ahead to the many possible complications and dangers and risks, but I also tend to talk those concerns out -- Susan and I have chatted about this,  acknowledging that it's tough on the problem-solvers in our lives (Pater, especially, has learned just to listen, but his natural inclination is to Find a Solution). Talking my worries out, I often let them go or realise I'll just have to ask those worries to stay quiet while we find out what might transpire. I manage. I let off the steam and then tend to get on with it. I'm not a quiet sufferer, a strong and silent type, but I generally get the job done.

All of which is to say, those two preambling, context-building paragraphs above, that You Have No Fricking Idea how Tough this Move has Been!!

Okay?!

Pause for deep breath. And chuckle.  And remembering where I'm going with this.

Oh, yes.

I want to tell you that this move, from the family home of someone who has always been privileged to live in a house with a yard, to a (much smaller) urban condo (we hope! we still haven't secured said condo, and the market we're in right now is one of the toughest anywhere. Seriously!) is One of the Toughest Things I've Ever Done. (and yes, I do realise that being able to write that sentence establishes me as a very lucky woman.) Again, this was written a few weeks ago, and we do have that next home lined up now, but I'm leaving this sentence in deliberately to indicate the level of difficulty a move like this holds.

Providing the evidence for that claim would require several posts, and they might be very whiny (whingeing!) posts. Better that you just take my word for it.  But the reason I'm stating the case so vehemently is to tell you why I am so glad that we are making this move now. And to finally get around to telling you, as I promised way back here, WHY we are doing so. Having accidentally settled on our beautiful waterfront island property two decades go, having coped with its logistical challenges all these years, having decided we could enjoy at least a few years of retirement here before having to uproot, Why then did we pull the plug?

It all happened in one illuminating moment. Pater and I were cycling along the Vancouver beaches one morning last August, and as we passed through a beautifully landscaped park, the creamy white flowers of a Rose of Sharon tree caught my eye.  We have two Hibiscus syriacus  (common names can be confusing, and I know there are other plants called Rose of Sharon in other geographies) in our garden, the Blue Bird and a purple-flowering variety my dad transplanted as a seedling years ago. But over the last few Augusts, I've delighted in the white-blooming versions in other gardens, remarking how calming and expansive is their mass of white blooms. And each of those Augusts, I've made a note to add such a tree to our garden. Then, each August, as I began to prepare for a new term, I've promptly forgotten the plan.

Last August, all over again, the sequence: the white blooms caught my eye, I registered the Rose of Sharon; I remembered how much I wanted one in my garden; I resolved to get one planted soon.

And then -- and this is all micro-second processing, Flash, flash, flash, each thought accompanied by a pedal-turn of my bike wheels -- I thought: Sure, I'll get the tree growing, enjoy its blooms for a few years, and then we'll be selling the place and I'll move away from my garden. So why bother?

Immediately, as the sadness over that future loss -- and, let's be honest, not just sadness, but bitterness, anger even, an inner six-year-old drumming hands and feet on the floor, howling "It's Not Fair!" -- as that sadness threatened to flood in, some wiser, readier (Sturdier?) part of myself interrupted the rehearsed, too-familiar pattern with a visual flash of an attractive alternative choice. If I wanted, instead of putting my energy into maintaining and enjoying our island home, always knowing that leaving it was inevitable, I could direct that same energy into building a new nest. And the sooner we got started on that new project, the more time we would have to feather and settle into our new digs.

In a little over a year from that moment, Pater and I will be settling into our new home, beginning to live in its contours, to mesh our circadian rhythms with the way light moves through its rooms each day, to match our moods with the patterns of the neighbourhood, to find new furniture that suits its smaller spaces yet pleases us aesthetically and offers us quotidian comfort. We've been ever so fortunate. Other waterfront homes on our island have sat on the market for a year; as desirable as beachfront living on a charming small island might sound, the logistical realities call for a particular kind of buyer. We were prepared for a long wait, and then surprised and relieved at the quick sale. But that speed catapulted us into the next challenge: finding a new home in a tough market. Now we've done that as well, although there are still, for both deals, the legal and financial i's to dot, t's to cross, still room for a worrier to dig in. . .

All of which is to say that this move, as easy as it has been considering the spectrum of possibilities, will have taken a year of our energies by the time it's done, and I cannot imagine having those energies in another few years. As tough as it will be to say good-bye next week, I feel completely vindicated in the decision we took last August. No matter the compromises we will make to live in a smaller space, no matter the distance from friends, no matter the inevitable challenges of adjusting to full-time condo life, no matter the sadness that our grandchildren won't be playing together on our beach anymore. . . We are now free to begin a new adventure together while we both (knock briskly on wood) enjoy good health and fitness.

So. . . thoughts? I'd imagine that some of you are lucky enough to have a house that will allow aging-in-place, and that you plan to stay in it until they drag you out. Good for you! (If we hadn't fallen for this silly island, I'd probably have tried for the same possibility years ago.) And some of you have always lived in more manageable spaces in flats, apartments, condos, whatever the local terminology is, and you're also settled in happily for the duration. This may all be Tempest/Teapot to you, but I'd still be curious to read your thoughts. And I'm especially interested in anyone who's already made this move (Duchesse of Passage des Perles was such a beacon to me: she's been living five years, now, in a Montreal condo, after 20+ years in a house in Toronto, and she's written this post on retirement moves and this one on "Uneven aging" which touches significantly on moving as a solution to the changing health needs of an older/more infirm partner).  How did you decide it was time? Has the adjustment been easy or difficult? Any bumps in the road I should look out for? Those of you for who sit where I used to, acknowledging that such a move may be inevitable eventually, but dreading it, paralysed perhaps by the inherent difficulties and inevitable loss it poses, I'm curious to know whether the resistance is generalised or does it focus on a specific activity or image or habit (for me, being able to let my grandchildren share the island's magic was huge -- relinquishing that imagined future very tough).

Well, you get the idea. Lots of things we could chat about. I do wish I could hand 'round cups of tea or even glasses of wine. Oh, I know what I can do: I'll wait until there are a slew of comments to read and then I'll pour myself a few ounces of red.  And I'll imagine you sipping your tea or wine at your keyboard (don't spill!)  Now you, go to. It's your turn. . . ;-)



55 comments:

  1. Oh,my. Have been waiting for this post to learn much more about your reasons for the move now. Heart-wrenching as it may be, someday soon you will wake up in the new condo with coffee and the Sunday papers, admire the sunlight playing on the surfaces and think "once again, I am truly home".
    Have been reading here in admiration for months now after spending five nights in a sleepless phase catching up on all your postings through the years.

    Your view from your island home stunned me with its beauty, but to have access to a vibrant city at your feet with the water close by is just another chapter to be read with satisfaction, I am sure.

    I am from Maine and emigrated to London, five years ago to marry my husband. My cottage in Maine still exists for our three times a year visits, but the shake up of moving to most favorite city in the world made the move across the pond so worth it, even though the challenge of packing up the house I had lived in for thirty years in the muggiest of Summers nearly felled me!

    On to good things, Frances. Just think of all those romantic stops at your local bar for a festive cocktail or glass of wine with your sweetheart, knowing that the next chapter will be more about living than maintaining a large garden and home in a remote place.

    You've done well; I admire your grit.

    A.in London

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    1. Such a pleasure to have this be the the first response to a post I wasn't sure could convey quite what I wanted to -- yes! you get it! As tough as it is to leave a beautiful place where we've lived so happily, we're almost ready now for a whole new chapter, and, I think, well rewarded for resolving to give up a few potentially good years here in exchange for striding into something new sooner. Yours is a lovely example of the rewards these trade-offs can bring (yes, you still have that cottage in Maine, but you've given up daily life there for the vibrant bustle of life in London). I'm holding in mind the image of your last paragraph -- thank you!

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  2. Your bravery in looking ahead (rather than following my less admirable philosophy of ignoring the inevitability of aging because, dammit, I resent it and anyhow I don't know exactly how it will play out) is impressive, and possibly even inspiring. I have a strong feeling that you will make your new home truly yours, which means (as I have observed while admiring your island home) beautiful and indubitably reflective of your unique selves in all their warmth and grace. I like to think of you sipping your red as you read these comments, and I eagerly anticipate your stories of making another home in what is, in my opinion, one of the most wonderful cities in the world, which I hope to visit again soon.

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    1. Yes, well, there's lots to resent, isn't there Marsha?! ;-) But this way, at least I feel as if we're exercising some control over the process. I'm so grateful for your encouraging confidence that our new home will bring its own version of happiness. And if you're ever back in our lovely city, we can raise a glass of red together.

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  3. It was a hard but brave decision,Frances! You did it very wise and you have chosen right time!
    I'm so sorry about your sorrow and sadness-it was,and still is,a great stress. But,as you said,it would wait for you in future,so better deal with it right now. And I could completely understand your feelings!
    As A. in London and Marsha have beautifully put together- you'll make new,lovely condo (don't forget patio!) and would start to enjoy your new life!
    How many beautiful trips and picnics and walks did I miss,living in the house,spending a lot of weekends in my vineyard ( I started to downshift from there :-))
    Dottoressa

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    1. Thanks, Dottoressa. The stress and sadness is almost behind me now, although I'm sure I will still feel certain losses for years to come, on and off. But so much to discover in the city and the pleasure of decorating a new home and, of course, my grandchildren nearby...

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  4. Interesting. I have had itchy feet for the last year or so and have constant fantasies of a newer, smaller home, perhaps a flat, perhaps a cottage. Now that I know we could never ever afford to live in London again, the thought of Cornwall really appeals. I know all of this is just a dream for various reasons - jobs, family - but I definitely feel a need to move on, just as I did years ago when I was ready to get married, have children, move somewhere suited to that kind of life. For the time being I will have to confine myself to having various chuck outs and perhaps buy some new crockery. Less: that is the current watchword. I do hope you manage to sleep easily again soon - nothing quite so gloomy as lying awake at night with the mind racing. A nice cup of tea is what you need. Go and put the kettle on, Mater.

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    1. So interesting that you liken the itchy feet you feel now to the urge you had to build a (married) nest. Perhaps there is some biological push to ready ourselves for this last dance on stage.....
      I've actually been sleeping quite solidly this last week -- It's been tough, yes, but I'm almost through it now, and with Ms. Gaynor, I Will Survive. I'm not so sure this would be the case if I'd waited another five or so years to pull this off. . . That said, I'm always looking for an excuse to sit down with a cuppa. Kettle's boiling now. . .

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  5. I hear you! Yes! Difficult! Wrenching! Yet, you nobly placed one foot in front of the other and forged ahead...ever ahead. Your evaluation of your current island lifestyle vs future realities of aging and family relations is courageous. How I admire you and your hubby for making this bold step. I am excited for the two of you as you press the "refresh" button at this rich time of retirement.
    My husband and I have been in our sixty year old home for 31 years. Our two sons are grown with mature/responsible lives of their own. We talk about moving. Yet nearby older family relations keep us here. We are enjoying watching new young families move into our neighborhood and the investment and energy they bring. Ironically, we are glued to the "Fixer Upper" TV series here in the States and love the the whole thought of something new. Really? Would that require too much energy from a 67 and 69 year old couple? Your vigorous and very realistic example says NO. I love your timely view for moving "now".
    Once again, I thank you for your candor and frankness about your whole move. You are inspiring. I hope that the remainder of this process is not as challenging as the beginning. It's so trite...but as a Chinese philosopher said, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." You are well on your way.
    Charlene H.

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    1. Oh...and I have a huge beautiful purple Hibiscus syriacus in our front yard in Southern California.

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    2. Thanks, Charlene. I'm not sure I'd characterise our moving ahead as noble, but I will admit it took some conquering of fear, and I do think the pay-off will make that worthwhile.
      31 years in your home must mean that every corner is burnished with memories and you're lucky to have older family nearby -- it's hard to give beloved elders the care they need/deserve from a distance, and the worry about them can be crippling, no?
      How cool that you would then be thinking about taking on the idea of a new home, and even thinking about renovating a "fixer upper." Who knows, but you, if that takes too much energy for your age? Don't use my very particular example as a deterrent, please. I do think these decisions are so very individual and context-dependent. But then, who knows what new ideas you may come back from Espedaillac with this September?!
      And I do think that your quotation is very apt. One step at a time, really, is the best we can do.
      We're Hibiscus syriacus twins! ;-) (except that I'm moving away from mine)

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  6. I think this explanation is so sensible - and smart! My parents are in the process of moving towards retirement, selling properties and moving elsewhere and it's taking a real toll on them (they're 69). For the first time I see age in my parents and it's eye-opening. I wouldn't want to make that kind of transition in my 70s - I want to relax and travel and enjoy. Now is the time to embrace the moment and divest yourself of unnecessary responsibility. I think you will be very happy you have taken this step - and very comfortable, very soon.

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    1. It's so individual, and depending on what the move will entail, some people do it brilliantly in their 70s, even their 80s. But from this island, the move was always going to be tough, and we've watched both sets of parents go from family home to condo to coffin in the last ten years, and we learned what we wanted to do differently.
      Isn't it shocking, the first time you really see age in your parents? For me, it was when my mom was not so much older than I am now, and my dad's cancer had picked up the pace. She wasn't sleeping nor was she remembering to hydrate or to eat, and her face seemed to dissolve from one day to the next into a continuous fold of wrinkles. She did bounce back after that, but I still remember the initial shock of it.
      And yes, I'm ready to relax, travel, and enjoy! Soon! ;-)

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  7. Hi Frances, your feelings come through so clearly .....I admire you both for making this decision at this time and it seems that for all you are leaving, there is much to look forward to and be enthusiastic and excited about! :) I feel the one overwhelming positive here is that you and Pater seem to be in agreement and I imagine you both looking forward to the many advantages and new experiences, that city living will bring. I'm so glad you've been able to find somewhere with a sizeable patio/ terrace area .... and a fountain!
    I'm lucky that where I live is in walking distance of a lovely small town with great restaurants, bars, theatre etc that suits us now but will also work well as we get older. I hold on ( probably too tightly :) ) to the image of grandchildren in the house where our children grew up. I'm not in a rush for grandchildren, but that's how I picture the future. I also feel excitement at the thought of apartment living in London, Paris, Rome or any other beautiful, buzzy city! As well as living in a village in the Swiss Mountains ....I think you and I have discussed these desires on a previous post.
    There's only me, emotionally, holding on to the family home (although the children want us to keep it too) hubby would happily move, possibly downsize, where we live now and buy a property elsewhere or just travel more. Who knows? I feel happy and blessed and as long as we and our family are happy and healthy then Que Sera Sera ...whatever will be :)
    I think, as has been mentioned before, it's wonderful how we can care about and feel a connection to people that we've never actually met. Thanks for writing this blog Frances and bringing us together :)
    Take care and try to relax ... So glad to hear you're sleeping better ...me too!
    Rosie

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    1. You are very lucky! If I had a set-up like that, I would be very loath to leave. Why would you if you can manage the maintenance and if you can get about comfortably and independently. Perhaps you'll get a chance to live your dream of spending extended time living somewhere else, but how wonderful to do that with an anchor (would you ever consider doing a Home Exchange -- we did one, only for a month, many years ago with a family from France, and it worked very well)
      Thanks for all the kind words and good wishes.

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  8. Dear Mater, I am a long time reader, though seldom comment. I have been following your journey with great interest. My husband and I downsized 2 years ago and I can really understand all your feelings. It is a huge undertaking. We have had ups and downs but mainly positive results. I am 70 now and it was time to right size as my daughter described it. My biggest difficulty is living so close to others and their noise and unthinking behaviour. It is so important to learn to realise that you cannot change other people but must learn ways to cope. I admire you for your endeavours it will be so worth it In the end. So many of our friends have stayed in large houses and time has caught them out. Many kind regards from Scotland and good luck next week. Jean.

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    1. Thanks, Jean, for taking the time to comment today and for taking the time to read regularly. I like your daughter's term "right-size" -- I only hope we've found the right size, but time will tell, I suppose. Time will also tell whether we're able to adjust happily to living just through a wall or a ceiling or a floor from other residents. My husband isn't likely to be bothered by it, but I tend to be more sensitive to noise (oddly, since I'm mildly hearing-impaired). Having had the privilege of living independently, with a large buffer zone, all our lives, we will have to develop thicker skins. We've had some practice with that over the last ten or so years of having the city apartment, but escape has always been possible. Yours is very wise advice, and I will have to keep reminding myself that we "cannot change other people but must learn ways to cope." The kind words and good luck wishes are much appreciated.

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  9. Thank you for this very thoughtful and honest post, Frances! I am so sorry for the pain and stress that you've experienced (of course our problems are first-world problems but that doesn't make them any less real). I wish that all of us who have come to care so much about you could have helped you through this time.

    I've been traveling a similar path, in that 2 months ago I moved out of the lovely home that our family has lived in for 20 years. This happened 9 months into a very difficult divorce, and after my husband blocked me from moving out for 6 months. I rented a small house about a mile away, and my sons and I actually had to move out in a single day, while my workaholic husband was at work. It was such a relief for all of us to get away from him that I actually have had no feelings at all about leaving the house. But this is a time full of mixed emotions and uncertainty for me, too. The worst part, for me, is that my younger son will be going to college in the fall (I am 66 but had a very late surprise pregnancy).

    The difficulties of moving from your particular location are mind-boggling, and I knew while reading your posts that it had to be much harder than you were letting on.

    You were very wise to have faced the realities of aging head-on. I am struggling now with decision about what to do next - I would like to buy a small house, because I hate living in a rental that I can't change, but I'm wondering whether it makes sense to do this, given my status as a (soon-to-be) single, older woman.

    I am so glad that the worst is over for you!

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    1. Oh Marie, I'm so sorry you've had to go through such an uprooting, and even sorrier that the uprooting itself was a relief because of what had preceded it. Wonderful, though, that you've managed to achieve this in time to give your younger son an oasis of sorts before he goes off to college, wonderful that you managed it all in time that he knows you are more secure and content, so that he can settle into college. And wonderful that you are already looking ahead to future possibilities -- I expect you'll sit for a while with that decision. There are a number of older single women living very happily and independently on my little island, several of them in their 80s. In fact, a number of them were already in their late 60s and early 70s when they decided to move here, selling city homes and putting their real estate windfall into buying the island waterfront they'd always dreamed of. I do love knowing that realising dreams is still possible in our later decades!

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  10. You've been very honest & I would like to be equally honest .I am sure you are following the right path for you . City life with its cultural benefits will be invaluable to you both - plus having the family nearby . I'm just not a big city person - I need space around me , lanes to walk , nature to enjoy & wildlife to spot . Visiting cities is great for a while , city parks are very pleasant & I like having city facilities within easy reach , but I would sort of shrivel up living there . I don't like to see lots of buildings from my home or feel lots of people living around me . If we moved from here I would not be happy . I would rather gamble on another 10-15 good years here & accept whatever happens . But that's just me ! I'm pleased everything is falling into place for you .
    Wendy in York

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    1. Thanks for the honesty, Wendy. I'd hope for nothing less, seriously. Many people feel like you and would not be happy with an urban lifestyle and all its bustle. In fact, I'm quite nervous about how I will adjust to it on an all-day, every-day, all-year-round basis. We've lived in the city for years now, but only part-time, and always with this beautiful place to escape to, always with a huge, open vista to calm me.
      But I've tried to think this through, and we will be sure to incorporate Green Breaks into our lifestyle regularly -- not just hiking the local mountains and cycling to city green spaces but also week-long breaks at lakeside cottages we can easily rent. And if we really hate it in a few years, we'll have to try something different.
      For us, another 10-15 good years here would mean increasing difficulties in seeing our grandchildren regularly. It's just too much wear-and-tear getting to them. And it would also mean them having to do all the tough clearing-out and moving-out and waiting for the right buyer, etc. that we've had to do and that we had to help with for our parents. Not such a big problem if it weren't for the island logistics.
      So I thoroughly understand your preference, and I'm really glad you were honest enough to state it, especially since I expect it's shared by many readers. I even envy you being able to stay on where you are, and wish it had been in the cards for us. But since it's not, I'm going to check out city life and hope it's going to be a happy change. We shall see. . .

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  11. You and Pater are wise to plan for your older years now. It must be wrenching to leave your island paradise for a smaller city home. I re-read Duchesse's blog about ageing unevenly and it resonated with me. We really don't know what the next 10 years will bring. Changes in housing at 75 might or 80 might be catastrophic. We bought our apartment 20 years ago this summer because M.'s mood disorder prevented him from holding his previous administrative type of work. We had just become a domestic partnership and we felt that I could easily pay the mortgage with my teaching income. I have often felt sad that I could not have a house with a yard but that is how things worked out. We still have conflicts after 20 years about space but we manage. Amplifiers!!!! From your recent Instagram picture, it looks like you can see the light at the tunnel. Enjoy your red and take a deep breath. Good luck with the next stage!

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    1. That was a good post, that one of Duchesse's, wasn't it?
      We've had several friends lose their partners quite suddenly in the last year or two, and although I admire the single older women who maintain their independent island homes here, I know I wouldn't want to do that -- simply too much maintenance involved for one person, regardless of gender, what with septic pumps and gutters and tree-trimming and weeding . . . Nor would I have wanted to manage this move on my own.
      But I do worry about how the smaller space might pressure our relationship, and it's encouraging to know that even with the difficulties you've weathered, you've still managed for twenty years. We'll have to meet up once I'm in the city and compare notes. Thanks for the encouragement.

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  12. Yes, relocating is a one-year project (or more for folks who need more time to find the new home.) I remember that "click" when "sell the house" becomes a viable idea.

    "Aging in place" does not mean the •same• place in which we reared families, it means staying out of an institutional setting. We are now in a much better place for my husband's health, which took a hit right after the move.

    Your new place is simply spectacular and you have an enticing new vision. But for now, hugs and sympathy for what is a massive undertaking, one box at a time.

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    1. Thanks, Duchesse, your experience has been a good guide for me (as has the advice you gave me in that email early on in the process).
      You make such a good point about staying out of an institutional setting, not always possible, of course, but worth aiming at. Too many couples we've known have spent their last years together with one of them in a care facility and the other, exhausted, going back and forth to a house they haven't time to maintain nor the energy or time to even consider moving out of.

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  13. This is a wonderful discussion and provides so much food for thought. It seems the trick is to be ready for, and open to, that flash, flash, flash when it comes...to keep an open mind! With, hopefully, a reasonably good perspective on one's (and one's partner's, if that is the case)physical/mental/emotional/financial ability to sustain a particular lifestyle.

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    1. Elegant summary, Georgia -- thank you! Yes, I think that's probably why I wanted to share this experience. I wouldn't ever suggest that all retirees should move sooner rather than later, but in that moment I realised that was the best choice for us. I can't really explain how or why, but it freed me from sticking to a path I had somehow felt committed to, was reluctant to step off, but was becoming increasingly ambivalent about. The flash, flash, flash simply allowed me to glimpse a completely different possibility.

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  14. First of all, congratulations on finding your next home! That must be a huge relief, as a good part of the stress is not being able to visualise your new home and being unsure if it will all work out. It will. First world problems are every bit as stressful I think, so don't feel bad about that.

    You have obviously struck a chord here and this is a familiar dilemma we all face eventually. I admire you for making a decision and sticking to it, seeing it through, and am really looking forward to hearing about your adventures in the city and how you find the adjustment. I do hope the anxiety and stress you are enduring will soon be over, as you start the next chapter in your life.

    For myself, I am feeling rather flat now that we have decided to stay put. Probably the right decision in the current UK market, but not sure how much to invest in the house and garden, whether to plant the roses I love, paint the rooms the colours I have chosen. I guess I will just go for it and let the future take care of itself. One day at a time x

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    1. Thanks, Marianne. It really makes a huge difference, the new home, so that when we leave here on Monday, it's to something concrete rather than a leap of faith.
      I hope, and suspect, that once you've settled back into your decision -- which I know was tough to make but which really was carefully considered over time and from various directions -- you'll embrace the house and garden that you really do love, and you'll choose to plant beloved roses and to indulge yourself in the colours that make you feel happy. Really, those are relatively small expenditures of time, money, and energy compared to the pleasure they give -- and they will ultimately enhance your home's value when it does go on the market.

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    2. I love it that you take the trouble to make a really thoughtful reply to your blog friends. Much appreciated and thanks for the encouragement! Plans are going ahead for all the above now...

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  15. Not sure I've ever commented here before ...

    My nearly 95-year-old father-in-law moved here 2 years ago from Southern California. He is a remarkably resilient person, no longer as physically vigorous as he once was, naturally, but blessed with optimism and adaptability. We all had to adapt: He had to dismantle ~ 35 years of living there, and my husband and I had to weed out ~ 30% of our stuff to make room for him. And I kept saying, "Now is the time to do this; it will only get harder as we get older."

    Now, at 60, I'm laid up with a broken ankle, and having to hire someone to deal with yard care. Hmmmmmmm..................

    A note on city vs. country living: Back when my husband and I lived in an apartment in San Francisco, I'd be almost frantic to get out in the country several times a year. Spring and fall, particularly: I needed to see the change of seasons.

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    1. Welcome to the comments section, then, Jean, and thanks so much for taking the time.
      Your father-in-law sounds astonishing. I can't imagine making a huge move at 95. Wonderful that you have the space (or are willing to make the space) to accommodate him -- challenging but also potentially so rewarding to share these last years with him. And illuminating to see one version of very old age "up close and personal" -- 60 sounds positively youthful in comparison, broken ankle and all!
      I'm tucking away your note on urban vs. rural, and I'm going to be mindful of a need to build some antidotes in, right from the start. Often, when we plan a European stay, I like to sandwich a week or two in the countryside somewhere between intensely urban weeks in some wonderful city or other. Luckily, within each reach of Vancouver are many opportunities -- I'll just have to anticipate the need for wider vistas and plan for them.

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  16. Interesting post - thank you for your honesty! I just turned 60, and my husband and I still live in our 4 bedroom suburban home. I do love it, it's not a giant home, but larger than two people need, with a big yard that needs maintaining. I worry sometimes that the stairs might become a problem as we age, but I hope that won't be a problem for awhile. The main issue about moving for us is that, with the mortgage long paid off, it is actually cheaper to stay here than to move into a two bedroom condo. This leaves us with extra funds for the travelling we love. In addition, none of our children are really settled yet, and I would hate to buy a retirement place only to have them all move across the country. So we'll wait and see how it goes...

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    1. Our young families all seem to be fairly settled for a while, at least enough for us to make the move. I think you're wise to stay put until you see where yours will be and also to take advantage of the "free rent." Sounds as if you're in a different stage than we are and in a much more sustainable situation than our island home would have been longer term. As for the stairs, an argument can be made (at least, it's one I used to argue for our own) that using them regularly will keep you fit enough to keep using them and to keep doing many other things as well (and obviously, both you and I realise that there are conditions that could interfere with that fitness, but you'll likely have a good decade and a half of stairs not being too much of a problem, no?)

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    2. From your lips to God's ear, as they say!

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  17. Thank you for sharing your journey. Your reasons for your decision have really given me food for thought. You are totally correct that moving is difficult and it doesn't get easier after 60. I am 58 and plan to retire in about 6 months, husband retired about a year ago. We are fortunate to live in Vancouver in a half duplex (Kits since 1992). We love it but recognize the huge $$ locked in our house and the fact that it is 3 levels so may not be "aging in place" friendly. So we are considering Victoria, Vancouver island…
    Your idea of time to make the new place home really resonates.
    Have a lovely day!
    Suz

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    1. Wow! You are fortunate in having a half duplex in Kits. I can see why you're tempted to pull some equity out of that. Sounds as if you might have some new chapters in your story as well. . . Isn't it wonderful to have choices? If a bit intimidating. . . Funny that we might be crossing the Salish Sea in opposite directions, just as I'm getting to know you here on the blog. ;-)

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  18. I'm so sorry for the toll this process has taken on you, mater, but glad that you can see the end in sight. This was a really interesting post and I appreciate you sharing the story. (I think it was actually more interesting having been written in spurts over time, and seeing how the shape of the story changed, if that makes sense, than it would have been if you had just written and hit publish in one go.) I'm not in a phase of life to be contemplating a similar move but still your description of that flash of insight -- or, series of sub-split-second flashes -- about the life you wanted to lead really resonated with me. I'd be curious to know a bit more about your discussions with pater and how you actually came to the agreement about moving now. I recognized my own relationship in your description of your different ways of processing plans & concerns (not the particulars of the differences so much as the idea of them). For us, those differences frequently result in a kind of stasis, and stasis tends to generate those default decisions that we've been talking about of late. So I'd love to hear any insights about how to get around that.

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    1. Thanks Sarah, and don't worry about the toll on me. I'm sure I'll bounce back, but I didn't want to minimise the impact such a move can have, for those who are considering one and wondering about when to make it.
      I won't make any promises, but you've started me thinking about what I might be able to see how Pater and I came to the same decision from converging directions (he got there first, in some ways, but could also happily have waited longer if I'd needed more time).
      You say something very potent here: "stasis tends to generate . . . default decisions" -- really worth thinking about at any stage of life.

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  19. Waking in the night, or worse sleepless nights...so true. In the days, I could keep busy enough to push worries aside, which is why we made the move while both were still working flat out. I have moved frequently in my life--- changing schools often as a child, moving homes as an adult--- it's never easy but at least those moves felt like building for the future. It took me a while to realize this was no different: our home has shrunk but our family time is expanding. Ferrying to this island is becoming increasingly costly and time-consuming (my 12:50 ferry over to babysit the baby grands arrived at 3:15 last Friday, forcing my daughter in law to drive rush hour traffic). And beauty can be found everywhere; I'm looking forward to the explosion of dining, museums, galleries, theatres, markets, parks, festivals, shopping, etc., that will soon fill my life! And time for friends.

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    1. Ha, interesting point. Perhaps it would have been better to make at least part of this move while I was still working, although it's hard to imagine how I could have found the time. But it's true -- being busy helps to push the worries aside. .
      And another things you say that's very true is that family time does expand, surprisingly, at this stage of life. Cutting out commuting from island to mainland is going to be, we hope, a gift of time (something we didn't quite expect to be at such a premium during retirement, but is.) And yes, dining, museums, galleries, all those urban joys -- and time for friends! we should book lunch. . . ;-)

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  20. Wonderful post that I can certainly relate to. We live in suburban home with lots of steps and absolutely no way to come or go with a wheelchair or walker, both of which our parents needed at the ends of their lives. We know we want to move before we reach that point, but neither son and their significant other is settled yet, and our home is their anchor. In addition we have looked and looked and there are no town homes/condos in our town that we like. So the endless (and often tiresome) question is where to go and when. Do we simply pick a place we love, try to find a place near one of the sons and hope they stay put or continue to wait and discuss? In the meantime I keep going through closets and storage getting rid of unneeded items (my definition that does not always match my husband's views). Of course, then there is the need to decide on a retirement date. I always thought that the later years of my life would be easier at least until the aging process really begins, but we are finding that is not true. I just hope when the move happens we will make it with as much grace as you have.

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    1. Again, as with Murphy above, I think you're wise to wait until your adult kids settle before making a big move. Although if they haven't done that in five or ten years, maybe you might just please yourselves at that stage. I think you're also wise, in the interim, to keep eventual downsizing in mind and continue to cull, cull, and cull.
      Deciding on the retirement date was toughest for me, and I'd long imagined I'd work quite a few years more. But when it was time, I knew that if I valued my health, physical and mental, retirement had declared its own date.
      I remember thinking the same thing when I was young: that there would be no tough decisions or responsibilities. Perhaps it's just as well we were so naive, right?

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  21. I remember the conversation we had, sitting in your kitchen, where I suddenly understood exactly why you would move from 'this perfect spot'. It made perfect sense to me right then, that you would both be ready for the next adventure, and how it's a skill in life to know when something is finished, and to reach for the new. I actually cant quite grasp how stressful this must have been - I mean - I can - just enough to know that I can not really know..but it's going to be a brilliant life when the packing tape is all gone! I will miss you Frances, but I'm coming to visit!!

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    1. I remember that conversation so clearly -- I remember how satisfying it was to see you grasp exactly what I'd finally been able to articulate. You're such a good listener that I could take the time to think my way into an explanation that helped me really know this was the right move at the right time for me. Thank you -- everyone should be so lucky as to have an effective and empathetic realtor in her life.
      And if you're promising to come visit, let me get my calendar out! ;-)

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  22. Lots to chew on here, but yes, I get the reasoning. Changes like this are never easy, and I'm glad that much of the uncertainty is now behind you (that's really the worst part, isn't it?) though I'm sorry this process has been so rough for you physically and emotionally. Our house is at the point where it Needs Work, but our focus has shifted somewhat from Grand Projects to what-it-would-take-to-be-attractive-to-potential-buyers fixing up. We're not ready to make a move yet, too many variables and honestly I still love this house and am nowhere near ready to let it go. But in a few years, who knows? I'm already thinking about trying to slowly begin sorting through our 20 years of accumulated stuff and clearing out little by little.

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    1. If this house were in an urban neighbourhood, we wouldn't be moving to a condo now -- I'd stay put and enjoy, if I were you, now that you're retired and have a bit of time. I do think it's smart to start sorting through the "stuff" and making it easier to move when you get to that point.

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  23. I thought I had commented here, but clearly that was either imaginary or an iPhone manifesto that failed to, um, manifest;).

    I've been thinking a lot about the full term of one's life. I think a common approach is to aggressively try to live the life that's younger than you are. Now, that's a good thing if it keeps you happy, active, and from falling into crabby old lady territory. But it tends to make people bump into their old age unready for the demands of that time of life, and then the burden falls on others to pick up the pieces.

    So part of me is thinking a lot about how to find meaning in smaller days, to live the age I really am, and even to try to make the end of my life meaningful, not just as distant as possible.

    So I wholly understand your move. And congratulate you for the rapidity, which I assume was actually a symptom of competence and thoroughness, and, yes, sturdiness;). <3

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    1. Couldn't agree more -- and I know that watching our parents fail began the process of thinking about how we wanted to age. I suspect that caring for your mother right now might have something to do with your own current focus on "the full term of one's life." I remember that your mother was the same difference in age from you as mine was from me -- as mine moved to her end, it began to seem a very short span, and since then, I've run through three years of that.

      An older friend told me quite a few years ago of another friend, ten or fifteen years younger than her, but heading into her 50s, who had declared very emphatically that she "didn't believe in old age." Hmmmmm. What a shock then, as you suggest, when old age decides to convince one of its existence. Wiser, I think, to "try to make the end of my life meaningful, not just as distant as possible." And sturdy gals are up for it, right?! <3

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  24. Sorry I’m late again. Rushing in from a series of end-of-term meetings. It strikes me as very appropriate that your sudden flash flash flash should have come while thinking about planting a flower. It is all about nature, isn’t it? We cannot rush it (a flower will take its time), but we cannot stop it either (our own aging process). And there are (painful) moments when we see ourselves face to face with this reality and we know we cannot go on as before. I think the decision that you took is not only logical but (hopefully) very productive.
    I must confess that when you first mentioned the vague possibility of moving away from your island, it gave me a pang. “How can she leave that view behind?” was my first thought. But it seems obvious to me that you are doing the right thing and that you are doing it at the right moment.
    I am considering a similar step and in fact I’d prefer to take it sooner rather than later, but there are conditions I cannot change. I am a member of a group of people who are planning to build a block of condos, but municipal authorities and the owner of the lot keep us waiting. I do not want to give up my future neighbours, so there is no choice but to be patient. This time next year I’ll retire (at 65) and hope to see my new home take shape. It will be much smaller than my present flat (so I am already beginning to cull), easily accessible, and there will be a communal garden. I can still decide whether I want to be on the garden committee, or rather sit back and enjoy and let others do the planting…
    On the other hand, I am privileged, because there is always the cottage and garden by the lake which I share with my sister and her family. And when we are too old to look after it, there is the next generation to take over.

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    1. No need to apologise, Eleonore. Thanks for taking the time at the so-busy end-of-term time.
      It is all about nature, really, and your thoughts on this dovetail nicely with what Lisa says above about accepting the inevitability of aging and making meaning out of it (or better maybe, finding meaning in it)
      I just read a newspaper article about this model of buying/building a condo with a group of like-minded people. Actually, in the model that's just moving into possibility here, a group finds a developer/builder to work with and they pre-buy a block of condos within a building, so they might own 30% of a building -- and within their portion, they have common areas built so that they might have a communal crafts room, kitchen, guest suite, outdoor terrace, communal/allotment plots -- whatever that group thinks would enhance their condo life. I think it's a brilliant idea, and I'd say it will be worth the wait. Plus you are very privileged in having that lakeside property. Perfect! You are all set for retirement!

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  25. Also late commenting - I was one of your readers who read your post and went away to think about it. And because this has been such a very unusual week when time has moved differently, I discover that it's now not just one but several days later. With exquisite timing this post has come in the first week of my very early retirement from my university job of 29 years. The first step in a chain reaction that will take me to the stage you're at now in about 18 months. The decision was arrived at not in your flash-flash-flash, but in a slow, sure, growing certainty for both of us that where we are now is not where we need to be. Other commenters have talked about the uncertainty of 'where would be move to?'. Over the years we have realised, drip-drip-drip, that we need to return to the rural north east of Scotland where I was born. My husband had a fairly itinerant and boarding school childhood, and like me is a languages graduate (German and Swedish) and had thought that we might end up anywhere in Europe. But as a place to put down deep roots, to let out that sigh that says 'this is where I belong', we have come to realise that we are both at home in a small village of 1000 souls, in the heart of malt whisky country. We will return to the house my parents built in 1977 - larger than we have in Edinburgh and with much, much more garden. Countless conversations on the 4 hour drive back to Edinburgh, the slight sinking feeling on dark winter nights of seeing the orange glow of the central belt of Scotland begin to appear to the south. And then the pressures of both our jobs, neither of them done for love, and my growing physical, mental and emotional weariness especially. Neither of our children is settled, and they will boomerang home for a while yet probably, but both have been quick to tell us that it's the rest of our lives that we need to think about, not them. So with son still in his travelling in the Antipodes phase 3 years after graduation, and daughter graduating this month and then planning her 2 years of travel, a natural break opened up and I was the first of us to leap. Physically we are making the opposite move to you in all aspects, but the motivation is the same - to have time to enjoy and plunge in while we still have energy, and to know that the decision is the right one for us. You are going to wine bars and world cuisine and the latest theatre and a more compact property with divine balcony and rooftop terrace and I am going to bars with 500 whiskies and local Scottish cuisine and the theatre of the changing seasons and a house and garden that will be our gym, and each of us is right. I plan to retrain and to work again, (even using my French!), and my husband will also work up there, but it won't be the jangling, pressurised jobs that we had here.
    Your posts on this subject have helped me begin to prepare for what it will be like to move, and I can't thank you enough. They have presented thoughts and feelings that I realise I will encounter, and I can try to begin to arm myself against some of the wrench, because it will still be a wrench. Like you I am sturdy - a tennis coach in France told me I would be good at tennis because I was 'costaud' - but leaving the garden, and the city where we brought up our children, and being an Edinburgher, and having that stonking great castle as the backdrop to daily life, and yes, the way the light falls through the living room window...

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    1. What a wonderful decision to have made -- your retirement will truly begin a new adventure for you, and such a comforting and rewarding one, bringing you back home.
      I love what you say here: "Physically we are making the opposite move to you in all aspects, but the motivation is the same - to have time to enjoy and plunge in while we still have energy, and to know that the decision is the right one for us. You are going to wine bars and world cuisine and the latest theatre and a more compact property with divine balcony and rooftop terrace and I am going to bars with 500 whiskies and local Scottish cuisine and the theatre of the changing seasons and a house and garden that will be our gym, and each of us is right."
      Yes! This is it! We will all make different decisions about how and where to live out our next few decades, but as long as we're thoughtful and realistic and we pay attention to the drip-drip-drips and perhaps the flash-flash-flashes as well, we will all be right. (by the way, before I got to the flashes -- which told me it was time NOW, I'd had the drip-drip-drips that told me what we would do when it was time)

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  26. I read this post initially, and meant to come back to it, and now here I am, later than expected. My days are so much slower, and yet I don't get back to things. I think this is worth embracing and I understand your choice, and think you will find good things you hadn't imagined.

    Oddly, I recently realized that I will not be in this house all that much longer, a year, two, three at the outside. I had a plan but I waffled. A new house came on the market that I adored though, perfect in every way, except that even though I know I will move eventually, I am not ready now and the stress was palpable.

    I think we have to listen to these inner voices. I wasn't planning to move to Tennessee when I did, but when it presented itself I knew it was the thing to do. You have to listen to your inner voice. I know I'll move again, but I am not ready, and I will do more planting, even though I wont' see things mature, but I'll try not to go too far off the deep end into my own vision. Your garden story resonated for that reason, and yet there is something in me that needs to finish this before I move. I can't explain it, it just is.

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    1. Mardel, glad you came back to this. I'm so glad that you recognise that I'm not advocating anyone move NOW just because I came to the point of knowing I needed to. Like you, I knew for some time that such a move was going to be necessary and I just couldn't have done it earlier and so much good came in those last years on the island. We invested time, energy, and $$$ in our home and garden even knowing that we would be leaving it before long, and I don't regret that at all (my beautiful ice-cream-coloured beach chairs!). But I'm glad I was able to hear my inner voice so clearly last summer and that I mustered the strength to follow its direction. Discernment is all and it can be tough. You seem very good at it!

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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