Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A Funny Thing Happened at the Dentist's Office . . . The Realities of a Big Move

When I was back on the island a couple of months ago, taking that two-day drawing course with my friend Alison, I bumped into numerous friends and neighbours from our 20+ years there. Fielding questions about how we're liking the move, I realised I needed to reframe my response. Because I was not immediately enthusiastic but rather trying to assess carefully and honestly reflect the moving process, I recognised that I was probably being perceived as negative about the move, as if I was regretting having made it.

Instead, the reality is that moving is hard, as are most big changes for most people; we're still adjusting and some days are tougher than others. Wanting to represent the complexity of the experience more accurately yet positively,  however, I changed my response to include the fact that we went into this knowing that it would be difficult; to stress that we made the move when we did so that we could manage the difficulties at a time when we both still enjoy good health; that our timing also honoured our hope that we could build a new nest and a new lifestyle with a good chunk of life in which to savour those; and most importantly, that while we might not have arrived at maximum contentment yet, mindfulness is guiding us to note, moment by moment, the riches that surround us now, large and small, rather than to regret (and falsely idealise) what we've left behind.

All good, right?

I thought so. The only way to move, after all, is forward, and given all the privilege in my life and the choice I've been able to exercise, being pragmatically positive seems the wisest, healthiest option. So I firmed up that narrative and carried on. Gardening on the terrace as spring advanced slowly; meeting friends old and new for drinks or lunch or coffee; spending more time than ever, in less commute-costly ways, with the grandchildren (it was always a delight to have them as house guests on the island, but being able to have an hour visit at their place and then walk home has its charms, I must say!); working with a new Personal Trainer and building up my running mileage again over new routes; and reading and writing a few hours each day. . . . overall, life has been very good, although I do sometimes still wake at 3 a.m., thinking I hear waves or a foghorn as if I were in my old bedroom, and wonder, Why?. . . .

But in the light of day, I know this move has been a good decision, and I know this condo is well on its way to being a very cosy nest.
A little leavening to all the prose -- my Illustrated Journal entry for yesterday, when I was trying to distract myself from an afternoon dental appointment with a trip to VanDusen Botanical Garden. . . where the skunk cabbage were still blooming


Which is why I was so very surprised, in the dentist's chair a couple of weeks ago, to find tears scrolling across my cheeks and into my ears underneath the large dark glasses the hygienist had asked me to wear as she scraped and prodded and polished my teeth. Involuntary tears that seemed to well up from nowhere, but a nowhere that had a very deep reservoir. I'd dab at them, trying to be discreet, but my eyes would just keep oozing. Actually, I need a verb much closer to "gushing." "Flow" will do, I suppose, if rather on the cliché side of things.

Arguably, it shouldn't be surprising that I might be apprehensive at a new dentist's, even upset. I've found new professionals and service providers nearby to replace, one by one, all those stalwarts I sought out over twenty-five years in our last community, hair stylist, GP, physio, pedicure painters, and yoga teachers. Gradually, I've begun building trust in these new names and faces, and in some ways these changes have brought renewal, invigoration to important care-structure relationships that might have grown stale.  But I'd stalled on finding a new dentist.

Childhood memories of a 50s-60s dental office, so many cavities filled under a regime that measured anaesthetic very grudgingly, those sparkling, tinny rings we chose from a tray at the end of each swollen session not quite compensation enough. . . . those memories kept me away from any dentist at all for a couple of dangerous years in my early 20s. I was brought back into the fold by a root canal, necessitated by my negligence, but fortuitous in being at the hands of a dentist whose office my sister managed. He was so gentle and respectful that I learned to trust, and since then, through two moves, I've been lucky enough to find two subsequent dentists, similarly kind and competent and watchful of my responses. My last dentist looked after all four of my kids through to their early adulthood -- when my son was about six or seven, he puzzled me once by speaking of his friend, Rob. I couldn't think of whom that could be, until my son, becoming a bit impatience at my slowness, repeated, "My friend, Rob, you know, Rob the dentist." Ha! In my mind, as a child, "friend" and "dentist" were two words that did not go together. . .

I'm not sure how many root canals and crowns and fillings and reconstructions of fillings Rob's taken me through, even an extraction a couple of years ago, with an implant our next potential project together. So I'd thought it might just be better to stick with him as a dentist, making an excursion over to his office ever six or nine months or so, coordinating it with visits to friends -- after all, it's only a three-hour trip. Each way. If I take my car (okay, so a $90 fare each way as well) and if there's not a big line-up, as there often is, early spring through mid-fall. . . .

Gradually, I conceded that plan wasn't such a realistic one, and I began to feel pressure from the calendar in my head that told me I'd passed the nine-month mark since my last exam and cleaning.  Pater already has a dentist here from the years he worked in the city, but his guy only does one day a week now and isn't taking new patients. Plus, looking forward, it's smart to bring as much of the service stuff of our lives within walking distance, I think.  Which also ruled out our daughter's dentist, well-loved by them but a 25-minute drive away. So after a bit of research on-line, there I was, a few weeks ago, in a small, bright office in a strip mall five or six blocks away. A friendly enough receptionist, but not one who knew me when I was a 30-something Mom, not one whose twins I'd ask about.

The chairs in the waiting room were comfortable enough, although not the same quality as the ones at Rob's. And the clinic itself reflected our proximity to "inner-city" conditions, so much different than the nearly smug, muted, sub-division, suburban insularity of my last one,  as reflected in its name, Lakeside. In that previous clinic, I didn't have to ask to use the washroom -- there was one reserved for patients, just off the waiting room. In the newer one, the receptionist was happy to walk me through the necessary doors to a washroom which was, wisely enough, not accessible for easy use by homeless people or, worse, drug addicts who might otherwise be drawn to it.  In the old one, a respectful hush prevailed, and any billing issues kept relatively private thanks to an ample distance between the waiting-room's black leather couches and the fairly long, deep, chest-high, counter of the reception area. Not so in the new, where I became, each moment, aware of the privilege I had long enjoyed. And now was aware of having relinquished.

Perhaps that was one source of the tears, my lost privilege, and if so, perhaps I should be too embarrassed to share that with you. But I suspect it's more complicated than that -- the tears were probably part "parasympathetic nervous-system" response, simply a letting-go of tension I wasn't entirely aware of. They were probably also about that gap between privilege and non-privilege, those of us who have dental care at all, of course, being privileged no matter what clinic we receive it in, but yes, I've crossed a gap that used to protect me much more from an everyday awareness of social injustice.

At the simplest and most obvious level, though, I'm pretty sure those tears went to deeper sorrows about what we've/I've left behind: the care of young children's emerging molars, their adolescent braces removed long ago now; the privilege and security of being known and liked and respected as I move through my days, all those comforting cumulative interactions with community, superficial in many ways and yet through years of exposure providing a depth that will not easily be rebuilt here; the ease of knowing where the washrooms are without having to ask -- the washroom being a synecdoche, of course, for all those little knowledges that make our daily logistics easier (where are the cream and sugar in the café? is there free parking nearby? is that a one-way street? what time does that shop open?).

The tears continued, disturbingly, throughout most of the cleaning, and were somehow invigorated by the dentist coming over to introduce herself. I apologised to her and to the hygienist, explained it had nothing to do with either of them, nor was it going to be typical of my visits in future. Then, just when I thought I had the crying (which at one point was threatening the accompaniment of a sob or two) under control, we were done, and I went through the doors back into the reception area where Pater was waiting. And, of course, the tears started up again, under the sympathetic eye of the very kind, young receptionist. I went ahead and booked my next appointment, though, and I've consoled myself that at least I've made some big inroads into ensuring that they know me, now, at my new dentist's office. And, despite the embarrassment of that appointment, that's a privilege I will enjoy,
going forward.

You might like to know that I cancelled that appointment once, just wasn't ready to sit through a filling at the hands of a new dentist who only knew me through my tears. But yesterday, I followed through, sat in that chair, had small cavities cleaned out and filled in two of my wisdom teeth -- and I learned that my new dentist (and her assistant)  seems to be as kind and respectful and competent as my last one. With any luck, perhaps I'll have another twenty years to confirm that opinion; I'll also be confirming the wisdom of moving to a new community of caregivers now, while I still have the strength to sustain the many challenges of the change, rather than leaving it until later when I may have less control over the process, never mind less time left to enjoy the eventual benefits. 

So I've circled back to the questions my friends and former neighbours were asking me a few months ago: How do I like our new urban life here in Vancouver? And my honest answer would still have to be that I like aspects of it very much, and there are other elements that are still challenging. It's exactly as tough, in fact, as I anticipated it would be, and exactly as worthwhile, although sometimes the toughness pops up in surprising ways -- tears in the dentist's office -- and the "worthwhile" can surprise as well -- the French text messages from my tutor pinging a Bonjour as I ride the Skytrain. 

What about you? If you've ever made a big move (or perhaps just one that felt big), were you surprised at what you found difficult? Were you ever ambushed by tears at realising you'd left a favourite restaurant or hairstylist or dentist or whatever behind? If you think there might be such a move in your future, what do you think you might find hard to replace in your support/service community? Or are you among those who won't have to leave that community or those who will fight leaving it until the last possible moment? And one last question: how much have you thought about the privilege you've enjoyed where you are, how much that might be threatened by a move, and how you might handle that threat?

Big questions, I know, but I do think these are questions we might think about at this "certain age." And the more we think about them, arguably, the more control we might have about the quality of our next several decades. So let's talk, okay?

61 comments:

  1. On your feelings about your move, I can empathize. We are preparing a move this summer that will see us (hubby + 2 kids) move from a downtown Toronto condo to a suburban (spacious) house and we are very conflicted about it. We are making a huge lifestyle change. We have loved living downtown and enjoy all the benefits of an urban lifestyle, walking everywhere, soaking up arts and culture and other experiences that are so easy when you are in the middle of it all. Though we will still be on the subway line and public transit will be easily accessible, it will not be the same as living downtown. So, we're giving up some things in order to gain others (mainly, more space) and once we are settled I'm sure it will all be fine. But I do share your feelings about moving. It's a huge upheaval in one's life and I have caught myself coming across as negative when I have shared the news with friends and family lately. Ultimately, life is about compromises and figuring out the costs/benefits to each situation. Thanks for writing so eloquently about your experience. --Helen in Toronto

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    1. I suspect you'll love that extra space, Helen -- I know I did, and I found the suburban lifestyle worked well for the seven years we did that. Before that we were seven years in a small town (17,000) 90 miles from the nearest other small town, and I surprised myself by loving that as well. And our island community and lifestyle as well. As you're preparing to, we gave up some things to gain others, and we've learned something about ourselves and our values in each home, each lifestyle. Change is un-settling, and I think that's a good thing, as is Settling Back Again. Good luck with it all. Thanks so much for commenting today.

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  2. I think you have coped amazingly the last year. Yes I can very much see your plus sides, but what you left behind must have been hard. My dentist of thirty years moved to new premises a year ago and just visiting her new offices was bad enough. Victorian grandeur to ultra modern, soulless, windowless space. Very hi-etc tho.
    So many of my 60plus friends are talking about the big move before they are too old, especially those living in country spots not served by a bus. Fortunately we are on a regular route to town so hopefully no need to move. B x

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    1. Victorian grandeur is nice, but I do love hi-tech at a dentist's office ;-)
      You are fortunate in having your lovely home so well situated that you won't need to move. Probably some good planning went into that good fortunet as well . . .

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  3. I was widowed at 34. Much of that time is a blur, but I do have a clear memory of visiting my hairdresser for the first time post loss. It is always awkward to talk with a peripheral friend after a death. They often do not know what to say, and I often found myself in the weird position of comforting them in their unease. As he began to cut my hair tears began to stream down my cheeks. I was not crying over the loss of my husband- rather the touch of the hairdresser's hands on my head unleashed something primal. I had not been touched in the 6 weeks since my husband died. My hairdresser's innocent combing and styling of my hair reminded me of the sensory deprivation lack of a loving touch brings. It is one of the clearest memories of that time in my life. Thinking about it still resonates.

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    1. Oh, BG, that's so much more profound a loss to have lived through than my move, obviously, and thank you so much for sharing it here. I wonder if this is a fairly common experience for those caregivers/service providers/medical professionals who cross the physical space we normally maintain as a social boundary. My daughter's a Registered Massage Therapist, and I know she does occasionally end up with a client in tears on the massage table.

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  4. I have no doubt your tears were related to the changes in your life, no doubt at all. But there is something about the dentist chair - or the hairdresser - as noted above that makes me personally feel so vulnerable and close to emotion. I am very dentist fearful so my very kind dentist lets me have nitrous at my visits and listen to music and last appt the song Landslide by Fleetwood Mac came on, a song I had never though much about, but suddenly every word resonated with me
    Can I sail through the changin' ocean tides?
    Can I handle the seasons of my life?
    Well, I've been afraid of changin'
    'Cause I've built my life around you
    But time makes you bolder
    Even children get older
    And I'm getting older, too

    Oof. I was weeping under my dark glasses but my hands couldn't get out to wipe the tears away. I left the dentist an emotional mess and honestly have been steeling myself to go back. It's funny.
    But I am interested and "enjoying" your reflection on the implications of making such a big move and the ripple effects.

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    1. Ah yes, I should have read your comment before responding to Buffalo Gal's . Like you, I feel very vulnerable at the dentist, although not so at the hairdresser's. But there's clearly something about leaving that normal border unguarded. Off now to play that song -- or, at least, to listen to Fleetwood Mac singing it--it's already been playing in my head since I read your words. So very apt. Changes.... Oh, and you don't need me to tell you this, but don't wait too long to get back to the dentist. I learned that lesson the hard way, over four decades ago.

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  5. I wouldn't have thought a post about a dentist could be so very poignant & bring about equally poignant comments , such as Buffalo Girl above . I hope we don't have to move from our much loved home of forty years . It isn't that big , we can walk to a shop & we have good buses & a train service nearby ,but it may still be necessary in time . If so ,I will thank my lucky stars for my time here , grit my teeth & get on with it .
    Your post was very moving
    Wendy in York

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    1. Thanks, Wendy, glad you enjoyed the post, and yes, I'm impressed already at the comments it's elicited. I hope you don't have to move either. But I like your attitude of being grateful for the time you've had there already. We do the same thing -- in fact, when we told my sister and BIL we were planning to put the house on the market, the first thing he said was "Well, you've had a great couple of decades there" -- and we repeated that to ourselves a few times throughout the moving challenges. We were very lucky.

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  6. Funny, I've been thinking about privilege and what it means to be a "comfortable"
    retiree. Here I am in the 9th week of my stay in Oaxaca. The cockroaches appear sometimes in the night (not great if you are a 3 am waker) and the water is definitely smelly and not potable. But I am able to try out lots of different places in the world and to go home to a secure lifestyle. Monsieur and I are both healthy and are able to follow our interests. Because of circumstances, we chose to buy our apartment
    in our forties with the idea of ageing in place. While I've been away, Monsieur has gone for dinner and movies with the neighbours. We often have neighbours wanting to "borrow" our dog. The parking lot garden is ready for spring planting when I get home and the Victoria Day pool opening party will happen. In the last few weeks, I have learned of 2 people in their 60's who have been diagnosed with forms of cancer(one terminal). In times of loss of a partner, the support of community is so important.

    We are all in transition all of the time. As we age, and I think that the ageing seems to have sped up somewhere around 64, it will take strength to face the challenges.

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    1. You were wise to set up an ageing-in-place situation while still in your forties, although I don't regret our years on the island at all. As you say, we're always, all of us, in some form of transition, and I hope before long we'll enjoy some of the kinds of community you've built over the years. Staying in Oaxaca -- as well as the other kinds of travel you've done -- keeps your perspective on privilege well honed, I know...

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  7. All the reportage since deciding to retire with the subsequent sale/move/relocation appeared seamless and facile. By contrast, the voice of this post has a raw authenticity.
    We need to grieve.
    Why wouldn't it be overwhelming to forfeit a place, a lifetime lived raising children in a beloved home, no matter how soundly reasoned?
    We feel how we feel.
    The reality of those feeling is that unexpectedly they come to ambush and it doesn't matter where you're sitting that moment.
    The navigation of these moments are easy for some to shake off, while others, wanting to get to the heart of knowing, pry at these incidents that resemble a gash that refuses to heal, opening up from time to time. sometimes, one just wants to go 'home'.
    Having relinquished a beloved home now for many years, it's clear that it was only partially about the house. More, it's a deeper issue of aging and change. What the house and the neighbours symbolize is the fullness of mastering adulthood. The satisfaction of building family and career is heady stuff, brimming with joy and foment.
    If one is prone to thinking, there is no way around the distaste of aging. Often the first glimpse is a disquiet, a feeling of redundancy of retirement. Next we begin to lose the generation ahead of use, that underpinning gone to their graves.
    Then there's the creeping reality that our position with our children shrinks like fruit: once sweet, now old and small. ouch. (...and really, to give it to them, we were just that way with our parents)
    -so that's normal.
    What truly vexes is taking up our place on the downside of the mountain climb.
    All those years are so over. Our way 'back there' is barred irrevocably. there is no way out of that whether we stay in our houses or not. I know now that our previous joys are best left where they lived.
    Quite frankly, I'm all for being angry that we're mortal but it is what it is, that morphing happens with or without our permission.
    The best is to weep and grieve as often and as loudly as is needed. Grieving ends if we let it live out its' messages. Even The Queen wept when she was forced to retire HMY Britannia. She didn't cry for the boat. She cried for the years.
    Do I believe in stages of grief? maybe. maybe not. Now I see it more like holding the string on the helium balloon of our past. There eventually comes a time where holding that string loses its point and you let it go.
    Would I go back to my beloved home if The Universe said: 'here, you can be there again, right now'
    Not a chance.
    It's so great to go on a new road, just it's part of the journey to trod the sometimes circuitous roads in between, with the tears, that connect to it.
    Giulia

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    1. I'd disagree with your first, rather sweeping, sentence, but that might just make me look defensive after being slammed with a word like "facile." Honestly, though, if you read carefully through my last year of posts, there are many signals that the move wasn't seamless, that I've grieved over it. I absolutely agree with you that acknowledging loss is important -- I don't agree that I need to do that here, though, nor do I always want to. You perhaps can't imagine how long it takes to write a post like this one, and for me, it's simply not sustainable to put that time and emotional energy here very often.
      As well, I feel pretty strongly that for me, at least, life mixes it all together. For me, the facile, if that's what you'd insist on calling it, is necessary, is part of the whole. The moments of respite are real, are many, are often, and are satisfying and beautiful and uplifting along the way. I don't think it's one or the other. I think it's okay for me to find relief from sadness in small, simple pleasures. I think it's okay to push the memories back down when I'm not sure I can get through the day if I dwell on them. I think that for me, it's not just okay, but necessary, to Fake it until I Make it, and to be as positive and as pragmatic as I can about this new reality.
      And that's not dishonest nor is it a hardship. There is genuine excitement about the new here, and I'd feel significant loss if we somehow had to move back to the island.
      Again, thanks for the obvious engagement and passion of your comment.

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    2. @ Guilia: I am not used to seeing your comments here, so I am guessing you missed the many posts exploring materfamilias's ambivalence and then, when the decision was made, wrenching emotions that included mourning, and a solid case of "the thrumps". Perhaps those of us who have sold a beloved family home of many years for a move to a new city could see past the more mundane details; the sadness is there if you read closely.

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  8. Would I go back? No, there were good and valid reasons to move.
    If I think of moving to Switzerland. The first time I was very young, it was exciting, still at the world is my oyster stage.
    The second time was harder (to leave a house and garden and cat) but I made the most of Swiss opportunities.
    The third time was hard! A lot like getting thru a dental appointment.
    And then the relief of coming home!
    Since then we moved from city to country and back to the city.

    And still after two and a half years, settling in, sorting things out, making a new, or not so new, life.

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    1. Yes! I've been thinking about how much difference there is between this move and our three earlier ones, two of which involved significant distance and change (although not across country or language, as yours).
      I don't remember it being particularly difficult to find a new doctor, dentist, hairstylist, etc., in our first move -- I was 27, with two young children who offered instant connection with a community of moms, and by a month in, I had a viable social life and a support network that got me through the next seven years. And then, doing it all again in a new place, I was very confident about having the skills to do it all over. . . and again, with four kids this time, the parenting connections came very quickly.
      It looks as if you're settling in rather well, and so many life experiences to mull over. . .

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  9. Though my cause of tears was not a big life change, I was totally surprised by how I was reduced to mush. I had to say "So long" to my class of eighth graders whom I had grown to adore this past year. I have left the school year early due to impending surgery and I realized how much this group of students had grown and changed since I met them in kindergarten so many years ago. Several of them gave me strong hugs, especially one boy who looked me straight in the eye and exclaimed that I was the best teacher he ever had. As you may remember, this year has been a difficult one for me-frustrations over issues I had no control over that affected my classroom. But at one point during the winter I decided "Screw the administrators, I'm going to have a good time with these kids because they are amazing." Once I had that mind shift, great things happened, particularly with this group of students. So, like you, I think there was a reaction to the new reality, the sadness of loss, joy at the relationship created with these young people, and a little anxiety about the future...I have more thoughts about the concept of privilege that you have address so well, but I have written enough. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas through your blog. I do so enjoy it. Carol in VT

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    1. I do remember this, Carol, and I admire you very much for putting aside your frustration with administration and concentrate on your relationship with your students. After the intensity of those connections, I'm not surprised you're crying. I hope the upcoming surgery goes well and that your convalescence is as quick and well-supported as possible. Take care.

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  10. It's been more than a decade since we left our large house and garden in Vermont and moved to a condo in Montreal, augmented by a studio in a converted factory. I don't regret the move, for many reasons, and I'm glad we did it in our 50s. What I miss most is space, and the privacy of a detached house that was all ours. The people I cared most about have stayed friends, and our new providers are good. But in spite of having adapted well, I still have language issues and feel like an outsider in a foreign culture, which I am, and when I have to navigate something "new", which still happens a lot in this big city, I sometimes have to steel myself. There is a loneliness and vulnerability I didn't feel before -- but some of that is an effect of aging, and actual and anticipated loss. It was harder to move than we realized, in many many ways, but it was right for us -- it just isn't black and white, and the challenges continue, especially when you move to a foreign country with a different language. So...empathy!

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    1. I so relate to missing the space and privacy of our detached house. And not just privacy but autonomy. . . and never any secondhand smoke. . .
      And I've never lived the vulnerability of life in a different language for more than a couple of months at a time, and travel is simply not the same. Feeling like an outsider when at home must be profoundly different. I'm also finding that "the people I cared most about have stayed friends" -- I don't know how long that will continue, but for now it's sustaining, and I had somehow discounted the possibility. Thanks for sharing your impressions and, especially, for the empathy. Good company ;-)

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  11. You are moving forward into uncharted territory....there are bound to be tears.
    Dentists and visits to them also bring back childhood memories...our dentist was rather rough with our teeth and my sister and I still have fears bubble up in the dentist's chair...thankfully my newest dentist is a gem. He is kind, gentle, compassionate and very patient with me.
    My husband and I moved from Victoria to Vancouver when he went to school...I worked at UBC and knew no one...I had to rely on the kindness of my coworkers to help me carve out a social life while my husband studied all hours...it felt lonely and I missed our family and friends...we were living so frugally that phoning long distance was just not in our budget...emails and texting make it so much easier to keep in touch nowadays.
    Keep your chin up and embrace all the new things that you are cultivating.
    XO

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    1. That move to Vancouver would have been tough when you were young and on a tight budget, especially since Victoria as home was where you must both have known you wanted to get back to. You're obviously someone who takes great comfort in a strong sense of place and home and you've provided that stability for your family for so long now.

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  12. Your words brought up so many emotions. That feeling of not knowing anyone in a new town, of finding my way to grocery store, doctor, dentist. How uncomfortable it feels to not be known.
    Like many of our generation, early dental experiences were dreadful, with rough treatment and no sympathy. My mother recently told me that the dentist wouldn't allow her into the treatment room and she could hear us whimpering and crying and could do nothing about it. The dentist was the only one they could afford. To this day, in spite of much more effective pain control and gentle treatment, a visit to the dentist fills me with dread for days beforehand. The mouth is such a vulnerable part of the body and allowing sharp tools and unknown, untrusted hands seems like a violation of sorts.

    Moving leaves one feeling vulnerable in a different way. It takes a surprisingly long time to feel completely "at home" in a new situation.
    Such a thoughtful post that brings up all sorts of emotions and thoughts that need sorting.
    I read recently that any choice is a renunciation. In choosing to do one thing, one renounces an alternate decision. Moving is a renunciation of one way of living in order to embrace another. And loss is a part of that.
    Little by little. You are being intentional and the adjustments will come, in time.

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    1. You've done some big moves with your family, and I know you've done some thinking about the privilege that goes along with that. At some level, I think I'm gratified at throwing in my lot with a different bit of humanity for a while, but oh yeah, to embrace this urban lifestyle, there's a renunciation of a lifestyle I also loved. Thanks for the encouragement. I am doing my best to "be intentional," and I do think I'll get there. In time.
      Sounds as if we might almost have shared a dentist -- one of my sisters bit his thumb once. We all savoured that anecdote.

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  13. I had to go and make a pot of coffee before I could reply to this. I think a lot of it is to do with reaching a certain stage in one's life - and realising it is finally here. In early 1990, we moved from London, a small flat, ridiculously cheap in a beautiful part of the city, and headed off to the north-east of England, to a town I had never thought of before the job appeared. Overnight, I went from urban, attractive, lots of friends to...Darlington. This might mean little to you but the shock was profound. I felt completely marooned but knew that this move was right if we were to do the next phase in our lives: marriage, kids, home of our own. For the following four years - marriage, two children, another move - I continued to feel marooned. Surrounded by incredible rural loveliness, two children, first home, I still missed a part of me that was gone forever. You can spend a lot of time telling yourself how very lucky you are but still be sick of the sight of sheep and hills. We have made more moves since and are happily settled in Yorkshire, where we have lived for over 20 years. But there is still a tiny bit of me that hankers for something that no longer exists, physically, mentally, spatially. The question now is: what next?

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    1. No time to write more just now other than to say...gosh....Darlington!

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    2. Quite. It was simply unremittingly ugly and I had never seen so many perms in my life. Mind you, if you ever want to have a baby, the local hospital is wonderful. Lovely staff, kind and friendly. Bit of a way to go, however.

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    3. I think I've done that bit, thanks. Both the 1980s perms and the babies...

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    4. Yes. Our first move was something like that, but it turned out to provide a very friendly community (although the turnover was horrendous at first, with many just moving through as a career stepping-stone, doing two-year stints and then off). Not too many perms, though. They did have a good maternity department at the hospital. Hmmm, wonder if that's just coincidence ;-)

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  14. What beautiful,deep emotions and memories your post has "provoked". Sometimes I think some of us need to be just that-provoked-to gather swirling thoughts and feelings about life's big shifts.You are a natural teacher, Frances, that is easy to see: 2 years post classroom and you are still illiciting answers or discussion about big questions. So many moving comments here. Thank you everyone.
    My move to London from Maine 6 years ago followed a decade long plan to live here, at least part of the time, by age 50. Immigration be damned, I was going to find a way. Little did I know falling in love with an English man would provide a different route, although never a thought that a man would be a part of my plan.
    From small town of 5,000 to an urban setting has suited me so well.Can not imagine going back.
    Adjustment, otherwise, has been fairly easy following a hideous,very,very expensive and very highly intrusive process of immigration that went on for 2 to 3 years. Now it is over, immigration and I view each other warily....I contribute with work, volunteer and pay my taxes and they treat me less harshly each time I enter the UK from time away.
    Finding new services for self-care has been solid for awhile and an easy adjustment...massage therapist, hair stylist and manicurist, herbalist? All sorted now.
    But two big adjustments for me have been realizing that joining in on medical services, for even a check up at the GP through the NHS would be a frustrating nightmare in sweaty wrestling to even get a doctor's appointment or to see the same doctor twice about a concern. In small villages in the UK maybe not a concern, but in South East London, a huge concern for me and ALL I know in the catchment area of the South East London Trust.
    Not an insult to the NHS or the British way of life, but an observation of someone who wants a collaborative, preventative based relationship with their doctor. I don't count on the NHS for anything and frankly am afraid to from the horror stories I see around me and my early, truly unpleasant experiences here when I hoped to rely on them only when needed. Instead, I spend my hard earned money on private heath insurance and a private doctor who I can actually have a conversation with. Yes, that is privileged, but also a very conscious choice to spend less on that and that and that, so I can have this.
    The only other adjustment has been one that I can laugh about now after recently meeting a fellow American at a party. I asked her what her biggest adjustment was when she emigrated 25 years before. Customer service,she said, then and now, still.
    Once more, no disrespect to any British people reading here, but the customer service approach and ethos and method and resolution are so different to what I am accustomed to as a person who has worked hard their entire life and simply wants to pay to get things done, or bank without hassle, or get the cable TV fixed without a song and a dance and lots of waiting around for it *not* to happen. Truly, emphatically, this has been my biggest adjustment. I hate the phrase "first world problem" but, indeed, this does fall into a category like that, I suppose. But it is an honest answer to what a big move required when acustomed to being self- employed for decades and making things happen and getting things done without big spoonfuls of irritation.
    Wow, Frances, you and everyone here, give me much food for thought. Especially appreciated the comment about grief of all sorts must wend the way to a conclusion; to feel it all, until you feel in no more, or less. As Eric Clapton says in a song relating to grief, "Ain't no easy way 'round".
    No,no,no disrespect intended at all. An honest questioned asked, and my honest answer about the adjustment of a big move. Especially one into another culture. Can not imagine leaving this urban environment drenched in green space,art,music or the River Thames, along which much of my life is centered.
    A.in London

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    1. Thanks, A., for the kind words.
      I have some sympathy with your frustration with the NHS -- if you're used to being able to get, and don't mind paying for, a certain level of healthcare, I imagine there's little incentive to throw in with a more beleaguered system. From my family's perspective, very working-class, NHS was a boon that brought healthcare to those who would have done without. And luckily, it wasn't too many years after my dad moved to Canada and started his family that we got a decent public health system here -- not sure how they would have raised us, otherwise, honestly.
      You see the tradeoffs you've made clearly, and it's obvious that the scale comes down in favour of your adopted home -- that's what I want as well, I guess, an "urban environment drenched in green space, art, music" -- I'll just have to do without the River Thames ;-)

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    2. Indeed. I still have a dodgy ankle from an untreated childhood sprain - I believe public hospitals existed then, but not yet medical clinics. Lots of people simply couldn't see the doctor.

      Unfortunately the same applies nowadays to dentistry, at least in Canada. Does the UK NHS cover teeth? It seems strange that such an important part of our bodies is just left out, meaning no coverage whatsoever for many people. There is a bare-bones coverage for people on welfare, but nothing whatsoever for precarious or low-wage workers.

      How is your family in Italy coping with the changes there? They are much younger of course. I loved studying in Italy, and love the country, but their bureaucracy is infamous and not all cities have adequate and well-planned public transport.

      Fortunately there are no smokers nearby in my housing co-operative; my dad was a chain smoker and died of it and I spent my childhood coughing. That was just the way it was back then.

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    3. For a few years, under the NDP government here in BC in the 90s, there was dental coverage for kids in low-income families, but sadly, no longer. I agree with you it should be included in healthcare.

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  15. There are moments when I still feel longing for my pre-Tennessee life, for the memories that were in that place, and for the person I was then, although it has been five years since that move, and I am in the middle of another move today. There was one mad moment (probably more like a week), when my former NY State house went back on the market a year and a half or so after I sold it, that I was impulsively ready to buy it back. Luckily I realized you can't really go backwards. And every step forward is a renunciation of one thing while embracing another. There is bound to be grief and sadness, but also joy and new discoveries. Now, closing on one the house I am leaving today, I am both filled with anticipation for my new space, and dread, and sadness. I don't want to go back to the old house, but it was an important part of my life, already I miss my neighborhood.

    Yet I also know that I will settle down, and this is the right move, just as the last move was the right move, and smooth waters will come. I think the important thing is accepting both the joys and the tears without apology for to deny them is to deny our humanity.

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    1. Your moves have been so complicated by illness and caregiving and bereavement. The grief and sadness over home-leaving will be mingled with your mourning and exhaustion in complicated ways, and doing that extra transitional step has complicated even more -- but also gives you the space for complete renewal. I can imagine the apprehension, easily, but also the excitement of finding out what you really want in a home and how the home you make now expresses parts of yourself you mayn't have spent enough time with until now. I'll be following your posts with interest.

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  16. Like Anonymous in England, it has been 6 years into a big move, and while I have experienced all of the dislocation and emotion you mention, I am so glad we did it. The major health issue my husband had (with no prior symptoms) two years after we moved was all the validation I needed. We could not have managed in our old house, with stairs. It is time to move before you have to.

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    1. As you know, your story was a big influence on mine, letting me imagine a move before my plans had to become concrete. And then last summer, seeing your beautiful home, I was so reassured about the new one we'd just purchased, but wouldn't move into until the fall. I'm glad we moved long before we have to. . . .

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    2. Thank you, F. for your kind words-and your visit. And I would like to add- we thought we'd get 'really old' when we would have to think about things like stairs and services close by. Denis was 58 then... circumstances can change from one day to the next.

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  17. Oh Frances, this post just made me ache for you. I am a severe dental phobe who has found an extremely kind and gentle dentist. Even despite the medication he gives me to soothe my nerves, I occasionally find tears seeping out. I think the emotional response is partly because in that supine stance you’re so vulnerable in the hands of another.

    But more so than the comments about the dentist, your post resonates with me, as when we are facing changes, as I am with my elderly parent, sometimes emotions just take us over at the most inopportune places. It’s all well and good to have a good cry while sipping tea in the privacy of one’s home. Not so much in a supermarket line!

    As you have described adjusting to your new life, I’d say you are doing very well. It makes me appreciate my parent’s move to Nanaimo from Edmonton in their 60’s all the more. At first my father groused that the only people they were meeting were the tradespeople who came to renovate their new home (and he hastened to add, he liked them just fine!). However, slowly they built a community of good caring people, many of whom who are helping with my mother right now.

    It is a foggy morning here, but we are all hoping that it burns off, and we get the long promised sun later day. In anticipation I am painting my toenails a bright mango colour.

    I am still committed to seeing you mid May. I am really looking forward to it!


    Brenda, sipping her tea.

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    1. Oh yes, sometimes the emotions don't wait for our convenience (we both know that from our times at the lectern, no?
      I do think that, overall, I'm handling this big move well. Funny you should mention your parents, because I remember being so surprised, when we first moved to Nanaimo, in our late 30s, at so many people having family in town -- not because they'd grown up on the island, but because their parents had followed them there. It seemed such an odd phenomenon to me at the time, the notion of completing uprooting, in one's 60s, to move cross-country to a town where only your adult child lived, with his or her family. But as I've got to know many such folks, I've seen how well they adapted and how settled they are now, as is your mom (and Sandra's, very quickly) in a new community with good friends and service providers -- and the bonus of a mild climate! I'm hoping the same will be true of us, and of course, we have the added bonus of having grown up in this city, with so many of my siblings not far away.
      I'm so looking forward to our visit as well! Not long now. . . .

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  18. As I think I've shared with you before, I'm facing a move like yours at the same stage of life but in the opposite direction - from a capital city (Edinburgh) to a small village in the north east of Scotland. It's the village I grew up in, so some of what life will be like is known to me, but I've never lived there as an adult and so I will be in for some surprises. Some things we will miss hugely about the city, some we will gladly leave behind. My main concerns are no longer being able to walk everywhere or take public transport, no French Institute and cafe language classes, and having to change our dentist. For 5 years after I moved here I returned to my childhood dentist 175 miles away until he told me that was being ridiculous. I will also be exchanging private dentistry in Edinburgh for NHS in the country, but will be glad to do so as I've been unhappy paying for private health care from a moral point of view. We only ended up going private because it was the dentist a colleague recommended and was very near where we live.

    I have spent my whole adult life in two cities - Aberdeen and Edinburgh - and like nohatnogloves there will be a part of me that will be missing when we transplant to the country, even tho that's where my roots are. However the clincher for us was when we asked ourselves could we imagine growing old in the city, and the answer was no.

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    1. Honestly, Linda, I think you'll have to begin a blog to let us see how this move works out for you. I think it's a bold and exciting step, and while I'm sure there's lots you'll miss about city life (even perhaps a few that will surprise tears out of you at strange occasions;-) I know you have the attitude to make the move a great adventure. And the city will still be there for visiting, right?

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  19. I think you are very brave, and the tears are natural given all the differences and stress. It seems like the lack of a garden is a key stressor -- you know so much about the plants and appear to miss that part of island life very much.

    Our move 20 years ago to Florida was unwanted, but necessary due to jobs. I've never gotten used to the heat and humidity, and our allergies also prevent us from the enjoying the natural springs and other outdoors activities. So, on the cusp of retirement the question is where and if to move. On one hand we'd like a more urban setting (small college town now) with less house and yard work. On the other hand, the children grew up here and still call in home even when they haven't lived here in years. We also have good support services especially on the medical side, which I often need.

    Are we brave enough to try something completely new? How do we know what would work? We can't just up and try different cities due to our animals so trial and error is out. I admire your courage and your ability to work through these difficult issues.

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    1. We were very lucky that two of our kids, and their families, live in this city, the nearest one to where they grew up. It also helps that I grew up here and most of my siblings live within an hour's drive. Tougher when there's no obvious choice and an abundance of good possibilities. So interesting that we have these choices now, at an age when surely our grandparents weren't very lucky to uproot and move. Good luck with the decision-making...

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  20. What a great post and such interesting responses. Very thought provoking. Mary

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    1. Thanks, Mary. I'm so impressed by the wealth of responses.

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  21. I have enjoyed reading this post and its comments while contemplating the applications to my own retired life. I bow my head with gratefulness for this season. And for the experiences and wisdom that are shared here.
    Sometimes, when I see the news and the focus on celebrity (I'm in the Los Angeles area), I despair as to what passes for intelligence, kindness, and humanity. I am so thankful that I can come here, Frances, and find kindred spirits and even some not-so-kindred. All are thoughtful. All are articulate. And all are real lives. Thank you, everyone (as A in London said). Thank you for your transparency, your sharing, and your honesty. What a community!
    Charlene H.

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    1. Isn't it a lovely community, Charlene? I feel so fortunate to have a role here, among kindred and even, as you say, not-so-kindred spirits who nonetheless are thoughtful and articulate.

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  22. Beautiful,beautiful post and comments
    It is a priviledge to be here and read and communicate and find great company and support
    Dottoressa

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    1. I can only agree, Dottoressa. I feel very privileged in this company.

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  23. I love this post and all the insightful comments. There's nothing left that I can add - it's been said here better than I could ever do. Thank you!

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    1. Just adding that comment is worthwhile, slf. You're so very welcome.

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  24. I am very late to participate in this wonderful debate (last week has been pretty horrid!) and there is very little I could add one the subjects of crying at the dentist's (which has happened to me, too) and moving (which I am preparing for).
    Just one small observation: what moved me most (in fact touched a nerve) in your post was your remark about waking at night occasionally and missing the sound of the waves. Although I can relate to the stress caused by the change of doctors or therapists I think that in most cases there are competent and sympathetic professionals to replace them. But the sounds that surround us, the smells, the wind in our hair and the ground under our feet give us a feeling of being at home which, in most cases, is rooted deeply in our emotions. The pain of losing it (no matter how good and sound our reasons) may take a long time to surface. Which is not to say, of course, that with time their place cannot be taken by new sounds, smells and sensations.

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    1. So sorry about your horrid week. I hope its issues are mostly behind you now.
      Yes, the sounds and smells of a seaside home are so deeply worn into my body and soul. I hope new ones are carving new and happy patterns into my sensory and neurological system as we speak. Thank you....

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  25. I have no appetite for change so I can relate to what you're going through. Having said this, I've just enacted the most change I've ever undertaken (logistically) and I'm, by my own standards, entirely non-plussed. Admittedly, I haven't moved from the country to the city. You know I love urban living (though the country is very beautiful). But I want to table that it's ok if you end up not liking to live in Vancouver. I know 5 people who appreciated living in Vancouver but didn't actually like it. And they moved (stupidly to the ugly Toronto environs).I know pretty quickly whether I can acclimate somewhere, even though I hate the thought of change. You may find yourself loving it in a month or two, but if you don't - that's totally cool. You have all the possibilities to consider!

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    1. It's true. We still have choices. I have to say, though, that we're committed to urban life now, and we're more likely to mitigate the occasional blues through travel. Also watching to see how the building across the lane is going to make us feel and whether we may have to hop to one more condo before we're done.
      (Yours is a considerable disruption, not one to minimise -- but you will love the results)

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  26. Thanks for this post, which resonated deeply with me. Emotions surface in the darndest places.

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    1. That they do, Maggie. That they surely do....

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  27. I find the yoga twists and binds sometimes bring tears that have nothing to do with physical pain. And usually the tears bring with them an explanation, if I ask. It's quite weird.

    But what I really wanted to say is that I wholeheartedly applaud your wisdom in making this change now. I saw my mother and stepfather try to stay in the full glory of their early 70s for far too long, which meant that their 80s were far more difficult than they needed to be. I have vowed, we will see if I follow up, not to fall off that cliff, to live every moment as though they all matter equally. I believe that's what you are doing, and I nod my head at your wisdom.

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    1. Yoga's the other place I've experienced this, sometimes to embarrassing proportions, except that I know my neighbours in Shavasana on the adjoining mat are pretty accepting. . .
      The chance to learn from mine and Paul's parents was instructive, if often painfully so -- I suppose we'll make mistakes of our own, but I'm hoping we might redefine our notion of home before that's done for us. It's tough learning though, isn't 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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