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!!
Pause for deep breath. And chuckle. And remembering where I'm going with this.
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. . . ;-)