Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Other Side of Moving — Elizabeth Garber

The day I agreed to sell my house, I felt like I got on a train, a rumbling old steam engine that was going to take me on a journey. There would be no stopping until I reached the “other side.” That first day I opened a notebook and made pages of notes, mapping out how I was going to do this, what I would pack and store, what I would sell, what would go to my office (files, finances), my mother’s attic (wedding dress, children’s treasures), on and on, creating the grand map for how I would consolidate my life for the two years before I move into Cohousing. From then on, every day from the moment I woke up I was aware I was on the “moving” train. I’d emerge from sleep creating lists, as well as plans, where was I going to live, housesit, rent? Sleep became more difficult as I scoured the chess board of options through the night, slowly edging from a vision through fear, panic, overwhelmedness, prayer, brainstorms, until a workable plan for my life in transition emerged. And during the day, when I wasn’t working or going for a walk or cooking meals, I was packing and organizing my life. I was on a train, I couldn’t stop, I had to keep to the schedule.

Fortunately I started with my desk, going through every file and drawer. I say fortunately, because at the beginning of moving I could still think, examine and sort wisely. By the end of moving, there was no energy or mind left for minutiae! Then books, sorting what I need for the winter to read, what for long-term keeping, what to give to the library and to give away to friends. Then the photo albums I’d created every year for my children’s childhood — I stored in big plastic tubs with firmly locking lids. My kids called home asking about the photo albums, admonishing me to keep them safe. We agreed that these albums are our most treasured belonging. The living room steadily filled with boxes and storage tubs.

I realized I was going to clean out and organize every drawer, every shelf, every closet of my life. What an incredible cleansing process! Each day, I allowed myself to do whatever I was drawn to clean next. I got excited, ooh yes, finally I could clean out the Christmas wrappings, the bottom of my closet, the drawer where I saved photos that hadn’t gone into the photo album. At the end of each project there was another drawer, sorted, wiped clean and empty. This process could not be rushed. Two months passed, each stop on the journey passed, the give-away, the yard sale, the packing party. My back recovered, I got over my cough, I used every herb and tea I knew to get sleep, and I kept making the next revised list. What was left to do? What had to wait until the last minute?

I must confess, I had a secret pleasure that helped me come home from work and look forward to packing, the mindless non-decision making kind of packing and cleaning. I listened to the Harry Potter books 1-5, read aloud, with terrifically varied voices and accents, so that I always had their friendly company late into the night. And the challenges that Harry, Hermione and Ron were dealing with made packing look easy. I will lend my collection to anyone who would like them when they are moving!

Then it was the night before moving day. I got home from work and my mother arrived. I am so blessed to have an energetic, enthusiastic, fun 81 year old mother who would organize and pack my pantry and hardware drawers all through moving day. Before we went to sleep, she sprayed oven cleaner in the oven, and we choked and gagged to get away from the stink of it! She was planning to clean the oven the next morning. At 3:30 am on moving day, I woke up smelling the oven cleaner. I knew what I had to do. I found a painter’s face mask and rubber gloves. By 4am, I was kneeling down with my head in the oven, cleaning out the cooked on baking and broiling spills and splatters of the last 9 years. I was laughing as I worked, this is part of the spiritual practice of cleansing and attending to every aspect of my life.

I was so happy that in a few hours I’d be able to take my mother a cup a coffee when she woke up in and tell her I had a surprise for her, that I’d done the oven. When we were kids and weeding long rows of beans or peas, she taught us about doing surprises for each other. She’d leave her row and weed a few feet of our rows, so it was a surprise when we got to it. This was my weeding ahead for her. I was on a roll, this was moving day. I would strip the beds, wash and dry the sheets and pack the bedding away. I would work my way through the list of what had been waiting for me to do.

It went like clockwork, the two moving guys came with a U-Haul truck and carried away the piles of boxes, the paintings, the furniture, and we kept packing the last things that needed to be dealt with while reassuring the cat that it was alright. By two o’clock my mother and I were starving but satisfied, the last surfaces wiped off, the last load gone in the truck. We had been an incredible team, each doing the next thing to do, seamless, easy, and we were having a good time. A friend brought us coconut milk to hydrate us and cookies to hold us over until a late lunch. We left the empty apartment, fed and patted the cat, gathered up food for a picnic dinner, rented a movie and went to a B&B where I’d reserved a room for the night. By five pm, we’d each had a hot shower and were in our sumptuously soft twin beds, talking over the amazing day. Then she read the NY Times and I napped. The deep astounding weariness of the last few weeks of packing began to recede. I slept deeply all night. When I woke up briefly, my mind was quiet and blank, there was (nearly) nothing really left to do.

I had entered the “other side” of moving. The train had reached a little country station, and I was let off in a new place, to discover what my life was like. My mother went home. I walked through my empty apartment and felt at ease. I remembered how it was when I bought it — when I had envisioned how we would live there. The rooms were empty again and ready for my new friend who was buying it. She came by holding up paint chips to the walls planning the life she’ll live in this space. I was glad to offer my feedback.

This process of moving was so intense and all involving, I am glad for our Cohousing community that we are getting on the train one at a time, to spread this out over time. This way those off us who are on the other side can help our future neighbors as they prep for selling their houses with painting parties and then moving parties. I feel so grateful for all who helped me and will soon be able to offer a hand to them.

Now, I am house-sitting for a friend before moving to a winter rental which is furnished, complete with sheets and towels. I realize this is my first week of stepping out of twenty-five years of being a householder who created home for her family. Now I feel very simple, like I’m on a meditation retreat. I have a few changes of clothes and simple food for the week. I move through my friend’s house and observe how we each gather objects that are full of meaning for ourselves and assemble a life. I have dissembled the objects of my life, and have put them away. I’m glad that I have this space and time before I create my new home at Cohousing. I’m aware that my relationship to the objects that I have saved and stored will change a great deal over this two year break.

Living without the things of my life, all there is left is me. I feel like I am simply an aware presence living a life. I am not rushing around in a house filled with tasks I have to do. I feel very mindful, choosing each next thing to do. It is a much simpler life. I’m actually doing what I’ve wanted to do. No computer in the evening. Instead, I’m reading the memoir I’ve wanted to read for months. I go to bed early, sleep deeply, ah, heaven, refilling the well of my energy. Waking up early, I discover I want to meditate, then stretch and exercise, then eat a good breakfast, all without rushing. Then walk to work. This is good, simple, moment by moment.

1 comment:

  1. I very much enjoyed reading the story of your transition of moving. You put words to my experiences of moving. It seems like the whole process was so important for you to do--the packing, staying in the bed and breakfast and living simply. Seems like this really nourished you! Thank you so much.