Swinging into Home

It’s true that you wake up one morning and suddenly realize you’re a different person.  In the midst of the transition, you’re usually at the bottom of some pit, miserable, whiny, and thinking the end will never be in sight.  But even when you’re able to say definitively that a change occurred, you still can’t pinpoint exactly when it did.  It just happened at some point and now things will forever be different.

view from the top

We put up a swing set in our backyard.  It was a grand neighborhood adventure.  We purchased it from a neighbor whose children had outgrown it, but who had kept it in fabulous condition.  He organized its transport to our yard, two houses over and one up.  I met a neighbor – and his much-appreciated motorcycle-turned-tree-house-trailer – that I never had before.  Two other neighbors brought their children to play and watch with mine while they helped the other men.  The seller and his son stayed on to help my husband finish assembling it while the kids called to them, saying hello and ‘can we go on it yet?’  Many hands make light work and I was so appreciative of their efforts and how happy they made my children.

After the excitement died down and just our three children swung and my husband and I surveyed the scene, I realized it.  I realized our life is forever altered.  We are different people here.

But in a totally positive, wide-open way.

We ask for and accept offers of help from our neighbors.  We relax on our porch and watch the trees blow in the breeze.  We have places to sit and read, whilst our children do some other activity nearby.  We have spots on the floor perfect for laying out vintage matchbox car tracks complete with loop-de-loops.  We have hooks for towels.  And room to swing around in the bathroom without smashing into some manner of porcelain.  There are dormers and transoms and skylights and fanlights.  There are angles and peaks, nooks and crannies.

Our entire perspective has changed.

The neighbor who sold us the swing set said it still feels like vacation even after living in his home for nearly two decades.  The light, airy feeling of vacation is nice, wonderful indeed.

But looking at that swing set to the profile of our home beside it, I realize this plot of land, this place and time we’ve landed in is a dream come true.  The realization of some nebulous idea I formed as a child.

Suddenly and unequivocally, this is home.  I can’t say exactly when it happened, but I can now say with certainty, we are home.

It never is a straight path ;-)

It never is a straight path 😉

Scene from September 14

The first time we viewed this house, our realtor said she could picture our girls climbing all over this boulder on the property.  Mere seconds later, their little bodies ranged all over it.  She apologized for jinxing us!  After removing several trees from the yard and only recently removing the leftover wood, the girls rediscovered it and, today, turned it into their canvas.  Remembering that first day and seeing how they’ve made it their own, I can’t help but see the cyclical quality of this year’s passage and how our little corner of the world becomes home.

Calcium carbonate comes home

Calcium carbonate comes home

A Change in Me

I was totally on my game last night.  I mention it because it is so not me.  I was laughing, telling jokes, comfortable, making comments without much worrying about what people would think of me.  In other words, I was my authentic self.  Not insecure, not worried, not painfully self-aware.  And there were times throughout the night when I realized this and took note; not quite like an out-of-body experience watching it from afar, but my insecure or irrational or timid mouse inner self noticed and was pleasantly surprised.  And then I tried to tell her to go away, to enjoy it for what it was worth, to follow this relaxed, uninhibited self however far she would go.  Not to jinx it, second-guess it, scare her away with too many self-checks and ruminations.  And now I think of the Halloween party we went to last Saturday.  My kindergartener was invited to a classmate’s family party.  Their neighbors were there, family members, other classmates and their families.  Walking in to a crowd of ‘strangers’ was a bit daunting, but surprisingly only a little.  A playmate’s mom soon walked up and introduced herself.  I found the host’s mom and introduced myself.  I sought out other classmates’ parents.  I told jokes.  I talked to strangers.  I initiated conversations.  I was so not me.  But then, I said to my husband, I was on my game.  Because that is me – part of me, anyway.  The part that is uninhibited, comfortable in her own skin, totally inhabiting the spacious self that is she.  My authentic self.

Is it this place?  Is it the excuse, the opportunity of a change in place to make things happen, to reinvent myself?   Because I could’ve done all these things in my former home.  But I didn’t.  Was it the memory and residual trauma of postpartum?  Was it the repression of people who knew me from way back when, when I was a certain way?  Was it the familiar that I began to blend into?  I was scared.  I was stuck.  Now I’m free.  I don’t know if it’s the physical space that now surrounds us that is freeing us; the mental space that in turn affords (if you believe if in the elements of Feng Shui); the need to ground ourselves and make connections since we don’t have any.  But life seems to be shaping up.  And me right along with it.


Liminal and Beyond

“The Waiting Place . . . [a most useless place]

for people just waiting.

Waiting for a train to come or go

or a bus to come, or a plane to go

or the mail to come, or the rain to go

or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow

or waiting around for a Yes or No

or waiting for their hair to grow.

Everyone is just waiting.

 

Waiting for the fish to bite

or waiting for wind to fly a kite

or waiting around for Friday night

or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake

or a pot to boil, or a Better Break

or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants

or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.

Everyone is just waiting.”

As I was waiting for the will to write a positive blog entry today, these lines from Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go rang through my head.

I’m waiting.  For the end of PMS.  For the washing machine to finish its cycle.  For an expected tradesperson to show up.  My husband to come home from work.  My children to stream up the stairs and into the corner in which I’m hiding (which took one more line of typing, by the way).  For this new place in life to feel ‘normal’, to reach some sort of stasis.

Well into On Moving by Louise DeSalvo now, I’ve read about “liminal life – the life that is neither here nor there . . . These difficult-to-live-through interstices, I’ve read, are necessary for growth: the psychic spaces where the old self is shed and the new one begins to develop (DeSalvo 72).

A few weeks ago, I said that I felt I could become my authentic self in this house.  I didn’t realize how much the move would shake things up though – both our physical possessions and my own psychological foundations.  Everything can’t feel just as it did in the other house, though, because then I’d fall into familiar routines and frustrating ways of being.  Now’s the chance to fix things that are broken.  Discard things that are hindrances.  Create new ways of living and doing and being that improve our life, not just get us through it.  I wouldn’t have done that in the comfortable nest of my other home.

On the flip side, I cannot ignore the pieces of myself that will remain no matter where I am, those rituals that will follow and sustain me wherever I go.  DeSalvo said, “I’ve been waiting to ‘settle in’ before I start writing.  But writing will help me ‘settle in’.” (DeSalvo 88)  Just as there are certain beloved objects that will travel from home to home and comfort with their mere presence, so must I make time to practice these rituals that will soothe me.

I cannot wait for everything in my home to be set up perfectly before I roll out the yoga mat.  I cannot avoid writing until the perfectly appointed writing desk sits in its nook.  I cannot avoid ‘living’ while I run through my unpacking/set-up list.  If I ignore those foundational elements of myself that will indeed make anywhere I live a home, the window of liminal time will close and this chaos will become my life.

No more waiting.

This is not ‘the waiting place’.  These are the living rooms.  This is home.  It’s time to start feeling it.

Incommunicado

Being unavailable, unreachable, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Tomorrow afternoon marks a week we’ll have been in our new home.  Only three people know our new phone number.  Only two bill collectors have found us.  I’ve been on Facebook once and haven’t logged onto WordPress at all – let alone post!

Today as I walked home from retrieving the girls at their new bus stop, I felt that my necessary reentry to the world was coming.  Inevitable.  I can only use the boxes around me as an excuse for so long.  Though I still do not have anything hanging in my closet because I don’t feel I’ve sufficiently de-furballed it (their special cat friend left me many presents).  I still do not have things packed into the bathroom cabinets because I haven’t disinfected them yet.  I still don’t have routines and patterns and familiar places to put things.

But the world does not care.  The world will not let me milk this life-change for all it is worth like the sleepy, hazy period that is life with a newborn.  Eventually I’ll have to answer the phone.  Eventually the beep of a text message will wake me from my reverie.  Eventually I will while away an entire evening checking for updates, statuses, and pictures of cute kids.

And while I’m dead-tired and sick of putting the kids to bed and starting another round of housecleaning, I haven’t missed checking multiple e-mail accounts and social media accounts and staying in constant contact.  I got a lovely snail mail correspondence from a dear friend.  Two wonderful friends of mine brought a ‘housewarming’ lunch.  And legions of family and friends trooped in to help us set up our new home.

Funny how we seemed to survive before we were attached to technology.

Next Stop: Transition Town

Ironically, the section of the book I’m reading right now is all about transitions.

To ease the transition of moving for our children, I gathered a thematic collection of books to borrow from the library:

  • Fred Rogers’ Moving (classic – right down to the 80s fashion in the photos!)
  • Mo Willems’ City Dog, Country Frog (we are going from city to country – though I didn’t expect the heartbreaking twist!)
  • Our House by Emma and Paul Rogers (inspired my daughter to suggest leaving a time capsule; guess it translated my idea of legacy and different chapters in life)
  • Moving by Michael Rosen (the cat giving his family the cold shoulder b/c of the move didn’t quite get across the positive vibe I was going for, but I guess it shows that even ambivalence can be won over with food!)

As I sifted through the on-line card catalog, I extended my search to books for me.  I think originally I was looking for books on the logistics of moving, tips and tricks.  Maybe.  Who knows?  I’m all over the road lately.  But in any event, I found two titles that sounded interesting.  The first, Moving On by Sarah Ban Breathnach, caught my eye because I’ve had Simple Abundance on my shelf for years.  I figured the universe might be giving me a nudge if I was seeking books on moving and here was one by the woman who first introduced the idea of a gratitude journal to me.  Though I know her other title to be more of a self-help, for some reason I expected a memoir on the rigors and epiphanies of moving.  There are personal anecdotes, but it’s also about finding one’s true home regardless of physicality; being comfortable with one’s space in the world regardless of where she calls home.  The idea of home and making the space within those four walls enjoyable is tackled, but it’s really more about letting go of excess baggage to make room for that enjoyment.

Ha, ha, ha.  So funny as my days are filled with purging and packing.  I am totally in limbo.  This home no longer looks like my own as the boxes begin to outnumber the intentional home décor.  My new home is still occupied by someone else.  So I’m hanging out somewhere in the ‘twain’.  I can’t do any of those exercises she suggests for finding what works about your home because I don’t know which one to focus on!  I know the chaos that surrounds me right now certainly isn’t working.

So I get about halfway through this book and reach the section on transitions.  A major thrust of it is that we actually make these difficult times even harder for ourselves by refusing to let go, go with the new flow of things, honor the past and appreciate the future.  Who, me?  I hate change.  There are some people who have wondered if I want to move.  Yes, of course.  And another scared, change-hating part of me, says, this is so freakin’ hard.  I lay in bed one night and realized I’d have to leave the blades of grass I’d stenciled onto the walls of our first nursery (affectionately known as the grassy knoll).  So between the stress of actually making the move a reality and the mental and emotional preparation, I probably do come across as a little ambivalent at times.

But not because I’m not looking forward to settling in our great new house and setting up shop, exploring the community, meeting people.  It’s just because I’m apparently really good at setting up roadblocks on the way to transition town.

And so this is where another highly appropriate quote from Moving On comes into play.  Ban Breathnach shares the words of Mary McCarthy, who says,

“There are no new truths, but only truths that have not been recognized by those who have perceived them without noticing.”

Ha!  If that does not describe me in nearly every aspect of my life, I don’t know what does.  How often have I relearned something I’d already known?  How often have I ignored what needed to be done though the answer was staring me in the face?  Human frailty, I suppose.  That damn weak free will.  We know what’s best and yet take the easier, more convenient, if insanely repetitive and possibly destructive, path.

I know I need to focus on the amazing truths on my doorstep.  A rich life lived in this beautiful little house with many pleasant memories to pack.  A lovely, airy, hope-filled home waiting for us to fill it with sights and sounds and silliness.  I know I can be my authentic self there.  I know this transition will make me stronger and truer.  It’s just a hell of a lot easier to feel it when you’re at the other end of the journey.

 

In a somewhat related vein, the other book I chose to read is a memoir: On Moving: A Writer’s Meditation on New Houses, Old Haunts, and Finding Home Again by Louise DeSalvo.  I have yet to read it.  I’ll let you know what epiphanies that unveils ☺

What books have helped you and your children make a successful transition when moving?

This House is My Baby

Three years ago, I was in the midst of the maelstrom known as kitchen renovation while designing my own dream space in utero.  In a house too small for three children and no money to move, we decided to do what we could about the logistics of our life.

We messed them up even more.

We ripped out the kitchen, thinking a more streamlined area would ease prepping and feeding three little mouths.  Streamlined is not a word to describe a kitchen reno or raising three children.

Demo started one month and one week before my due date.  Anal retentive to begin with and unknowingly suffering from a fledging case of postpartum depression, my list-making, obsessive planning, and futile attempts at control began.  I created calendars scheduling every detail.  I pushed my father-in-law to speed things up.  I perpetually pissed off our floor installer for constant e-mail updates.

I wanted that kitchen done before the baby came.  I needed running water to clean bottles and babies.  I needed the nasty mastic under the formerly linoleum floor covered up so any residual dust wouldn’t assault my newborn’s fragile airways.  I needed life in some kind of stasis before all hell broke loose.

How a finished kitchen would have prepared me for what happened in the delivery room and beyond is beyond me.  But I felt that some measure of control over my physical world would provide me some sense of control over everything else.  Well, I may not have known that then, but I can certainly see it now – especially since I’m trying to do it again.

Nearly three years to the day after the first pull of a crowbar in our kitchen, we’ve contracted a purchase and sales agreement on a new house.  Gorgeous kitchen aside, we’ve reached the limits of this house.  With one daughter just starting kindergarten and another young enough to make the switch to a new school hopefully not too traumatic, it seems like the perfect time.  Well, sort of.

With interest rates historically low, causing a backlog in bank closings, and a seller who has a cat with special needs (don’t ask), getting into this new house in time for the first day of school is becoming increasingly difficult.  And I can feel the anxiety ratcheting up as a result.  I can feel that nag mechanism gearing up for e-mail assaults on my realtor, unrealistic expectations from our loan officer, and an overall sense of unrest at the universe’s apparent disregard for my wishes.

Every fiber of my being is screaming – make it happen!  It must happen!  You have to get these kids in that house so they can find a home for their lunch boxes and a place to lay our their clothes for the first day of school, make a dry run to the bus stop, and get a feel for that new place as home before they have to figure out a new school, too.  It’s mommy guilt and good planning and type-A personality all rolled into one.  It’s also unrealistic.  Well, sort of.

If I felt any different, I wouldn’t be myself.  I just don’t roll that way.  And it’s coming from a desire to have the best for my children.

It also feels incredibly familiar.

Since 2004, I’ve been pregnant in two and a half year cycles.  When my youngest passed two years and seven months, I realized that was the oldest I’d ever had a child without expecting the next.  And I held my breath for the next three months.  No child number four, but we still embarked on a tumultuous endeavor: this whole house-buying thing.

This house has become my baby.

Apparently I cannot live through a two and half-year cycle without giving myself something to obsess about until it comes to fruition.  But while I see the parallels between my behavior now and then, at least there’s no such thing as post-house-buying depression – not until the first mortgage payment is due anyway.

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