Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hey, I Got An Idea...Let's Move!

As much as I appreciate my little room which someone from the local UU has graciously provided while I sort things out in my life, there looms ahead the day when I will move out...soon, the Gods willing, and if plans continue to go well. I'm perfectly willing to obey all the 'rules' because it isn't my house, I'm cool with that. I can tolerate the hippie-dippy, non-conformist, anti-establishment, anti-government, anti-anything-that-affects-me-and-prevents- me-from-getting-my-own-way attitude of the homeowner who parrots that the 70's were the pinnacle of the peace and love era while she flaunts her own personal agenda-but only because I can walk away and close the door to my room. And it do...often. Very often.

Thank you Hera and Vesta and House least I have a roof over my head. At least I am not sleeping on the street or in a homeless shelter. I have my belongings packed away in boxes, and to tell you the truth, I'm not even sure what's in any of them or what I actually own anymore. My whole material life is in fifteen medium sized boxes and three plastic storage totes, all sandwiched into a three by ten space with a few under the bed...which means whenever I think about something and want it, or it's something I need, I have to shift the boxes around and dig through them. I have 'done the drill' so many times in the last 3 years that I have no idea what's actually in any of them anymore.

It's driving me insane., I want to put stuff places and be able to find it. I'm tired of  the search through boxes that turns into an archeological dig and takes up an entire afternoon of my time. It makes me feel like a second cousin to Lord Carnarvon. I want somewhere I can  leave the newspaper and come back to it a couple of hours later and not have to worry about finding it folded and laid on the floor in front of the door to my room with the anally passive-aggressive message," THIS IS YOURS AND YOU LEFT IT SOMEWHERE." The message that this is not my house is loud and clear. I am 55 years old and speak English fluently: I understand. I have never taken advantage of the generosity extended to me, it isn't in me to think to do so. My mounting level of exasperation (and therapist) are telling me that it's time to move on for my own peace of mind.

The thought of moving is usually daunting for most of us. Psychologists have placed it high up the scale as one of the most stressful things an individual can do.Truthfully, I was exhilarated when I sold my grandparents' house in what used to be the pleasant blue-collar neighborhood I grew up in but has now become a  place of cheap, transient rentals surrounded by an industrial park. The neighborhood had soured into a mean, nasty place to live, ruled by bullies who felt they were entitled to destroy and steal anything in the yard that wasn't that wasn't nailed down. During the week I was moving, a neighbor at the end of the block killed his abusive father, and the body lay out in the yard for at least ten hours in full view of the street before anyone took the initiative to dial 911 ( I was driving around the block in the opposite direction; I think I might have noticed someone laying face down on the lawn with a bullet wound in his forehead six feet from the curb.)

My first apartment since college was a ground floor corner unit a mile from the university where I was teaching. At the time it was the only place available that would take animals, so I moved in. It had a tiny front stoop, a large living room, a dining room (which I'd always wanted), a nice bedroom with windows on both sides, a roomy bath and a tiny kitchen, but with lots of cabinet space. The floors had a sway-back sag to them and there was a hole behind the stove that I had to block with a cookie tray to keep Tinker the Cat from exploring the walls, but it had been freshly pained and the carpet was clean... I wasn't exactly in love with it, but it was mine for the year I held the position at the university before I took a chaplaincy internship at a resident homeless facility.

I never felt  settled at The Farm, but maybe that was because I knew it was going to be temporary. Most of my personal effects were in storage, I was fifteen miles into the country-the real country, where the nearest commercial establishment was a gas station that sold ice cream. The upside of this was that it wasn't totally unfamiliar territory: my great grandparents were buried a couple of miles away and I could actually see the steeple of the church where they were buried during the Depression. My interaction with the clients was rewarding and honed my counseling skills and enriched my personal ministry. The downside was that the building I lived in was pretty awful, there was no TV or radio reception in the area, people were suspicious of 'outsiders', most of my clients had been recently booted out of the local prison or mental institution yet were still addicted to an astoundingly impressive array of illegal substances, and Tinker died during that time. (Sigh) Such is life...

I completed my second internship the next year as the house manager of a transitional housing facility  half an hour down I-95 south of  Philadelphia. The House was actually two connected two-story row houses in a very ethnic, very old Polish section of the city. Across the street was a magnificent stone  church and it's rectory. Three elderly Roman Catholic priests lived there, and I could see the light come on in the kitchen at 5 a.m. and shadowy figures moving about behind the curtains- a strangely comforting routine as I sat on the field stone porch  across the street drinking my own coffee and watching the sun come up. Inside The House lived a rotation of  residents- mostly young African American mothers and their children  who had formerly been homeless but were now on their way to regaining a foothold back in the real world, and I was their house mother,big sister, confidant, social worker and secret keeper. I hated to leave, but the time came when the job was over and I graduated. I hated the thought of moving only because I didn't have an inkling where I wanted to move to: apartments were expensive in the city, and although I had diligently saved, there was precious little money to start my life over with...but I did.

My next home was about as perfect as it could get, and I have to tell you I was ecstatic and totally in love with the apartment I found, the neighborhood it was in, and my new job in a local hospital. Life had gone from uncertain to absolutely-freaking-fabulous in the blink of an eye and after the moving truck left.

I never thought I would enjoy living in the city because I was raised in the suburbs. To my grandparents, the city-especially the industrial east side- was some place you moved out of when you achieved an ounce of success. You got away from your ethnic roots and whatever negative, painful baggage was connected to them and became someone else in the suburbs: it was the place of the American Dream. At least it was while I was growing up, and I have to say that despite a really crappy childhood for many reasons, I still have fond memories of the place which I waited patiently all my life to inherit but couldn't way to leave a few short years later.

I moved to the west side of the city, the side that was growing and reasonably safe, into a high rise building built right after WWII. It was old, but it had a lot of charm, and was still pretty classy in a 40's kind of way. It had magnificent hardwood floors throughout the unit; a huge living room, dining area, a galley kitchen with two doors, a large bathroom and short hallway. There was a door between the living room and the hallway that essentially made the bedroom and bathroom into a suite...a foyer. I had an entryway where you could choose to walk into the kitchen or the living room, lots of windows and maximum light on the top floor of what was in another era  one of the swankiest buildings in town. The window sills were ten inches deep, and when I was still unpacking I used to pull up the kitchen stool to one of those windows and eat my dinner while watching the sunset and the city lights glistening like diamonds; the place had a magickal vibe to it.

It was located in the 'artsy' part of town (and the Irish section)n and still boasted a genuine roadhouse/pub with live Celtic music on the weekends. I furnished my personal utopian queendom with the vestiges of my grandparents house that had been in storage for so long- the dresser from my childhood bedroom, an old desk my grandfather found at the dump when he was in the Army, a tacky, square, 50's style Formica table and chairs that looked reasonably nice with a table cloth, a dry sink, several bookshelves, an old cabinet my great Aunt gave away because she "got a new one" which is, as it turns out, one of the only heirlooms in the family...and the ancient steel porch glider from the backyard which I painted black and refurbished. ( I had ripped an article from Country Living magazine earlier which featured a glider re-purposed into a sofa with new cushions and a slipcover, so that's what I did. It was comfortable enough to sleep on and surprised the hell out of the unsuspecting who sat on it and quickly found out that it moved, LOL.) Life was peaceful and mellow, even though few of my friends visited because the street parking was terrible. It was mine...all mine...if it was possible to be in love with a location, this was it, and I was smitten.

It was, and they say, too good to be true. Life was going along swimmingly when a three-pronged tragedy  occurred: the building was sold ( we were assured by the former owners we wouldn't notice the difference), I lost the best paying job I'd had in fifteen years, and the building was going condo.

Which meant I would be moving soon...and this time I wasn't happy about at all.

Now I was faced with boxing everything up and moving again, this time from a place I was absolutely crazy about and wanted to live in for a long time. I had considered during the last move that technically I could live anywhere I wanted. I'm single and have no immediate family, just a few distant cousins I haven't seen a a long time (and can't say I miss them). I could move out of state if I wanted, and I had seriously considered the Maryland Eastern shore ( done that), New England ( A real possibility, but expensive with too much snow), Nova Scotia ( interesting, but too cold), Colorado ( It would never be the same as when I used to visit and work there). My BFF lives in North Carolina, and we used to talk about living close enough to go to yard sales together. So, North Carolina it was, and I began to pack...

So here's the real meat of this should be titled Moving: Where Did All This Crap Come From?
So,just where did all this crap come from? Moving to another state and being virtually caught off guard was daunting. I didn't have the money to store my things long term, and frankly I was afraid to, because of my friend Leanne's hard lesson in that department: unable to make the payment one month, she lost everything to the storage company. I wasn't about to loose what precious things I still owned that mattered to me, so I had to thin my belongings down to the essentials.

That's when I discovered the over-flow. Culling my Christmas Yule decorations down to tree ornaments and a few things from my childhood, everything else was packed to go to the resale shop...five boxes worth of garlands, wall hangings, lights and assorted ho-ho. There were two huge garbage bags of perfectly good, usable clothing-some never even worn. All the book cases went, and much to my chagrin, so did my precious glider. I figure when the time comes I will find another one if it's meant to be. The only furniture that was saved was the a fore mentioned little cabinet and my great grandmother's sewing cabinet. There were four complete sets of dishes: a set of china (for 8) from a flea market; a set of dishes with holly around the edge that I bought for 14 dollars because I couldn't afford the Lennox Holiday set I really wanted; green pressed glass luncheon set I was neutral about and the clear dishes I actually used everyday which came from the Dollar Tree. I figured none of them would survive the move, so they were added to the Next-To-New Shop treasures. We all know dishes are easily acquired, so I figured that eventually I would get a set I actually liked.Ditto all small appliences with the exception of the espresso machine, my coffeemaker, the Belgian Waffle maker- and a ridiculously expensive coffeemaker that was a premium from my days of buying Gevalia through the mail. My entire Halloween collection-which had been ravaged during a previous storage period by well-meaning church members who confused it with some flea market stuff-went along. It's the one thing I will not part with and will fight for because so much of it is vintage and irreplaceable. I also saved my library of occult and religious books because I knew I could never replace them. My biggest regret was loosing my drafting board I'd had since college, and  I mourned the loss of my brand spankin' new seven foot lighted Christmas tree which was used only once. I hope both found  happy homes.Everything went on a friend's enclosed back porch and was retrieved within the year and is now crammed into the a fore mentioned closet or under the bed.

Being forced to come to terms with the clutter helped me to prioritize the things I wanted and needed. A lot of it is useless to anyone other than me, frankly...but it's mine. It has history and is meaningful. It thrums with life force- mine and that of others, through inheritance or gifts.

When I move again, it will probably be into a small space which will be a temporary home until I find what I really want-and can afford at the time. The boxes will still exist to mock me, although hopefully they will be replaced with plastic storage tubs by then...which will still mock me, but it will be a higher level of mockery at least.

Hera bless me and my piddly things; smile on this wanderer so she can come home again.


  1. As someone who has racked up her fair share of frequent mover miles, I totally appreciate this post. May you find your true home soon and be blessed to have it all to yourself. Hugs!

  2. Blessings to you my friend, I can completely relate to your experiences and feelings here. Having a "stable" home is probably number one priority for me (aside from my kids' well-being). Perhaps it is a trait of the "Cancer", but it is something that has been so far out of reach for years on end and can really mess with my mood.

    Finally, after years of struggle, times of homelessness, etc...we have found a modest 110 year old house we could buy on land contract for MUCH less than rent. The house is in desperate need of a lot of work and doesn't look very "pretty", but it's solid and has potential.

    All the best energies coming your way so you can find that place of your own - put your newspaper down and return to where you left it 2 hours later. ;)

  3. I totally understand the living-out-of-boxes syndrome. I recently, and *finally* moved from a bad, emotionally abusive situation where about half my "stuff" was thrown into boxes for 3 years. Many of my things are still stored over 300 miles away, until I can save up money to go get them and end that chapter of life.

    Now I am slowly furnishing a small house and trying to find places for things and sift through my past life. As I unpack, I find sometimes joy in rediscovering something thought lost. Still, I often say "I used to have ... " or find myself reaching for something that is no longer there.

    I am a nester by instinct and no matter where I am find a corner to make my own. For so long of my life, a corner or shelf or tabletop was all I had. Faced with this space, sometimes I find that I don't know who I am, or what I like - not even a color to paint a wall. I try to look forward to discovering who I am, but still find myself waiting to be told to put my things away.

    I hope for you a space where you can be yourself, free and fearless. Leaping into the unknown is a scary thing ... sometimes we crash. But usually, we pick ourselves up, dust ouselves off, and start all over again. Be Well and hopeful AmethJera.

  4. "I used to have" is probably one of the worst regrets to have, because what you 'used to have' is usually something that made your life easier or had an emotional attachment to. I often find myself reaching for something I no longer have and wondering where it went-it's maddening.


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