Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Small Step in a Large Step Forward

Eight months ago, I put my home of 3 1/2 years on the market; for the most part, I was just testing the waters. After all, winter was fast approaching, and everyone knows houses sell better in the spring and summer and added to that, the real estate market in my area was still very weak. I was tired of home and yard maintenance, and as I read on our community Facebook page the posts from neighbors whose homes are a few years older than mine, all I heard was their woeful complaints of the repairs for issues that were beginning to rear their ugly head around their home's 6 or 7-year birthday.

Three months later, in early January, I shared here that as I'd worked through one of the first exercises in Talbot's Dream Save Do, I could easily see that many of the aspects of my life that I hoped to eliminate, or at least reduce, were in some way related to the ownership of my current home. It was nice to have my decision to list the house validated, but as I readied to leave for England in a few days, my mind was more on my upcoming trip. Of course, the very day I returned to the States, I received a contingency offer; the buyers eventually got an offer and contract on their home, and over the past few weeks the inspections have been done, the appraisal completed, and forms for the title office have changed hands so that we could close the sale at the end of the month.

I was fortunate to find an apartment in the same planned community I already live in that was within my budget and on the ground floor. It has an interesting history. Part of a row of buildings in the heart of the community, it was originally a wine bar and, when the wine bar relocated to their then-new larger location, a bakery and tea shop moved in. Unfortunately, the cake and tea business didn't fare very well, and the bakery closed its doors about a year ago. The owner of the building did some minor alterations to turn the space into a one-bedroom apartment that I took possession of this afternoon.

On one hand, I'm a little nervous about the move. I grew up going to family reunions and other family get-togethers, filling my plate from a huge smorgasbord of food prepared by fantastic cooks, enjoying my fill and then some, and hearing (without fail) at least one family member say ruefully, "My eyes were bigger than my stomach" as they looked at the not-bare plate they had piled high just a bit ago. Well, something similar may have happened with me in regard to the capacity of the apartment.

As I walked through the apartment a few weeks ago for the first time, I visualized where everything would go -- even the stuff  in the basement  that I want to keep and in the spare bedroom that I need to list on ebay. I was confident it would all fit. Now? I'm not too sure. Other than the camper we lived in for 6 or 7 months while my husband and his contractor-cousin built the shell of our home back in 2006, the apartment is the smallest place I've lived in since my last apartment before I was married in September 1984! I've half-joked that I'm moving all the must-have stuff first and whatever doesn't fit will get donated to charity or thrown away. I hope it doesn't come to that, but if it does, I hope I have the backbone to follow through.

Fortunately, the nervousness has been overshadowed so far by the excitement I feel about making such a big step forward in downsizing and decluttering and simplifying my life physically. No more yard work or home maintenance other than cleaning house and changing the toilet paper. I won't even have to change a lightbulb; because of the very-high ceilings and light-fixtures, the landlord's handyman will take care of that! I'll have less home to maintain -- I'm giving up a spare bedroom, full bath, and separate office, not to mention a full basement and 2-car garage.

I'm resigned to the fact that I may not be completely settled in as quickly as I'd like -- and not as quickly as I've unpacked and settled in as I have previously, even when I was unpacking and putting things away for a family of four that contained 2 young children. And that's okay. I'm determined to keep this move and this change as stress-free as possible. If boxes of scrapbooking supplies have to remain stacked in the corner of my bedroom for a few weeks or even a month as I spend time outside while I can in the beautiful summer before school starts back up in full swing in August, so be it.

All of my scrapbooking supplies -- paper, photos, memorabilia, and tools -- and home-office supplies made the move in the 3 carloads I transported this afternoon. It felt great to take even that tiny step forward as part of this large change. I may not feel so good tomorrow, though -- I have a feeling my leg and arm muscles may be grumbling a bit! So if anyone wants to come tote a box or two . . .

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Another Milestone Appears on the Horizon

I recently celebrated another birthday. As I shared on my last post, My 5+th birthday was a quiet one; my daughter and I enjoyed a wonderful lunch before she had to go to work, and I returned home to a quiet afternoon and evening of knitting, reading, and life as usual.

This birthday was a bit more challenging than most before it. It wasn't nearly as difficult as the one I endured back in 2010. I was immersed in a cloud of memories accompanied by "this time last year everything was fine" and "in 8 weeks from today last year, our lives changed forever" as I neared the 1-year mark since my husband's diagnosis with stage IV cancer. I was, of course, still struggling to come to grips -- any semblance of grips -- with his death less than 9 months before. If that weren't enough, I had just learned I'd gotten a much-wanted full-time job (a bright spot that I am still so very thankful for) in a city 2 hours away; as a result, I was struggling to sort and pack our possessions from almost 25 years of marriage and sell our rural home and acreage in a very depressed real estate market and economy. No, this year's birthday came nowhere close to that, as I marked in my gratitude journal on May 22, 2014. But it was still more challenging than the 3 birthdays between the two and any other I could remember.

I knew even before the day arrived that it might be difficult. I could feel a sense of unease and sadness, even a bit of apprehension, steal over me a few days before my birthday. I tried to ward it off. I bought some chocolate ice cream and indulged myself a bit, watched a few of my favorite funny movies, and even popped in the dvds for two whole seasons of "Big Bang Theory". Even the movies and show that typically cause me to laugh out loud, sometimes until tears fill my eyes, only elicited a few forced smiles.

I plugged along and the big day arrived. On automatic, I went through my morning routine and got ready for lunch with my daughter. Her arrival immediately made my day brighter. The beautiful card with a beautiful card with a touching personal message and a totally-unexpected gift (for Christmas and my birthday since I've moved to the area, she buys 2 sets of a ticket package of 5-6 St. Louis Cardinals games, and we attend those games together throughout the season, so I'd already received my birthday gift at Christmas) were icing on the cake. We enjoyed lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, and then she left to go to work.

Not long after she left, the blues creeped in to take her place, and I finally just gave in and had what my Grandma L. called "a good, cleansing cry". Then I squared my shoulders, sat down at the computer, and journaled about my feelings, hoping to identify the root of my sadness. Those roots became apparent right away.

First, cliched though it may be, slipping past the halfway mark in a decade so that I'm now "pushing" the next decade mark (I steadfastly refuse to type the numbers and leave you to figure it out if you haven't already. lol) saddens me. It's not the number itself; it's what it represents. I'm just now starting to get myself together and figure out what I want to do and make the first of what I hope are several (many?) changes to create the life I dream of, and all the while it's at the back of my life that, in truth, my time here on earth is limited. Oh yes, I know that's true for anyone. Trust me, I know. But when you reach the age I am, even if I elude some unexpected catastrophe, I am still marching steadily into the last 1/3, at best, of my life.

My son's absence was also tugging on my heart. I hadn't seen him since before the New Year and, with the time difference and his work schedule -- around 80 hours a week on a consistent basis), it was difficult to even Skype or chat with him via Facebook the 3+ months I was in England. He called me, of course, and we had a wonderful chat, but oh, how I missed his presence that day.

I think of my husband and miss him every day; as is always true on a holiday or special day of some kind, I missed him even more on my birthday. Thoughts of past birthday surprises and dinners kept sneaking into my head, and I even indulged for a few minutes in imagining what we would be doing on my birthday this year if he were still alive. Silly, perhaps, to someone who has never lost a spouse or child, but it's hard not to wonder. It's hard, too, to look to the future and see more birthdays spent without our loved ones.

Sheer loneliness also weighs heavily on me.

The experts are right. Holidays and other special days can be difficult, sometimes overwhelmingly so. But they eventually pass; after all, once sleep is factored in, a day consists of about 17 hours of wakefulness that will, without fail, eventually become nothing more than a memory.

And that's exactly what happened. Those 17 hours passed, and finally I let Dazey out while I brushed my teeth and got ready for bed. A few minutes later, I slipped under the covers and turned off the bedside lamp. Another special day behind me, a new milestone to mark my journey through life. And I made it. I may not have run that day's race with joy and wild abandon, and I may have reached the finish line feeling pretty darned depleted, but I reached it. And some days, that's really all that matters.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Busy, Busy, Busy

The past two weeks have been busy here. The buyers of my home sold their current home, causing me to have a closing date as well. Suddenly, I was faced with having to find a place to rent, make all the usual arrangements for moving, and ramp up my decluttering efforts. Fortunately, I found almost exactly what I was looking for -- smaller, ground floor, close to the "business district" of the same planned community I currently live in; unfortunately, it came at a slightly higher price than I had hoped for (but still less than my current house payment, so . . . )

This news came just as I was making the final push to finish writing and tweaking all of the materials for the online class I'm teaching (began June 2 and runs 8 weeks) and to get everything loaded. I only teach online in the summer, and I didn't teach at all last summer, and unfortunately I'd forgotten how time-consuming those final preparations actually are. I got everything done in time for the class opening this past Monday, and the first week went very smoothly. One down, seven to go.

I also celebrated another birthday. Actually, "celebrate" is probably not the best word. Other than a wonderful lunch with my daughter, I spent the day alone -- reading, knitting, writing, and decluttering a bit. I have to admit that this birthday was a bit more difficult than past birthdays, maybe because now I'm actually "pushing" the next decade marker (more on that later this week).

The highlight of the past few weeks, though, was my son's visit. I was able to spend 3 wonderful days with both of my children! We enjoyed some excellent meals together, attended a St. Louis Cardinals game and sat in one of the all-inclusive (food and beverage) seating areas, had our family photo taken, and simply relaxed and enjoyed being together. Those times together are far too rare, and I savored every moment.

The next few weeks promise to be no less busy. I take possession of my new apartment this Thursday and will make every effort to move quite a bit myself over the next week, before the movers take care of the heavy pieces the following Friday. My teaching responsibilities will also require a considerable amount of time each day, and I am determined to get back on track and say on track in other areas -- blogging, exercise, writing, and so on.

Never far from my mind, no matter what I'm doing, is what direction I'm going as I live this new life that is so different from what I'd planned for. I feel I've made some important steps forward as I continue to dream and brainstorm where I want to go next, and I'm excited that I'm actually taking some of the steps that just a few months ago were on my "want to do" list.

I hope that this time of longer days is providing you time with family and friends. I also hope you are making time for yourself -- time to define what you want your life to be and time to take the steps necessary to bring that definition to reality.