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Archive for July, 2010

This past week has been the most emotionally and physically exhausting time of our lives. We’ve sold our house and moved into the home of a very dear friend. We are thankful for his generosity, but are grieving, nonetheless. A part of us is gone. For the first time in our lives, we have no home to call our own.

People quickly find metaphors for times like this. They say that selling our home to correct our financial situation is like an amputation – painful, but necessary to our survival. Someone has said that we exchanged an “ace, two, four, six and seven” for a “two queens, two jacks, and a ten.” Play the hand correctly and maybe we’ll last the entire game.

We’ve imagined the sinking ship, the jump to a lifeboat. Even more so, I found myself comparing our situation to the evacuation of civilians in a war-torn country. Like them, we ran out of time to think. We threw out what we could not carry: items too bulky to transport, some of sentimental value, some, to our frugal minds, still salvageable. We balanced the replaceable value of an item against the cost of storing it; the sentimental value of one keepsake versus another, knowing one would be thrown out. There were sad goodbyes and outbursts of grief that surprised even us. In between, we held on to the sensible logic of the move. “This house is too large for us now. The new owners will be so happy here.” All of it true.

There can never be enough hours to move what amounts to a lifetime of possessions and memories. We filled a twenty cubic foot garbage bin in our driveway, two sixteen foot storage units, and still had to drive five carloads of goods to our friend’s home, forty-five minutes away. We arrived at three a.m.. While others were asleep, we tiptoed inside (limped might be more accurate), dug for nightclothes in hastily packed suitcases, and tried to sleep. My husband’s exhaustion won over and he was snoring within minutes. I lay awake, unable to stop the thoughts looping through my head: the way things used to be and how it came to this, and even more, would we get through it? I closed my eyes and replayed our visit to the lawyer earlier in the week: the look of compassion on his face when he heard about our situation; his quick glances at my husband between each clause of the contract, as he probably imagined himself in our shoes. I heard the words that seemed so out of place as we signed our house away. He said “Life is a journey.” I remembered the way he shook my hand and held it just a little longer than necessary. “Good luck,” he said. I avoided his eyes, because if I looked into them and saw sadness or pity, I would have crumbled.

So here I am, four days after our move, lucky enough to be welcomed into our friend’s big, comfortable home, but still “bleeding on the page,” as someone once said, and likely embarrassing myself. But it is honest and it is real and it is all I know how to be. Faking cheeriness right now isn’t possible.

Those of you who’ve been reading this blog since its start might say that this is our roadblock, the biggest one we have ever faced, and that the detour ahead leads to a much better place.

I hope you are right. We are more than ready for a fresh start.

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I am in overdrive. I feel an inner trembling, the fluttering of a heart that’s beating too quickly. My mind is all over the place, thoughts rushing in at lightning speed, reminders of things I have yet to do: notifying the post office, the bank and our creditors of our address change, cancelling our phones, our satellite service, our property insurance. I am so rushed that I have stopped mourning the sale of our home. There is no time for it.

We move in just six days.

Allowing just four weeks to pack and move out is something I will never do again. Packing goes quickly when you’re taking everything you own. In our case, we have loads to get rid of, and loads we can’t bear to leave behind. Everything I pick up to pack must go into one of five groups:

1. Things we will need for the interim while we are living with our friend “M.” Thank goodness for him!

2. Stuff (a lot of it!) that we will store until we find our a new place.

3. Things my son will try to sell at a garage sale on Saturday.

4. Things we will give away to charity, mostly clothes and dishes

5. The rest, garbage for the dumpster that sits in our driveway.

Tomorrow, the first of our storage units will be delivered. It’s a very cool system. We pack it to the rafters and then call the company to pick up the first unit and deliver the second. The plan is to move on the 14th.

And all I can think of is “I’M NOT READY.” Forget the fact that my emotions are all over the place. I am not finished packing. There is food in the fridges to use up. The pantry is nearly, and the freezer has a few things we’ll either have to give away or force ourselves to eat: frozen pizza, perogies, two bags of a cheese/pasta/vegetable concoction. There are hamburgers and loads of ice cream, frozen vegetables, frozen bread and buns – most of which is already in freezer-burn hell.

My son is handling the garage sale and it will be casual, at best. If he had his way, he’d grab our stereo system and bookcases and extra television to sell. If I had my way, I’d sell his hundreds of magazines. I’d also sell a lot of things my husband wants to bring, like his desk, and his handbuilt solid cedar water wheel, a mere six feet in diameter, his 30 year-old car manuals. He’d toss out my older nightgowns and shirts he doesn’t like, and most of my books would disappear. Last night, his “sentimental gene must have been asleep at the switch – he started to throw away mementos from our sons’ school days: drawings, projects, a Grade 3 journal. My son was horrified, my husband stupefied, and me, I was simply fried (it’s been HOT here). There is no truer line than “One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure.”

I need to get to bed now because tomorrow has an early start. I pray I drift off quickly. These days, I need a muscle relaxant and sleep medication to get a solid eight hours’ rest (sleep pattern difficulties and muscle stiffness and pain is part of fibromyalgia, a chronic condition that can make me pretty miserable and whiney – but that’s another story, just as tedious to write as to read read.) The good news is that the meds do help a little.

Thank goodness, because tomorrow we are even more under the gun. If we’re crazy busy, I’ll have less time to feel sad. I might even manage without my daily little cry. And that’s a good thing. That’s progress, isn’t it?

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I want to write, but tonight the words refuse to cooperate. Not the way I want them to, at least. they all sound repetitive, a melancholy refrain that drips of self-pity, of loss, of disillusionment. People are tired of hearing it. I am just as tired of feeling it.

Denying that the feelings exist is pointless. They are just below the surface of my every waking minute. I pour cereal into a bowl and think of grocery lists, of the things we need or the next few days and the things I won’t bother to replace. I work hard to stay detached, business-like, because if I don’t, I lose my focus and become immobilized.

Each item I pack carries a memory. I find letters from my boys when they were little, a note my mother wrote to me on my honeymoon. I find loose pictures I’d thought lost, and I study each as if they’re a masterpiece: the expressions on faces, what people wore, remember what they said that day, what we laughed at. And immediately, I wonder if our quota of “fun” has already been met. Maybe those were the “good old days” and now, our happiness ration is depleted.

There is such a sense of detachment when you go through a serious financial downturn like this. People you thought were your friends drift off. They suffer survivor guilt and often would sooner stay away and hope things get better for you, than come around and deal with your feelings.

That isolation has been horrible. We think of moving now and know we need to be closer to people, people who won’t know our history and won’t feel sorry for us, people who will accept or reject us on the basis of who we are today, not who we were twenty years ago, and certainly not as the ones who “lost so much.”

We do not want pity. We only want a chance to show what we can do, and prove we’re still worthwhile employees, friends, citizens.

I’ve said more than I intended. My angst overflowed. Bu wow, this is a difficult time, and I find myself staying up late in a silly attempt to delay another day. Our move is coming so fast, and God help me, I am worried over how I will handle it. I feel like I could melt into a puddle of pathetic need. I’ve met older women who are obsessed with things lost: their face, their figure, their fortune, and always, men. I aspired to be better than that – stronger, invinvicible, kind of the way you’d expect Mrs. Obama to handle a situation similar to ours. Could she maintain her dignity or would she turn into a big sweaty lump of blubbering sadness? I know it’s what I sometimes feel like doing, but it’s not what I want.

Sometimes, our resilience and personal strength can surprise even ourselves. Maybe I’ll be lucky and that will happen with me. Right now, I’m much closer to feeling down and out. Tomorrow will be better. Everything looks brighter in the sunshine.

This week will be bad enough. I don’t want the added upset of knowing I made everyone around me feeling ten times worse, simply because I couldn’t contain my own feelings.

So I go back to my initial comment. I need to find a way to turn off my mind, without resorting to a sleep-induced coma. There’s no way I could pack and clean if I couldn’t move. Mind you, a temporary coma does holds a certain appeal.

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Today was our thirty-ninth anniversary. It marked more than our thirty-nine years together though. It defined our point of transition, because today the young couple who are buying our home visited us, and our upcoming move became real.

For two months now, we’ve had to keep their identity a secret from our neighbours. The reason? The wife, who I’ll call “T,” grew up on this very street. She went to school with our sons. Her parents still live down the street. And more than anything, she and her husband “P” wanted to surprise our wonderful neighbours with the news that they will be moving into our home. Today was the day.

Could it feel more right? For twenty-four years, we have lived and loved in this home. It isn’t perfect, but it’s part of us, and one of the hardest things about moving was the idea that the new buyers might neglect it, or divide it into apartments as a business venture. Then we learned exactly who the new owners would be, and it was kismet. Bittersweet, but sweet nonetheless. This house will be loved.

While we women chatted, my husband walked the property with the young man who would soon be its owner. He already has plans for what he will do: a treehouse here, extension there, gazebo where the old poolhouse stands. My husband said the conversation reminded him of his own dreams when we bought all those years ago.

There was sadness, which we tried our best to hide. But there was also acceptance and happiness for this young couple. This home needs the spirit that their family will bring. As for us, it really is the right time for us to leave and begin a new chapter in our lives.

Tonight we celebrated our anniversary at a local Italian restaurant. We talked of what the future might bring, of the kind of life we want to live. Right now, it is surreal and a little frightening. We can’t help but compare it to abandoning a sinking ship. For three years, we plugged leaks and bailed out water, but it wasn’t enough. Now we have a lifeboat that’s seaworthy, at least for a while. We just have to find the shore.

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