Saturday, June 21, 2008

Why I Am Moving

I've spent the whole morning packing up boxes and cleaning out rooms. The move we have talked about for weeks is getting very real.

No telling when we will find a buyer for our house. But we've made up our minds we are really doing this. We are moving out now. I've had several people I know ask me why we are leaving. I figured this was as good a place as any to sort it out for myself. This posting is bound to be somewhat rambling and disjointed, because it's not intended as a clear explanation for anybody else. It's more my way of figuring it out in my own head.

I guess it all started last summer, when a dear friend of ours moved away. This was a lady in her late 70's who we had known through our church. She had lived in her home for over 40 years. But the children were grown and gone, and then her husband passed away. Increasingly it became apparent that she could no longer take care of their large, rambling home by herself, much less do the work required to maintain the yard. So, after much fretting and family discussion, she opted to sell the place and move into a nearby retirement community. For her, it was absolutely the right thing to do. She is very happy where she is now in her apartment, surrounded by just the few things she kept that she truly treasured. The process of getting her there, however, was excruciating.

Leaving that home that was filled with so many memories was very painful for her. She agonized over every dish, every knick knack, every piece of artwork, every marker of a life fully lived. She wanted to keep everything. Her well intentioned children and friends kept counseling her to let go. She felt pressured, cornered, losing her grasp. It hurt to watch. After much sorting out they finally held a big estate sell, laying out item gathered up over her whole life time for neighbors, strangers and friends to paw through and purchase. My dear friend watched this unfold with trembling grief.

I've been to my share of yard sales and usually enjoy rummaging through stacks to find that rare treasure. But at this one, I nearly burst into tears. I had visions of my own home being filled with strangers giving shrewed, evaluating looks at my priceless (to me) pretties - haggling down prices to a mere pittance for things that had been to me very dear. I could not stand the idea of it and knew I did not want to take that path.

I also recalled my own mother's house after her death. All five of us kids lived far away, so it took some negotiating and travel to get to the place to clean it all out. I swear, the woman must not have thrown a way a single thing in several decades. There were boxes upon boxes of stuff. Some things she had kept I could understand why she valued. But she also held onto things that were sheer junk. I think she was woman who got so overwhelmed by her life that it was difficult for her to make decisions. Rather than choose what to take care of and what to discard she would just toss it all in a box and say, in Scarlett O'Hara fashion, that she would think about it tomorrow. Tomorrow never came. The boxes piled up. In the end, she had rows upon rows of boxes that were a wild hodge podge. I sorted what I could, and then finally just started pitching it out - treasures and trash all mixed together. I vowed then and there my kids would never get stuck with a task of that scope when I died.

Still, over the years I have gathered my share of "stuff". While I have been considerably more organized and tidy than my mother, I have my share of boxes. Our current house has 2660 square feet and all three bedrooms have walk in closets. (Like 9 x 14 closets - as big as some people's bedrooms.) Somehow, having all that space has made it oh so easy to keep holding on to things I don't really need. It has been like wearing stretchy sweats and big T shirts for so long you don't really notice a few gained pounds. I had so much room for expansion of material objects that I just kept getting more. We've travelled a lot so I've picked up cool things here and there around the world. I have things people gave me. I have things my kids made. I have things I picked up at quaint little shops that just called out to me one day. I am surrounded by STUFF. A lot of it is very nice stuff. But most of it is stuff I do not need. Americans have a way of doing that.

Lately I have been very deliberately trying to clear out and downsize. But even though I have managed to get rid of A LOT, there are still way more material possessions than I want to hold on to. So that was one piece of it...wanting to make a change to a smaller place where we could keep things simple.

Then there is the whole issue of wanting to move to be closer to family. We've made the decision that once my beloved retires, this probably won't be the area where we will stay. We have family in Michigan and Arizona. If things work out the way we hope they will, we want to be snowbirds at some point. We'd like to split our time between the two places so that we can spend time with both branches of our family and avoid the extremes of climate in either direction.

We'd like to buy a small house in Michigan where we can be close to our 8 grandchildren. I want to go to their ball games and school programs, their birthday celebrations and special events. I want to have more of a role in their life than being the grandma who mails them cool care packages. I want to hold them and talk to them and take them geocaching. I want to exasperate them and endear them. I want to be a real part of their world. But I DON'T want to shovel snow with them in the winter. The idea of living in Michigan in the winter does not appeal to me. I did it for ten years and I've had all the brutal cold I want.

So from November to March every year we'd like to head out to Arizona where the other half of our brood is - my beloved's three son's from his first marriage.
There we could enjoy desert winters. We'd go hiking in canyons and fishing in creeks I remember from my youth. We'd visit with family and friends, keeping that part of our lives nurtured and well. We'd stay just long enough to see the lovely spring flowers erupt in wild color all over the desert. Then, before it got really hot, we'd head back north to our little house in the Midwest.

For the past several years I've taught college classes online. I have always had a full time job somewhere else and then done my adjunct teaching as something "extra" on the side. But I'd like to get to the point that I can forgo the day job and just do the online teaching. That way I won't be tied to any one geographic place. The online teaching will allow me to maintain my insurance and give just enough income that when combined with my husband's university pension and social security should allow us a modest living if we play our cards right. The idea is that by selling our house here and saving all our pennies for the next three to four years, we will have positioned ourselves to do just that. We will make our pipe-dream of snowbirding between Michigan and Arizona turn into a very realistic plan.

Then there is the dark side of the whole thing. My husband is getting old. Chronologically he's not exactly ancient. He's only 62. But in a lot of ways that are becoming increasingly noticeable, my sweet stud muffin of a husband is turning into a tired old man. That scares the dickens out of me.

He says, only half joking, that his warranty expired when he turned 60 yrs old. It was at that point that he started to have a variety of health issues. In the past year or two he has lost much of his energy and now is often in chronic pain from arthritis. He simply can no longer do some of the things we used to do together. We still have plenty of fun and some great adventures. But they are at a slower pace these days, and not the type that require as much physical exertion as things we took on in the past. These days, he needs more naps. I am beginning to see a foreshadow of a time in our lives when he will not be physically able to work. I am also recognizing that since I am 12 yrs his junior, there could well be an extended time in my life when he is not there at all.

I don't like to think about that. But the reality is, it's not only possible, it's down right likely. So I need to take steps NOW to prepare myself physically, financially, emotionally to be able to live my life well no matter what circumstances life may bring. If I have many years to work while caring for an old or infirm husband, I need to be ready to accept that. Or, if I have an extended period of time as a widow, as sad as that would be, I must have the resources and resolve and resilience to cross that bridge if I need to.

This big old house that we have now is beautiful. I love it very much. But it is NOT the house for us to be in for our old age. We want something smaller, simpler, all on one level. Granted, that phase of our life that would make it a necessity is still quite a ways down the road. But rather than wait for circumstances to force us to give up a house that we love but can no longer care for, I'd rather move out of it NOW when it is entirely my own choosing. I want to downsize and simplify while I can still call my own shots. I want to be the one that decides what gets kept and what gets tossed away. To do that, I have to begin while I still have the strength and the focus to pack and carry my own boxes.

So when this house out at the university farm that we are moving into became available, we jumped at it. It will be hard to go back to renting after over 20 yrs of having our own place. I like to do projects, to change and fix up and renovate. That won't be something I can do much of on someone else's property. But it's a sweet little house with a really great yard. And it happens to be where my husband works so he will have zero commute. With gas over $4.00 per gallon that is a very good thing. I'll still be driving to a job, of course. But I am well used to that. Depending on where my next job will be this move may have put us 10 miles closer or 10 miles further...but either way it will be a manageable thing.

Anyway, for all of these reasons and a few more, it just felt like the right time for us to make a change. The plan is that we will try to sell our house in Athena. But because the rent we will be paying out at the farm is absurdly low, even if we have to pay both house payments and rent for a year or more, we'd be ok. Obviously it will affect our budget, requiring us to cut back on extras like eating out or taking exotic vacations. But we won't have to worry about any immediate wolf at the door.

If the house sells sooner rather than later that would be great as it would give us one less thing to worry about and take care of. But either way, this move feels like the right thing to do.

We'll be living out in the middle of a wheat field in the middle of no where. The peace and the privacy are something I really look forward to. Since we'll be just 10 miles away from where we live now we can still come back easily enough to visit friends and I imagine there will be some of that. But I have moved enough times to know that there will be far less of that than I expect. People will move on with their busy lives. Once we don't have a common job or proximity of a neighborhood to bring us together, I suspect we'll see each other less and less. I'm ready to accept that.

Part of me is sad for all I'm giving up - my house, my neighbors, my congregation. (LDS churches are set by geographic boundaries, and my new house is over the line putting us into one of the Pendleton wards.) But I am also excited for the new chapter in my life that I am about to get started.

So time to get off my duff and get back to the business of packing and cleaning.
Ready or not, here I come.

1 comment:

Ruth D~ said...

No a rambling post. Rather, very cohesive and poignant. What changes you have planned! And then as you suspect there will be changes you might not want. This is the scary part of life. You sound so strong and intelligent and prepared, as much as you can be. But life is unpredictable, generous with it's gifts and also its tests. You are doing all the right things. What else can you do? And I'm excited for you!

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