I hope I’m on my last move. However, that’s a familiar hope that has lived with me for as long as I can remember. So, I’m limiting my expectations and focusing on the gifts that come with moving.
Moving used to be a rather mechanical thing … pack everything up, unpack everything and put it away again, finding all the nooks and crannies of a new space. Do it on autopilot; do it as fast as possible in order to get back to “normal” and productive use of time.
Now, it’s somehow different; more a part of normal, more a living part of my life, almost an entity that I’m traveling with that seems to speak to me as I go through the motions of unwrapping the bits and pieces of my past to see how they fit within the new realm of my present and future.
Looking back, the past year was a graduate-level learning experience … why is it that we never recognize those while we’re in the midst of them, but only after they’ve blown through our lives, leaving us with that dazed, “what was that?” look on our faces? I met a guy. (So many stories begin in that same way.) Anyway, I met a guy; a nice guy: smart, creative, quirky. The online dating service said we were a 99% match; I thought it was fate; I thought it was “happily ever after." Beware of those one percents.
Gradually, the differences grew faster than the connections; however, it was fate, so I ignored them. I brushed aside the niggling doubts that rose when we had conversations about how we would merge our lives. I yielded when he needed things done his way and made excuses as time passed and he was too busy to be together. Finally, however, like a house of cards, it crumbled, leaving both of us bewildered as I walked away, "determined to do the only thing I could do; determined to save the only life I could save.” (Thank you, Mary Oliver.)
It wasn’t until I was in the midst of moving chaos: boxes stacked through the center of what might become my living room, boxes opened, boxes flattened, contents dispatched to drawers and closets, boxes and more boxes. Desperate to find small bits of beauty and comfort, I decided to hang my jewelry display box, which is actually a serving tray that I screwed cup hooks into so that I could see the colors and shapes of my jewelry. It’s a homely and iconic display; for some reason, it is far more significant to me than the actual jewelry that it holds. It’s always one of the last things I pack away before a move and one of the first things I hang in a new space.
As I was hanging the jewelry box in its perfect place, enjoying the flash and sparkle, turning it into a mini-altar to beauty, the Spirit of the Move spoke to me and said, “You would never have hung this if you had stayed with him.” I was surprised at the thought but realized instantly that it was true. Being with him had required giving up pieces of myself, some of which had taken me a lot of time and work to find in the first place. This common jewelry display would not have fit his aesthetic sensibilities and I would have folded under the pressure … not his … my own pressure to fit myself into his life. Suddenly, I realized I didn’t have to do that … I had my life back.
Lesson #1: being with someone should encourage my own authenticity and enlarge my life. Otherwise, being alone is just fine.
I’ve been downsizing through my last several moves and thought I was down to bare bones. Little did I know there were still some mastodon bones buried in the rubble. One of my oldest treasures is a pitcher that my first mother-in-law painted with a charming woodlands scene. It reminds me of her. She always introduced me as her daughter, even before I married her son. We were close, talking at length every week, sharing our lives, being family. She loved me, or at least she did until I divorced her son. After that, she never spoke to me again. Losing her was as hard as losing my marriage.
When I left her son, I took the pitcher and carried it with me for decades, move after move carefully packing and unpacking it. When her son and I reconciled and forgave each other thirty years later, I offered it back to him but he didn’t want it. Still, I carried it with me; it was a treasure. A few days ago, I unpacked it, rinsed it off and put it in a prominent place in my new kitchen.
Yesterday, the Spirit of the Move spoke to me again and asked me why I was continuing to display a memento of one of the most painful events of my life. I was shocked at the thought of letting go of this piece of the past but realized that it held a multitude of conflicting feelings … being loved, being unloved, disappointing people I loved, being unworthy of this gift of beauty.
This morning it sits beside a box I have packed to take to the thrift store. I haven’t quite been able to put it into the box. It’s just a water pitcher, an inanimate object, yet I feel tears forming at the thought of letting it go. Perhaps it’s the last step in letting her go, letting go of how treasured she made me feel … until she no longer felt that way. Perhaps it’s the last step in forgiving myself for not being able to hold my first marriage together.
And, as I write this, I realize that this is Lesson #2: Let go of anything that is not love.
I’m back. The pitcher is now officially in the box and in putting it there, I realized that this is also the last step in forgiving her. She loved her son and did not know how to love both of us. I have been wearing her rejection like a hair shirt for way too long. I can take it off now and forgive both of us.