Change, Friends, Home

10 Lessons about moving

I keep a five-year journal , a charming little gem that allows me to write five-line entries for five years.

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Every day, it tells me exactly what I was doing the previous year on the same day.

My daily entries from last year at this time included :

  • Last visit to our home in Virginia. That house is packed with memories. Not sure I can handle any more tears or goodbyes.
  • Signed our closing papers and hit the road for Utah. I can’t believe it.
  • Staying in Missouri.
  • Just outside Denver.
  • Arrived in Utah at our new home. Stood on the deck and marveled at the beauty.
  • Roughing it with a folding table, two lawn chairs and an air mattress until the moving van arrives.

As I read these entries, I thought about everything that has happened and changed in our lives in the last year.

Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned:

  • While moving is a major life decision and a big risk, it turned out to be easier than I expected.
  • At a going away party last year, a wise millennial friend said, “Don’t compare Utah to Virginia/D.C. Just take Utah for what it is.” Best advice ever.  It’s not better or worse. It’s just different. (Thank you Jason McDonald.)
  • There is beauty everywhere. While I love the green, lush world of the East Coast,  I love the spectacular mountains and scenery of Utah.

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  • Being near family is better than I imagined.
  • My Virginia friends are still my friends. I’m grateful for phone calls, texting, social media, and lots of visitors. fullsizeoutput_942

 

  • While I miss the vibrancy and closeness of the Mormon church community in the DC area, I’ve learned there are unique cultural challenges and tests of faith in different places. Again, one place is not better or worse. It is just different.
  • Going to the Outer Banks is still worth it. Even if we have to fly, rent a car, and go less often, it’s definitely still worth it.
  • Making new friends doesn’t mean I’m forgetting my old ones. I can cherish old friends and still make new ones. In fact, it’s essential. We all need friends — near and far.
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Reuniting with old high school friends — “You always go back to the people who were there in the beginning…”
  • Another wise friend who has moved many times in her life told me to give it a year to adjust. She said it takes a year to find doctors, hair stylists, dentists, favorite grocery stores, etc. and to feel comfortable in a new house, new neighborhood, new community. She said not to judge whether I like it until a year passed. She’s right. It requires some patience to rebuild your life in a new place.
  •  Finally, I’ve learned that being happy is a choice. So, I’ve decided over and over to be happy, and guess what? I am.

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Change, Memoir, Personal

Unpack Your Bags

In one of our women’s meetings at church, our teacher brought in a suitcase and rolled it around the room.

She asked, “How many of you have unpacked your bags?”

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She confessed that she has lived here for years and never mentally or emotionally unpacked her bags.

She said when we don’t unpack our bags, we live with one foot out the door. 

I wasn’t the only woman in the room thinking,”This lesson is for me.”

I heard women whispering, “This is for me.” And saw others nodding their heads as if it applied to them too.

Maybe carrying around our metaphorical packed bags gives us an escape clause or an excuse to hold back, and make fewer commitments.

The question then is what are we missing if we trek through life with a packed bag –always feeling like our circumstances are temporary?

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When we think we’re on our way out of a community, a job, a relationship, or any other situation or commitment, we automatically hold back and contribute less, which of course means, we get less.

Our teacher advised, “Whether you are going to be here for one week, one year, or the rest of your life–unpack your bags.”

I thought about that while walking one morning because sometimes I miss the familiar sights, sounds, and faces of my old life.

I wondered if after eight months whether I’ve unpacked my bags completely.

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When I see a friend volunteering at the White House Easter Egg roll or other friends going to Washington Nationals games; or groups of friends celebrating a birthday in one of my favorite restaurants without me, I get a little nostalgic — not desperately homesick like I made a drastic mistake in moving, just a little wistful.

While thinking about this on my walk, my thoughts were interrupted by the quacking of a beautiful duck floating in a pond, and then a chirp of a fascinating, unfamiliar bird.

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I stopped to look around and was awed by my new scenery.

I thought about the new sounds, places and faces I’m now appreciating, and I realized that unpacking is probably a process, not a one-time event.

Maybe we all need to continually work at unpacking because we don’t want to miss anything on our journeys, wherever those journeys take us.

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Brené Brown said in her book Rising Strong “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”

Sometimes it takes courage to show up, and it seems easier to live life with your bags packed, with one foot out the door just in case…

But, what do we gain when we choose that kind of timid, fearful, cautionary life?

I want to be like my friend, Laura, who has moved frequently, and after every move, has said, “That was my favorite place!”

Every place becomes her favorite because she fully unpacks her bags wherever she goes and she decides every new place and new experience will be her favorite.

I read about a military family that learned that the difference between misery and happiness is unpacking your bag and settling down—whether for days, months, or years.

They learned that if they believed they could be in a place for many years, they were happier. They invested more of themselves and in turn, had deeper relationships and better experiences all around.

This lesson applies not just to physically moving, but to all the areas of our lives where we hold back and carry around that symbolic tightly packed bag.

I love this bit of Buddah wisdom: “Be where you are…otherwise you will miss your life.”

Change, Home, Uncategorized

Welcome Home

Several years ago, I interviewed Jeanne Marie Laskas, a columnist for The Washington Post Magazine, who wrote the weekly column Significant Others.

I asked her how she came up with a column topic every week for over 14 years.

She said her ideas came from thinking about what moved or touched her that week.

I often ask myself the same question when trying to come up with a blog topic.

What has caused an emotional reaction in me?

The answer to that question came instantly this morning  — the stunning beauty all around me.

I confess I wondered if we’d made the right decision while driving through the desolate landscape near the Colorado/Utah border.

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It felt like we were driving through a Western movie set and I worried we’d get caught up in a train robbery — even though there wasn’t a train in sight.

I scanned the barren landscape looking for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or Matt Dillon, Miss Kitty, Doc and Festus from Gunsmoke.

What have we done? I wondered.

All that changed a few hours later when we met our daughter Sara and our friend Peggy at the front door of our new house.

The beauty around us is astounding.

 

img_6631I’ve never yearned to live in the mountains. In fact, I’ve always felt more comfortable in a busy city.

When I moved to Washington, D.C., my dad couldn’t understand why I wanted to stay.

“When are you moving home to Utah?” He always asked.

The more years that went by, the more Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia felt like home.

Utah wasn’t home to me. It was where our families lived — a place we visited.

But, after 37 years, something changed.

Now, surprisingly, Utah is where we live. 

img_6629We’re not planning to pack our bags at the end of this vacation and go back home to Virginia.

Utah is our new home.

 

 

And, we’re learning there’s a lot to love about living here.

At the top of the list are our “significant others.” We’re surrounded by people we love.

So, what caused an emotional reaction in me this week?

Living near our daughters and son-in-law, my mom, our brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, and … all this beauty.

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Family

Just Like Me but Better

While visiting my mom recently, I said, “Mom, remember when you used to say, ‘I hope you have a daughter just like you?’ In case you haven’t figured it out by now, your wish came true.”

My 18-year old daughter Annie is so much like me it’s scary.

I realized how much Annie is like me as I drove her to a doctor appointment in Utah. I almost drove off the side of University Avenue in Provo while listening to her rattle off her long list of urgent goals. She sounded so much like the college version of me that I screamed, “Annie, you sound just like me!”

I quickly apologized, knowing that she might not appreciate the comparison.

I felt like I needed to assimilate what I was experiencing. It sounded like she read all my journal entries and absorbed them in her DNA somehow.

“I’m so stressed Mom. I need a plan! I need to know how everything is going to progress over the next four years. And, by the way, I don’t think I can do everything I want to do in four years. I think it will take five. I want to do an internship in Africa. (Oh, and did I tell you I’ve been learning the tribal languages? I have words and sentences taped around my dorm room.) But, back to how I need a plan. I need to know how to schedule out my classes over the next five years so I don’t miss anything.”

“Annie, slow down. You don’t have to know these things now!”

Hypocrite, a little voice echoes in my head.

“Mom,” she protested. “I don’t want to waste time!”

“Annie, you’ve been her for six weeks! You can’t expect to know your major, have every semester’s schedule planned in advance, and know your career plans now. It will all evolve. You don’t have to control it all right now.”

Hypocrite! The voice says a little louder.

Be quiet, I command the inner voice. I’m an adult now, and I don’t need to know my entire life’s plan. I trust the universe and all those other platitudes. Don’t you think I remember how I obsessed over my short and long-term plans, and how frustrated I became when I didn’t know everything I needed to know to fill in the blanks of my entire life? I’m not like that anymore.

Hypocrite!

Well, I am wondering about this empty nest life I’m facing. But, I’m confident it will evolve naturally, and my life will still be fulfilling, rewarding, and fun.

Ah huh…

“Mom, it’s just that everything is so important now,” Annie said. “I just can’t afford to waste time or I won’t get what I want.”

“Annie, this is so eerie! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said exactly what you’re saying. Now I wish I’d slowed down a bit. It’s good to have plans, but sometimes you have to let life happen. Sometimes we get so consumed with our plans, schedules, goals and dreams that they become burdens and just pile on more stress. If you don’t loosen your grip on your plans sometimes, you miss out on some of the lessons you really need to learn.”

John Lennon~

Wasn’t it John Lennon that said something about how life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans? Plan or no plan, life just happens sometimes. I’m all about letting it happen now.

Sure you are, the voice whispers.

“Mom, you don’t get it. Everything matters more now that I’m in college.”

I know she’s right. I felt that way too when I was in college. I believed it even more when I had children. Wasting valuable time was my worst fear. I wanted to remind her that life doesn’t always go according to The Big Plan. In fact, sometimes it goes way off The Big Plan and we need a little flexibility to accommodate for the stuff we didn’t anticipate. But, I let it go, knowing that I was already in eye-rolling territory.

A few days after I came home, she called and said, “Mom, I’ve been thinking about my life and how things have played out for me lately. I mean, I had a big plan, and it didn’t work out. When I tore my ACL playing lacrosse everything changed for me. It took me out of my favorite sport during my senior year, and killed my dream of playing college lacrosse, at least for now. It’s weird how things change because in college, nobody knows the “me” I was at home. I’ve lost my status as class president, my athletic ability, my friends, and everything that was familiar and comfortable to me, but I realize now that I can find new things and just rework the plan a bit. I can build my confidence in other areas, and it’s all okay.”

I hung up the phone thinking, I love that girl — that cooler, wiser version of me. I love that sometimes when I hold back from spewing out too much advice, she learns more from her own life experiences than she ever could from my words. Then she one-ups me and teaches me something new.

As I move into my new phase of empty nest life, and lose all my labels, I’m going to dip into Annie’s well of wisdom and rework the plan, build my confidence in new areas, and trust that it will all be okay.

After all, it’s working out pretty well for her.