On the Road Again

My husband and I are driving a Penske truck filled with furniture from our last apartment In the Bronx, NY to Texas. We’ve made this trip before.

Last time, we drove the opposite way with the same furniture from my parents’ home just after we were married 8 years ago, just after my Dad died, a year after my brother died and two years after my mother did.

I was so grateful for that furniture at the time. Newly married, making a home with someone for the first time, I was thrilled to have really nice things to bring to our shared space, a new apartment we’d chosen together.

Having lived in a tiny studio apartment in the West Village of NYC for 18 years prior to this big change, I had no furniture to speak of. My husband had some nice things to bring from his place, but not enough. We were stretching our budgets to get our apartment. New furniture was not in the plan. So my parents was a blessing.

It was amazing how perfectly the furniture all worked together. We chose rich colors for the walls off of the colors in the rugs, and somehow, it all had an eclectic warmth that just felt right. So “us,” somehow. The us we were becoming.

For the first years of our marriage, in those years after those huge losses in which I grieved and lived as best I could, that furniture surrounded me and held me and filled the empty gaping hole their deaths left.

I cherished it all. I had my father’s bronzed baby cowboy boots as book ends. A china cabinet held bluebirds, brown ware and silver pieces from my mother’s collections. We ate off of plates and used pans brought up from their kitchen. Put drinks on coasters from their den.

Our bedroom furniture was from my parents first house. The first expensive rug they bought, a now-worn but still lovely Oriental, sat under their gorgeous dark wood dining table and chairs.

But somewhere along year 6, something began to shift in me, and now, 18 months later, after a Konmari wave that washed away my clutter, a new apartment search, offer, and purchase, a renovation, putting an apartment on the market, a sale, a closing, a move, and a settling in, here I am. Day two of a three day journey to take much of that furniture to a new home.

My cousin, who my parents loved, who has a lovely wife and two young kids and a house, is happily taking the furniture off my hands. Whatever he did not take, others in NY needed and wanted.

Tomorrow we reach Austin, where the pieces will be put in their new home.

And I will let go. Of the grieving time. Of the me that has lived these 8 years in the after-shock, doing my best.

I feel such a mix of sadness and relief and excitement. Sadness because I still wish they were here instead of their things. Relief because something is done that I seem to have needed to do. Some job I unconsciously took on will soon be complete. And excitement is for this next part, whatever it will be.

Today I crave space. I want to be surrounded by things that resonate the me I am today. Our new home in no way resembles our last. And I love it with its new colors and furniture, and kickass river views.

I kept one chair out of it all. And reupholstered it. It looks wonderful there, surrounded by our new pieces, our new rugs.

At the end of the first day’s drive, we were treated to a blazing orange sky. Since my mother passed, I am convinced that beautiful sunsets are her way of letting me know she is there, loving me. It was clear that she, my Dad and brother, approve of this trip.

My parents and brother are still with me. But now they fill my heart space. I carry them wherever I go.

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The In-between Space

If I squint, I can still see it in my mind’s eye

The back of the front seat

of my parents’ doo doo brown

Buick Estate Wagon: my permanent view

Sandwiched between the adolescent sweaty arms

of my older brothers, their elbows poking my small shoulders

Fighting the space wars that only siblings know about

Gum popping, punches passed across me

Pre-digital age entertainment

Counting cars, Mad Libs, I Spy, rounds of car songs

I could barely see out the windows

But my whole world was inside anyways

I was in heaven between those two

Even their ignoring me was attention I loved

What I wouldn’t give to be back there

Lulled into a happy daze

The faint smell of my dad’s pipe

The tinkle of my mom’s laugh

And those two on either side

Holding me in tight, safe and sound

On the road, together

 

I share my posts on Alan’s site:

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The Move

It looked great on the surface of it.

A new apartment, with a gorgeous view. I mean, who wouldn’t say yes to that?

I did. I was the instigator of this move. I did the apartment searching. The financing work.

And so here we are. A year after purchasing, and months of renovations. Renovations that we planned to take at most 6 months that are now at 8.

And our current apartment is in contract. Our buyers were just approved to move in by the board of the co-op.

We will be getting dates for closing any day now, and then we will move into our beautiful new apartment with its dream view.

All good, right?

And yet.

I. AM. NOT. PACKING. YET.

(Much to my husband’s consternation and confusion.)

I mean, I have been the instigator of all this upheaval.

I decided to totally redecorate and choose new furniture for the new apartment. To find new homes for the furniture that we have loved the past 8 years together in this first home we are now in and about to leave.

This was major, because most of the furniture came from my deceased parents’ home. It was oddly perfect timing, my father passing away after my mother and 3 months before our wedding. I have been surrounded these 8 years in our home by furniture that comforted me, held me…gave me a nest, truly.

And yet, here I am, ready to let it all go. My cousins are taking the pieces I would never be able to just give away to anybody. Close friends with kids are taking other pieces, which feels so right and good. Other people my husband knows are inheriting some things, which they need, want and are thrilled about, and that makes me happy.

The new furniture has been bought, and I love it.

I visit our new home and am stunned at how lovely it is going to be.

And yet.

We are literally half out of our current place. My husband is packing most of what is left. Things are in boxes or are already gone. We are half in and half out. Limbo.

What. Is. Going. On. With. Me. And. This. Resistance.

I find myself wanting to stay in this limbo land. I feel as if I could hover here with one foot in and one foot out forever.

I am terrified. So scared. To move on. To enter fully into my truly adult life, beyond the losses that have so colored the last eleven years. To let the past fall away and let the present fully emerge.

I get panicked. If I let go of the bronzed tiny cowboy boots of my father’s that I brought up from Texas with the furniture, does it mean I loved him any less? Does it mean I am a better daughter and I really loved him if I hold on to them?

If I throw out or give away the plates my brother and I made in our childhood, will I forget him and our youth? Am I a bad person?

If I let go of the plastic container I handprinted with hearts that holds some of my mom’s cookie cutters that I gave her and brought up from her kitchen after she dies, does it mean I am not a loyal daughter? Will it hurt her feelings?

Will I lose who I am if I let go of these things? Will I lose their love somehow?

Who will I be if I am not carrying around these objects that are connected to my past?

Will I float into nothingness? Will I no longer know myself? Will I forget the people and the memories associated with these things?

I have to somehow resolve this. Find a way to keep moving through this change that on some level I called in for my own soul.

I have to find a way to actually make this move. It is a movement, after all.

I have to breathe. And trust. And move forward, into my life.

Inspired by a Daily Word Prompt at Guest Daily Prompts: surface

Lessons of the Road

I have returned from an adventure.

A wonderful, yet challenging, adventure. With my family.

I am grateful for the abundance of time and energy to have been able to go on this adventure. I am so glad that we all took the time to be together and to explore new-to-us places and to experiences new sights, sounds, tastes and smells.

The challenges were all out of anyone’s control and totally unexpected.

They included outgoing flights that stole a day from the majority of our group. Record-breaking heat everywhere we went. An absence of air conditioning in these places because they usually have no need for it.

Two of our lodgings were not at all as they were represented, which was disappointing and uncomfortable. A space markedly smaller than the photos appeared. A stairwell so steep under a ceiling so low leading to the one common space and second bathroom that it was unusable. A stove with no manual that we could not figure out — no way to heat water for coffee. Another place having no window coverings, infested with bees and flies.

(I suppose these could be considered “luxury” problems if you look at it. For me, as I had been the one to book the lodging, they were challenging, and disappointing. It also really enlightened me to my own “Americanism” – to how used I am to traveling with and to all the comforts of home. Take a way some of those, and I felt uncomfortable. But isn’t the point of travel to leave home behind?)

The real challenge came when one member of our group (the person whose trip it was) got very sick for two days. And then another of us got sick right after that one, requiring an emergency clinic visit and rendering them housebound for the last leg of the trip (three days.) This family member, I am sure, was counting down the seconds until they could get the hell back home. They were really sick and could not sleep due to the illness and the heat.

I cannot recall a trip from my life that had so many issues. Everyone valiantly moved through it all as well as they could. But there were moments of discomfort and when spirits waned and were tested to the limit.

Still. We had laughter. We saw some amazing parts of the world. And we were together.

I know that down the road, we will, for the most part, only recall the good parts. (Except for the really sick person, who, I am sure, will never forget how bad it was for them.)

I struggled mostly with just giving space for everyone to have their response to the challenges. To not feel totally responsible for everyone’s happiness. I was, after all, the instigator of the whole trip. For a recovering perfectionist and people-pleaser, this was daunting.

As a result, I was stretched in ways that I did not at all expect. Perhaps that is the very nature of travel: to go beyond one’s known terrain into foreign territories.

So as I leave the trip behind and reenter everyday life, I let whatever lessons were contained in this journey sort of simmer, low-level, trusting that some day I will look back and realize the gifts contained within the turbulence that the trip presented.

I trust that my memories of the difficulties of the trip will fade in comparison to the joys.

And I refill my spiritual well for the next adventure.

Tradition

I am on an adventure with my nephew.

When I graduated from high school, my Granma took me on a trip to England, Wales and Ireland. It was a generous gift.

She’d traveled extensively in her life, as had her mother, my Great-Grandmother Burns. They’d both lost their husbands early and ended up living quite rich and adventurous lives as widows.

My Gran had taken my two brothers before me as they each graduated. It was a tradition.

So when my brother’s first born graduated from high school, I had the impulse to carry on the tradition.

My Gran was long-since dead, and my Mom – her daughter – had died a few years’ past.

So I decided to do what I knew they’d have loved to do.

I took my niece on a trip to London and Paris in 2016. My sister-in-law came too, which was almost as good as my Mom being there. She is warm and loving, just like my Mom.

It was a wonderful trip. I cherished our time together and felt my parents’ presence (my father and other brother had recently died as well) with us.

And now here I am, my nephew and I on an adventure. And this time, we are all here together: my husband, my nephew, my brother, my sister-in-law and my niece.

My nephew chose Norway and Sweden to explore. None of us had ever thought of visiting either, but of course we were all game!

So here we all are, in Norway.

And it is heavenly.

The beauty of this country is just magnificent.

But of course, it is all really about being together. We feast our eyes on the landscapes. We laugh and laugh. We eat delicious food.

Once again, I sense my parents, and my brother somehow here, happy for us.

Maybe my niece and nephew will someday carry on the tradition and feel my presence there, too.

Forever Young

I was with family this past Memorial Day weekend, and it was eye-opening.

I have often noted through the years the many things that get stirred up when I visit family. I know that we all tend to regress when we “go home.” For my recovery over the years I have had to pay close attention to this: going home was always a minefield emotionally. I had to learn to prepare and take care of myself while home.

All the old stuff would resurface, seemingly immediately, upon stepping onto Houston soil.

Often, it centered around my body and appearance. Depending on how I was feeling in my body, I would have negative thoughts and distorted thinking about how my body looked and also about how much others were thinking about how I looked.

I learned not to look in mirrors. To not trust the voices in my head that told me I had become monstrous overnight. I worked hard to distinguish the voices from my own “core,” and to be able to trust that “they” were not “real.”

It was painful, but over time, I have healed much of the sources of the genesis of those voices. They were, in their twisted way, a way for my psyche to protect itself from other much more complex feelings. Feelings that felt way out of my control and way out of my coping capabilities at the time.

I have also come to know that some of what I was feeling underneath it all was shame. I would feel shame around my family about how I looked and how I was. Who I was. I would not been able to name it as such then. It was just how I felt. It actually felt like “me.” But I know now it was shame.

Thankfully, with a great deal of personal work, I have had many visits home in the past several years where those voices were a very low murmur. Sometimes, they were totally quiet. Sometimes they flared up, but I had the relief of knowing that they were not “real.” It made a huge difference. I was not a victim to them. I could observe them and know the truth.

So imagine my surprise when, on this visit, I noticed a totally new form of that old shame.

This shame? It actually had to do with the shame of having gotten older.

I could not believe it. I actually felt ashamed for having aged.

In reflecting on this, I realize that as I am the youngest, when I am around my aunts and uncle, I have been carrying this sense of responsibility somehow to stay young forever. To stay that little girl. Well, my physical appearance belies that illusion. I will always remain the youngest in relation to them, but I am no longer young by any means.

So why the shame? I know that our culture creates an atmosphere of shame around aging, so it makes sense. But around my own loved ones? Wow. That just blew me away.

I actually had to stop myself from apologizing for having aged. I am still trying to process that. I have some unraveling to do for sure.

For now, I breathe and find compassion, once again, for the young parts in me that still feel like all of my value is tied up in my looks.

I take myself by the hand yet again and say, “I love you, just as you are right now.” It is a ceremony of self-love, and if I were to do it a million times, it would still never be enough.

Inspired by The Daily Post: ceremony