Sunday, September 16, 2012

The down side of down-sizing

There was a time when I moved eight times in two years.  I was adept at packing, sorting, deciding what to keep and what could go.  This was followed by a period of relative stability—five years in one house.  Then, the crumbling of a marriage, a family, my life, my home, and the ensuing years of uncertainty, shifting sands, and homelessness off and on.

Then here, to this place, this house I bought when everyone told me I couldn’t buy a house (by standard wisdom, they were right, but I managed to buy one anyway).  Here, for thirteen years, we have lived and loved, laughed and lamented, struggled and studied. Here I served my country as a VISTA volunteer, with the American Red Cross during the year of 9/11, obtained four college degrees as I promised myself, and found a place to express who I wanted to be.  Here I rediscovered and redefined myself, and liked what I found and who I have become.  This is the site of my redemption, my renewal.

Now, packing and sorting is nearly a forgotten art.  And I am not moving “up” in a way that will give me more space, or a place to hoard my memories.  We are moving into an RV, a downsizing of literal proportions that, for me, has its own down-side.  Where will I put the books waiting in line to be read?  Where will I store the files I am using to write the articles, the book, the novel, the stories I am currently working or hope to work on soon?  I can’t possibly take everything I will need for any extended period of time—like a year or two.  I can, of course, store it in such a way that I can return to my “well” of goods and documents to replenish a supply, or swap out old and no-longer-needed for what is needed today. 

In this process, I have found that initially there is sorting and packing—say, in one room—then there is more sorting and packing.  Eventually my mind/spirit/knowingness comes back around to the first room, only to discover I can trim even more.  It is a learning process that is occurring more in my mind than anywhere else.  It is also a process of grieving and letting go—of the cats, the garden, the books.  It is a process of blessing and thanking and releasing, then grieving anew, but with less vigor.  Revisit again another day and there is still blessing and thanking and releasing, but the grief is passing, fading in a fit and seeming sort of way.

Today, I packed part of the bedroom—the books that have resided there, some for many years.  And I found that some of the books and things that I kept the last time I moved no longer had any value to me in a personal way.  I’m discarding more than I ever thought possible. And it is surprisingly painless.

Still, there are the books I want to read, but I can’t possibly take them all with me. So, I pack them away in carefully and thoroughly labeled boxes, sensing that when the time comes to unpack them in a new home—wherever that may be—there will still be something to look forward to, still new things and ideas savor and relish, things I will be glad I kept, but also glad I didn’t drag along with me like ankle weights. 

I am grateful, too, that this process of leaving here has taken so long.  It has given me time to process it, to assimilate the idea and the emotions, so that it is not a trauma as so many other changes have been in my life.  Six weeks left, and though there is anxiety about the deadline looming, there is a sense of purpose and control as well and I know that if I listen to myself, trust myself, my feelings, my urges to keep and do and toss and don’t, that all will be well and I will have grown in new and unexpected ways.

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