Things Take Time

We have owned our new-to-us house in Scandia for nearly a month now, and still, the garage is full of unpacked boxes. I can’t find my antique kitchen scale or a good place for the toaster. We are still, in so many ways, moving in.

In another lifetime, I would have stayed up all night for two straight weeks getting everything unpacked and put away. But here, in the middle of my tired thirties, my body won’t cooperate with my grand schemes much anymore. It checks out at 9:00 PM and then wakes, flustered and clammy at 2:00 AM, unable to do much of anything except for read and stare into the dark quiet of our new world.

I am sitting now in the room that will someday (hopefully soon) be a library. It still has the wallpaper border – a cabin-in-the-woods scene, repeating infinitely around the room. The green carpet is old – both faded and stained – and since we sold all of our bookshelves, I only have a few orphaned IKEA-cube things to work with for a while.

All around me, there is the detritus of the move: a box of lampshades whose bases I can’t find. Three decorative pumpkins that got separated from the fall decorations. A few empty Rubbermaids, a Where’s Waldo book, a magnet that says “Book Hoarders Unite.” A stapler.

What I think that this house needs is a set of new bookshelves, several coats of paint, a cozy reading chair. It needs some kind of light fixture in the living room so that it’s not so dim at night; it needs a thorough removal of all blue-teal carpeting and better water pressure in the upstairs shower.

But actually, it doesn’t.

What this house actually need is time.

*

It has been a messy, difficult, exhausting couple of months for me. There is nothing simple about the finding yourself space between things – between homes or jobs or relationships or churches or lives. Even if you have the sense that this is right, even if you find yourself imbued with a kind of certainty that God is here, the whole thing still really sucks.

For a few weeks, I got to drinking too much wine again. Then I stopped keeping the box of Trader Joe’s Shiraz with its invisible Drink Me sign in the pantry. That was helpful. The wine kept promising me a way to get through this tiny door. The one in Alice in Wonderland. The one leading from our life in Andover to whatever is next.

But of course, there is no helpful potion to make the transition simpler. It’s less a door than a birth canal. Gross image, I know, but being born into something new is always a little gross and messy and painful and stunning.

I wish I had been able to spend those in-between months in a zen-like state of acceptance, hands open, receiving what I needed at all times. Instead, I was a little rabid, crying and over-sharing with the church ladies, eating McDonalds in the car, watching a lot of Hallmark movies and also Law & Order SVU.

During these past several months, I have had some of the most deeply connected experiences of my life. And. At times, during these months, I have found myself so profoundly disconnected from myself and from others that I could barely breathe.

This is the paradox though. While sometimes full and empty ebb and flow, like waves or seasons, sometimes they’re all mixed up together. You’re full and empty all at once. You’re receiving and giving. You’re laugh-crying into your glass of wine, and then you’re trading it in for a La Croix and a big sandwich.

The space between two solid landscapes feels like water, and sometimes you feel like you’re being baptized, and sometimes you feel like you’re drowning, and it’s all just very hard to pin down.

You can’t do a thing to make it go faster, though certainly you try. What it takes, of course, is time.

*

During our first weeks here, our dog, Marty, was so stressed that he howled mournfully whenever we so much as went outside. He also developed the world’s grossest abscess. For a while it was hard to get him to eat. For a few days, he couldn’t seem to stop pooping on the living room floor.

But slowly, he began to stay out longer when we let him out, disappearing around the house, sniffing, exploring. He began to shoot out the front door with me when I walked the kids down to the end of our driveway to wait for the bus, leaping through the snow drifts, trying to pee on every tree. The other night he dragged his favorite toy out for the first time in months and flung it around the half-furnished living room for a while.

This poor old dog, with his cataracts and bad teeth. It takes a while to look out your fuzzy eyes and recognize that the place you’re in is safe, holy, home. It takes time to be where you are.

You sit in a room crowned with ugly wallpaper borders, messy and half unpacked, and you see that messiness, that imperfection, all the things that still need to be put away.

But you also see out the window, where the deer are eating from the feeder, where the trees are sparkling in the cold, where the wood burner is puffing smoke into the cold air, filling your house with warmth.

And of course, it’s both. Exciting and overwhelming. Home and not yet home. Half boxed-up; half unpacked.

You breathe it in, full and empty all at once, because this is what it is to be alive.

8 thoughts on “Things Take Time

  1. Hey Addie! I totally feel you on this. Just recently had a big move and upheaval in my life too. It’s been six months almost in the new place. It still feels surreal. Just wanted to say, hang in there, you’re not alone, and thanks for sharing your journey.

  2. I love the phrase “Home and not yet home.” Goodness knows how often I try to rush things, and then, when things don’t seem to be happening, or I’m tired of waiting, how easy it is to just give up altogether, or rush ahead too far. So much all or nothing. Big changes are on the horizon for me too, and I’m trying to learn how to navigate the anxieties and the excitement, the deep work and the logistical pieces, and everything in between. How much I need to remember that things take time, in the world, yes, but most especially within me and within other people.

  3. you had me laughing (oversharing with the church ladies) and crying on this one. I have been thinking of you and wondering how you’re doing. beautifully written as always. love you, Addie!

  4. Addie, as always, as it has for years, your blog post deeply resonates with me today. I’ve been separated for two years, divorced for six months, and this weekend is the first weekend my 5 year old son has spent with his dad since we separated. His dad wasn’t in the picture much over the past two years, but he is here now and intends to hold to a standard visitation arrangement: every other weekend, three weeks in the summer, split holidays.

    It’s hard. Hard to let go of control. Hard to be without my son when I’m used to it being just the two of us. Hard to be alone in this house. People who have walked this path tell me it will be good. That eventually I’ll find the time apart restorative and refreshing. That I’ll tap into other aspects of my identity and grow into a more Whole person. I think these things are true, but I can’t feel them right now.

    I will not have cultivated any new hobbies by the time he returns home Sunday night, but I bet one day when I look back, I’ll see how even though it felt so hard to cope, I adjusted and I grew and I became a stronger, more grounded person.

    It just takes time. What grace there is in having to wait and having to trust that things will unfold as they should. I guess you could call it faith.

  5. As one who has moved to new states and countries over 30 times, I can feel your pain. My last move, ten years ago, came about because of a fire in which I lost all but the clothes on my back and my cat, Jasmin. When all was said and done after that one, I’ve decided post-fire is the best way to move! I arrived with some new clothes and the mattress delivery truck close behind. Then, thanks to great insurance and even greater family and friends, I filled my new apartment with new furniture, kitchen gear, bathroom gear, clothing,etc. Other than the fact of losing a lifetime of memories in the form of photo albums, books, Christmas decorations (collected from all over the world), beloved gifts, diplomas, passport, etc, it was a great way to move! Yes, I had many emotions to get through, but there is something freeing about walking away from a burnt out shell that used to be home to a nice, new-to-me apartment with a totally blank canvas to work with and no boxes to unpack, other than those that showed up via UPS or store delivery for several months! All the other moves had to be slogged out just like your current one.

    Here’s what I have learned through all that moving and what you are in the thick of now: Even change for the better is hard. It still sucks to go through all that change and the utter exhaustion it brings. Facing down boxes and deciding how it all fits in the new house is exhausting. (Although, I have to admit I enjoy unpacking much more than packing. It’s a bit like opening presents because you never know what you will find, especially in those boxes that got packed towards the end!)

    I have to admit I laughed at your line about the tired thirties. At 63, I sure can’t stay up all night (unless I get to sleep all day the following day). But my energy level was far greater in my 30’s than it is now.

    Thank you for sharing with us – the good, the bad and the ugly in this thing we call life! Hang in there and one day not too far off you will be in that library in that cozy chair reading a good book – or writing your next one!

    Love you!

  6. You’re one of my favourite writers online because of the way you put words to the experiences that unite us all. Moving is tough for me as well, and as a kid who moved a lot growing up (13 houses in my first 18 years), I get triggered when moving my own kids as an adult. There’s a lot to sift there – thanks for doing some sifting for us.

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