Frances Mayes in her book Bella Tuscany makes a comment about the idea that when we move houses we begin a new life. It’s something I have to admit seems to be validated by our own experience; but at the same time I find myself saying that I feel we have sort of started a new life in this place but that it hasn’t yet jelled into anything predictable, or rhythmic, or regular.
Let me explain…
When we were working life often seemed like we were living with hula hoop — life constantly whirled around us and we seemed mostly stuck in place. We were thoroughly caught up in the life that we were living and most of the time we let that life take over: meetings, schedules, family events, until we scarcely knew what free time was.
Even the first months of retirement — that time while we were downsizing our home and getting ready to go RV’ing — was filled to the brim with busy – ness.
The actual time spent RV’ing was, I think, in some ways shadows playing on a curtain in which we weren’t nearly the active players as we thought. Underlying our free movements and all the fun things we did were constant challenges to have a plan for the future weeks and months, to use the time in each locale as best we could, to stay within our desired climatic norms; to meet family obligations, etc., etc., etc..
Returning to the Milwaukee area has been a long awaited blessing. I have no regrets about our time RV’ing but I’m thoroughly content not to be going places right now.
More importantly we are in a very different headspace. Perhaps different than we have ever been in; and while there is a certain amount of discomfort because it is completely different — there is also a feeling of coming “home” to a home we’ve enver known before.
I suspect I’m speaking more for myself than for Peggy. Which is OK. We have always had different roles in our life together; each doing things that best suit the individual and fortunately for us as a couple they complement and complete us as a “package”.
This “new life” is not as regular as what we’d been living. For one thing in the RV and then again in the mobile home I pretty carefully guarded the first several hours of each day and reserved that for writing & for research. I don’t find myself quite as regular, or as diligent about that anymore. Whereas for as long as I can remember I used to write in the early morning hours — now I write in the afternoon, and more often in the late night hours — a complete change from my lifelong pattern. I still spend time some days in the office but it’s less likely to be spent actually writing.
I spend more time cooking here. Years of no oven… Of cumbersome stoves…
Of too little counterspace…. these have all given over to a freedom to experiment and get back to familiar foods and techniques. If there’s been any hangup in that regard it’s the fact that the new apartment doesn’t dissipate the accidental smoke from overheated pans quite as quickly as I’d like and I’m still getting used to this new stove.
I find myself waffling a bit — uncertain about where this “new life” is going to take us. I don’t want to force it into any pre-conceived mold. If there has been one lesson to learn over recent years it’s that life has many more interesting experiences and challenges than I can imagine — if only I will let go the reins and let life reveal itself to me. For so long I had to be in control over as much as I could manage and I’m discovering a new freedom not to have to be in control. Our daughter who takes after me in a lot of areas seems to be having more of a hard time dealing with our seemingly slipshod manner but she’s adjusting nicely, even if more slowly — cuz, heck, she’s still in the middle of the life we once lived!!!!!!
It’s a genuine blessing to be able to let life be what it is, instead of what you think it’s supposed to be. I can’t say I wish I’d learned to do this earlier in life. I do think that I had to live that way as long as I did to be able to enjoy this alternative. And, of course, there is the aspect that not everyone gets to live this long. Friends of mine are long-time in their graves and they never had the opportunity to experience either of these two lives very long.
The very fact that for now I have to visit the doctor every 6 months means that I am far more aware of my own mortality than at any time in the past. It’s not that my health is that bad — I can still do most of what I want. It’s that the condition I have can suddenly jump up and kill you without warning and you don’t live with that knowledge without it affecting how you view a great many things. Three years ago when the doctor started quizzing me about bending over, stooping down, squatting and then standing up — and expressed concern about our lifestyle it all sort of passed over my head because there were a lot of things going on in a short period of time. Gradually I processed it all, and medications mimimized the risks to a great extent but the fact that nothing has fundamentally changed remains. I’m fine, but one day I may not be, and there won’t be much if any warning. So, as the dates for my 6 month check-ups approach I think more about what’s going on, or what isn’t going on. What may have changed in my body, and what (thankfully) hasn’t changed.
Sometimes I look around my office — the one room in the apartment that is uniquely mine — and I think I ought to dispose of 90% of what’s there. A lot of what fills that room sits there untouched by me for months. That tells me I don’t “need” that stuff. But we keep “stuff” around for a variety of reasons. Don’t we….
When my mom died (5 years before my dad) my father refused to discard any of mom’s belongings. He quite bluntly told me that all her things in the house took up air space and kept his heating and cooling bills down because they retained heat. I know he was just talking nonsense — the amount of heat stored in a bunch of clothing hung in a closet isn’t worth mentioning. The fact is he didn’t want to be “without her”. Those things reminded him of her; they were his way of hanging onto her memory — and he was a person who could do that without becoming morbid — he took solace at having her in is life and he was most pleasant with anyone and everyone who came his way in those 5 years after her passing.
So, I suppose over the next year or more I’ll gradually pare things off the bookshelves, out of the drawers, and work on emptying that closet of mine. It’s more my crusade than Peggy’s. She seems quite happy with the way the house is — but then the other rooms aren’t as full as this office of mine. She’s been better about living with less than I have in some ways. Also I think she’s specially mindful of the fact that our time in the RV was really inconvenient for me in terms of how I functioned. Our time in the first RV for 3 years left me with no space to call my own and I bounced between seats in the RV like Stations of the Cross. In the second RV we had a little office but seating was cramped and I couldn’t use my graphics tablet; it just wasn’t ideal. What we have now still isn’t ideal — I didn’t want to spend as much money as it would have taken to really set up an “office.” But I have an economical arrangment that works and that’s all that matters (to me).
When you move you really do start a “new” life. I’m not yet sure what this life will be, or where it will take us, but so far, I’m enjoying it. I hope for a good number of years to come.