When you unpack a marriage, untangle and unwind all the bits you’ve woven over ten years, you’re bound to hit a snag. A year ago, as I was packing up the house, selling off the baggage of my old life, and sifting through the physical manifestation the relationship, I had no idea how much lighter I would feel a year later.
Things here have been good for the most part, settled, at least, in this beautiful place we are now privileged to call home. But I found that the more I dug in to this writing exercise, looking for moments to share and distill, the more it hurt. There were layers I had pushed back far far away, while living in survival mode. It’s amazing how a simple writing practice can get at those pain points. The one thing I’ve learned this year, has been to listen to those feelings, and so, a week in, I realized I just wasn’t ready to go on writing. I needed to sit quietly, for just a little longer, before I took the feelings on.
As Alice Hoffman said in the opening to the original article that inspired all of this, “Our lives often appear to be moving in one direction, and then, quite suddenly, a door opens and everything changes. A possibility arises, we daydream, we take a chance, we allow ourselves to feel joy. What’s on the other side of the open door becomes the moment that defines us and charts a new path. It could be almost anything. Suddenly we stop and make a turn. We imagine something completely different for ourselves. Something we never expected.”
So friend, if you are walking that same path I am, or rebuilding a life when you least expected it, I have this wish for you: I hope you can let go enough to let yourself feel joy. And I hope you are kind to yourself, for through that kindness you will find all the strength you need. It’s right there, inside you.
The day we told our kids we were moving into two houses, my oldest had just one question: is it going to be fun? Of course, the answer had to be yes! But moving can be stressful even when your whole world isn’t changing. And moving into two houses can also feel like a loss. So how do you keep it fun?
Here are my tips for surviving with your sanity intact:
This one is for you, and is the most important: you will stay sane if and only if you take care of yourself. Need help in the self care department? yes, you do. You are not made of rock and sorting through the physical artifacts of your marriage sucks. It will be hard. Get a moving buddy! I cannot stress enough how important this is. I was lucky (incredibly, amazingly lucky) to have my brother to help me with both our yard sale and with packing. Your moving buddy can help by telling you that no, you don’t need to keep that incredibly charged item, and by making sure you eat and nourish yourself during the pack. You will need this. It will save you.
Now what about the kids? Here are some things that worked for me:
1. Make the kids feel involved: set aside time in your pack and prep schedule to have them pack up some of their things, choose some things to donate or sell. These activities will take longer than when you do it yourself, but will help them understand and cope with the move.
2. While packing, keep a kid-safe space free from chaos in your home, where they can rest and play.
3. Label everything! write on the outside of the boxes, not just “toys” or “books” but be specific: then when you want to find the legos and magnatiles in a sea of cardboard, they’ll be easy to find.
4. At your new home, first things first, set up the kid’s sleeping and play space so they have things to do while you get your place sorted. (Here I’ve put up some temporary shelves with a few toys and books. They have a place to sit and play away from the chaos in the rest of the house.)
5. Embrace chaos! your house will be messy during this transition. Accept it and move on. Let them explore the new place and make it their own!
6. When all else fails, take a break! Find a place to refresh and recharge.
And keep this with you: soon all this chaos will end. This is temporary madness. On the other side, you will have a space of your own! As I sit here, only a month after moving into my own, I feel such an incredible sense of space and peace, that five weeks ago I could barely imagine. That will soon be yours.