My refrigerator is usually covered with magnets. Magnets are my favorite souvenirs--I love to bring one home from each trip I take, because they help me remember the fun I had without cluttering up my house too much. Looking at them makes me happy.
Recently, though, I packed my magnets, because I was moving. I put them in metal baking pans, hoping they wouldn't get broken or banged up that way:
But I left one magnet unpacked: the one I bought at the gift shop of the United Nations in New York City.
"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined." the magnet proclaims, quoting Henry David Thoreau. That's the direction I'm hoping this move will take me, but the process was challenging and sad, so I left the magnet all alone in the center of my otherwise naked refrigerator, because I needed the encouragement.
It all started when my sister announced that she was buying a home of her own, and that she and her two children would be moving out of my basement. They moved in six years ago after her divorce, so she could attend law school. While I was so happy that she has done well enough in her legal career to be buying a home of her own, I also felt an incredible sense of loss. I've loved having Tracy, Mallory, and Parker live with me.
One night, I couldn't sleep because I was feeling so sad about them moving. As I pondered, I realized that my sorrow about this chapter of my life ending was actually a reason to rejoice--my sorrow meant that I had experienced a beautiful, positive, happy thing. As I felt gratitude for the privilege of that experience, I realized that this change might not only be a loss, but could also be an opportunity for me to "go confidently in the direction of my dreams and live the life I've imagined".
Although I've owned a home for ten years, I can't say I've enjoyed the experience. While I'm grateful for all the good things owning a home has brought me, I've often found myself frustrated by the amount of time, effort, and money maintaining a home has cost me. Sometimes, we don't own things; things own us. Many times when I was weeding, remodeling, trimming, repairing, mowing, cleaning, or on a long commute, I was wishing that I was instead traveling, learning, blogging, and having adventures.
So, I took this opportunity to downsize, and move closer to my work. It was a big downsize--going from a six-bedroom home to a five-by-ten foot storage unit and a bedroom in someone else's home. Since now is not a good time to sell a house, I put my house up for rent, and hired a property manager to find the tenants and deal with all the maintenance.
I thought I might need the encouraging thoughts on the magnet when my house started becoming empty as I put my furniture up for sale on the internet, and buyers started coming over and taking it away a piece at a time. For example, here's where one of my couches used to be:
And here's where my queen-size bed used to be:
But I found that having my furniture disappear a piece at a time didn't make me sad. Instead, I thought "Wow! Instead of me paying movers, these people are paying ME for the privilege of moving my stuff, which I wanted to get rid of anyway. Woo Hoo!!"
I thought I might be sad when I took my pictures down off my walls, but since I was going to be storing my favorite ones in a storage unit, I found I didn't mind. Here's the mover wrapping up my huge Joan of Arc painting:
That mover is named JC, and I liked him. Here's a video of JC working with Mallory's boyfriend to move Tracy's big fridge out of my basement:
Later, I took this picture of JC and his coworker and had to smile when JC wanted to pose just right for the photo.
On the day Tracy moved, JC asked me to take several photos and email them to his boss to show him what a good job they were doing. A few weeks later when I called to schedule a time for them to move my remaining stuff, the boss answered. When I mentioned I was the one that had emailed the photos, he said "Oh, I think JC is in love with you, because he keeps talking about you." (If that's true, that's because I fed JC and his partner lunch on the day Tracy moved out, and you know what they say about food being the way to a man's heart....)
So anyway, I found that getting rid of or storing my stuff didn't make me as sad as I expected it to. It's just stuff, and we don't take it with us when we die anyway. Here's my storage unit with my remaining stuff:
Instead, it was leaving my good neighbors and friends that made me sad.
I felt it one evening at midnight, as my friend Michelle was leaving my home after spending 20 hours over three days washing my windows, cleaning my ceiling fans, and wiping down every single slat in every single window blind in my house. As I expressed my thanks to her that night, she said "I was hoping that having beautiful clean windows would make you want to stay, and that you'd change your mind, so that's why I worked so hard to clean them!" In that moment, I very nearly changed my mind.
I also felt it when the sweet children who I've served at my church made a thank you book for me, and included sweet pictures and notes like these:
I'm grateful for the opportunity I've had to love these people.
I'm getting settled in my new room:
And have enjoyed seeing the beautiful sunrise from the porch of my roommate's home:
Here's another view of my bedroom, which includes a small fridge, on which I've placed the one magnet that is not in storage...the one that reminds me of why I'm choosing to go through the discomfort of change, which is sometimes the only way to the life we've imagined.
And, hopefully, this means I'll have more time to update this blog. I'm still behind on telling you about trips and other adventures I've had recently, but hope that this life simplification will make it possible for me to catch up. I've appreciated your comments and encouragement.