Tag Archives: moving

please don’t feed the dustbunnies.

I’ve been spring cleaning. Ok, it’s significantly more than spring cleaning, but I’m calling it that because Trimming My Life’s Possessions Down in Anticipation of Moving to Another Country is just bulky. For the last six or seven weeks, I’ve had the urge to have a massive clear-out and tidy-up and throw-away, and when I came back from visiting Phil in England, that impulse could no longer be ignored. We may not know exactly when, yet, but we know I’ll be packing up and moving to Yorkshire to be with him in the not-impossibly-distant future. So I came back to Portland all fired up to do the spring cleaning, but also to start getting rid of things I know aren’t going to make the trans-Atlantic cut.

It felt great. Taking bags of seldom-worn clothing and decade-old knick knacks and never-unpacked picture frames to Goodwill. Pulling exactly seven DVDs that I actually want to keep and selling off all the rest. Culling supplies for crafts I am never going to learn and donating them to Scrap PDX. That bit was my favorite: having all those yards of fabric and yarn and obsolete embroidery transfers and bags of buttons gone gave me a breath of creative fresh air. Things I wasn’t ever going to use – wasn’t even interested in using – still managed to make noise in the back of my head and when they were gone the quiet was suddenly so productive. I’ve made more new things in the last two weeks than I have in the preceding six months.

The hard part of this process came when I got down to letters and photographs and picture albums. During the move from Chicago to Portland in 2012, I deliberately didn’t look at any of those things. I just sealed them up and brought them, with a lick and a promise to go through them later. I knew at the time that I wasn’t going to keep a lot of it, but I wasn’t ready to go through 15 or 20 years of my own history and talk to it. So I’ve been doing that these last few weeks, and it’s been joyous and painful and funny and sweet. A lot of things simply got read and discarded. Many more have been uploaded to online storage or allocated to be scanned for later uploading.

The process has made me think about how I interact with the artifacts of myself. I haven’t made everything digital, by any means. I’m not comfortable with the idea of keeping all the papers and pictures of my life in the cloud. There are things I may never look at again now that they’re in internet storage limbo, but I’m still not willing to say goodbye to them completely. I have problems with fuzzy memory and there are things I want to keep as touchstones to situate myself. There are other things that make me cringe and that I’d love to let go, and yet, and yet: some of those things are very important artifacts of ways in which I’ve changed and how hard it was to make those changes. And so I kept them in all their awkward physical reality in order to keep the threads of who I am and how I got here.

But I think the most interesting part of the process for me has been the things I’ve chosen to let go, but have given closure to in some way. Either I’ve found a new home for them – dozens of postcards I bought during a summer college course in England, quilt blocks for a project I’m never going to finish – or I’ve given them a sort of social media Viking funeral via Twitter or Instagram or Facebook. The act of posting a picture or a few lines of memorializing text about the thing I’m letting go has somehow made it more concrete in my memory, more fixed in the story of myself, than keeping it in a box in the closet ever did. Those things, that were not important or intact enough to keep, have somehow achieved a more vivid life than a number of the more vital things that got put back in boxes or uploaded to archives. How often will I visit or remember or need the things I’ve kept? Who knows. But the tiny white jacket with red trim that my mother crocheted when I was born, which I wore and which all my siblings wore after me, and which was far too greyed and shabby to give to the next generation, got a fitting and affectionate goodbye before I put it in the trash. I think that’s better than keeping it forever in a heedless box under the bed.

leap of a lifetime.

After more than 18 months of planning, saving, setbacks and re-planning, I am so happy to finally be able to say that I’m moving. In 40 days, I’m moving 2,123 miles. Chicago to Portland. Old life to new life. I’ve been repeating these words to myself over and over and over for the last 10 days, partly in celebration and partly in an attempt to make myself believe that it’s really true. That on December 21, I will work my last day at the high school where I’ve worked for 10 years. That on December 22, I will get on a plane with a one-way ticket and that when the plane lands, I will be in my new home.

It’s something of a crash landing. I don’t have an apartment lined up. I haven’t found a new job yet. It feels like a massive achievement just to have arrived at this point, and I have people who will catch me when I fall out of the sky. To be honest, I’m not going to worry about the job or a place to live for at least a couple of weeks. I’ll be staying with Shana and Shawn until I get settled, and I’m going to take a little time to recover. This year has taken every ounce of bravery and patience I have, and I need to collapse for a bit. Actual conversation from last week:

Shana: Is there anything you’ll need when you get here, besides a game controller and a place to fall down?
Me: I love you. Oh, and beer!

For the next six weeks, I’m packing my apartment, working full time, trying to see my friends as much as possible, and running a small business heading into the busiest of the year. I’m excited, I’m overwhelmed, and I am profoundly tired. I’m also in some kind of epic design vein, badly timed but very welcome. Like a fugue state, with sparkles. I’m making piles of new things, which I’ll list in the shop as I can. Fingers crossed, I’m planning to keep both urban legend and Leaves of Glass open until December 18. I don’t have a date set for re-opening, but I’ll make that happen as soon as possible after Christmas. (In the meantime, I will love you devoutly if you do your sparkle Christmas shopping early.)

That’s all the news I have for now, but I’m thrilled with it and I think it’s enough. 40 days. 2,123 miles.

when the runner walks.

I’m feeling anxious scared about my move to Portland. 

I used to be a really good mover; every few years, I’d pick up and go. It’s been a long time since my last one, though, and I’m out of practice. There’s so much practical work to be done just to make it happen, and it’s expensive, and I’ll need to find a new job. In the meantime, the sense of living half in one place and half in another makes me feel like I’m always away from home, and that’s exhausting. 

What really scares me is this time, I’m not running. My last two moves, I was running in one way or another. When I moved to Nantucket, I was running from a man I loved who was marrying someone else. I wanted to be as removed as possible, so I moved to an island. In the winter. Never say I can’t work the symbolism for maximum effect. When I moved back to Chicago four years later, I was leaving a dead end life that felt toxic. I could have gone anywhere, but Chicago had the lure of the familiar, so I came back. That was running, too, of a different kind.

This time, I’m not running from. I’m not running to. I chose. I’m leaving a comfortable life that isn’t the right life. I knew more than two years ago that Chicago wasn’t home anymore, and I started looking at new places that might be home. I worked through a list of possibilities based on specific things I wanted and ended up with Portland. By the time I made that decision, Shana and Shawn were already packing for their move to Portland. My brother and his family are also moving there next month, and it will be amazing to be able to see him. That gave Portland an extra layer of appeal, but I’m looking for a place that can become home either with or without people I already know. Portland might be that. It might not. I’m not going to know until I’ve been there a while, and that scares me.

Here’s the thing about running: it’s easy. It doesn’t leave you any room to doubt yourself. When you run, you think everything will be better someplace else. By the time the doubt comes, you’re already in the thing and doing it. The not running hurts. There’s so much time to think about my decisions and wonder if they’re the right ones. This time, I’m not trying to outrun myself; every fault and uncertainty and bad habit is going right along with me in the full light of day. That’s actually amazing personal growth for me, but I still catch myself trying to do yet a third kind of running: sprinting ahead to the next decision. If I get there and this wasn’t the right decision, what’s the next plan? That’s a bad way to think. So I keep having to turn around and go back a short distance to the place where I’ve made a decision, and learn to live in the uncertainty. 

I don’t mean to suggest that I’m not excited about moving, or that I’m thinking of changing my mind. I know this is the right thing to do right now, and I can’t wait to get there and meet all the wonderful people I’ve already begun to know online. I’m so grateful to have chosen a place that seems to welcome me before I even arrive.

Over the past several months, I’ve transferred my energy for emotional running into physical running. I’ve never been an exerciser; I am a curler-up-in-chairs-with-books. But lately I’m almost addicted to working out, and I think I’m doing my running on the elliptical so I can stand still and breathe in other parts of my life. When I work out, I can see out the window to the pool at the park, which has stenciled signs all over the concrete apron: WALK, Do Not Run. I’m working on it.