December 2019: It didn’t stress me out much when our house was in boxes, my shoes in garbage bags, and that I spent so much time considering whether to do the necessary laundry in one last gasp in the old place — where I knew the time and temperature like the back of my hand — or schlep it all to the new place and risk it.
Not that these trivial concerns matter in the end, but these are the tangible things that tripped me up. Much of that month, I was ripped from that sumptuous almost asleep weightlessness by burning questions like ‘Did that linen closet in the new house have enough shelves?’
That said, I was in my zone with the packing part: the sorting and donating and trashing and boxing and taping. In fact, I loved every part of that: evidentiary progress. I could do that all day; steady as she goes.
So moving doesn’t bother me. But endings are different. I’ve always found endings difficult.
My dad loved to tell the story of our first family move. I was not yet five, with a pin-straight bowl cut and a bottom lip that curled under defiantly when I was upset. Dad used to say, ‘I could hang a bucket on that lip.’
The moving van was parked in the driveway and everyone was in our car by the mailbox out front, except me. I sat on the front step of our empty white house on Dover Road with my arms crossed, refusing to budge. Even now I can recall how I felt: I didn’t get it.
This is our house. This is where I live. I know every inch of this place and I feel good here. My friends are in this neighborhood. How will people know where we are? Won’t the house be sad? Won’t we be sad? I don’t want someone living in my room, playing in my backyard. It felt like a betrayal: my family to me and us all to the house itself. I was crestfallen.
Suffice it to say that my dad — in one of his finest early childhood parenting moments — cajoled and convinced me that he wouldn’t take me to a bad place. And, of course, it wasn’t.
It just so happened that a flagstone on the terrace in the new house had an impression in it that was the exact size and shape of my small, thin foot. So my arrival felt predestined, and gave me peace. Young children may take it hard at first, but often move on with the grace and resilience that we adults can only aspire to. After all, we know finality too well.
So while moving doesn’t bother me, moving on can really throw me. It’s an altogether different animal. It’s a heavy and persistent one, by turns endearing and savage, and with a long memory. Moving on is an elephant. And sometimes you’re on its back, riding high and covering ground in long, purposeful strides. But sometimes, you’re trampled to pulp beneath the weight of nostalgia that feels a lot like grief.
Our recent move was laced with grief. My beloved grandmother Eloise, our daughter’s namesake, passed away at 96 just before Thanksgiving. Her brother Paul, who sat in the second row at her service crying like a baby into a thin white handkerchief, died two weeks later at 99. I adored them both, and it felt like the end of an era. There’s no doubt the world has less elegance without them in it.
And because grief begets grief, so the tidal wave of my dad’s passing crashes over me, and each old photo and snippet of handwriting from these angels hits me hard. While I’ll never see them again, that’s not what gets it me. It’s that what was will never be again, but only for me. The rest of the world will keep on as it ever was, absorbing everyone’s endings and yet unaffected by them.
Moving on is a death, of sorts. I understand the concept of a new chapter, but to me it often feels like a different book altogether. And sure, I’m excited to open it, but there are bound to be mixed reviews.
Thankfully, there’s one left — the darling of all the movings: Moving forward. Truly, it’s one of the best things in life.
2019 was a rough one — just ask my blog.
But 2020 is coming in like a homecoming pep band moments before game time: buzzing with anticipation, drunk on the hope of imminent glory.
And you know why that is?
It’s because I’ve done so much moving forward. New job, new house, new approach to working out, and most of all, a whole new self-care strategy.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still slip up and wallow and keep it 100 with you handful of loyal readers. You’re in no danger of rose-colored glasses with me.
But, to use a pop culture reference that’s been everywhere recently — especially in the heart and mind of our six year old — 2019 taught me how to use The Force, and in 2020, I feel it with me. May the force be with you, too.
The Beth List — How to Force a New Beginning
- Question internal narratives: What is the story you’re telling yourself?
- Take an interaction inventory: After spending time with someone, check your energy.
- Replace complaints with curiosities: If something isn’t working for you, what are you doing about it?
- Make a treasured time list: Figure out what you love the most and put your time there.
- Consider how you treat people: How would you act if you knew someone was dying?*
*Newsflash: We’re all dying, and 2020 sounds like The Future, and we’re there, so what are you waiting for?