When moving at a later age one cannot miss or ignore the layers of a life. Not as Shakespeare describes them but more like a wall of the Grand Canyon, up close and personal. The sun rises in dark, dusty attics, basements and garages where the layers cannot be ignored, demanding attention and decision. Moving is always a major stressor, but in later years it feels worse than major surgery.
What stays? What goes? What is worth the space that is not there? And why is letting go of one’s past so difficult? If we are the sum total of every moment lived, during a move the “stuff” of those moments cries out to be part of the rest of the journey.
Dealing with what the poet William Wordsworth calls the “Intimations of Immortality” does not help. And perhaps the most difficult problem to solve is dealing with memories and feelings. One could do self a huge favor by emulating Star Trek’s Dr. Spock.
Moving at any time, for whatever reason, is a colossal change. In later years, however, the excitement of something new is fraught with an inevitable and constant sense of loss. If we were digital creatures, a delete button instead of a belly button would be invaluable. A heart’s letting go of the markers of one’s past is never simple.
Here are three strategies that seem to help:
1) Focus on the future with a practical vision. Keep what is often used and necessary; save what is valuable; let go of, sell, donate or pass on any item that has gathered dust for at least the past two years.
2) Hire or consult a professional who has no emotional attachments to one’s belongings in making such decisions.
3) Shamelessly ask for help (and gratefully accept it when offered) – from family and friends – to do the “heavy lifting” and provide sensible support.
The list could go on.
Beyond the immediate trauma of transition is life in a land of boxes and bare walls. A new home waits to be created in less generous space and new challenges. Being back in Evanston feels like virtually reclaiming some parts of the past so recently swallowed by dumpsters.
What lies ahead is settling in, creating a home and a simpler lifestyle. Condo living offers a whole new world to be discovered, special people to get to know and always space enough for old memories and many more new ones.