My living room is now painted white, with non-offensive pictures on the walls. (Prior to painting my once terra cotta walls several nudes I had painted in a figure drawing workshop graced the walls.) The family photos are stashed in a box, random other personal stuff stowed in closets, and I now make my bed daily. I’m a guest in my own home, but soon it won’t be my mine anymore. The For Sale sign went up a few days ago, and there is a young man in my house scrubbing it from top to bottom as I sit in Starbucks and write.
I am selling this house in Ohio, with more than 1100 sq feet of living space and a quarter acre yard to move into a tiny, 1 bedroom condo in Seattle. Both properties are in the same pricing range; the three bedroom ranch with attached garage is going for 129,900, the condo is 90,000. My new home will come with an outdoor parking space, and a small patio. But I do not rue downsizing. How much do we really need to survive? 638 square feet is tight, but I regard it as a personal challenge to fit my necessities inside the new space. (Luckily there is an Ikea in Seattle.)
If you read my previous blog post, you would know that the two negatives of living in Seattle will be traffic leaving my friends behind. The traffic I can handle. I listen to books on CD to keep me from road rage. But my other con of leaving my friends weighs so much more. It almost supersedes all the pros about living in Seattle. Almost.
I recently saw this Buddha quote: “In the end only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”
A month ago I retired form a career I mostly loved. The last two years were tough because I was beginning to suspect my position had lost relevance, and this was confirmed by who they hired to replace me. I realize now my work did not matter to them. It stung for a day or so, but my new mantra is, “Not my circus, no longer my monkeys.”
I live gently with occasional moments of bombast and unpredictability. In one of those Facebook tests that asks What Kind of Novel Are you? I am an adventure. So yes, I live a gentle adventure. I’m not starting wars and leading protests movements, but I've been known to take impromptu trips to parts of the world. And now hey I’m ripping off the Band-Aid of my staid life to move across the country with two cats and half of what I now own.
Paring down possessions is the easy part of letting go: some of what I own is not meant to be with me forever. The hard part of paring down is leaving the cherished people in my life. Many of them are meant for me. They would not be my friends otherwise. I’ll miss writing time with Cindy S and Cindy R. They provide good company, and I am able to channel creative vibes from them even as we sit across the table ignoring one another.
I will miss Olive Garden and Starbucks dates with Cindy R, and sharing a room when we go to writing conferences. We share a love of reading and literature, and a similar disdain for schlock and shallow books. I will miss our conversations about irreverent topics, such as yesterday when she told me about an article she read about how porn stars prepare their bodies for anal scenes.
I will miss Amanda and Dennis, who had a red wedding on 06/06/06 (we all survived it, though). After visiting them today, instead of waving, we gave each other the finger.
There is a litany of other friends who I will miss. Too many to list here, but they know who they are.
The hardest person for me to leave is Elizabeth, sister of my heart, my chosen family. We’ve been the best of friends for nearly twenty years. We share writing, secrets, and family. I know her daughter better than my own nieces and nephew. We have been through moments of great joy and searing depths, and take care of one another’s cats when one of us goes out of town. When my beloved kitty Lynx died she was there for the backyard funeral where she recited a Pablo Neruda poem and we tossed his ashes in the woods behind my home. She will weep alongside me when Henry, my nineteen year old tabby cat, finally goes.
When I had surgery on my foot, she and our friend Amanda were there in the waiting room. This past Christmas Elizabeth came to my rescue when a pipe burst and flooded my basement. She brought over the shop-vac and helped me toss ruined things in the trash.
Every time I get a rejection letter (which is often) and doubt my ability as a writer, she assures me I’m better than I think I am. Actually we do this for one another. Every writer I knows feels like a fraud, and criticism and rejection is part of the process. It takes nerve to put yourself out there.
Recently Elizabeth healed some wounds when I remarked that my years as a school librarian didn't matter. “Your work did matter. I saw your interaction with kids when they came to the library.” She often conducted writing workshops at my school for kids in grades 6-12. “I know what being a librarian entails, and I couldn't have done it.”
I regret Elizabeth won’t have access to me as a writing partner. All of us need that one person who shares your values and beliefs, and “gets” you. My family and most of my friends don’t mind that I write, but their eyes cross and their faces take on an expression like how I react when sometimes tries to explain football. I am hoping she can develop a writing bond with the two Cindys.