Another Chapter Closes

The house creaks and cracks with such ferociousness, I am unable to sleep.  Perhaps it does not like the starkness of bare walls, the absence of furniture, the finality of boxes stacked and sealed.  It is my last night here – just myself, a king sized bed and a complaining house.

So much has changed in the five years since we bought this place, on a whim, a response to the fear cancer evoked in us.  I didn’t know then that it would be me, not my husband, who would benefit from the healing environment, who would be thankful for the small space, who would take to bed here.

But even an old character like this house can become a prison, and as life threw one curveball after another at us, we decided that we could either stay put and wait for the next one, or we could move on.

So, I spend one more night, while Ric does last minute preparations on the RV, and listen to the grumblings of the house.

“You have been very good to us,” I whisper.  “Now you will favour someone else.”

Maybe the house, like me, is afraid of unknowns.  She is older than I am so change must certainly be more precarious.  She emits another groan, and I concur.  We grand dames need more TLC at our ages, but I have faith – an injection of new life will do us both good.

Tomorrow we sign her over to someone else.  And tomorrow we embark on an adventure wilder than I’ve ever dreamed.

(Image of sunset over Lake Huron, our temporary new home, is compliments of my husband, Ric Knutson)

 

 

 

Letting Go

“I’ll cover the lying down!” I tell the two strangers, who have just entered my bedroom assessing what needs to be moved.

“Good idea!” the tall, lanky one named Josh answers.

The outside air is heavy with the threat of a downpour.  Inside I pull a blanket over my prone body.

th-6I hear the grunts of men hauling my china cabinet, the living room couch, the multitude of boxes, contents unmarked.  How do you define years of accumulation?  Silly really to still be holding on.  They will go to storage and be swallowed up by the black hole of Thingdom, never to be thought of again.

Afterwards, the sour smell of sweat lingering in the air, I wander into the main living area drawn by the echo of my husband’s voice.  He is now the only furnishing in the room.  The dining table stands stark, alone in its space, the kitchen counters glare emptily.

Layers of our lives have been stripped away in a mere hours.  There is more to go, but as this shell is vacated I feel a sudden pull of emotion.  Is it sorrow?  Doubt?  More a philosophical shrug:  What was it all about anyway?

The excitement has tired me and I return to my current profession:  warming my side of the bed.

th-5Tomorrow more strangers will come, set the house up so that it is no longer recognizable as ours.  Having loaded the last essential goods into our truck, we’ll pull away, point the nose of the truck forward, and move on.

 

RV-Able: The Adventure Begins

img_2188One day and forty-five minutes late, we are off on our new adventure.  It is still dark outside and the temperature is minus seven Celcius.  This is the first time I’ve been in the passengers seat and I am high up.

The delay happened because Ric decided to have a mechanic go over the RV before we headed out, even though it was safetied, and we had done some additional work on it.  Turned out there were two leaks in the engine (oil pan had rusted out and needed replacing), left front brake was broken, right front wheel hub seal was leaking, and left front king pin needed attention.  All could have caused major problems on the road.

Lesson# 1:  Trust your own navigational skills, but leave the mechanics to their own experts.

The delay also happened to be a good thing, as my health took a turn for the worse days before our scheduled departure.  Not sure if it was flu (ME/CFS often feels like the flu), but I had difficulty breathing, and was overly attached to the bathroom.  Departure morning, I still have a gut ache, but it could very well be emotional.  This is a big undertaking for us.

In planning for the trip, Ric had researched and purchased an attachment for the back of the RV to hold my recently acquired mobility scooter.  It didn’t fit, so the wheelchair and my rolator are now on board instead.  This is a disappointment and will have to be figured out for future travels.

Lesson # 2:  Plan as much as you can, and leave room for flexibility.

Have I mentioned that I like to stew about things?  For weeks leading up to our getaway, I have been worried about what food we can bring along (it’s all laid out on governmental sites), whether or not the current political state in the US would affect us, and of course, how my health would hold up for all this.

I have been telling myself over and over again that our life is not going to change for the better unless we do something about it, yet this niggling doubt has lingered.  When we hit a snow squall with white out conditions just half an hour out of town, of course I think we are doomed.  But, like many things, the storm passes, and we make it to the border before the usual traffic back up. The worse that has happened is that Ric’s side window is frozen shut, but after some comical gesturing and a lot of yelling, he does manage to slide it across and we hand over our passports, answer a few questions, and are on our way.

I feel the knot in my stomach start to ease.  We are doing it!

Lesson #3:  Leave worry out of it: have faith in the process.

Coming next:  Tips for the Road and First Impressions of the U.S.A

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preparations Are Mighty

A forty-one foot Alfa See Ya sits in the driveway awaiting take off.th-1

Ric has had to get medical clearance after two heart attacks and triple bypass surgery in the spring.  He has also had to get special licensing to drive our new soon to be home.

We have purchased a mobility scooter for yours truly, which will be mounted on a rack behind the RV, along with his bicycle.

The homemaker was here today helping me sort through cupboards and pack up the essentials.

It’s an exciting time, and also scary.

“What if something happens to Ric?”  my family all ask.

“Are you going to be able to handle it? ” everyone (including myself) questions me.

“Won’t you miss the grandchildren?”

Worst of all, my ninety-year-old mother’s health is failing.  “Are you leaving me?” she asks pitifully.

But isn’t this how life works?  Don’t we all have to face the fire when initiating change – purposeful change?th-2

Ric and I did not come to this decision lightly.  Inundated with setback after setback, we are no longer willing to sit back and wait for the next.

Maybe we are inviting more trouble.  Or, maybe, just maybe, we are turning a corner that will bring wondrous adventure and new life.

We’ll never know until we try.

In the meantime, the preparations are mighty.

 

 

Trial Run

Eight days in – each day a new adventure.th-1

Our two year plan to retirement includes winding down my husband’s business, selling off all our home and furnishings, and hitting the road in the 40′ RV we just purchased.  Never having owned an RV before, we thought it would be a good idea to park it near our home and live it in for a bit.

This is day eight.  It is below zero celsius, and while we are nice and cosy inside, our propane tank needs refilling.  We thought it would be as simple as calling for delivery, but apparently not.  We are now frantically trying to find someone to drive us in to fill up (my husband does not have his license yet).

Ah, the spirit of adventure!

Up until yesterday, the temperatures have been in the double digits, mild by our standards for November, and we were able to heat the bus with good old sunlight.

Not that we plan on doing a lot of winter camping, however; figuring out how everything works, or if it does work, is important.  For instance, having arrived after sunset on day one, we were unable to hook up the water lines.  While we got those working the very next day, it took three days to figure out the hot water.  Meanwhile, I learned the art of “roughing” it – making do with bottled water, learning to boil water for dishes, etc.  All good lessons for this city kid.

Yesterday, we tried out the onboard dishwasher (I know, who needs a dishwasher in an RV) and to our surprise it worked efficiently and quietly – better than our home unit.

I still have to run the washing machine and dryer, but that might wait till nicer weather as it requires we have windows open.

Love the kitchen set up, and my little stove, and discovered that while the microwave works, the convection oven doesn’t.  Still haven’t tried the stove oven – another day.th

Our family thinks we are crazy.  They think we are taking too big of a risk given our recent health histories – his cancer, heart attacks and surgery, and my ME/CFS.  Thing is they haven’t lived the alternative:  day after day confined to home (for me) and doctor’s appointments for him.  The threat of stagnation was becoming very real for us.  We needed to shake things up.

So we’re shaking!  And this is only the trial run.!

Tired of Waiting

I’ve been making a conscientious effort to break free from the unhealthy patterns that hold me back in life:  an overly inflated sense of responsibility/martyr complex, lack of personal boundaries, and little self worth. thWhile change is never easy, especially when it involves looking at one’s self objectively, the awareness has been coming step by step – with the help of amazing therapist, naturally.

 

Recently, I realized that even though I am ill, and have limited energy to apply to daily living, I reserve what I do have for my children, waiting for them to tell me their needs before determining what I have left over.  Now, my children are all adults with children of their own, so what they require from me is usually child care, and what grandmother does not want to do that?  Except looking after a toddler or a baby is quite honestly a real drain on my reserves, and means I have little left for self-care or spending time with my husband.  th

It is really difficult to confess that this is an issue.  I love my granddaughters and want to spend time with them.  What I am afraid to relate to my children (and myself) is that a visit from them is about all I can manage and that an overnight commitment can set me back for days.  It sounds perfectly logical on paper, so why am I not able to express and act on it?

Waiting has been a defining theme in my life, whether it is serving others ahead of myself, putting my life on hold until something else happens, or “weighting” (a play on the word).  I am sure all definitions of this theme relate back to my opening statement.  Putting myself first feels wrong, selfish, and even unwomanly.  It also means risking the loss of others – perhaps not rationally, but to my inner child, it does.th-1

“Tell yourself it is self-preservation and not selfishness,” a friend tells me.  She is amazing at setting boundaries, also lives with a chronic illness, and has no children.

She doesn’t understand, I tell myself, although I like the idea of self-preservation.

Here’s the thing:  it is not my children’s responsibility to make sure I take care of myself.  They will naturally ask for help as long as it is available to them.  In fact, they are relying on my personal boundaries to determine when enough is enough.   No boundaries = no win for anyone.  I feel guilty saying no to them, but then they feel guilty when I overextend myself and slip backwards.

If I am going to change this cycle I have to be willing to take the risk and say ‘no’.  Even typing this makes me feel sick to my stomach.  What if my daughters decide that they want nothing more to do with me if I can’t babysit? (See how irrational fear is!)th-2

The thought of it makes me want to eat something, fast: shove those emotions back down before they become real.  Egads, more “weighting”!

Sigh!  If change wasn’t so worth it we’d all be stuck in our own filth piles.  Oh, the work I have left to do….

 

Change is Risky Business

At one time in my life, Saturday nights were reserved for Trading Spaces and a glass of white wine.  th-1

I owned a bookstore at the time, and looked forward to unwinding at the end of a long work week.  Two out of four Saturdays per month, I would be alone, while the children visited their father.

Burned by a string of bad relationships, I had sworn off men, and thought my life was quite satisfying, until my then teenagers filed in one Saturday night and confronted my routine:

“Mom!  You can’t just lie on the couch every Saturday night and watch renovation shows!  It’s depressing!”

“But I like this show….”

“Seriously, Mom – if you don’t make a change, we’re not coming home anymore!”

Had my life really digressed so pathetically?   My children’s reaction made me take a closer look.  As a retailer, I worked long hours, which consumed much of my life.  When I wasn’t watching TV, I tended to have my nose in a book – mostly self-help oriented.  Perhaps my life did lack colour, but change is so difficult – where was I to start?th-2

I decided that for real change to occur, I needed to take a risk.  For eight years I had been carrying around a business card in my wallet with the name and number of an improv company who did Murder Mysteries.  Not even certain if they were still in business, I dialed the number and found out that they were holding auditions the following Wednesday.  Scared as I was, I decided to go through with it.  The audition was two hours long and within a week I found out I was in.

In the meantime, I had always wanted to take dance lessons, and I learned from a friend that a local bar was offering free salsa lessons once a week, so I put that in my calendar.

Being in a relationship was not an option for me at the time – it was a commitment I had made to myself – however; I did miss some of the things that came with being a couple, so I decided to start up a friendship club with the single men and women that I knew were not into dating at the time.   Amazingly, all it took was a few phone calls and my weekends were filled up with potlucks, movie nights, and bowling.  th-3

My kids had been right:  my life had become depressing; I just couldn’t see it.  Thanks to them, and the willingness on my part to take risks, life turned around.

Sometimes, when life starts to stagnate, we need to make changes.  What things have you done to break out of complacency?