As the process of making a new home proceeds, I’m still reflecting on whether it’s stressful or not. I went to a meeting/lunch this week with lots of women who had moved a lot during their lives, mainly as the trailing spouses of men who were furthering careers as diplomats or international companies. They had some stories to tell:
Kidnapping by rebels in Sierra Leone
Learning new languages and customs in Moldova; eating what’s grown and in-season
Dealing with racism in Russia (essentially, Russians regard most people from outside Russia as undesirable, and your colour may just add to the dislike, but isn’t essential)
Moving countries over 15 times
Hardships in Haiti
Living with a suitcase packed all the time, in case of need to evacuate.
These are just a few of the instances that came to mind for people. Most were not that pleasant, so we tend to keep pushing the stress button. But, we know that’s only a part of the story. In my way, I will put out some of the other side.
As I wade through boxes, I also wade through my life that may be partially forgotten or poorly remembered.
Letter from my late mother in Jamaica, sent to me in 1993 to America, where I’d been living for three years, including cuttings from local papers of sporting events. That’s a keeper, not least because the three stamps shown were each valued at J$1.10. As my daughter asked, that’s not J$110? 🙂
Reminders of my first visit to Moscow, in 1994: calendar cards, showing different images of Russian soldiers and fighters over the years.
Greeting cards kept, for reasons that seem unclear, now.
Russian 12 month entry visa, over 1993-4, which marked my stepping into the world of the just-fallen former Soviet Union. This gave my daughter a Snapchat moment as I read it.
Life moves on and we change, so moving is one of those events that allow you to reset markers in life.
Visual reminders are often of pleasant things, like notes from someone you’re courting. I, personally, don’t keep things that remind me of dark moments: they have their own specail place in my memory. Moving can, sometimes, help to erase those.
Several people found my post about the stress of moving earlier this week had lots of personal resonance for them. Some also asked me to do some more posts as things went along.
One of the things that moving does is put time into perspective. In our case, having had many personal belongings in storage for a few years, their release has exposed the ravages of time–some things do not thrive when not used or kept in artificial conditions–as well as the speed of change in recent years.
The ravages tend to ‘attack’ things that need air and light. So, many wooden things we have have lost some lustre and may need a lot of TLC to get back their sheen; maybe, some good doses of linseed oil will work wonders.
Technological change has been rapid over the past few decades. Nothing shows that more than the world of electronics. However, the side aspect of this is how homes have had to change to accept these changes. For instance, we left behind a house that had an armoire and shelving to house a television and stereo music system. Well, now the world is full of flat-screen and wall-mounted TVs, so no need for furniture. We have the space under the TV and the cable boxes, etc. need to sit somewhere, but not in the old-style (relatively) set up.
Most people are not fans of dangling wires and I can now understand how nice it must be to design and build your own home and have these wires and cables hidden or so set up that they are not so readily visible. Anyway, time to think about creative coverings.
We’ve moved from a world of music on discs and tapes to a world of streaming. So, I had to smile when I came across some packs of blank cassette tapes. I should ask my teenager if she knows what they are.
A friend suggested I sell them on eBay, and there’s a good market.
We don’t even need a radio to listen to radio broadcasts, as many cable services offer radio stations in their packages.
What about WiFi? Long gone are the days of having computers connected to the Internet. Now, we have wireless access all over, or almost all over, and get antsy if we have weak signals in any part of the area. I am thinking about leaving some of those weak spots, though, as a kind of ‘quiet zone’, especially as that is around the master bedroom. I’m pretty comfortable with many changes and all the little things one needs to know about setting up Internet connections. But, my heart goes out to those who never grasped how it all works. They may even have never mastered the remotes for the TV and still are at a loss when new equipment arrives and has to be used. Like the transition from a kettle on a fire to an electric one, it can be an odd shift.
We’re also having to deal with the ‘new’ that is not so new, that is living in a different climate and culture. The climate part is great in that summer all year round is a joy. But, life is different in the tropics. I do not freak out when I see lizards crawling over my sneakers, but I’m reminded I need to check my footwear before sticking my feet in 🙂 If you don’t like living things sharing your space, then see you later. Ants love people and their food supplies. I’d rather remove the temptation than spray, etc, but my wife loves to be armed with Bagon. Then, there is the bad weather. I have not been keep to open lots of windows because I don’t know how the rain falls where we are. When it rains, it can pour hard in Jamaica, and much as I love fresh air, I do not like surprise pools of water because I did not realise from where the rain comes.
So, as we plod along and things take shape, little adjustments will get made. I’ve mastered the lights. Success! Set realizable goals. Few boxes today than yesterday? That’s the spirit!
“I’ve moved!” I’ve been telling friends, with a certain amount of pleasure and abandonment–of the carefree kind, not the physical leaving behind sort. They often came back quickly with “How did it go?” “Good luck with that!” “I hate moves!” or a set of not happy-inducing remarks.
I mentioned last week how moving is highly ranked as a cause of stress. I quoted the following:
“It’s one of life’s most stressful experiences, and it’s because it involves having to cope with change,” explains Nicky Lidbetter, chief executive of charity Anxiety UK. “Moving house represents a transition in life, it’s about change and unfamiliarity and for many people that causes stress and anxiety. May 5, 2016 Read How to reduce the stress of moving house – Anxiety UK.
Now, we’ve moved a lot over the past 15 years, from separate homes as singles into marital home; from our new home in the USA to an official residence in Guinea that backed onto the ocean, and back; from USA to another house in Barbados and back; from our house in a cul-de-sac in the USA to a house in a gated complex in Jamaica, and now within Jamaica. I’ve always thought about the moves with mixed feelings, but more tilted towards the positive, in part because each move was its own start to an adventure, and some of the ‘journeys’ are still underway.
We also had the good fortune of not ending up in some home that was terrible. Our first spot in Guinea was an official residence on a main road; not a very prepossessing house and not much lived in by my predecessor, and it lacked any homely touches. It also needed a lot of sprucing up. But, it was next door to one of the president’s wives, so was in a safe neighbourhood. I negotiated to find a new official residence and made an offer the owner of a new housing complex could not refuse and he gave up his villa to move into one of the tower blocks on the site, and voila! We had nice neighbours, in the Chinese Ambassador and the British Ambassador on either side. The former I rarely saw, but the latter (which had two postings) I saw often and we became and are still good friends. Living with lots of security takes some getting used to, though. Two guards 24-hours a day was too much, though, and I begged to half the detail. When we got back to the simple life, it was nice to be in a bucolic suburb near the Capital Crescent Trail, where it was a five-minute walk to the shops or to a patch that went to Georgetown in one direction and downtown Bethesda in the other direction, and was frequented by people taking exercise in all forms. Much of the year we could opt to ride to work, and when I retired it was my walking place of choice.
We’ve been lucky because working for international organisations has meant that we get a lot of help. We have movers to help disassemble, pack, load, list, ship, store, unload, recheck lists, unpack, re-assemble, etc. That’s a huge physical and mental burden lessened, though the fact that you have to move is no less anxiety-creating. But, moves are wholesale, so it’s a full 40 foot container somewhere along the way. Each move, we got rid of plenty of stuff, but then acquired new things in new places and then shipped those home, to then go through a weeding out again later. But, our core furniture is much the same as when we first decided to buy a home. It’s nice timeless stuff, with lots of cultural and geography added, such as wooden figures, carpets from the Caucasus counties, pottery, and dirt from all over, plus abundant memories.
Our latest move from a furnished house to one that was unfurnished also had the excitement–yes, you read right–of seeing our own belongings after their spending more than three years in storage. My thoughts turned first to trepidation about what condition things would be in, but hardly anything was damaged or the worse for wear due to being in a container and warehouse all that time. By contrast, my wife was taken with “I forgot we had that!” She of the minimalist lifestyle. 🙂
Fortunately, too, the initiation of the moves hasn’t always been driven by one part of the couple, because all the liaison can be as burdensome as the questions about what to pack what to ship, what to think about keeping in short-term storage, etc. But, it’s good to have seen it from both angles, as ‘leader’ or ‘follower’.
I have also moved myself a few times, and I was telling the moving crew at the weekend how I moved from an upstairs apartment and got a bed out of a window single-handed. I learned how to move heavy furniture by sliding it on cardboard, up and down stairs. It’s amazing what one person can do. You have to be resourceful. But, as we agreed, you don’t want to do too much as you have work to do at the other end, and maybe a long drive in-between.
But, as far as I’m concerned there’s always something funny involved in a move. It may be people or things that cause the ripples in the stomach. This one has been all about Bed-lam!
It all began when a friend and realtor offered us some air beds for the first few nights. It’s a while since I slept on one of those and I completely forgot how difficult they are to get off, let alone have a decent night sleep. I woke up feeling I was being wrapped in a huge bowl of blancmange. I had nothing on which I could lever myself, so I slithered onto the floor and then tried to pull myself up by a dresser. I had one night on that THING! I then had to go to the north coast early in the morning after that night and was then spoilt by having four nights in a big, real bed. But, I had to come back and spend one more night on the ‘Titanic’ bubble, which had by now lost half its air. Needless to say the night was rocky, or really squishy. Again, in the morning I had to do my impression of a slithering snake. I’M glad no one was with a camera.
So, I was excited when I heard that a delivery of our furniture would come the next day. Though I had planned to be on the north coast again from early Saturday, my wife ‘prevailed’ on me to delay my trip (as she and our daughter had just flown off to Florida for a weekend swim meet–didn’t they know we were moving?), so I committed to stay till midday. See, I care! 🙂 As luck had it, the first item out of the truck was our bed 🙂 At least a real mattress would be there for when I got back.
The movers came with a crew of about eight men, both old and young. Many moving firms seem to have a kind of ‘succession’ planning going on, with older guys (mainly) showing new and younger guys the ropes (literally, in terms of moving the heavy items). This crew was quite funny in a typically Jamaican way. The driver of the container lorry had arrived with his lady, who was a really ‘fluffy diva’, even down to the powder on her neck. I don’t know what he’d promised her, but the two of them were soon on the grass verge as if they had good to country and were on a river bank. Anyway, the guys told me they would be unloading the container and putting the things into a smaller truck to come down the driveway to the house. It sounded like more work to me. But, I was surprised to see it worked well, and of course reduced some of the heavy humping on and up and over. The supervisor was ‘Mr. Big Picture’ and it’s important that someone has that because some of the men are clueless. “Where do you want this box?” the man asked. ‘What’s in it?” I asked. He did not know. I asked him what was its number and we checked the packing list: ‘downstairs office’. OK. We could decide on general location. I gave general ideas, such as make sure that bedroom things are in or close to the rooms concerned. But, I had to point out that stacking boxes four deep by a window meant I could not get to the window to open or close it. Oh! Yes, oh! 🙂
In between all of this heavy lifting, I suddenly saw some men rolling on the floor with heavy wrapping paper and a man rolled up inside it! “It’s his birthday!” one man said. ‘What happened to the flour?’ I asked. They were having too much fun. Well, noon cane and I left. Most of the container had been emptied. The team was going to assemble as much as possible before their day ended at 4.
I went to do my business and spent the night with friends, in a real bed. After playing in a charity tournament on Sunday, I headed home and got in about 8. What a joy! My bed! I couldn’t really wait, but I showered and unpacked a little and slid into it and under the covers. Bliss! I was soon asleep by about 10. Then…
Kachunk! I felt the bed move and I was leaning over, with my head toward the floor. It did not feel like an earthquake. So, I got up. I went to the bathroom and looked at the bed in the half-light of 2am. I got back into the bed. After what seemed like an hour, I felt it again. Kachunk! Now, my head was closer to the floor. What the…! I got up and looked the bed. The mattress was inside the frame at a steep angle. Had the bed broken? Search me, as they say. I got up and headed downstairs, knowing that I could at least lie on a sofa. What a disaster! I sent my wife a message in the wee hours, so that she could share my joy when she got up in Florida. I watched some tennis–Australian Open had begun.
In the middle of the morning, some of the loading crew came by. We looked at the bed. Unfortunately, slats that support the base mattress were missing. THey were not in any unopened packages, so somehow they had disappeared. Well, that was good news. I just suggested we move the bed frame and put the mattresses on the floor. So, that’s where we are. My wife came back yesterday and was agog at the stuff that was in the house. But, she seemed to like the make shift bed set-up and was sleeping deeply when I got up before dawn. She didn’t look that stressed. I saw that she had emptied a few boxes before going to sleep…and put away the things I needed to take somewhere today. Oh, I wonder where they are, now?
But, she’s off on the road again, and a two-day conference followed by another trip means that we will put off the joint decisions about whether her long dresses really should stay in the closet with my shirts. I know what I think. Now, let’s see what else I can do? Lots of boxes to unload. Not quite sure why my shoes are on shelves that look better suited for clothes. Where is the food? Well, here is some. Odd. It’s with some bed linen. Hmm! Can I find my Nutribullet? Well, here is a large blender cup part. But, where is the motor base? What are all these keys? Is there a map for the light switches? Oh, that sounds like a phone? Where was I when I last had my cell phone?