The “Art” of Moving

There definitely is an art to moving. In fact many industries have been born around this art form. I have successfully arrived on the other side of my move but find that as hard as I worked for the last 13 months, so much more work lies ahead. Do you know that feeling? I’m so glad to be on the other side of the move, meaning I have arrived in AZ. I moved into a furnished and fully stocked condo while trying to sell my condo in the northeast. A few pieces of furniture remain back home for staging.

Warning: this move cost thousands and thousands of dollars. I have broken it down into phases which possibly was not the best way to do it and may have cost a lot more in the end but that is how I needed to do it. Every move, like each child we bring into this world, has its own unique set of challenges. I have moved so many times in my life that I considered myself to be a pretty experienced mover. However, this one is possibly the most challenging one of all.

When I was married and had just given birth to my first son, we were transferred to Tokyo from Brooklyn, NY. As ExPats “the company” provided so much assistance. We had movers and packers and agents to find us housing. In spite of that, moving with a 3 month old baby was not a wise decision. In the end though, it was all worth it because my 3 years in Japan were life changing and provided so much growth.

I have learned that moves are merely outer reflections of our inner growth. As we evolve we may desire different things. Many people would not consider leaving what they have to experience something new, but that’s something I enjoy. It means starting over, over and over again. It means making a life in an unknown place. I always enjoy rising to the challenge but as I get older it is becoming something that is less practical. It took years in my last location to find just the right hair stylist, dentist and doctor. It took many mishaps to get to the right people. That is a big sacrifice when moving. Sometimes, now that I’m here instead of there, I think that returning might be a viable option in a few years. Going backwards though, is usually not a good thing. I chose this area because of the weather and the relaxed atmosphere. I’m going to have to make it my home one way or another. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again.

#moving, #transitions, #aging

 

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A Hollow House

My son has moved out and only the cat and I remain. The walls are bare after having the place painted to sell. Boxes were packed up and moved out yesterday. My home is a hollow shell of what it was. It feels strangely like the day I moved in 5 years ago. It is just that empty. Back at the beginning it had not been renovated and I didn’t know what lay ahead. It was a new life full of possibilities. I bought the townhouse for myself and my autistic son to start anew. So many good things happened for him in those 5 years. He developed a very full life in our town. He had a job, a church, and a therapeutic support system. My life was focused on making a good life for him while also earning a living. Unfortunately after a lifetime of living in large cities like NY, Boston and Tokyo, I never adjusted to the small town life here.

A year ago I decided it was time to make a change. I had always envisioned moving west at some point in the future and even though I’m not retired yet, I decided to do this sooner rather than later. I explored a few possibilities. I was considering New Mexico and Colorado but most of all I was interested in Arizona. I resumed a search that I had started in 2008. Back then I went out to Scottsdale, Prescott and Sedona to see if I would like living in AZ. For several reasons it wasn’t the right time but I was intrigued with how different AZ was from all the places I had lived before. I felt happy there because there was so much sun. I noticed a difference in myself. I felt energetically in tune with the area.

In 2016 I made several trips out to Arizona and Colorado to explore. The act of exploration was rewarding and fun and a new lifestyle emerged. It gave me hope again. I felt that there were possibilities for my future after all. Getting him on board with this move was not easy. After all, he was very content in the northeast in a small town even though he had grown up in Brooklyn and NYC. He didn’t want to leave and I tried to find a way for him to stay without me but it wasn’t going to be possible. I found a program in Phoenix and he’s there now. They are teaching him life skills in order to transition into some sort of supportive living program later. He is 26 years old. I never had the empty nest that my friends experienced when our kids came of age. Mothers of disabled adults are never free.

Right now I’m looking back and forward at the same time. The past is done, over, finished. I don’t get any do-overs. The future is hopeful but still uncertain. The home that I moved into with anticipation is hollow and empty but I am not. There was a life here. There are so many good memories and most of all I expressed myself creatively here. I did renovations and designs that I am so proud of. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction to arrive at this point. There was nothing left for me to do here. I was stuck last year and I knew that if life continued that way for another 5 years, nothing was going to change or get better.

Aging is full of unknowns. Health issues can’t be predicted. Even practicing all the best health habits can still result in an unexpected illness down the road. That is why I decided to make a big change now. I couldn’t afford to wait. One small go round with cancer was enough to wake me up and make me grasp the present fully. We always hope that a new place will be a better place but it doesn’t always turn out that way. There are no guarantees on change.

However, feeling hopeful is a refreshing change in and of itself. My experiences over the last 12 months were exciting and fun. The process was extremely enjoyable. I’ll never forget that. My son has made strides in his new program and he feels more hopeful about his future without me because chances are, he’ll be around long after I’m gone. It’s important to create win-win situations with our loved ones. Everyone deserves to be happy and fulfilled, even mothers.

 

What We Imagine vs. What Really Happens

When we manifest our visions they often turn out to be different than what we pictured but we still get the spiritual lessons that we are supposed to have.

The pictures we have of what we are going to create are never the same as what actually happens. We play with a future vision that is a fantasy and then when it starts to take form we are surprised at what it really looks like. You can say this about all of life’s milestones like marriage, child birth, a new job, a new project, a new relationship and a new home. We believe that it is definitely “going to be better” than the last time. I was sure I would be be a better mother with my second baby and do things completely differently. What I didn’t anticipate was that he was a completely different human being that required a whole new set of parenting skills. Approaching new experiences in life is really about spiritual unfoldment. Painful lessons might lie ahead mixed with the joy and tears. Life is never perfect. We know that from experience and we can never imagine the things that end up coming our way.

I’ve been envisioning this move to AZ for a year now. It started last February. I made several trips there to explore all the possibilities. Eventually though, I had to make a decision about where to start. First I found a program for my son so that he was taken care of. I sent him off to AZ first. He is very brave! Now I’m taking the next step in that journey which is to put my toes in the water. It is harder to get myself out there than it was to send my son. Settling him into his adult autism program last January was so much more complicated than I ever imagined. Figuring out how to get his things out there was the biggest challenge of all. Now it’s my turn to  go through that “birth”.

When I was younger I just took the plunge foolishly into new experiences because you can get away with that when you’re young. Now, after a lifetime of mistakes (and some very bad experiences with change) I have learned that you have to do this step by step and not destroy what you have already created. There is always good in our “now”. There will even be better things in our future. That doesn’t mean that we can ever avoid the pitfalls, wrong turns, mistakes and unexpected catastrophes. One thing I have learned though is that I have to keep the movement going forward or else I start to spiral down. So when you get discouraged with anything, just remember to keep moving forward. As one therapist said to me “just put one foot in front of the other”. That was the best advice I ever received.

#change, #moving, #transitions, #movingcrosscountry

BC/AC – Before Cancer/After Cancer

My life after breast cancer and how it made me wake up to the realities of my future

In 2013 I had stage 1 breast cancer. It changed the way I see life and it changed all of my decisions thereafter. I hope you have never said what a friend said to me. She said, “Stage 1? That is not even cancer, you had pre cancer, why do you tell people you had cancer”?. I told her to get her facts straight and that DCIS is pre cancer, this was in fact real, malignant, Stage 1 cancer.

An elderly, burnt out sounding, uncaring, cold, male radiologist gave me the results on the phone 3 days after my biopsy. I was stunned by the call. He was a stranger, who had not done the biopsy and he didn’t tell me why the lovely radiologist from 3 days prior, who had promised that she would be the one to give me the results on Thursday, wasn’t calling me instead.  He said, “your biopsy was malignant….let me be clear this is cancer. You do have breast cancer”. Then he wanted me to repeat it back to him so that he was sure I was not in denial about it. There was no concern, no empathy in his voice, no tenderness at all. This was just another annoying phone call he needed to make and cross off of his to do list. I immediately called my PCP hoping for some warmth. When he called back I said, “my biopsy was positive I have breast cancer”.  With a “so what” attitude he said,  “did you want something from me”?  He sounded like he was saying, “so why are you calling me about this?”. “Well…uh…” I thought to myself,  “I guess I don’t want a damn thing from you“.

However, I’m really writing this to say that life has gotten so much better for me since that diagnosis as many people with cancer will tell you. It is the beginning of a new and better life for many, if found early. Of course it depends on the severity of the cancer, the location and the stage. Of course. That almost goes without saying. I felt so blessed to have caught it immediately. In fact, they had been watching that exact spot for 3 years. “What”!? I look back at earlier mammograms, 2010, 2011, 2012, “3:00 L Breast, blah, blah, blah, we are concerned, have her come back in 6 months”. I suppose they cannot remove every lesion when it’s still benign and I did move a few times during that time, so did not have consistency in my medical care, but I did have consistent mammograms. It was after an extremely stressful time that it became malignant. My father had just died and there had been turmoil in my life at work and other areas.

PLEASE don’t misunderstand. I know that I am fortunate compared to many. As a social worker I have heard countless stories of stage 2, 3 and 4 cancers of all kinds with mets, chemo treatments and I never had any of that. I had a lumpectomy and 7 weeks of radiation, 5x/ week. On the other hand, I cannot tell you how much it hurt when that person said “you didn’t even have cancer, your cancer was a pre cancer” and if that were true it would be one thing, but it wasn’t. People often do say all the wrong things but that is not what I intended to write about here.

Breast cancer, as you have heard from others or experienced yourself, was a tremendous blessing in my life. Cancer woke me up to many realities. Anyone who has gone through this will tell you that there are either constant thoughts afterward like, “it happened once, it can happen again” or “my body mutated into a cancerous mass so why wouldn’t it happen again?” Or “if the radiation zapped this part won’t the cancer grow outside of those boundaries since it’s unlikely to come back within that square that they radiated?” (so very close to the heart on the left side). The wake up call is about pending, looming death.

After all the treatments were over I was euphoric for months. The reason I went for that overdue mammogram was because a close friend had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and I remembered that I was behind schedule and needed to get it done. He is gone now. He died at 48 in 2014 and it was heartbreaking to all of us who knew him.  After my diagnosis, we talked on the phone weekly and we called it our “cancer chat”. I knew I was very lucky that I caught it early. I felt ridiculous talking about my little stage one when he had mets and suffered so much with chemo, chest tubes and multiple admissions to the hospital. Mine was nothing compared to his. But he said it made him feel better to check on me to see how I was and we helped each other. He had felt ill for years and chose to take a non traditional route rather than get a medical diagnosis for several years. I am not sure that it made much difference, I think the end would have been the same either way. He walked around probably for years without knowing that he had lung cancer but he had symptoms.

I took that trip to France I always dreamed of after radiation was over and counted my blessings. I went with a choir to Rouen and Paris. It was my first trip to Europe. I sang my heart out in magnificent Cathedrals in France that summer. I enjoyed seeing my eldest son get married to my beautiful daughter-in-law and was thankful, thankful, thankful all the time. I contacted old, lost friends. I had visitors after the surgery, in my home. People were good, they were kind, they helped. I did the renovations in the house that I had wanted to do. I lost a job at that time but I gained a life. I went into private practice and became my own boss. I built my practice during radiation and it grew! The things we do, that we can’t believe we did, when we look back.

I came to terms with the most difficult issue in my life. My autistic son’s need for a future plan. What will he do when I’m gone? Where will he live? How will he function in the world? He was so dependent at 23 at the time. Now he is 26. He was terrified as I went through all of this because he knew that his future was so vague. Who would take care of him?

Fast forward 3 years and we are in a better place with this issue of planning for his future. It’s a complicated and convoluted road. Finding housing and services for an autistic adult who cannot manage independently is costly and there are few good options. We have a plan now. Since I wanted to move west I looked for programs in the state where I wanted to live because after cancer I decided that my needs mattered too. After 26 years of being a caretaker I have decided that my needs matter very much because if I put myself first I will be alive longer and both of my sons need me to be. There are people that hope that I will be around for awhile and so do I. I want my life to feel good and to be my own creation. So I’m making that happen and I’m making sure that my younger son has all the possible opportunities to become as independent as is possible in his case. He’ll attend a 2 year program that will help with that in the state that I want to move to. So we are moving int he right direction and deep down I know, it’s all because of cancer.

When Friendships End

This is a topic that is rarely spoken about. Sometimes even after many years, a friendship cannot continue. One person grows in a different direction or too many incidents happen that are unacceptable to one or both people and the friendship no longer brings joy. To me, friendship should be a happy union of two people that grows with time and withstands all of the tests. There needs to be acceptance of flaws but underneath it all there needs to be love. One has to feel loved for who they are in order to gain from the friendship. I have noticed that there are some people that I outgrow and what was once tolerable isn’t anymore. I also know that others have let me go and yes, it hurts, and you always wonder why, but it’s best to stay neutral about the whole thing and remember what was pleasant and good in the friendship during it’s “lifetime”.

Some people keep their friends from high school and college but not all do. If you have moved often and lived in different places as I have, there isn’t a common ground with those who you once shared a job with or a town or an experience. Then there are those friends that seem to last forever and you come to cherish them more with time because of the longevity. There are friendships that were cut short by death and you never forget them, especially during the holidays or at times when you would have seen them. The world isn’t the same without them in it. That just shows how unique each one of us is and how we can be touched by a person who comes into our life. That must mean that we also touch others in ways that we don’t even know.

In my experience, we find activities early on in friendships that become a ritual for a period of time. You might be one of those people that have kept the same friends throughout your lifetime and keep up certain rituals with them, but I have travelled through many experiences and places and homes in such a short time and have known so many different people as a result.

I have come to value those people who have remained in my life through all the twists and turns. Especially those who “knew me when”. The rare person who has known me through decades of my life holds a special place.The ones who knew me when my children were young, or during or after my divorce are the most precious to me. Those who were part of the spiritual community I belonged to in NYC can never be replaced because of all that we went through together.

As we age we have memories to keep. No one really knows what they are unless we choose to talk about them. Even if we do try to explain, it’s so hard to convey what we feel or see of that memory. They are the precious gems that we store. They have no physical shape and cannot be stolen from us. Locked away in every person is a large storage room of memories to be sifted through from time to time. There might be photographs to memorialize them but as we look at photos we remember all the other details of what was going on at the time. Behind a seemingly happy family photo might be memories of turmoil and misery.  Or we might discount all that and appreciate now what we didn’t at the time. We are ever evolving souls that morph and change and reinvent ourselves all the time. Some of us do that at faster rates than others but in the end, we’re all growing and moving toward something that is greater than ourselves. In the process we hit against other marbles, learn what we need to learn and then move on. What kind of marble are you? Do you mostly stay in one circle? Is your radius small or large? I believe I am a very colorful marble that cannot sit still for long and rolls in and out of circles always looking for its tribe. Perhaps someday I’ll find a community of similarly bright and colorful marbles who have rolled around the earth many times as well and then I can settle down and stop moving.

 

Sweet Bean

If you don’t mind English subtitled foreign films, there is such a sweet Japanese movie on Netflix called “Sweet Bean”. I did live in Tokyo for 3 years many years ago and came to appreciate their culture. They are loving people who value beauty in nature, spiritual topics and the meaning of life and friendship. Their movies often reflect that and also there is some obsession in the movies with death. I recommend this movie for those dealing with any aspect of the aging process at any stage of it. It is especially for those who might sometimes ask “What was the meaning of my life?” or “Did my life mean something to others?”. The ending is especially poignant. It’s close to 2 hours long so I watched it over a period of 2 days. Here is the link:

https://www.netflix.com/title/80059438

Sweet Bean (Japanese with subtitles)

 

Sharing my Reality

I should make it clear that sometimes I can sound like I’m “telling you the way it is”. I don’t mean to do that at all. I hope that what I share here will resonate with some readers. We can never touch everyone in the same way, but sometimes we might say something that seems small and it could have a big impact on another human being. Aren’t most of us really looking for a shared experience? Have you ever described something near and dear to your heart only to get a blank look from the listener?  Either they weren’t listening or they seem to have no idea what you’re talking about. Every once in awhile though,we may actually touch someone with our words and it’s a gift to both of us.

What motivated me to write this blog is to have others join me in my current journey through this stage of life, (thus the title of my blog). I am at one of those crossroads. I realize that some people have kept things constant in their lives and may actually come to this point in time feeling very gratified and fulfilled. This blog is probably not for that person.

I have never been a content person. I’ve often left bad situations rather than stay in them because it seemed like needless suffering to me. Looking back I walked away without a fight. There were things I wanted to stand up for, and didn’t. Many people make the opposite choice and stay in bad marriages, jobs and relationships. My marriage is an example of how I leave when I’m unhappy. I ended the marriage when my sons were 1 and 3. We had been together for 10 years but married only 6 of those. The relationship was full of red flags before we got married and after the wedding day everything changed for the worst. It wasn’t the person I was married to that was bad, it was a bad match. I had no idea at that time in my life how to judge who would make a good partner and a good person to have children with.

Looking back at our differences, you couldn’t have picked two people more ill suited for each other than us. At the same time, I can understand why we came together because there was also some common ground. We had two sons together and divorce only magnified our differences and our contempt. Those who choose to stay in those situations, (and many do) have other long term effects. The point is, there is no right decision or even better decision from what I can see. Had I stayed, there would have been different problems. I wish I had stayed in the marriage longer, for everyone’s benefit. I was headstrong and determined to leave. Eventually though, I would have ended it.

When I became single at 35 with two very young sons, I didn’t know that my life was about to take such a dramatic new direction as a result of that decision. It did. I learned to manage on my own and to become financially responsible and successful in order to provide my children with as much as I could under the circumstances. I also delved into a spiritual journey. I used my spiritual community as my main support. I got the answers I needed there. I got the inner guidance from my daily spiritual practice. I made lasting friendships with like minded individuals. I could not have had as much success with my individual quest without all the spiritual seeking that I did in those years.

Now when I meet women who are becoming single for the first time in their lives in their 50s or 60s, I can appreciate all that I had to learn quickly and under pressure at a younger age. The women that have to do that now, at this time in their lives due to divorce or death of spouse, have challenges that I didn’t have. I had youth on my side when it happened to me. They don’t. I have known some very resilient women that come up with creative ways to make it in the world in their later years after loss. It is sad though when I meet some along the way who are struggling to make ends meet because they never paid attention to financial matters and now are being forced to. How can a person enjoy single life in these later years if daily survival is the main issue?

I don’t have any family members beyond my two sons that can offer emotional or practical support. I have very little contact with the relatives who were part of my childhood and some have passed on. Friends die too. Some just move away. I currently live in a small town in the northeast where people are close to family and friends from childhood. My life experience has been the complete opposite and I feel that I have never fit in here. I kept trying to make it work until I realized, or someone pointed out to me, that I was trying to make the impossible possible. So once again I’m moving on.

This stage of transition is all too familiar to me. It’s about detachment and loss. It’s the phase of leaving one area but not arriving in the new area yet. It’s the array of feelings, senses and thoughts that go along with that. Was my life meaningful here? Did I make a difference? Who did I help? Who helped me? Could I have done more? What didn’t I do that I can do in the next place?

My younger son is autistic. I’m looking for places for him to get some transitional training in areas where I would like to live. So far he has been living with me and is dependent on me financially and for many other supports. This will free me up to have a more normal experience at this stage of life. I won’t be a 24/7 caretaker anymore. It feels frightening and exciting at the same time. I have doubts and enthusiasm all at once. I don’t want to get too excited in case he has to come back home after the 2 years. The program is supposed to teach him to be better able to live on his own but that will remain to be seen based on his limitations and what’s available. I’ve managed to work my life around his and without him being at the center, I think all things are possible for me again. I will write more about this as we go along. Government assisted housing for Autistic Adults is a major lack in this country. The cost of care is left to the parents and siblings. Only those who can afford to help can provide their children with suitable situations. Those who can’t are placed in the wrong level of care and are treated improperly. If you care to know more about this topic go to http://www.autismhousingnetwork.org

 

#aging #transitions #moving west #retirement #pre-retirement #agingsingle #parenting disabledadults  #caretaker #autism