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My parents’ new home.

Three weeks ago, my parents moved out of my childhood home, where we lived as a family for the most part of twenty years. Although I recently turned 30 and live on my own, this was tremendously difficult for me to cope with. I visited my parents a few times as they were packing, and each time, I would break down sobbing. The last time I had gone to help, I narrowly avoided a massive panic attack, and excused myself to leave after barely two hours. I began to break down almost immediately after going through my old things, when I threw away a framed painting that I had made as a young child.

Why was that such a trigger?

Because it meant that the safety of my childhood was over. Not only that, but I was losing my safe place.

That house was my safe place. We moved in during the summer of 1996, and I lived there continuously until I started college in 2006. Then, I returned during summers and breaks for the four years between 2006 and 2010, and during breaks from grad school through 2014. I moved back in for a year and a half after graduation, until I found a job that could sustain me.

I returned there many, many times, for many, many reasons. I would come home to be consoled from breakups, to be cared for when I was sick, for comfort when I was first dealing with my anxiety, and as a refuge when I was unable to make it on my own as a professional.

I spent a lot of time there. It was my safe place.

Home is where the heart is.

I was very upset about my parents’ move. But then something happened. The week that they moved, my boyfriend broke up with me in a very shocking and eventful day.

I was so upset, I didn’t want to be alone. Our relationship had been stable! Or so I had thought. I could not stop crying and I needed comfort. So, I called my parents and asked if they needed help with unpacking. I came over that weekend to assist. And then, a few days later, I returned to help with something else. And then a few days later, I asked if I could come over again. They weren’t sure if they had anything else I could help with, but that was ok- I said I’d bring over my laptop and work on things, and as my mom came up with tasks, I could take a break and help out.

I’ve been visiting them a few times a week since. I pack a bag of work, and I work quietly while my mom writes in the other room. I don’t even have to be in the same room with her- it just helps to know that she’s around. I’ve spent so much time there that the new house just about feels like home.

My safe place wasn’t a place after all. It was, instead, wherever my safe people were.

“Home- I’m coming home. Home is wherever I’m with you.”

Home, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

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Out with the Old, and in with . . . Something

Last week, I wrote about how I felt my life was up in the air, like a pile of leaves that had been disturbed by a child or a leaf blower.

But, I’m not the only one.

Just as my life has been disrupted in a major way, so are the lives of many of my friends and family. Jobs, relationships, and homes are all in upheaval.

I can’t help but think that it’s not a coincidence. This fall, we are being called to let go of the old and to release what isn’t working for us, in order to make room for something new.

Why? I don’t know. What we’re moving to, I don’t know. I’m inclined to think that it will be something better. Not just for us as individuals, but as a society. As a world. A lot of “new-agey” sort of people seem to believe that we’re moving into a new era, that humankind is going through a sort of moral and spiritual evolution. I don’t see any evidence to the contrary.

Everything is in upheaval because you need to get rid of what isn’t working in order to start anew. And in order to know that something isn’t working, you need to see it not work. 

It’s painful, but it’s for the best, if we make the best of it.

Fall

Fall is THE season of change. Nature is transitioning from the warm lushness of summer to the bitter chill of winter. The trees release their leaves as they prepare to conserve their resources in order to survive the harshness of the year’s last season.

It’s funny, however, how our lives often mimic the changing of the seasons. Like the trees, I, too, am in transition.

This fall, my life has felt like a pile of leaves that someone has tossed up into the air, each leaf to scatter and fall newly askew on the ground.

(The pile of leaves, of course, was perfectly content where it was.)

My career leaves have been tossed askew. Due to a traumatic work experience, I have had to quit a steady, well-paying, full-time job in order to piece together part-time and independent contractor opportunities.

My mental health leaves have been upset as well. My anxiety has been at its highest level in ten years as I cope with traumatic stress from my previous job.

My social relationship leaves have been thrown about. My parents have moved from the family home of over 20 years to a new house. This transition has been very difficult for me, as that is where I grew up. And, my boyfriend broke up with me on a shocking day where he also lost his job. Our relationship had been secure, or so I had thought.

In a book to which I frequently return, The Way of the Happy Woman, author Sara Avant Stover describes how, in the autumn, “we too are in the process of letting things wither and fall away to gather only what is essential for the winter months.” This fall has forced me to let many things go as many of the things I had come to rely on were disrupted. She continues to explain that “grief and sadness are the primary emotions of the autumn season, which, when tended to, are transmuted into courage.” This fall, I have experienced much, much grief.

May it develop into much, much courage.

Fall Changes

photo credit: Wanderung Hombourg via photopin (license)
photo credit: Wanderung Hombourg via photopin (license)

It feels like fall has come early this year. All the talk of pumpkin spice doesn’t feel out of place like it did last year at this time. Although it is 90 degrees today, the Pennsylvania breeze carries a chill as it stirs the air. Early leaves have begun to scatter gracefully across the pavement. Usually, I want to fight to hold onto the summer, but this year, I welcome the change.

This year, something feels different. It could be that I’m in a much different place than I was last fall. I had just moved back in with my parents after quitting a soul-sucking job. I was applying and interviewing to everything I could think of, to no avail. (I even got turned down for a job at Starbucks.) I almost regretted leaving my suffereable but secure master’s level job.

I’m in a far different place than I was three falls ago. This time in 2012, I was devastated after a misunderstanding at my internship that almost resulted in disciplinary action. I was completely questioning my chosen career path.Every day, I became more an more hopeless and depressed until my last day at the site in December.

This year, my goals feel closer than they did before. The part-time job I started in January has turned into a full-time opportunity, with me switching roles from caregiver to activities assistant. It’s not music therapy, but it’s much closer. It’s still a job that requires much less education than I have, but its a step in the right direction. The part that excites me the most, though, is that once I start receiving healthcare benefits from work, I will be able to afford to move into my own apartment. I already have a place picked out, and I’ve begun dreaming about how I want to decorate it.

I don’t know why things are so hard. I thought that once I completed my master’s degree, I’d have the key to an instantly successful life. Any job I wanted would be open to me. I had certainly labored enough for it. Fighting for jobs that I am underqualified for has felt demeaning. I’ve struggled to not connect my pay or my job title to my self worth.

I see my friends struggling too, many buried under insurmountable student loans. It’s hard to not feel like the millenials have gotten the short end of the stick. We did everything they told us to do in school and it’s not paying off.

What am I going to do? I’m going to keep trying, because that’s the only thing I know how to do. After I get settled in my new job and my new home, I plan to pursue my teaching certification, in hopes that it will open me up to a wider range of job possibilities and give me more opportunities to move up in the world.

For now, I’ll have to settle with moving through life one small step at a time.

Octflowber

Dear October,

My intention for you is simple: every day, I will let go and let flow. That’s why I’ll be calling you Octflowber.

I will be mindful of areas where I am resisting, and I will let it go.

Wildflowers
Wildflowers

In addition to that, I have a few simple goals:

  • I will find work. Any kind of work.
  • When I do, I will treat myself to a month of yoga classes.
  • I’ll find time to be present every day.
Chyrsanthemum
photo credit: Parvin ♣( OFF for a while ) via photopin cc

I’ll repeat this mantra to set my intention when I wake up every morning, and when I go to sleep every night:

My October mantra
My October mantra

Taking it slow,

Mary