Seven Things I Learned from Moving

If this blog has seemed a bit disjointed for the past few weeks, or if you have tried to email me and feel as though the response might never come, well, we’ve been moving. The process started months ago, when I started to spend my afternoon hours with William “organizing.” We made bins for different types of clothing– clothes to grow in to, clothes for next fall and winter, clothes that Penny has outgrown and Marilee might wear, clothes to give away. I hired help to go through six large file drawers and consolidate them into three, to sort through pictures and letters and journals. We gave away a colossal desk and a sofa and our television. And then, two weeks ago, we moved. 

There are still unpacked boxes and boxes of items to give away and throw away and all the like, but I’m trying to pretend that we’re settled, for now. We’re only here for the summer, and then we will move again to a temporary house for three weeks at the end of August, then into a rental house for about six months, and then, next spring, into our permanent home. So I suppose I have an excuse for disjointed blog posts and unreturned email for the next year or so… In fact, I’m going to slow down the blogging for the summer in response to the transition we’ve got going on (keep reading for more details).

As I look back on the past few months, here are a few things I hope I’ve learned:

1. It is hard to move with kids. Now that we have children, every day of my life feels like a battle to maintain the status quo. Sweep. Fold. Put away. Repeat. So trying to actually accomplish something like organizing and packing and then unpacking again has felt rather impossible. But the silver lining is that our kids need life to just go on as always. I wouldn’t have gone to church our first Sunday in our new house without William asking on Saturday, “Can we please go to church tomorrow, Mama?” I wouldn’t have enjoyed the 4th of July concert or time by the pool or any number of other “interruptions” without our children. So the photos sprinkled through this post are a reminder of both why I’m grateful for them and why this process is taking so long.

Covered in blue frosting

2. Moving is hard on everyone, even the cat. Even before we moved, our cat started vomiting frequently and William and Penny started waking up at an ungodly hour.  The past few nights have been quiet, but for the first two weeks we were in our new home, Marilee woke up and screamed for at least two hours. She wasn’t crying. She was screaming. My rough translation is, “Where is my ROOM?” If Peter or I were in the room–not touching her, not talking to her, just being present–she would curl up in a fetal position and quiet down. She wouldn’t go to sleep, she’d just lie there peacefully until we tried to go away, at which point she would stand up again and scream. There were days that I felt exactly the same way.

3. We are sad to leave and excited to go. In addition to the loss of friends, colleagues, our church, Penny and William’s school, the Down syndrome Association of Central New Jersey and the doctors we love in the area, we are also sad to leave what someone called our “consequential strangers.” Mr. C., the crossing guard who gives treats at holidays and who our children looked forward to seeing every morning and afternoon… Beth at the post office, who knows our children by name… the woman who runs the dry cleaning store, who has Christian music playing in the background… the local storeowners who comment when we haven’t come by in a while… In some ways I think I will miss the people that we won’t keep in touch with most of all.

And yet, despite the hassle, and sleepless nights, of transition, despite the tears I shed in leaving, despite the fear that we wont’ find the doctors, friends, and church we hope for, we also feel grateful and excited about this next stage of life. We are moving to a gorgeous part of the world where we already feel quite welcomed. And we are confident that this is where God has called us and that this is the best decision for our whole family. 

William's final day of gymnastics in New Jersey

5. We have way too much stuff. In an interview for the New York Times, anthropologist Anthony P. Graesch explains that one impact of an “increasingly nucleated family” (which is to say, living far away from relatives) is more and more stuff.

He says:

The inflow of objects is relentless. The outflow is not. We don’t have rituals, mechanisms, for getting rid of stuff.
In another essay, by E.B. White written in 1957, he says:
For some weeks now I have been engaged in dispersing the contents of this apartment, trying to persuade hundreds of inanimate objects to scatter and leave me alone. It is not a simple matter. I am impressed by the reluctance of one’s worldly goods to go out again into the world.
I too am impressed by the relentlessness of it all.
6. Stuff matters. As much as I wish we could declutter and only keep what we need and truly enjoy, I also loved looking back through my closet and finding the dress I wore at our rehearsal dinner, Penny’s first sneakers (size 3), the bracelet Peter gave me when we were dating in high school, the scarf Grand Penny knit me in college. I threw and gave away as much as I could, and yet it was a good reminder that I am a physical being, and physical stuff is part of what makes me who I am, part of what reminds me of who and what I love.

7. Organizing stuff helps me organize my thoughts. I think of myself as a pretty disciplined and organized person, and yet the onset of three children and moving and just the creep of life has left me with priorities out of whack. Spiritual life, exercise, thoughtful and purposeful time with my children, work time that doesn’t just involve throwing up a blog post but instead actually crafting something of substance… all of those things have taken a hit in the past year. And somehow the process of shredding old tax returns, throwing away junk, giving away unnecessary stuff, and sorting through the closets put me in the right mindset to try to sort through my life as well. I haven’t figured it all out, but I know that regular time with God, keeping our household orderly, spending purposeful time with my children, and getting some exercise are going to take up many hours of every week. Which means that, for now, writing is going to take up less time.

Marilee's new favorite activity, giving kisses

And so, for the remainder of the summer and probably into the fall, I am planning to limit my blog posts to two per week. You can expect something related to our family and something else–maybe a post about prenatal testing (I’m still working on an ebook that will come out in September), maybe a link to parents.com (still blogging about the election), maybe a link to her.meneutics (still writing for them once a month), maybe a guest post (two planned for next week in response to the Affordable Care Act) maybe just some thoughts on faith or family or disability.

And on those days when nothing is posted on this blog, well, think of my silence as an example of the ways I’m growing and learning and trying to live my own lessons, acknowledging my own limitations and discovering my own humanity. And unpacking another box.

About Amy Julia Becker

Amy Julia Becker writes and speaks about family, faith, disability, and culture. A graduate of Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary, she is the author of Penelope Ayers: A Memoir, A Good and Perfect Gift (Bethany House), and Why I Am Both Spiritual and Religious (Patheos Press).

Comments

  1. Michelle Van Loon says:

    Great post. I resonate particularly with #7. :)

    We moved a few times with kids, and it was very, very difficult, especially as they got older.

    Our most recent move was made without children, but was complicated by a high-strung cat who seemed to have a feline nervous breakdown that lasted for weeks. We spent a lot of time thinking about her…um…digestive tract as we were settling into our new place.

  2. wholemama says:

    It seems like we’ve either moved or had a baby every year of the last twenty, so understand the upheaval you speak of. Good for you for your goals, to step back a little during this time. Hope it is refreshing and renewing for you!

  3. A Nielsen says:

    AND where are you moving to…?

  4. William’s plea to attend church was awesome! Looking forward to whatever you have for us whenever you have it for us, AJ.

    Tim

  5. mothering spirit says:

    Having recently moved with a toddler and a baby, I found myself in your words. It continues to be both harder and easier to get settled here with them underfoot – stacks of boxes still aren’t unpacked, but their desire for routine has gotten us into a new groove that we wouldn’t have found otherwise.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X