Another year, another birthday. Last year on my birthday, I wrote this:
I need a change or a challenge. And not the kind of everyday challenge like earning money and finding work, but something completely new and exciting and possibly scary, that will stretch me out of the complacent, contented shape I’ve recently grown into, even if it’s only for a few hours. I don’t know what it’ll be yet, but watch this space……..
Be careful what you wish for!
The last year has been tumultuous – the threat of Geoff’s redundancy hanging over us for the first half of 2011, then the reality of that, then his mother’s illness and death in November, followed by a job offer in December, then less than six weeks to get ourselves moved 300 miles, our frustrated attempts to fit all our possessions into too small a space, waiting for our old house to sell, and now looking for a new place to buy, not to mention the myriad other tiny frustrations and the strain all of this puts on a relationship between two very stressed people.
I think maybe it’s not too surprising I went into meltdown a couple of weeks ago and that perhaps the last year is simply catching up with me now that I have time to spare. I feel so much more positive now than I did, which is a blessing, but my emotions are as transient and fragile as soap bubbles, appearing and disappearing almost from moment to moment, triggered by the tiniest of events. It’s true that without change I get dull and bored, and I was certainly ready for some, but I’m not sure I’m very good at handling it when it comes.
Life still feels as if it’s very much in limbo. We’ve sorted out the rented house to a point where it’s comfortable and looks reasonably nice, but there are a multitude of small things that haven’t been done because it seems a little pointless when we only expect to be here for a few months. There’s little sense in spending money on nice new curtains when they might not fit our future windows, so we make do with what we have. We’ve hung some of our pictures, but many more lie in the spare bedroom propped against the wall. Our guest bedroom never has been sorted out and has turned into a kind of junk room for the overflow, and it’s unlikely we’ll do anything about that now that we’re hoping to move again soon. Normally I’d have planted flowers and spent time in the garden, but it’s not our garden and I find it hard to sustain much interest in doing anything more than keeping it tidy.
Everything is still a little makeshift, including my lifestyle. I thought it would be wonderful to have all this spare time but I feel so unfocussed and scatter-brained that I rarely achieve much. I thought I’d have fun exploring, and I have to some extent, but without friends to share things with it feels a bit flat. I thought I’d set up some photography workshops and tuition here, but it takes time to know where to take people or where you can find good spaces to hire and I’ve lost a bit of confidence in myself, too, making it hard to put myself out there. I thought I’d get excited about the photographic possibilities of a new place and take loads of shots, and I’ve hardly picked up my camera since I came here. I thought I’d use the extra time to work on my website and online activities, but the more I sit at my computer the less I want to be there and all too often I find myself mindlessly surfing the web. Then, of course, I do a good job in beating myself up about all of this.
Slowly, though, the changes inside are coming to match the ones on the outside. I’m beginning to let go of the idea that Kent is ‘home’ and to see that this is where my home is now. I haven’t made any friends yet, but I’ve met a few lovely, bright, and intelligent people and one or more of those may turn into a friend given time; if they don’t, I can see there will be others who will. And my biggest problem – that this area has never felt like a good fit for me – now looks set to be solved by moving just over the border into North Wales. I’ve found a place I love there, a small and pretty village with several coffee shops, a great restaurant, a very nice pub, a wonderful farm shop/deli, lots of green spaces, and far fewer people to the square mile than you find here. I’ll be able to go for long walks in empty woods and I’ll be that much nearer to the beauty of the Welsh mountains and coast. I’ve found somewhere I really do love , and I can’t wait to be living there.
And finally, we’ve seen a house we like. It needs work, and the work will have to be done before we move in, but it’s pretty much everything we wanted and didn’t think we’d find all in one place at a price we can afford. I would get the peace and seclusion I love – it’s at the end of a leafy, country lane – and Geoff would get all the space he’d like us to have – it’s a big, four-bedroom house with a huge garden. We’re costing the work at the moment, and hope to put in an offer soon.
Change isn’t something you can rush, or more accurately, getting used to change isn’t something you can rush. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ theory about the five stages of grief is well known, and it seems reasonable that it could also be applied to adapting to enforced change. I’ve been through the anger, the bargaining (yes, OK, I’ll move there but I have to be able to visit London frequently) and the depression, and the next one to come should be acceptance – although, of course, it’s not a linear process but one where you often keep looping back and forth. But I can feel the acceptance beginning to gather and warm me inside, like the good feeling of a hot meal in an empty stomach. I think everything is going to be alright.