Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Lost in Transition

Transitions tend to throw even the most even-keeled people for loops. Sometimes, transitions take us to places we don't want to go, as with divorce. Other times, transitions take us to happy places. Think marriage and babies, graduations and new jobs. 

But even when the end goal of a transition is a happy place, the transition can feel awkward and uncomfortable. Remember the stress of planning your wedding? Remember the stress of pregnancy and childbirth?


Our move to a new house has been fraught with stress and anxiety and awkwardness, especially for me as the AR/obsessive-compulsive half of our marriage. I want order, and I want it now!

You can't always get what you want when you're lost in transition.

Most of our furniture has to stay at the old house so it's staged to look like a model home. Our new home, in the meantime, sends the inaccurate message that we are house-poor, as if we bought a big new house we can't afford to furnish.


This state of affairs also makes me hesitant to decorate. How can I hang things on the walls if I don't quite know precisely where the furniture will go? What if the curtains I buy don't really go with the furniture? Can I return them if they've hung on my walls for a few months? Fortunately, our new neighborhood is full of large lots and is sparsely populated, and living in a fish bowl doesn't feel quite as weird as it would have felt in our old house, crowded cheek-to-jowl with neighbors on all sides.

But it's still awkward.

Certain aspects of this new house, however, transcend its lack of furniture and the air mattresses that suck heat from our bodies and the wobbly patio table in our breakfast room and the boxes of books in the library we can't unpack because there are no shelves to put them on and the frantic way we search through unpacked boxes for that one roll of tape we suddenly need. In the chaos of slow transition, we're catching glimpses of a settled future.

First and foremost, the breakfast room. It juts out from the back of the house and has windows on three sides. When we first looked at the house back in October, I thought, "What a nice room." Now, sitting where I am typing at the breakfast room table, I have a 180-degree view of trees and a bit of the neighborhood. The yard hasn't received its final grade, and the bare dirt shows erosion rivulets carved by the rain and snow melt. The view is rather dismal, but I can see a future full of green grass, a patio with a fire pit, and leaves on all those bare trees. We already get flashes of color from the cardinals and blue birds, a promise of prettier things to come.

The breakfast room isn't just nice, it's awesome!

My craft room is another transcendent feature of this house. I positioned my craft table under a window. Sitting there is a double pleasure, especially when the cardinals are flying about. I don't have everything arranged in the room yet because too much stuff is still at the old house, but at least it's workable now.  

The finished basement makes me happy, with its wet bar and sliding glass door. When we walk down the stairs, the first thing we see straight ahead is a huge sliding glass door and daylight. Basements can feel so claustrophobic and creepy, but not this one. Once it has furniture, it will be perfect.

 And there's the rub. Transition time lingers in this house, an awkward pause in the moving forward of life.

Part of George misses our old house. When he visits it to load up stuff to move, he feels a pang of regret for its loss, even though he wanted this move, at least initially, more than I did.

He asked me if I missed the old house, too. My answer, without hesitation and with extreme italics and all caps for emphasis, is NO! I never felt at home in the old house. It didn't fit me, and I knew it from the beginning. It was fine, but not mine. This ranch with the finished basement is home already, even without furniture and especially since the orange stucco disappeared. The cheep of the cardinal outside my breakfast room window as the sun rises before me feels right and good. The brightness of the stars when I walk Daisy before bed sends me into raptures of peace.

The transition will end at some point, and we will settle into a new normal. Grass will grow, windows will be dressed, our art will hang on the walls and in the niches, books will grace shelves, clothes will rest in dressers.

The lost order will be found, and home will be more--much more--than fine.

What awkward transitions have you experienced that, with patience and fortitude, took you to wonderful places? Please share!


  1. Susan,
    We did 17 moves in 22 years, so I feel your anxiety in the transition. Seems we have always been in transition. In addition, this has meant going from academe to the oil business to academe... a very awkward transition. My peace has always become getting into the daily routine, and settling the kitchen. As long as I can fin the teapot and the tea, I can deal with it.
    I wish you joy in your new home-it sounds lovely. (Air mattresses? Do you have a good massage therapist?)

  2. Cyber (((hug))) for you! As hubby says, change is a four letter word for me, though since kids I have gotten MUCH better as you have to learn to go with the flow a lot more. I have actually surprised myself at times LOL!

    I can relate to the house issue. We didn't have curtains for two years (just blinds) and no living room furniture for ten! Turned out to be a huge blessing as that is where the kids would play and later all the daycare kids. Have had to be patient as we get things for the house: slowly building our Christmas light supply as they go on sale on Boxing Day, pooling money from parents' gifts to buy new furniture, being abundantly blessed by getting "good deals" (which I know were orchestrated in heaven!), painting the inside of the house from builder white to wonderful colours that make me not want to leave the house etc.

    Think what has helped me navigate the changes in the life include: working out (great stress reducer for me) remembering that family is what is most important, enjoying each day for what it has to offer and the rest can be done in due course. Mind you no OC behavior here (though I'm sure hubby wish I had a bit more of it LOL). Also doing something that brings you joy :)

  3. I love what you wrote about transition. There is a lot of stress involved in all that. I feel in reading your post there is hope or you know with out question things will get better and be the way you want it to be.
    My transition from a long term marriage to being single and broke is to wake up each day with hope that things can only get better because I have no idea if things will be the way I would like them to be in the future.
    Thankful for your blog.

  4. You really captured how I feel about my current house, it doesn't fit me! I always have warm feelings because I brought my babies home to this house and we've made a lot of improvements, but it's like a shoe that doesn't quite fit.

    I loved the part about looking house-poor. I picture your family eating Top Ramen on lawn chairs. :)

    Enjoy all the fun of a new home and try not to let the stress get to you! :)

  5. That new breakfast room sounds wonderful! As do the cardinals. :-)

    In our first house, we lived without curtains or floor coverings (using sheets and with concrete floors) for about a year. It was our first house, and we built it, and squeezed it all out of our budget over time, LOL! We brought our babies home to that house. I loved it. After 12 years, we moved. My new house feels much more like home. :-)

    As for transitions... although I like to get comfortable where I am, I have many times over the years shaken everything up so that I need to work towards a new normal. I always believe that when you open up some space in your life, leaving the old behind, that some new wonderful something will come into your life. It always does. It always takes time. :-)

  6. We lived in Belgium for three years. The transition there was actually easier than the transition home. We had two months without a car, living out of suitcases with borrowed furniture, using cardboard boxes as desks. When we finally arrived in America and moved into the house we'd bought the summer before, we were happy but felt culture shock. We had not finished unpacking when the finished basement in the house flooded and we discovered the house had major structural problems hidden behind those finished basement walls. We had to move everything back upstairs and tear up the basement and the professionally landscaped yard in order to get down to the foundation. My two kids (a boy and girl) were sharing a tiny bedroom upstairs because their bedrooms downstairs were uninhabitable. We were jammed into half the intended living space. Couldn't unpack much of our stuff because there was no where to put it. Still had clothes in suitcases. Boxes stacked everywhere. To add to the difficulties, the cost to repair the house cost many tens of thousands of dollars, about 20 percent of the original purchase price so we were absolutely strapped financially and struggling. The house wasn't finished and mostly together until nine months after our stuff had been packed up in Belgium. I felt like I lost a year of my life and was in transition for another year after that. It is hard and stressful and uncomfortable to feel STUCK, unable to go forward or backward. I tried to focus on the positive but mostly I just was depressed.

  7. Susan,

    As a mid- westerner, I too, love the sight of cardinals - it makes these dreary long months of winter so much brighter to spot a flash of red against the snow.

    Air mattresses - can you switch the air mattresses for the proper mattresses in your former home? A good stager would not expect a home owner to sleep on an air mattress. That is a sacrifice that is not necessary!


Thanks so much for taking time to comment!