We are paradoxically stuck in the process of moving. Sometimes I feel we’ll never stop moving, and we’ve never done anything except slog through moving. Not true, of course. It’s only been about 4 months.
One of the fun things about moving, for me, is creating a new home. Rearranging possessions and furniture. Making new mental maps of space and how to navigate from the bedroom to the bathroom to the kitchen. I’m looking forward to that, but every day it feels farther ahead in an unobtainable future.
I’m figuring out strategies to help myself through this.
Right now, I’m metaphorically rearranging my mental furniture.
Most people arrange their living rooms around the focal point of a screen. It’s funny to think that’s only been true for the last 100 years or so. I would hardly know what to do with a living room that does not contain a screen.
Currently, my mental and emotional living room is overwhelmed by a big screen on which the reality show Moving is endlessly and relentlessly playing. Attached to the screen, of course, are a sound system, remote controls, and all kinds of additional tech and equipment. Beside the screen is a neon calendar counting down the weeks to yet another closing date (our fourth), and along the bottom of the screen a continuous feed of rising interest rates and costs for everything from cat food (if you can find it) to heating oil. I don’t have room to breathe. I can’t escape the noise. I can’t pull my attention away. I feel imprisoned and disempowered.
I want it to be over, to turn it off, to turn away, to think about something else.
I have hot, red fantasies of sledge hammers and the sound of smashing glass. (This is an old fantasy. I am a secret wannabe serial TV screen murderer. Turn off the effing TV!)
I can’t do much about the fact that the only sheets I still have unpacked are flannel, boxes are stacked to the ceiling in one room, another room is filled with empty boxes, tape, packing material, markers, and objects waiting for the right sized container. I’m not going to start unpacking because the weeks are dragging on.
But I can do something about my internal landscape, and I have got to get that screen out of my living room! Turning it off is not enough. It has to go, along with the sound system, remote controls, calendar, and scrolling rising interest rates.
I decided, a few days ago, to Stop Caring. Just stop. At least, Stop Caring so much.
I did Stop Caring for a day or two. A friend asked me what I did over the weekend, as she knew I was going to Stop Caring about Moving. I told her I worried about not caring, and she laughed. Will I stay stuck forever if I don’t Care? Am I supposed to Care? Is Caring some integral part of the process? Is something wrong with me if I Stop Caring? Am I abandoning or betraying the cause? Am I giving up?
I know. It’s ridiculous. But all you worriers understand. I know you do!
Anyway, I realized after I Stopped Caring I was feeling depressed. And I asked myself, is not Caring the same as sinking into apathy and depression?
Well, if so, that’s not good. That’s not what I want, either.
It was a relief to Stop Caring for a while. But I don’t want to Stop Caring about everything. I mean, I still have work to do, and people to love, and words to write, and the cats to enjoy. I still want to listen to music and light candles and exercise. I still want to read, and laugh, and hang out with friends.
What I want is to push back against the feeling nothing matters except Moving, that there is no life until we’ve successfully made this transition. I don’t want to watch the clock, watch the calendar, watch my email, watch the interest rates, worry about contracts, and think about all the places and ways I have no power in this process. I want to Stop Caring about all that.
I have to decide what to care about and what not to care about, and then I have to be constantly present with where my attention is and disciplined about redirecting it.
Oh, good. Just what I need. More work.
If we don’t arrange our living room around a screen, how do we use that space? What can I look at instead of the screen?
A window and the world beyond it. The weather. The sky. The light. Birds and trees and all the other life responding to spring, feeling the call of mating, foraging for food, living their lives as temperatures moderate and the light strengthens.
A bookcase. If you don’t love books, this makes no sense to you. If you’re a bibliophile, I needn’t say more.
A fireplace, or hearth, or stove. A source of warmth, light, alchemy, primal comfort.
A piece of art.
A spiritual altar; maybe something as simple as a candle.
And so on.
The point is I have a choice about where my attention is and what I care about. Clock and calendar watching are not effective or useful. Neither is obsessing over the interest rate or compulsively checking my email and the latest real estate listings. In fact, those activities add to my stress and make time slow down. Far better to Stop Caring about the clock and calendar, shut the computer, and channel my Caring into enjoyable things, creative things, small tasks and pleasures anchoring me to everyday life right here, right now, in the pre-spring season in central Maine.
The places in which I have power deserve my Caring and attention. They deserve my effort and presence. I don’t need to squander my love and Care in places where it’s neither effective nor appreciated.
It’s my living room, and I’m choosing what’s in it.
Get the sledgehammer.