Auld Lang Syne with a side of whiskey.

Yesterday afternoon, on New Year’s Eve, I stood in my neighbor’s house, a house I had never been in and a neighbor I had only met in passing once, and sang Auld Lang Syne while raising a glass of whiskey to ring in the New Year,  7 hours before midnight.   A totally unexpected celebration that was both quirky, memorable and most of all,  welcoming.  My neighbor, who I met while shoveling snow the week before Thanksgiving, has a Scottish husband and their tradition of many years is to celebrate on Scotland’s clock, with neighbors,  whiskey and a traditional Scottish buffet, complete with haggis, which I quickly passed over when filling my plate.   I found the invite to the Scottish New Year’s Eve celebration in my stack of mail when I got back from Christmas in Kansas City, a timely find for someone who had really started dreading the upcoming holiday.  A new city, a new state, a new house, and new year and if that wasn’t enough, a new decade,  felt like a few too many news for me at this moment in my life when i’m craving familiar.

To steal words that a dear friend of mine recently posted on Instagram, “I have a happy personality with a heavy soul.  Sometimes it gets weird.”  That sums up a lot for me.  Couple that with the nostalgia, sentimentality and reflection that comes with the turn of a new year, heightened by a new decade, and things weren’t looking good for my turning of the calendar page at midnight.

And so there I was, on December 31 at 5:00 pm (midnight in Scotland), with the words of Auld Lang Syne in one hand and a raised glass of whiskey in the other, (which I don’t normally drink but when in Rome, or Scotland…), in a roomful of people I had never met.  I couldn’t help but smile and even chuckle silently inside. Never, ever would I have predicted that was what my entrance into a new decade would look like,  but everything about it seemed exactly perfect and just what I needed.  

I spent much of the “late afternoon” conversing with a woman who just so happened to love hiking and had all sorts of trails and trips to share with me. Now not to sound desperate, but I had to seize the moment with this new found friend and make sure we had a roughed-in plan for a hike in the near future before we parted ways.  My behavior reminded me of the summer I rented a condo in the mountains for 2 months and not knowing a soul went into the bookstore, met the owner and was determined to not leave the store until we had a rough semblance of a friendship in the making.  This all sounds very odd to me as I reread what I’ve just written as I consider myself to be an extrovert, but walking into a situation when you know no one and rather than taking the easy exit, literally, with a sneak out the back door, are forced to do something with a reality that plain and simple, is not easy.  It’s being the new kid on  the first day of school or showing up for a Junior High dance feeling like a brown shoe amidst a sea of strappy patent leather.  I had a heightened sense of awareness as to my presence and its awkwardness, while navigating the discomforts of “Where should I stand?  Am I acting too eager?  And is it too soon to reload my plate?”  It didn’t take as long before I began to feel like I really was at a social gathering and lo and behold, I was enjoying myself and the very interesting people I had struck up conversations with.  One such man, my neighbor on the other side, happened to be a historian and told me he had seen the city records of Mapleton Street in Boulder from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s and all of our houses in our immediate neighborhood were included, outhouses and all.  I loved hearing the history of my street, my house and several of its previous owners, dating back to 3 or 4 sales ago.  Several commented on my house adding that they liked the changes I had made and that I was sure an improvement to a previous owner a few sales ago who was happy to knock on doors when sidewalks weren’t shoveled in a timely manner.  To that, I might add, that the past 3 times I’ve gone outside to shovel, I’ve been surprised to see that someone had done the job for me. I’m happy to return the favor but looks like I’ll have to get a much earlier start! I’ve got nice neighbors and am happy to hear they’ve place me in the improvement category.  It all felt very welcoming.

After my previously mentioned new hiker friend left ( and yes, plans for hiking were set in place), I found myself in that awkward spot of a roomful of people actively engaged in conversations, while I stood panning the room for an entrance into a conversation that I could join.   I didn’t pan long, but instead, at 6:30, decided it had been a good afternoon/evening, gave my thanks to the tartan-clad hosts and made my way home, two houses down the street.

Having put off a grocery store run that day, I went when I got home from the party, while still in my not so fine New Year’s Eve finery.  Of course most of the people in the store were loading up on traditional drinking snacks as they were still in preparation for the evening ahead.  Me, on the other hand, was on the other end of it and saw a fire, some knitting, a glass of wine (because I don’t have whiskey in my house), and maybe some Netflix in my future.  It felt deliciously right.  It ended up being me, some good Phillip Glass music, 2 glasses of wine then a bad Netflix series that I couldn’t stop watching so maybe it wasn’t that bad after all.  No teetering between the nostalgic and the hopeful,  with journal in hand and pen at the ready, but rather, a normal, I really should turn off the TV and go to bed, kind of evening.  New decade and all.  It felt comfortable and easy.

All of this, this moving to a new place where the only people I know are the ones I gave birth to and their partners and offspring is tough, especially when  everything in my previous life felt nicely broken in and easy.  These new life shoes I’m walking in, these incredibly beautiful yet all new and yet to be broken in shoes, felt just a little bit more comfortable last night when I walked the very short distance home to my house from the Scottish New Year’s celebration.  I’m grateful for these small moments of achievement because right now, they really aren’t small at all.  

While going through my stack of books on my nightstand this morning, I came across a bookmark that I hadn’t seen in a long time.  I don’t remember when or where I got it, but I had the same feeling this morning when I read it that compelled me to buy it in the first place.  On the front of the oblong metal page holder it said,

 “Life shrinks or EXPANDS in proportion to one’s courage.”  Anis Nin.  

This may well be my first miracle of the new decade.  

Here’s to 2020 and what it may bring.

MOVING.

My belongings looked strange all mushed together and out of their environment.

Moving is hard. Harder than I remembered. After days, weeks, and months of shifting my stuff from shelves to boxes, from room to room, from my Kansas house to my storage unit in Colorado, to my car, to my new house with final stops to the bins at Goodwill, I certainly understand the physical impact of moving, but it’s the emotional impact that I didn’t anticipate.  I feel like my center of gravity has shifted and everything in its wake has been realigned in a way that feels both exciting and terrifying at the same time. I welcome the reset, while at the same time, am still surprised that there was such a big reset to begin with.  I’m not sure what I was thinking on that one. With the exception of short stints in Alaska and New York and a legit, get a new driver’s license move to Arizona for a year, I’ve been in the Kansas City area since I was 6.  How could a move away NOT cause a bit of unsettling?  But again, totally unexpected.  

Goodbyes to a house I loved so dearly were easier than anticipated, perhaps because it was the longest damn goodbye ever.  I left my house in early July and bunked with my sister and brother-in-law for the following 6 weeks while my belongings, tucked tightly into a small PODS trailer, made there way to Colorado ahead of me.  There were so many goodbyes during that time frame that I started losing focus on what my end game was in the first place. Goodbyes to a lot of my stuff (that would be sold in an estate sale) to my yard, to the gardens I tended to and added to throughout my stay, to my lovely neighborhood that I still could lose myself in on long walks, to the very walls that embraced me for the past 10 years and most of all, to my dearest of friends and my ever supportive family. I don’t like goodbyes – to things, to places or most of all, to people. The ever-growing to do list became my distraction to what was really happening, which didn’t really sink in until 3 hours into my drive west. After a tearful goodbye to my sister, I slipped into my overloaded car and made my usual stop 3 hours later at the gas station with the Starbucks in Salina. While fueling up, the reality of what I was in the process of doing hit me hard with tears that flowed off and on until close to the Colorado border. While my emotions were jumping back and forth from excitement and anticipation to fear and sadness, my mind continued to reel me back with the practicalities of the situation. “Where will the turquoise legged table go? Did I remember the box from Robin’s basement? Exactly WHAT is in that storage unit in Boulder and what in the world am I going to do with the furniture that doesn’t fit?” That jumble of emotions will be my forever memory of the gas station with the Starbucks off of I-70 West that I know so well. Pumping and crying.

My move technically began the day I started taking down the family photos that hung from floor to ceiling in the hallway of my house. These were the same photos that took an entire weekend to hang because my free form method of hanging pictures ends up with several holes behind each picture before it looks right. It’s not that big of deal unless your walls are plaster, which mine were, leaving a crumbling mess behind each hung photo, something I only remember thinking would be a quite a project to contend with if I ever moved, which of course, was no concern at the time.   Martha Stewart would have been ashamed.  The disassembling of the nest I had been feathering for the past 10 years, became my focus and distraction as I stood in rooms of stuff that needed to be sorted, sold or packed and pock marked walls that would eventually needed to be tended to with spackle and sandpaper.

Moving gave me prospective on a long list of things, but initially it was my stuff that became the focus and the surprising realization that it’s not the big, expensive pieces of furniture that have been hauled from house to house that really mattered, but rather, the miscellaneous collection of keepsakes tucked away in boxes that have seen better days.  That realization helped when things didn’t go as planned, which began with my movers. My confidence in the two men’s abilities waned when I saw them both strap on the back apparatus to move one box each of books, the same boxes that I would then move to the room  I told them to put it in the first place, sans the helper strap and the huffing and puffing.

When the “head” mover, (I’m guessing he was the “head” guy as he was the one who schooled me on tipping before they even began), asked me where the “big, heavy dresser” went and I told him, “the basement,” and his reaction was, “Seriously? Down those stairs???”, I realized I had Gomer and Goober in charge of moving all of my worldly possessions and that’s when I started moving boxes myself. I was paying by the hour and the clock was ticking fast. Plus, fueled by irritation and anger, I became a whole lot stronger. Now normally one would think that my “interfering” by trying to help with the unloading process would have brought on resistance by the movers and reactions that would perhaps push them to work a little harder and a little faster. That didn’t happen. In fact, my movers weren’t fazed one bit because they were on one of several “much needed water breaks,” which I would later learn when I got a bit closer to them, was actually a booze break. Workers don’t do as well when they are drunk, or at least well on their way.  So there was that…

Fortunately, and much to my surprise, nothing was broken, but there was loss, and sadly, I can’t blame it on drunk movers but have to claim the blame myself.  In my organizational haste and with clothing flying from one box to another, I took a box of all of my sweaters to Goodwill, latest count 15.  I realized this when I was organizing my closet and only had one sweaters to put away.  I’m still not sure how it escaped the Goodwill box but it did and it quickly became my favorite and my only sweater. Naturally, I immediately went to Goodwill and explained my dilemma, only to learn that the Goodwill where I made my deposit was a distribution center and that my beloved sweaters were already en-route to another center.  My daughter told me it was just stuff and to calm down until she learned that my vintage Ralph Lauren blanket sweater was in the Goodwill haul, then things got serious and very sad.  But lesson learned, it was just stuff.  Unfortunately, a lot of good stuff, both new and cherished old,  but still, just stuff.  I can’t say that I haven’t been back to that Goodwill “just to check,” a few more times.  OK 6 more.  And nothing.  Again, just stuff.

My nest is almost feathered now and I’m no longer waking up in the middle of the night wondering where the heck I am and why don’t I hear my sump pump running?  Some of the changes I’m not sure will ever stop taking my breath away, my view from my bedroom window of the Flatirons, for one.  And then there’s the incredible benefit  of so much time with my 2 year-old grandson and his brand new baby sister. Grandma (or Laudie as I’m called) is on deck and ready to play.

Everything feels different, smells different, sounds different and looks different and I know that patience is in order as moving is a long process that continues long after the boxes are unpacked. I left a large tribe behind and am not used to the feeling of walking into an exercise class, a store or a restaurant and not seeing one person I know. A couple weeks after I moved in, I was in the local hardware store and heard someone call out my name. This was an exciting first. I turned around to see the electrician who had been working in my house. I later told him that it was my first moment of feeling connected and that his shout out meant far more than he probably realized. I think he understood. Those small gifts are larger than I ever imagined.

It feels like I’m walking in new shoes that don’t quite feel right as they’ve not been broken in,  but boy are they cute and who doesn’t like that feeling of of first day new shoes?    With time, the shoes will break in and feel more and more like they really DO belong to me and are indeed on the right feet.  Time and patience. In the meantime, I’m simply working on finding my center,  626 miles west from where it used to be.

It’s funny what ended up bringing on the tears… the day my things were moved into the pod for a month of storage before moving to CO, I went to the store and bought donuts for the workers and stopped by the Starbucks counter to get a coffee. I saw the KC cups, which I always see, but that day I felt like I needed to buy one. And that made me cry.


Back to where I was born and began my life… full circle.