Monday, 27 July 2009
Sigh.......and I thought it was getting a bit easier....
I'd started mentioning - very carefully - to friends the planned move, and the areas where my initial exploration of possible destinations would start, probably in the Spring. For years I have said that I would sell up and downsize, and have a garden next time round. For months I have been candid about getting the house finished for valuation and sale. I have accepted that some people wouldn't like it, and that I might have to do all this thinking and planning unaided (although some morsel of support wouldn't be turned down!), and I have found myself increasingly longing for it all to be over. Once I acknowledged how much I hate living in this hard and unkind city where I have never belonged, it became more difficult by the day to be patient about staying in it while my plans were slowly formulated.
From the start, reactions from friends haven't been exactly warm or encouraging, and there's more than a hint of cynical disbelief ("it'll be one of her daft crazes; she'll calm down eventually"), but I've managed recently to leave a map of South West England lying about in the sitting room, in open view, without finding it shredded by outraged visitors while I'm making cups of tea next door. Mostly, though, I have said very little, and only one friend and my son have discussed my thoughts and anxieties in depth and offered their wholehearted support, with emailed cheers of approval from Toronto, where separation, in terms of distances and travel times, takes on a different meaning from ours, here in our crowded little island.
But yesterday I talked to a visiting friend about an actual place where I intended to go and explore first, and trustingly opened the map to show her where it was. I mentioned the road and rail links nearby, the proximity of an airport, the things that would keep me connected to people, and they to me. I described what appealed to me about the area. Naively, I thought the topic was becoming safe. After all, I was talking to the same friend who only a year or two earlier had considered moving away from the North East herself; that idea hadn't been appealing to me either, but had been respected.
But her response was withering: had I thought about what my life would be like there? The tone was one of utter scorn and disbelief, and for a moment I saw myself as I imagined that she saw me: silly, impulsive, irresponsible, and unable to think through the consequences of my actions. My hands shook suddenly, and I felt a wave of disappointment, defensiveness and hurt feelings. I was saved by the phone ringing and the visit coming to an end.
Later, I had time to think calmly through this fleeting but piercingly-painful moment. Of course I had thought of what my life would be like; wasn't the thought of a different life exactly what prompts us to make life-changing moves? Of course, I wanted to say; I'm not a complete fool. I do understand the feelings of friends - anxiety, anger even, at being left behind, perhaps abandoned, and in there too, worry for me, setting off without them. I know that change is scary for most of us, and I have been here for a long time, a mutual friend and helper, reliable cat-feeder, plant-waterer, provider of tea and sympathy and occasionally a spare room, not given to going away often, rooted in this house. I know that change will come to friends too, not just to me, when I move away.
Except that these established and predictable things are not enough any more for me to stay here. Living and working in this city has hurt me, and I know and notice too much of its harshness and ill natured side. I am weighed down with terrible memories, and surrounded by reminders. I yearn for a softer, more gentle place to live, where I can recreate a calm and tranquil home for myself and anyone who cares to visit, can have the garden I have dreamed of for years, and be nearer to open countryside. I don't idealise or romanticise my future life, but I will make sure it does meet some of my needs more than my present life can. But I feel sad that there is so much disapproval and hostility to this plan. If my friends could bring themselves to listen to how much of my thinking and planning involves making sure there will be room for them too, they might not resent my leaving quite so much, and could even be part of the new adventure.
But no matter how much it is opposed, it is going to happen, that I know. So, it's off my chest now, the self-pity had been set down for the day, and I might google the Devon-Dorset border for a while to regain my equilibrium. If you feel like cheering, that would be very encouraging; I will hear you clearly, because nowhere is really that far away.
Posted by rachel at 13:19