Monday, 27 July 2009

separation and loss


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.


21 comments:

Deleilan said...

Good on you, Rachel, for knowing what's right for YOU. Having lived for years in a place where I never felt comfortable, I understand the strong longing for home.

I sincerely hope you find the right place soon.

kristina said...

I so admire you for having the strength and courage to do what is right for you. And only you can know what that is.

I truly believe there are places we belong and places we don't belong. And you're doing the right thing in seeking that place where you'll feel most at home.

You can count on me for big cheers!

K x

Susan said...

Even though some of our reasons for wanting to leave our respective current lives are very different... many, many reasons are very much the same. You are ahead of me however in your clear fortitude and I admire it. Who else should make the big decisions in your life if not you (with the exception, of course of les girls and the dog who I'm confident you do consult with. Perhaps this friend is really going to miss you tremendously. Soldier On ! and loud cheering from all
xo les Gang at 29 Black Street

ps we do so love a map

Linda said...

Having been born and lived here all my life, I have absolutely no understanding of living somewhere that I totally dislike, only of living with someone whom I had come to actively dislike, and I left him. Just after my 40th birthday I walked out, with warning, but it was a total shock to friends and family - from the outside everything looked perfect - good jobs, money, beautiful house, really lovely house actually.
It all means nothing if you are not happy, and painful thoughts and memories can be worse than putting up with poor surroundings.
I've been one of the ones expressing caution because I've seen people retire here with no family links, and really suffer later. I think this is quite common in 'holiday' areas, but, of course, I know nothing of peoples' motives, and should not judge. Sorry.

We all know that you will make a beautiful home wherever you go, and of course you deserve a garden - the girls will love it.

(Have you discovered the joys of searching through estate agents' lists on the internet? Perfect rainy day activity. Combine with google earth and multimap, and your job will be easier!)

rachel said...

Thank you, all... how kind you are. Linda, I wish you had an email address so that I could respond personally. I suppose I should mention that I moved to Newcastle in 1977 not knowing a single soul except the person who was to be my boss. And I got stuck, somehow, in that career/family/schools/mortgage way of things. Now I have no family anywhere close by, and I happily spend a great deal of time alone. I feel that I could do it all again, but in a place that I might actually come to love.

Charlotte said...

At the end of the day England's a small place, it's not like you're moving to the other side of the world! I'll help anyway I can. When you first said to me you were thinking of moving I didn't want you to go but that was because I selfishly wanted you to stay and bake me cakes and those little pancake thing but if you don't go you'll regret it. What's the point of being somewhere your not happy and thinking what if?! You only live once! You are only going to be a phone call away and we can visit and you can visit. You'll make new friends suitable for cat sitting and if not they can come on holiday here if you go to Australia.

Go for it and if you move down south won't you be closer to Lovely Son? Plus I'll have a new holiday destination hehe! I'll help any way I can researching and helping you get the house ready. I will miss you though x x x

Veronica said...

Yay! Hooray! How exciting! You know what is best for you and I think you will love your move to a new home.

I know how disappointing it can be when people who you had hoped would cheer and support you choose not to. It will probably be those same people who come to visit you to 'escape' the very town you now live in. For most of them I guess their hearts and minds will come to accept the change. Until then you have my enthusiastic support.

BumbleVee said...

I'm sure you've thought through the necessaries... and the what ifs... but, .... sadly, it may also be time to assess who your "real" friends are. Real friends would be eager to help in your search for the ideal location...somewhere for you to finally be happy... ready to be a sounding board and give honest advice... helpful to the Nth...or... well, maybe they weren't really friends after all.... more like acquaintances... not really that interested in your well being if it comes to giving up something they need from you.......

Lesley said...

I've always admired people who have the guts to make a change for their own happiness. being happy is our responsibility and so few people ever act on that responsibility. Good for you and I hope your friends come round and start being a bit more supportive.

Go Rachel!

Lesley x

Four Doors Down said...

How can I admit that I didn't know how deeply you felt your dislocation? This post is heart rending.

We do all know you'll go, and everyone will eventually lend their support. Don't be upset at the apparent scorn of your closest friends. They're terrified of losing you and can't yet show it. Better this than a mute acceptance borne out of total disregard . . .

I'll promise not to mention the bathroom when I get back and listen, instead, to plans, thoughts, ideas . . . after all, my yoga retreat has just moved again - to Nassau this time. What can I say? xxx

PG said...

How incredibly thoughtless and cruel.
Try thinking about what life would be like if you stayed in a place you are clearly not happy in anymore. Would you respect yourself or would you eternally regret being emotionally bullied into not making what is clearly a very brave step, and one that you feel so passionately about. Having lived in Newcastle for a few years, I never, ever want to return there even for one day. Believe me, the West Country is far more forgiving - and the weather is a damn sight better! You know I am always here to extend tentacles for local knowledge.
Courage - I am cheering you!

BTW, I must email you about our strange allotment situation!

mountainear said...

Brave thoughts and thoughtless people.

We upped sticks and left when we found there was little to keep us where we had lived for nearly 30 years. (OK, there were 2 of us and our experiences in a Mancunian suburb were not too bad, so not quite the same.) But we did get some odd reactions from friends for wanting to change the status quo - almost as if we had betrayed them.

I wish we had done it years ago - our quality of life is excellent, we've made new friends and taken up new interests.

I do hope you find 'the' place.

PS Don't know your budget but know a lovely place on the Devon/Cornwall border overlooking the Tamar.)

Shelagh said...

I was on my way to the telephone to call you after reading your blog but I decided to read the comments first. And I'm glad I did. Huge cheers continue to emanate all the way from over here. I'm just sorry that isn't the universal reaction. YOU are the only one who knows what's right for you and good for you for reaching for it rather than staying some place where you are so clearly unhappy. Friends will recognize that although it's a shame that hasn't been the initial reaction from everyone. I wish I were there right now to put the kettle on and pore over the map with you. As I'm not, I'll just continue the cheering. Our ranks are growing...

Charlotte said...

Here's something to make you smile http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/gforce/ x

_lethe_ said...

And cheers from me too. I can't believe how selfishly your friends react. Is your happiness less important to them than their convenience? And it's not as if you're moving to Mars. I've already said this in a previous comment, but with all the means of communication these days it will be easy to keep in touch.

Isabelle said...

Well, I'm cheering for you too, but having only just met you, I would have to say that I can quite see why your friends don't want you to go! I think myself that a move to Berwick would be a good one, though....

Devon is lovely, though. Lyme Regis, Sidmouth, Seaton, Budleigh Salterton (we recommend the Cosy Teapot cafe), Colyton...

Don't know about the better weather, however. We came back to Edinburgh and it was just the same. Possibly in winter, though?

Anonymous said...

Good on you! I'm planning a Devon move myself in less than 3 years, so I'm totally behind you on this one.

Can recommend places/websites etc if it helps.

Follow your dream!

All the best

Jan

rachel said...

All tips and info (some already received - thank you so much!) will be warmly welcomed - just email if you don't want to post lengthy comments.

What a lovely wave of support this whining post received; what sweethearts you blog readers are.....

Amy McPherson Sirk said...

I wish you the very best with your move and in your new home. 4 years ago I moved 1800 miles to a place in the country. It was not the perfect place but it was a step in the right directions. I had thought my friends would be happy for me, buying my first house, getting out of Los Angeles. But most weren't. I think they were afraid I would find a better life. We all talked about leaving L.A. but I was actually doing it. In the end I had to let go of some creature comforts and simplify my lifestyle. But it was definitely worth it. People are frightened of change. You'll be just fine.

Jane Holland said...

I read this post very late, as a follow on from your putting things in boxes posts, to understand the move. We moved from a city we had come to hate (Worcester) to France, and it did us the world of good - reduced blood pressure, less stress, fitter (although fatter), so good luck with it all, and I hope your "chums" have learnt to stay quiet. If they can't be supportive, they shouldn't say anything at all, because they can't know exactly how YOU feel and that is the important bit.

Lesley said...

And how wrong the doubters were . . . happy days x

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