I posted a blog on March 26, 2023 titled “Moving” where I shared some reflections on my decision to move from Johnstown, Ohio to the Pacific Ocean. Now quite obviously I needed some actual land to move to, since living on the ocean itself was unlikely. I found that land in Goleta, California, and I am writing this blog as a follow up: I have moved. Because I arrived here during what Californians call “June Gloom”, it was overcast when I took the picture above on my morning walk at Haskell Beach. It is here that the Pacific Ocean and I meet regularly. I have moved.
When I started this blog, I set out to post weekly, and for the most part succeeded. The challenge of this move grandly disrupted this pattern, and serves for me as a yardstick of just how challenging this life change was. I posted blogs on March 26, April 2, April 16, May 9, May 27, and now…the end of June/the beginning of July.
I expected the move to present challenges; I underestimated their depth and scope. This is not said with regret, but with reflectiveness, conviction and even some amusement. The lessons learned are numerous, and I hope to share them in this blog. They are the stuff of my interest in writing OWLcourage to start with, a focus on hope and possibility. I am increasingly persuaded that our life experiences are only interesting in the lessons they provide; the experiences themselves have a short shelf life and fade; the lessons do not.
I will not, here and now, recount the lessons learned. This is largely, for me, a moment of reentry to blogging. I intend only to highlight a few contextual situations that catalyzed insights I am still busy chronicling and exploring. These situations are merely examples. I will revisit them.
I spent a year “packing” for this move. This actually involved what I called a “deep purge” where I committed to moving nothing that I had not first pondered upon as a part of my new life, the emergent iteration of reinventing myself. Of each I asked the question: “Will I have some use or purpose for this before I die?”
Now this question is life changing all by itself. You can actually do this without moving, though moving intensifies the experience because you are also entering a “new unknown”. At the age of 80, “before I die” seemed to me like a shorter time span of possibility and the question had greater clarity. I saw this awareness as evidence of shifts in my consciousness about aging. It also could be funny: “What in the hell do I think I would do with this before I die?”
On March 26 I wrote that for me moving always disrupted everything about my daily existence. And, of course, this move, just like my previous moves, did that. There was, however, an intervening variable that I failed to fully imagine: my use of highly patterned and predictable life practices as a way of adapting to age-related decline, particularly physical decline.
I didn’t just disrupt every dimension of my life. I removed all the mechanisms I had created to manage adapting to subtle and sometimes stark expressions of personal decline. My decline was not more severe or serious, merely less managed and more visible. As I experienced this, none of my adaptations were in proper working order. It is perhaps self-evident: this was difficult and distressing, always for me, often for others.
I have always been a very high energy person. One of the great challenges of aging for me has been the gradual decrease in available energy to face the opportunities of the day. It has primarily irked me, and my adjustment to it has been uneven at best. Each day, I have learned, provides a limited reservoir of energy to achieve the goals of the day. I don’t like this but also have learned it is my reality.
The energy needed to do all the things necessary to sell a home, find a new home and move cross country is at odds with this description of my current available energy per day. There exists a detailed list of essential tasks created for a full energy execution by all the performers in the drama of such a move. For me, several days of the process of moving were in part a pushing through with depletion mocking my efforts. The result was persistent fatigue and the exacerbation of both new and old injuries. I did not enjoy this.
These three examples describe situations of discomfort and challenge. I think describing them is important, to be honest and to prepare others who, at the age of 80, decide to move to the place and space they know they belong at this phase of their life. I think I would have appreciated this description by someone who had gone before me. It would not have been a deterrent. Merely an orientation and an alert.
There are other contextual situations in this move that have earned air time, and provide an antidote to the discomforts I have just described. The first is the overwhelming sense of relief at suddenly living in a space and place I clearly recognized as “mine”. There is almost an initial giddiness to this experience which may fade over time, though is striking when it manifests. In part because the move was so difficult, it is a great relief. Suddenly those difficulties seem totally worth the trouble. Looking back in the rear-view mirror, the move’s challenges seem modest for the depth and value of the gains.
Recovery is interesting too. There is the lurking obvious question: Should you have done this when it “took so much out of you”? There is the equally obvious answer: Look how much it has already given me. Some wisdom systems encourage humans to adapt to their reality and to accept and appreciate what is. I have always wondered if men think about this idea differently than women do. For me, it often feels like the “pat on the head” dismissiveness directed at women who speak out about disadvantage or unfairness. Adapting has implications.
Some wisdom systems advise humans to create the life they hope to live. As is perhaps obvious, this makes more sense to me. I tend to think this has several iterations in a single lifetime, though I sense others only try it once or twice. I have to admit I was a bit surprised at 60 that I could once more realize that it was time to create the life I hoped to live, to reinvent myself yet again. It was even more shocking at 80. Go figure.
So, I am back to blogging, and I hope to share the insights the last few months have granted me. I think one thing will become apparent. I moved.
“I recreate myself; that is my only power.”
- Dejan Stojanovic
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