Moving Out and Moving On

We stood there awkwardly while a little boy danced around in the doorway, waiting for his parents to come solve the mystery of who these strangers were, standing on his new front porch.

My daughter and I looked at each other sheepishly as we heard faint commotion coming from inside the house and footsteps finally approaching.

“Hi!” I said as brightly as possible, with a jug of cider and box of donuts extended outward. “We’re your new neighbors from right next door!”

My higher-than-normal pitched voice and shiny demeanor were completely betraying my real feelings in this moment, but it wouldn’t be the first time, right? Here I was, trying to do the right thing.

You see, one of my dearest and best friends used to live in that house. She moved out a few months earlier, taking the next step in her life to join lives and households with her longtime boyfriend. And while I can only be happy for her and want every last single good thing for her in this world, let me be clear: I did not want her to move.

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As weird fate would have it, she moved in 7 years ago on the exact day my ex-husband was moving out. And as the world inside my beloved home was crashing and burning down around me, I could not have known a whole new world was about to open up right next door to me.

She too, was a divorced single mom. She was strong and hilarious. Irreverent. Brave. Smart and spicy in all the best ways. Lots of PG-13 lingo and zero fucks to give. We loved her outrageously and she loved us back the exact same way. We became fast friends, and there was soon a well-worn path between our two homes. We laughed like crazy with our single-girl shenanigans. And we cried a lot, too. Broken marriages. Broken homes. Broken dreams. Some broken kids along the way. We battled mice and snakes and birds and flooded basements. And new boyfriends. Together. We would mow our lawns and have a beer after, with a continuous flow of never-ending girl chat.  You don’t make a lot of new “best” friends in your forties, and I had struck gold. I was living the grown up version of “when we get older we’ll live next door to each other…”

So the day she tenderly broke the news that she and her love were looking at houses, I fell apart. As time passed and they eventually found their new home, I struggled desperately to be happy for her, but one night, at the end of a very emotionally charged conversation, I finally blurted out through sobs, “I’m mad at you for leaving me.” (Cue abandonment issues!) And that was the truth. I was mad. I was sad. And I was grieving what would be the end of two soul friends living next door to each other. Her life was moving on in a way that mine was not. And I didn’t want it to be true.

Several weeks passed in a sad silence until one night, neither of us could take it anymore. We talked. We cried. We wept. For what we had. For what we would lose. And then we made plans for how we would adjust. And we have.

For a few months, her house sat empty, which was fine by me. If it was empty, I could almost pretend nothing had changed. I was dreading the day I would see unfamiliar new cars in the driveway and hear strange new voices echoing in the back yard. But now the day was here, which is how I ended up standing bravely on her old front porch with cider and donuts. I had cried in my car on the way home from work that day. I didn’t want new neighbors. I wanted her. And so going over there wasn’t even about them. It was about closure for me. Turning the page. Starting a new chapter.

It honestly wasn’t a great introduction. The husband was overly friendly and the wife, not so much. I texted my friend that night to let her know that my new neighbors were not going to be my new best friends. That much was clear.

But as I walked back across the lawn between our two houses, toward the home I love so much, I couldn’t help but exhale and smile to myself. I hadn’t really fixed anything and there was nothing I could change, but I figure you can stay sad and stuck or you can decide to show up with cider and donuts and move on.

Rerouting… Please Wait

map girl

I’ve often said that when God was handing out internal compasses, I was either talking to my neighbor or fluffing my hair. As in, I missed out. I didn’t get one. I’ve always had a less than accurate sense of direction, and that’s being nice. Since the advent of GPS, this has mattered far less. I actually don’t know what I would do without it.

Or where I would be.

[LOST]

But even with GPS, there are plenty of times I take a wrong turn. Miss the right turn. Accidentally head in the opposite direction. And as you know, when this happens, my GPS girl (that’s right- my GPS voice is a girl. I don’t need another man telling me what to do {wink})–very calmly tells me she’s rerouting me– Making an allowance for my mistake and course correcting so I can still reach my destination.

This happens to me so often that I’m totally unphased by it and so are my kids and anyone else who rides with me. Gotta turn around? No big deal. Need to make a U-Turn? No problem. Tra la la…


Side Story: Many years ago before GPS, I was on my first long, solo road trip with my kids. You know, back when you had to use a map (what am I Lewis and Clark???) to find your way. At some point I made a very wrong turn, became very lost and very off course. So off course, in fact, we had to spend the night in a hotel and start for home again the next day. Because my kids were watching me, I pretended to be TOTALLY BREEZY about it. NO BIG DEAL! Slumber party in a hotel! WHAT AN ADVENTURE! We’re making memories! GAH. But it was a good lesson for me AND them: It really wasn’t a big deal and we really were okay. Delayed? Yes. Safe and sound though? Also yes. My dad always says if you carry money in your pocket and speak the English language, you’ll be fine, which has always felt sorta true. Not for everything, but a lot of things…like getting lost.


In the past few years, we’ve started using the phrase “Course Correcting” a lot in our home. I’ve got pretty much adult children facing a lot of serious decisions all the time. Decisions that could potentially start to chart the course of their lives or at least the next few chapters. And sometimes, they find these decisions scary. And paralyzing. Of course they do– they’re a big deal! But what I want them to understand is the ability to course correct. The ability to change direction mid-stream. The understanding that there are very rarely massive mistakes that can’t be undone. Turns out it takes a lot to ruin your life, and things like choosing a college, or a career path, a boyfriend or girlfriend, or a paint color don’t fall into that bucket.

Are there reckless, poor decisions that ARE massive mistakes, with potential damage that cannot be undone? OF COURSE there are. But even then– maybe ESPECIALLY then, there is space for course correcting. 

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So what if you choose the wrong school? You transfer. Transferring does not mean you failed or made a mistake. Transferring means you figured out what you don’t like and what you might prefer. So what if you choose a career path that no longer feels right? Course correct and pick a new one.  So what if you decide the relationship you’re in is no longer a good fit for you? You’re allowed to change your mind and move on. It’s not indicative of failure. It’s indicative of growth and a well-examined life. Giving yourself permission to course correct as a way of life makes decisions much less scary. Nothing has to be permanent. Choice and change are always an option. You don’t have to be stuck or trapped or scared.

Rerouting is part of life. Changing direction is admirable. And not all who wander are lost- sometimes they’re actually just finding the path they were always meant to be on.

 

 

 

Thank God For the Mice

I’ve got mice. Well, correction I HAD mice. A few weeks ago I could no longer pretend I wasn’t hearing scritch- scratching in the attic. And listen, I know pretending NOT to hear it is NOT exactly the best way to deal, but sometimes this is just what we do. The scritch- scratching would come and go and I sort of just kept hoping it would go and stay gone.

But no. It wouldn’t. And I knew it was time to either burn down my house or call for help.

mice

Side story: I have woods behind my house. I’m surrounded by wildlife, of which I’ve always fondly said, “I love nature. I just don’t like it near me.” So this isn’t the first time I’ve had mice. And I’ve honestly TRIED to handle the job myself, but I just can’t. I’m a pretty tough chica, but I have literally cried hysterically and talked myself through emptying mousetraps by saying things like, “You’ve been divorced! You’ve broken bones! You’ve been on Match.com! You can do this! You’ve done a lot of scary things! That mouse is dead! This is not scary!” But somehow, this powerful pep talking has not worked.

So I called an exterminator to take care of the problem. Jeff has been great. He’s super brave. Every time he goes up in my attic, I ask him if he’s scared. Or I ask him if he’s grossed out. And he always says things like, “No.”or “This is my job.” So, he’s been great.

But last week, after he was down in my basement catching mice and setting traps and doing his job, he came upstairs and said, “You have a big problem down there.”

Jeff. Don’t leave me cryin’ in the club.

This is not a phrase a homeowner wants to hear. Ever.

It turns out, when he was moving insulation around and doing his thing, he found some wet and rotted wood.

Awesome. So not only did I have mice, I needed to get my handyman in there, STAT.

(There’s nothing super STAT about Handyman Joe. He is EXACTLY like having Joe Pesci at my house doing chores. Every last thing about him. But he calls me Julie Girl, which I secretly love, so we’re basically best friends now.)


Later that night, when Boyfriend Erik, not to be confused with Exterminator Jeff  or Handyman Joe (or Tree-Trimmer Guy who sends flowers after he does a job here) and I were at the gym, I was recounting the nightmare of my day and whining about all of the homeowner issues I was facing. When I was finished, he looked at me and said, “Well thank God for the mice.”

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Thank God for the mice? Wait, what?

Yes. Thank God for the mice.  If it weren’t for the mice, Exterminator Jeff never would’ve moved the insulation and uncovered the rotted wood. The rotted wood is already a big problem– but at least now it can be corrected by Handyman Joe. Had it not been found at all, it could’ve been DISASTROUS.

So in a weird way– a REALLY weird way– thank God for the mice. (It hurts to even write that. I am nuts.)

I keep thinking about what other “mice” I might have in my life–problems and circumstances I’m only seeing from one perspective; things that might actually have value and purpose beyond the surface. I’m trying to view irritating matters as potential mice and use them for growth and change and goodness. I’m looking for silver linings a little more carefully. (Big points for Boyfriend Erik here…)

I know. I know. It’s practically sickening– all of the positivity around this joint. But it’s either that, or burn the place down, and I kinda love it here. Mice and all.