Calamity and Fortune; My Struggle to Embrace Change

Calamity and Fortune; My Struggle to Embrace Change

I don’t deal well with change. I try not to ignore things that need to change, but I won’t go out of my way to change something if that change doesn’t feel necessary. I like to find the perfect place for things in my house and leave them there. Choose the perfect colors for the walls so I only ever need to paint once. I keep my electronics until they turn into bricks.

Sometimes, change is important. When software becomes outdated, we update it with new security and functionality to keep up with new discoveries. Life is the same. If we don’t move forward, things get stale. I’ve always believed that finding opportunities involves looking for them. You’re more likely to get lucky if you’re keeping an eye out for potential breaks.

My husband is better at keeping his fingers on those opportunities than I am. He knows I sometimes need to be disturbed from my secure perch. About a year ago, he suggested we start seriously looking for a new house. Sooner or later, we knew we were going to want more space and he wanted to be in position to take advantage of one of those prime opportunities, should it present itself.

I wasn’t ready. I loved the house we bought when we first moved from England. I loved it so much that, for the first year we lived there, I dreamed my husband and I fought over whether it was time to move. Once, the fight escalated to the point where he bit my finger. It’s so silly, it’s always stuck in my head.

Everything took longer than we anticipated

Fast forward to the end of 2018. The time had finally come to release my beloved house. I could see the signs. The more we had friends over, the more we realized how little space we had to play host. And it came to my attention that it might be nice to have an office with a door. So that when there are people in the house and I need to work, I have a method for blocking them out. The loft was nice, but it was open to the rest of the house. That made it all too easy to give in to distractions, or to allow people to inadvertently distract me.

Luckily, our house search ran long. That gave me plenty of time to adjust to the idea of leaving the house I adored. You can always tell you’re ready to move when you start noticing a bunch of little flaws that never bothered you before. Like the way I always ran into my husband’s desk on the way in and out of mine. Or the fact that we had run out of space for books on our shelves but didn’t really have the room to buy another bookcase.

Unfortunately, neither of us anticipated that it would take almost a year to find the one. We looked at so many houses, we despaired of ever finding one that ticked all our boxes in our price range. In fact, we almost gave up when the perfect prospect finally drifted into our awareness.

We weren’t as prepared as we thought

Having bought houses on two different occasions, we thought we were ready for this one. Our second home ownership experience was vastly different to our first. Our first house flooded with sewage a month after we bought it, leaving us with $50,000 worth of repairs to manage in the middle of winter in northern Quebec.

By contrast, our second house was a breeze. It was spotless when we took possession. And though we had to replace the hot water heater about 5 months later, that was the only real issue we ever had.

The challenges of buying a house are something lots of people know about but few people really talk about. Partly because of the amount of money involved. But I think a lot of it also has to do with the stakes. Every time you buy a house, you take a risk. It doesn’t matter how careful you are – we had our first house inspected and still got slammed by the unexpected damage which revealed a ton of hidden flaws.

But also, it’s such a grueling process that you find yourself wanting to talk about anything else. I’ve put off writing this post for a long time. Part of it was because we were still in the middle of the process and I wanted to wait and see how things turned out before I talked about it. As if saying something mid-process might jinx us.

We’re still in process as I pen this. Near the end of the process – the part that involves unpacking and recovering of stability – but in process none-the-less. But I decided to write this post for several reasons.

We have accomplished harder things

The first is that I’ve been trying to write a little more about what’s going on in my life. And considering how many publishing goals I failed to meet this year, maybe I owe my readers a tiny bit of explanation for why that happened. Certainly we spent a lot more time waiting on paperwork and fighting over details than either of us ever anticipated. And that ate into my time more heavily than I could have guessed. At some point, something just had to give, and the pressures of releasing a book on top of everything else were just too much to manage.

But the main reason I’m writing this post is so that I’ll remember what my life looked like during this tiny snapshot several years down the road. Because when we’re settled, we forget what change feels like. We get comfortable. And then when the upheaval comes, it feels like we’re drowning.

I keep thinking of our move to England. It was terrifying to move to a foreign country on the other side of an ocean where our only human contact was someone we had only ever spoken to on the internet. I remember how much of a relief it was to hear his voice on the phone for the first time, reassuring me that he was real and that he would, in fact, help us get on our feet. I remember telling him how much that simple phone call anchored me.

A week later, I remember crying in his living room because I feared we’d never find a place to live. And once we did find a place to live, I remember spending weeks on pins and needles afraid we’d never be able to pay the rent because we hadn’t sold our house back in Quebec.

A note to my future self

But most of all, I remember surviving that whole experience. I remember that none of my greatest fears became reality. And that most of my life after those brief few months felt safe and comfortable and productive.

We took risks going to England with little idea what waited for us on the other side. And those risks paid off. Ultimately, they led us to the place where we live now, a town we love so much we’d prefer never to move again. My husband found his dream job here. I’m not sure that would have happened if the winds of change never carried us across the sea.

A few days ago I wrote on Twitter that we had found the delta where chaos almost gives way to normal. The waters are muddier on some days than others. But normal no longer feels like a siren call and chaos the waves threatening to smash me on the rocks while I search for it. Normal is more like a lighthouse today. All I have to do is keep my eyes on it while I navigate this last stretch of water.

Some days, I look around our new house and think about how spectacular it’s going to be when we’re finished unpacking. It’s easy to imagine how happy we’re going to be. And some days I spend an hour organizing my books on their new shelves to keep myself from thinking about the big questions we’re still trying to answer.

This, too, shall pass

Life transitions are never easy. But we survived them before. And I choose to believe we will survive this one, even though we’re still in the middle of the roller coaster ride. It might take longer than we anticipated. It might require more hard work than we could have guessed. But we’ll get there in the end. We always have before.

When we moved to England, I copied this quote I found in The Art of War:
Change and movement have their times; safety and danger are in oneself. Calamity and fortune, gain and loss, all start from oneself. Therefore those who master change are those who address themselves to the time. For those who address themselves to the time, even danger is safe; for those who master change, even disturbance is orderly.
-The Book of Balance and Harmony

I still have a long way to go to make danger safe. I can tell. But I’m copying the quote again as a reminder to future me that, no matter how hard things feel today, there are brighter horizons coming.

How do you cope with big life changes? Tell me in the comments!

5 Replies to “Calamity and Fortune; My Struggle to Embrace Change”

  1. I so agree. I’m still unpacking and wondering if the new place will ever feel like home, though little by little, some days it’s beginning to. Small steps, I think. Lovely post and something I needed to read.

    1. I had a few conversations with friends post-move and I feel like it takes me longer than average to settle in to a place ^^;; I need time to nest. But I am coming around more to this place by the week :) Especially now that we’ve got all our stuff settled and got things on the walls!

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