Three weeks ago today Barbara and I moved from our condo in Port Ludlow to a retirement community in Port Townsend. This has proved to be a more traumatic experience than we had expected it to be. What we are experiencing is, I think, common to transition experiences of various kinds: change of job, loss of spouse, new relationship, etc. My preliminary take on the experience falls into five categories.
1. It is not only physically draining (at 85 most everything is physically draining), but emotionally as well. "Why am I so tired today? I haven't done that much." "I just want to watch some non-demanding tv show and go to bed early." "Can't we put that off until next week?" One's emotional energy is not quite up to the task of so momentous a change. So slow down, wait for your emotions to catch up, don't expect to be "yourself" again for some time.
2. We are in a strange place. This is not home yet. We lost our home, our nest, our cozy womb. What is this place? Where is our stuff? Who are these people? When will we arrive at our home?
I think we make a place our home, it is not a "given." And it takes awhile. Sometimes a great while.
3. In a retirement community you meet people in the halls, at events, in the dining room at meal time. You test out relationships. Is this a person, is this a couple whom you want to know better? We aren't really choosing these people. They are chosen for us. What if this is not "our community?" Do we seek a community in a local church, an organization? Do we spend more time with family? Developing community is a project, not a given. And it can be tough.
4. The decision we made was to move. But the decision to commit ourselves to the new has not yet been made. It is like in a new relationship--there is an initial commitment and then the deeper commitment develops over time. Commitment involves risk, uncertainty, some inner change, some letting go of the old and welcoming the new. At our age we might ask: Didn't we do all that? No, it is an ongoing process. And it takes our whole lives.
5. I would say that in this transition we are hopeful, but wary. Hopeful that the decision was a good one. Wary that we are not quite ready to jump in fully. Hopeful that we can handle the unknown. We have done it before. "Through many dangers, toils and snares We have already come. T'was grace that brought us safe thus far And grace will lead us home."