Unboxing My Life

I know exactly how Pandora felt.   Horrified.  Overwhelmed.  Ashamed.  But mostly just panicked.

On second thought, she shouldn’t have opened the box.  REALLY shouldn’t have opened the box.  But now it’s too late.  What to do next?  Run and hide?  Try to fix the mess somehow?

And me?  I’m sitting in a house full of boxes.  Millions and gajillions of boxes.   DSC_0259 - Copy I shouldn’t have acquired so many worldly goods…but now I’ve grown attached to them.  They are my life’s travels and my family memories  played out in textiles, art, and furniture, and I’ve dragged them halfway across the world with me.  Is that wierd/shallow/materialistic?  I have no idea.  Most days, I’d say it’s essential to being human, this appreciation of things that speak to your soul.  But today I can tell you that it makes for a hell of a job unpacking when the movers dump the accumulation on your doorstep.

It’s overwhelming, the thought of having to unpack and organize it all.  But it has to be done before the contents rise up on their own and riotously burst the seams of the boxes.  One set of boxes, all full of books, crashed over in the middle of the night–sending the dvds and magazine I’d left at the top of the stack slidding across the floor.  The message was clear:  Step away from the dvds and get on task!  Open the boxes!  Free the contents to their rightful place in your house!!!  If I don’t step up my efforts at unboxing quickly and efficiently, all the contents are sure to go into a full mutiny on me.

So there it is.  I like my stuff, but it terrifies me at the moment.

As Pandora said, many weeks later, “you’ll just have to take the good with the bad.”  That’s life.

If you haven’t heard from me in a week, send someone knocking on my door.  It’s just possible that  I’m  lost under an avalanche of worldly goods.  You can never tell what will pop out of these boxes once opened.

 

 

And Now We Breathe

©2014 A. Stephenson
©2014 A. Stephenson

 

Aaahhh, it feels good to exhale and inhale again.  Deeply, fully.  We’re finally here in Germany.  Dogs travelled well.  We’ve found a house.  We still have only the clothes and backpacks on our backs, but the day is coming when we’ll settle, and so I find myself actually breathing again.  For, possibly, the first time in months.

But here’s the rub:  I want to relax and enjoy, but not settle too much.  The word settle is funny and a little unnerving to me–I get this visual image of fish food sinking down to the bottom of the tank.  Then just lying there until it decays or gets gobbled up.  Ewww.  That’s not the objective here.

I love the fact that launching yourself into a new life and a new culture gives you fresh eyes, and does so often catch at your breath.  It may be unnerving sometimes, but being a little off balance is heady stuff–an adrenaline rush.  It’s fun!

I won’t deny it–it’s a relief to breathe again.  But I’m pasting a photo below of one of the many moments today when my breath stopped and my heart skipped a beat.  We’re in Europe!  And that’s worth a few missed breaths.

No doubt about it–I hope the currents will allow me to waft around a bit in this life before I settle.

DSC_0381

 

Planes, Pains, and Automobiles

 

 

This blog is about to experience radio silence for a number of days while my husband and I pack a car with 2 dogs, 2 children, and too many suitcases and motor our way out of the deep South and up to the DC/Baltimore area to catch our plane.  modl t It will be a venture worthy of a John Candy and Steve Martin movie. . . Although, in my head, I see it playing out more like a Keystone Cops chase reel: frantic, flustered, hysterically funny but sometimes painful to watch, and all taking place at choppy double-time speed, accompanied by a warbling gin-joint soundtrack.   (If you need the visual, it goes something like this:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKmpHvOzlxE )

Feel free to fill in the details of this misshapen trip in your own imagination.  Once we set up camp on the other end, I’ll send up a smoke signal.

 

 

 

Update to The Art of Losing

One house we "lost."
One house we “lost.” Ripon, England

Saying goodbye to our home, our family, our continent—it’s been tough.  Right, right, we’ve been really excited about moving to Germany–and it’s great to be here having adventures.  GREAT.   Still, these things are bittersweet:  bitter and sweet, not one or the other.  My daughter’s heart is still breaking because she misses her friends back home.   My son aches for a familiar friend to skateboard with in front of our house.  And  I’m still mourning the hope of having Thanksgiving with family, of playing golf with my gang, of walking back into my classroom for fall semester at AUM.  The list goes on for each of us.

But these lists aren’t ours alone, and they don’t apply only to us itinerant types.   You can live in the same state all your life and still experience moments of overwhelming loss:  when you walk into a room full of laughing relatives and expect to see your uncle, the consummate storyteller, sitting in the center of the laughter (but he passed away last year and his seat is empty); when you step out into a balmy southern evening and hear the cicadas and tree frogs and have an overwhelming sense that you’ve just stepped out of your grandmother’s house, headed to the backyard with a glass of sweet tea in hand (but she passed away 29 years ago);  or even when a Violent Femmes song at high decibel puts you right back into a moshpit of a party with your high school and college friends (but you are driving up I-85 with your kids in the back of a station wagon).  Memory is a sticky substance–thank God.  And I think that, as much as it sticks to us, we stick to  it also.

I’ve been mulling this over all morning after being hit by the sting of a lost “momento” of my life story.  It goes like this:   Yesterday, we picked up our car from a port on the North Sea.  We’d shipped it from the States about two months ago.  (Despite paying a hefty–h-e-f-t-y– sum to send it over the Atlantic and through customs, it seems that the shipper inflated a small raft underneath the chassis and paddled it over the ocean himself.  This is the only explanation I can offer for the insane timeline.  But back to my story–)  I had the car inspected before getting German plates put on this morning, and it passed with the stipulation that I scrape the dealer’s decal, indicating a city in North Carolina, off of the back of the car.  They had their reasons–logical enough, if uninspiring–but my heart sank a little as I scraped away.

I am a Carolina girl.  I may look like a vagabond to you, with a crazy long list of places I’ve called home in recent years: Chicago, DC, Connecticut, Texas, Georgia, Alabama, England, Turkey, Germany.  Each of those places has left an indelible mark.  I wouldn’t want to lose any of them, but especially not my roots in North Carolina.

However,  I lose a little bit of each of them in unexpected moments–like bits of produce that spill from my cart as I bump along a country road, I shed bits here and there–and I hate that.  So this morning, I obediently scraped the North Carolina decal from the back hatch of my wagon, mourning that badge of “who I am” that I’d been carrying around for over a decade.  I am still a Carolina girl, but I’m no longer emblazoned on the highway–that shouldn’t sting much, but it does.  Like everyone I’ve ever known, I like to hold tight to who I am and what (and whom) I’ve loved.  And the artifacts of life are dear to me for that reason.   But like everyone I’ve ever known, I find life prying little bits of this away from me.

 

 

As a postscript, I offer up the words of Elizabeth Bishop’s  beautiful poem about loss–in all of its incarnations, big and small.  She said it so much better than I can, so I’ll let her words stand:

One Art

BY ELIZABETH BISHOP

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

 

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster

of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

 

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:

places, and names, and where it was you meant

to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

 

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or

next-to-last, of three loved houses went.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

 

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,

some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

 

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident

the art of losing’s not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.