So many people I know are involved in the big transitions of marriage, retirement, or resettling: downsizing, selling homes, buying homes, or building homes. They’re changing the configurations of their lives in order to accommodate the larger changes that are otherwise occurring, and they’re adapting how and where they live in order to house these new changes. Others I know may just be doing a thorough home purge, but their stuff is still flying out the door. The first signs of spring are not only flowering trees or baby birds; they’re the signs for yard sales as a result of spring cleaning.
I’m talking about significant moves. Two friends of mine are retiring from long time careers as film and sound editors, selling their fabulous and enviable East Village, New York apartment to fund their move out to rural Pennsylvania. Two others are beginning their married life by tearing down one of their long-standing homes and building a new home together on that site in Nashville. Another couple is moving out of two separate Los Angeles apartments and have just purchased one home in Joshua Tree, California. And, I’m preparing to launch my high school senior off to college and then fluff up my own empty nest. Resettling can be quite unsettling, even when it’s for an exciting reason. The grief that accompanies loss can be even more unsettling when the reason reflects a decline in the quality of life, or the end that comes with death.
I’ll be the first to admit that moving, purging, or even cleaning out a closet can give me apoplexy, so I’m the perfect person to speak about these kinds of changes. Though I’m not a pack rat, or a hoarder, as the writer David Foster Wallace said, “Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it.” Whether you’re relocating, downsizing, or just making room for more, the external changes in your physical space definitely reflect life changes that have already occurred, or need to.
Moving, packing, and organizing specialist at Creative Moving, Amy McEachern, said on my podcast, Passing 4 Normal, “When people are moving, most of the change has already happened. Something big has already occurred in their lives that now has caused the move. So, the move is really just the result of something that’s changed inside—like marriage, divorce, career change or death of a spouse. People are in constant flux and oftentimes that means they’ve got to change locations and when they do, really where they’re moving is inside, and we’re just dragging their stuff behind them.”
Sometimes the change of home and living space reflects a change that has already occurred, or a new need that has arrived. Other times, you can change your space in order to effect a change.
Feng Shui expert, energy healer, author, and LVBX contributor, Tisha Morris, says “The home is a literal metaphor for ourselves and our psyches. Every aspect of the home correlates to a mental-emotional, even physical component within ourselves. It’s the holder of our emotions, our thoughts, and our energy—a giant vision board emitting everything we want, and desire for who we think we are in the world. It really is a three dimensional, external signal of who we are.” Which is why it’s a good idea to clear the clutter, make those deferred repairs, and have an open flow in your home—whether it’s a new one, or one that you’ve been inhabiting for years.
Whether you experience your changes as being initiated internally or externally, when you move, change locations, change jobs, change relationships, those people, places, and things upon which you rely will shift. You could say that as you change or the world changes around you, the scaffolding of your support system changes. That is, what or who you rely on to keep you upright and ongoing changes. When you change where you live, your patterns are disrupted. Your hairdresser, the doctors, your local park, favorite café, or the way you are used to moving about your kitchen as you prepare food, all will need to change. Your old friends will now live far away. You will not go to work at the office anymore. Getting used to a new home is not just about its architecture, but settling into the changes that brought you to this new home in the first place, and experiencing the loss of what you have left behind. All this affects your sense of support for your life.
I look at response to changes in supports as I would in the body, literally how I feel the weight of my body (and my life) being held up and supported. When the scene shifts, when a support falls out, like with the death of a spouse or a relationship, or the sudden need to change homes, it can feel like having the rug pulled out from beneath you. A place where you are used to giving your weight is not there. Immediately there is the fear that you’re going to fall. Sometimes the sudden lack of support topples you and throws you even more off balance in response to the next change and the next. Change often cascades in complex sequences in a domino effect, so you ask, “Is this all of it or will there be even more to come, and if there is, can I find balance again?” I live in earthquake country, I know what it is to feel the earth roll beneath your feet and wonder is this more? The aftershocks can be as intense as the original quake, and last for a much longer period of time.
I’m in awe when I see a dog that has lost a leg find new three-legged balance and run and play without a tumble. The dog seems happy and well adapted. It shows me that there are true supports and false supports, that supports are adaptable, and that it may take less to hold me up than I think. True supports are the essential points that help hold us up when we give our weight there; false supports are ways in which we hold on to something or someone that isn’t truly necessary, but we think it is. Like the kid who clings desperately to the side of the pool until once she lets go, realizes that she is buoyant in the water. What is supporting you in your sitting or standing right now? Which of those supports are absolutely necessary, and which ones are just extra?
Look at your life. What are the supports you rely upon: your spouse, your friends, your family, your home, your job, your spiritual practice, your exercise program, the core strength of your own body? If one or all of them were to change, how might you find a new balance?
In my book, ChangeAbility, I speak of the Seven Principles of Change that are common to all change scenarios. I like to look at the seven principles as a wheel of support that can provide balance and ground within the ever-shifting, moving nature of change. The same wheel of change I propose to help ease the feelings of overwhelm toward complex change could be seen as a balanced scaffold of support for when we make the big moves in life. The interactive play of all the principles on the wheel reflects a moving model of stability. The faster change moves, the more agile you need to become at quickly shifting supports.
See if you can use the Seven Principles as supports for whatever phase of a move you are in. Ask yourself these questions:
Bring Awareness – Why are you making this move? What supports do you have? What is the support you need now?
Listen Deeply – What is calling you to do this? Is this the right timing? Where do your true supports lie?
Find Community – How can you get more help? Designers, movers, friends to hold your hand on both ends of the move; how much help do you need to feel supported? Can you ask for help without embarrassment?
Proceed Incrementally – How can you break down daunting tasks into doable pieces? Can you slow this process down? Can you find a strategy to make all the puzzle pieces fit together without feeling overwhelmed?
Align with Nature – How can the rhythms and cycles of nature help you in this change? Can you allow natural time and timing to guide how you relocate and how you settle? How is your new home a reflection of who you are now becoming?
Have Hope – What is your vision of what is next for your new home and new phase of life? What is the most delightful, hopeful outcome that you can imagine? If you are not hopeful, can you reframe how you view your circumstance to allow hope to enter?
Spark Fire – What is your compelling reason for this move? Whether it’s that the moving truck is coming tomorrow, or that you’re moving to your dream home, what will spur you to action? These are big life changes. What’s going to turn up the heat, passion, excitement, or just the thrust to “get it done,” moving past any fears or resistances?
In any given moment, if you find yourself sitting, immobilized, in the middle of the floor like I might do, ask yourself which of these seven principles do you need more of? Fire? Community? Slow it down/break it down?
What are the supports that you need for your next move? How can you shift your weight and still feel supported? Navigating change is the new stability, and you find that stability within your ability to continually shift your supports as life moves on. In the ongoing movement of change, you will find that there is always support for whatever you need to do. It may come from unexpected places, but take a chance and trust that when you reach out your hand, it will be met.
Sharon Weil is the author of ChangeAbility, How Artists, Activists and Awakeners Navigate Change (Archer/Rare Bird Books 2016), a book designed to help readers navigate all the changes of their lives, drawing upon the collective wisdom of twenty-five change-innovators across many fields. ChangeAbility Playbook, How to Navigate Your Own Change (Archer/Rare Bird Books May 2017) is a journal workbook for navigating your own personal change. Her novel, Donny and Ursula Save the World, is called “the funniest book about love, sex, and GMO seeds you’ll ever read.” (Passing 4 Normal Press 2013) She is also the host of Passing 4 Normal Podcast, conversations about change. sharonweilauthor.com