“Help. Going under!” This would be a good sign, like the sandwich-board kind, for many of us to wear, during times of daunting change. Then, those on high ground could toss us a line, or shout encouragement from the shore. Life abounds with ways to try to sink us. Strangely enough, others can’t usually tell we’re going under. We look pretty good, even while gasping for air.
Sometimes, floodwaters rise slowly. There’s time to look for higher ground, or cobble together a raft to cling to. Other times, riverbeds overflow fast, like flash floods in the desert. Before we know it, we’re in over our head, without a life jacket. Either way, high water rearranges the landscape. It rearranges us as well.
I’ve been blessed with a long period of peaceful waters, just the average froth and foam of kids growing up, grown-ups-growing-older, and elders passing on. That’s plenty of drama for me. That changed this winter, though, when my husband’s job was unexpectedly outsourced, to an out-of-town bidder. After 27 years, he and his partners are wrapping it up at Twin Cities Hospital in two weeks.
Honestly, the job thing is a mixed blessing, as my guyis more than ready to change things up. He’s leaning towards retirement. Also, he’s a mountain biker. He likes to move, quickly, and he’s tired of the hospital walls that confined him. He’s made other plans, at the surgery center, where he can scale back, have civilized hours, and more time to do what he loves. I’m truly glad for him.
But the high water that washed away this job also washed away the means to pay off our beloved, rambling, family home—at least not without a lot of struggle. So, we made a decision. The kids are mostly out. We don’t need all this space. It’s time to sell.
The plan to downsize is easier for Biker Guy. I’m no biker, though. I’m a burrower. More like a badger. Right now, I’m a badger being hauled out of her den, tail first.
It’s hard saying goodbye to the house we built and raised our family in. For 19 years, we lined this burrow with the stuff and fluff of family life. So much stuff! What to keep? What to toss?
What about all the memories, etched into every corner? Who will we be, without these walls to hold us? Will we drift apart, like dandelion seeds in the wind? All these thoughts swirl around in my head. Tears leak out at the most unexpected times.
Every shrub, tree, and bulb in this yard -- I planted and tended. Season after season, I hovered over my bluebird boxes, bursting with happiness when the chicks finally flew. To me, they were not just a symbol of happiness, but a symbol that it’s possible to entice happiness to land on your very own roof. Will the new owners rejoice, when they return each spring? Will they tend their boxes?
Our upheaval causes havoc to our neighbors, as well. When our house sells, we plan to move back to our first little house, down the hill, displacing Margaret and Jack, who’ve been peacefully dwelling there for 12 years. I hate this part especially. If you live near the Templeton area, and know of a cozy,affordable place, for the nicest neighbors anywhere,will you let us know?
Sudden change feels like heading out your front door, expecting to step onto the porch boards, but landing, instead, in cold, fast water. By the time you get your bearings, the current’s swept you downstream. There’s a “For Sale” looming in your driveway. Strangers browse through your closets and pantry.
Joel is way ahead of me on accepting this “change” thing, already dreaming of a lighter, brighter lifestyle. He wants to see America in a van. With mountain bikes strapped on back! Am I too old for this? Can a badger become a Gypsy-Biker? As a kid, I had a purple Schwinn, with a banana seat, a bell, and big, wicker basket, for hauling flowers, picnic supplies, and reluctant kittens. I’m pretty sure this isn’t what Biker Guy has in mind.
I know that job-changes and home-changes are only Class 1 or 2, on the scale of scary river rapids. They aren’t the Big Waves, the ones that threaten to sink us, permanently, with sorrows and losses so great that we barely have the words to speak them. These waves aretinyin comparison.
But the truth is, any of us not currentlyin rough water, have probably just survived a stretch. Or, we have one around the next bend. Why then, if struggle is so universal, do we feel so alone when we struggle? I think it’s because we forget. We assume that everyone else has it all together, so we suffer silently. We try not to be a burden. We’re somehow ashamed that we haven’t figured it all out, found the way to avoid suffering. We try to keep up appearances, even when we’re drowning.
Having signs (or T-shirts) that say, “Help! Going under!” would be so useful. Loved ones, even strangers, would know to give us extra hugs and kind words. Or soup, like my friend Heidi does. Words, hugs, and soup are the lifejackets that keep me afloat. But people don’t carry signs. We have to just pay attention, to the more subtle signs. We might have to actually ask. How are you? How are you, really?
My hope for us all, as we struggle in the currents of life change, is this: may we keep our heads above water. May we keep the landmarks of faith, family, and friends clearly in sight. May we ask, or holler--for the help we need. May we be quick to spot others in need of a hand, a hug, or a jar of soup. And may we wash up on sandy shores, right where we’re supposed to be.
So today, how am I, really? I’m actually OK. No offers on the house, yet, and it will be hard when we really say goodbye—but for today, I’m focusing forward, envisioning new adventures with family and friends. When I get across this river, I hope to be wobbling along on a new, purple bike. I’ll need that wicker basket for hauling bluebird boxes. I plan to extend their range.
Welcome to Streamriffs.com, a place for fellow creek- walkers and nature lovers. Lori Fisher Peelen lives in California with her family.