I have just resurfaced from a horrendous ordeal — which is the reason there have been no blog posts for a while. Some of you may remember from an earlier post (“Homecoming” in July ) that the owner of our house gave us three months’ notice that he would be moving to the Philippines from Australia in October. And yes, this is now October.
I always knew that we could only stay until the owner retired — but stupidly, I deluded myself into believing that he would work forever or change his mind or put the house up for sale. He has never struck me as the kind of person who is suited to living on an island in the Philippines. I loved living in that house and couldn’t imagine leaving it. Besides that, I hate moving. Who enjoys packing? This was the first time in my life that I would be forced to move against my will. I prayed for a miracle.
Well, the miracle did not come and with the combination of my procrastination and all the traveling I’ve been doing lately, last week I found myself with four days — yes, FOUR days — to find a new place to live, pack up the contents of an entire house, and move. But we did it!
And here is what I have learned from this whole ridiculous experience:
- When a landlord says he’s coming — believe him!
- I own a serious amount of junk. Why the hell am I carting around a broken aquarium and boxes that haven’t been unsealed since our last move, two years ago? I would estimate that 75% of my stuff could go into the trash heap and I wouldn’t miss it. Many, many years ago I decided to spend a year in Tokyo. I packed up my apartment in Toronto and put everything in a storage locker, for which I paid monthly rent. Well, one year turned into four and then I met my husband and realized that I was never going back to Toronto. After five years I returned to the storage locker, which had cost me thousands of dollars, and when I looked at all the stuff which had been my prized possessions, I was shocked. “It’s all junk”, I shouted. “All of it!”. And most of it went into a dumpster.
- Things turn shabby without our noticing. It was kind of embarrassing watching my furniture being carted out of the house by strangers. I found myself apologizing: “It just needs to be revarnished and it’ll look brand new again”. Yeah, right. It’s strange though, how our perception of reality can change. We might love our sofa and think it’s beautiful — but when we see it through the eyes of a stranger we suddenly notice its faded cushions, the red wine stain on the arm rest, and scars from when the cat used it as a scratching post. Then there is that frightening possibility that if my furniture has grown shabby, how about the rest of my life? Maybe I’ve become as stagnant and outdated as my dining room table. Time to sit down and evaluate where I am and what I’m doing. Maybe even do a few sit-ups. My worst fear has always been to wake up one day and realize that I’ve squandered a couple of decades of my life.
- I am not as low-maintenance as I thought. I was happy living in a tent in Africa. Surely, I could be happy in a small, simple house? Not so much… While hunting for our new house, I heard myself saying things like: “Oh my God, this place is way too ugly”. “Are you kidding me, I could never live in this dump”. “This is a box. I can’t live in a box”. “Sorry, I can’t live next to a rooster farm.” “The windows are too small. It reminds me of a prison.” “It’s too close to the road, my cats would be run over.”
- It’s better to be lucky than smart. In the end, I got lucky. I had been looking at a small rental house on a very large piece of land. The rental house was too small for us, but the owner’s house was big and gorgeous, with a swimming pool and a huge garden courtyard in the middle of the house. I said, “Hey, I wouldn’t mind renting the main house. Do you think the owner would move out?” I was half joking when I said it, but to my great shock, the owner answered that he would love to move into the smaller place. I said, “But we need to move in three days”. “No problem”, he replied. And so we have our new home.
- Emotional attachment can tie you down. In retrospect I realize that I shouldn’t have clung so hard to the old house. I actually like the new one better. One week ago I was miserable, shaking my fist at the sky, whining that I was being cursed by the gods. Today, the morning after our first night swim in the pool, under the Milky Way, I am happy and excited at our great luck.
We are fully moved out of the old and into the new, and even though we are stepping over boxes and I have no idea where my underwear is, I know that everything has turned out for the best. Though change is a scary thing, I’m reminded of a billboard I saw in Singapore: “Goodbye yesterday. Hello future.”