Hope is my motto for November. It's the word I keep tacked in my brain as I slush through boxes and home renovations and stacks of laundry that might just swallow me if we don't get our formerly-split-pea-green-colored laundry room put back together soon. As I mentioned in the last post about moving to the Hudson Valley in October, I'm so very glad it's finally November. It means the boxes have all come inside and the first round of items on our to do lists have actually been achieved. But mostly, it means the shock of our move is subsiding.
People ask me if we're settling in and I have to pause a moment before I respond. Settling in? With two small children and a 200-year-old farmhouse to renovate and winter approaching (without appropriate winter clothing) and our dearest friends and all that's familiar some 3,000 miles away? No. No, we are not yet settling in. I do not imagine it will feel like we are settling in for many months to come. Though the boxes will be unpacked and the barn will be cleaned out and the rooms, one by one, will be repainted and re-patched and repaired. Instead I respond, "Day by day". My expectations have downshifted. Just put one foot in front of the other each day. And that seems to be working today so I'm going with it. I think of that Arthur Ashe quote:
Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
But the thing I've identified as the most important in our journey from urban CA to rural NY is not the appropriate clothing for winter, the pacing of our newly painted rooms, the long list of things we will change in our old farmhouse as the years go by, or even the pacing of caring for small children, working, moving across the country and suddenly owning a home. It's not any one of these things that pushed our October into a state of overwhelm and sadness and ache. Instead, it was the culmination of all these things all at once. The pile up.
But October is over. Forever. That's the beautiful thing about the passing of time. And November is about hope. But I think that word is so overused that it's actually lost its meaning. Hope. Love. Dream. Believe. Joy. Trust. They all read like Hallmark greeting cards that I avoid at all costs though, admittedly, I see their necessity or their appeal in the hands and hearts of many. I get it. We want to access those feelings. We want to share that sentiment. We want to connect to those feelings in our selves and in the recipients. Yes, of course we do.
But those words are actually Big Huge Life words. Life changing words. Life affirming words. Life shifting words. And we've tried to boil them down to bite-sized chunks of feeling and meaning and connection. We're busy. We're tired. We need a quick emotional fix. Sure. But Big Huge Life words and feelings and needs and considerations are, of course, much bigger than bite-size and often quite messy. They are much more important than one mouthful and they require more attention and time and consideration. Hope: It's actually the stuff that life is built on. And it can be reductive, if not offensive, when these Big Huge Life shifting words get boiled down into bite-sized chunks. Maybe we need more than a nibble. At least I do.
When I think I can tap into these Big Huge Life feelings for bite-sized amounts of time and see any true redirection I'm always disappointed. Because, of course, I can't shift my life in one bite. I have to sit with all these feelings. I have to mull them over. I have to swim in them. I have to let them flood me from time to time and just sit there with all those feelings and notice. Sometimes I don't have to do anything at all but sit there and breathe deep and acknowledge. And from this place of noticing I can start to realign to the life I want to create instead. For me this often has everything to do with fear. But it also has everything to do with trust. That wonderful Georgia O'Keeffe quote keeps playing through my mind:
I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.
Yes! Thank you, Georgia. So, hope. Hope is what I've identified as the most important word for me right now. Hope that this house will eventually feel like my own. Hope that we will actually get all these old rooms patched and painted and ultimately repaired. Hope that we'll find meaning here. Hope that we'll find comfort and relief and a reflection of our selves here. Hope that we'll thrive. Hope that this place and this house and this transition will provide something we needed. Will provide the opportunity for something different. Something bigger. Something we could only imagine and now we're working to make come true. Something more closely aligned to where we see our selves headed. Something relevant and important and, ultimately, something good.
Or why else would we do it? Why would we change our locations, our relationships, our jobs, our homes, our havens, if we cannot see the shift lined with opportunity and meaning and importance? I don't think we would. I think we would just keep things very much the same. But sometimes we need to change our lives. Or our homes. Or our relationships. Or our work. Sometimes I don't just need a minor shift but an actual overhaul. Sometimes I need to take huge risks and have huge hope at the same time.
Because, I'm convinced, of the necessity of hope. Because we hope and we envision because we get down close to the roots of our lives and we see what's most needed there. We breathe slow. We get quiet. We look around with a flashlight and try not to freak out at what we find. We collect data. We gather information. We mine for details. And then we take all this important information and we try to find the direction forward. We try to see what needs to change and what doesn't need to change and we calculate and we consider and then eventually we act. I keep telling myself: Trust deep.
So with each painted room, with each patched hole, with each floor we sand or paint or oil I try to maintain hope. I try to keep my eye on that beacon of promise. I try to let all the fears and sadness and uncertainty flood me as it will. Let it come. Let it go. Let it wash in and out and in and out again. Mine it for data. Listen to the roots and try not to freak out at the findings. And then I try to keep moving onward.
Maybe because it's just my way through it. Maybe it's just the set of survival skills my particular constitution has gathered together over the decades to help me move my life forward. But maybe because it gives me hope. And maybe that's the flag I need to replace the little soft white flag of surrender I had to wave over my home in October. Maybe hope is the flag of November and maybe that's just where I need it to be. Not what I expected, but certainly, there is a life here for us waiting to be uncovered. Maybe it's just under the last room full of old linoleum, waiting patiently for its turn.