Move to a new home is a mixed blessing
Last spring, my husband and I moved to an over-55 community about 30 minutes north of our former home. Our new apartment is in a high-rise, on one level, less than half the square footage of our house.
We left behind a spacious home with 16 stairs from entrance to bedrooms, so our knees are a lot happier here.
Our neighbors are very welcoming. There is a culture of warmth and acceptance of newbies like us. We love our place.
And yet, at first, I felt something was wrong. I was disoriented and grieving my beautiful home due south. Is this the right fit? Did we make the move too soon? Have we made a mistake?
The move made me recall the upheavals of my past. I have moved at least a dozen times in my 78 years, not counting the many times I moved during college. One thing I’ve learned: I hate moving! It really throws me off.
A psychologist I worked with told me during one move that what I was feeling was normal. On the Rorschach inkblot test, she said, there was one particular inkblot test that was diagnostic for schizophrenia. But non-schizophrenic people who were in the middle of a move typically read that card as if they were indeed psychotic.
In other words, people in the midst of a move are usually indistinguishable from seriously mentally ill persons.
Moving to a new stage in life
When I was younger, moving could be fun. At the end of college, which involved multiple moves, I was glad to be settled in Ann Arbor for graduate school and not have to move for two whole years.
Indeed, it was hard to get me to leave! A friend had to gently (or not so gently) suggest it was time for me to look for a job.
We were just months away from graduation, but I didn’t want to leave, to change, look for an apartment, find new friends, take on more responsibility, or enter fully into adulthood.
Moving, I’ve come to realize, often marks a change in status — a new developmental stage, sometimes a step up in status, but often a mixed blessing.
The next few moves in my life reflected new phases as a wife and mother.
I moved from a big city, where I had friends and support, to the suburbs, where I had no car or public transportation and a six-week-old baby.
That was a tough move. In fact, becoming a suburban parent was perhaps the most difficult move of my life. Again, it reflected a major developmental change to another level of adulthood.
Things did get easier, and when we moved our growing family to a larger home, we stayed there for 30 years. Suddenly we were middle aged or maybe a little beyond.
Today, we are at our over-55 community, almost fully unpacked, meeting more neighbors, and exploring the neighborhood.
I know we made the right decision in moving here — and really, I have no complaints. We couldn’t have received a warmer welcome.
But I’m unsettled because, like the transitions of the past, I am aware of this new stage of life.
Moving here comes with the realization that we are now among the elderly. Walkers and canes and scooters are everywhere.
We can no longer deny that we have some disabilities and certainly are in the concluding stages of life. The clock is ticking more loudly, and time moving faster and faster.
After several months here, I am more comfortable every day. I appreciate that, if I lose track of my phone, I don’t have to climb stairs to look for it. I can see the sun set over the trees from my balcony. Traffic is at a minimum, and my daily walk is easy, lovely, scenic.
My husband and I have joined some fun activities here. There is plenty to do: book groups, painting class, a collage class, yoga, movies, a gym, a couple of indoor pools, a hot tub.
We are enjoying as much as we can. Who cares what the Rorschach test would show?
May Benatar is a psychotherapist in Silver Spring, Maryland. An occasional contributor to the Washington Post, she is author of the memoir Emma and Her Selves: A Memoir of Treatment and a Therapist’s Self-Discovery.