Friday, September 9, 2016

Next move

"Around the next bend the flowers will send
The sweet scent of home in the breeze."
It's official.

We're moving.

To North Carolina.

In May, probably.

Or in however long it takes to build a 3,400 square foot house with a finished basement.

We hammered out the structural options and the contract is in the mail.

To say I have mixed feelings about this would be a profound understatement.

But we're doing it, so what are you gonna do? Try to make the best of it.

It's no secret that I'm conflicted. I want Neil to be happy and this is his dream. Plus if Papa's not happy, ain't nobody gonna be happy.

I just wish we could have had a little more time. Neil won't even be retired until December 1. It would have been nice to have a year just to be. Just to enjoy living in this house together.

Neil has never really gotten to enjoy that. If he's not working 13 days out of 14, we're traveling. Or he's traveling. Or he's falling asleep on the sofa at 8 pm. Or dealing with a water leak or a broken air conditioning system.

He's never known the joy of waking up here in the morning and just savoring the peace and the light. There's always the pressure of work hanging over him, email filling his inbox even as he takes a rare day off.

Instead we will go into his retirement with the massive, overwhelming project of packing up our home, flying back and forth to NC to select options for the new house and monitor its progress, figuring out how to move three cats, and trying to spend as much time as possible with our kids and our grandsons, the 4 year old and the one due in December.

There are some upsides to a move. I can finally have a proper studio with heat and air conditioning, and stop working in the garage. That is, if we can figure out the ventilation issues, the indoor fuel and flame issues, and the issue of whether I will continue to want to make beads.

I could have all that if we moved to Austin though. Or Santa Fe. Or Memphis. Or Little Rock.

I do understand that it's very important to Neil to be further away from the coast and the threat of hurricanes. Although in 40 years of living here I've not been seriously affected or impacted by storms.

I do understand that Neil wants to live somewhere besides Texas, and that if we are going to the immense effort of moving house, we might as well land somewhere with a better climate, nicer topography and four real seasons.

Didn't I once feel this way myself?

Did I not once write these words in response to an email from Marty, in 2001, just before 9/11, when he talked about the possibility of a transfer to Palo Alto after the HP-Compaq merger.
Marty, in many ways, I actually envy you the possibility. I wish I could go too – go home – if I could just figure out where that would be. I'm so afraid sometimes that I will live and die here.
I just noticed that I wrote that note 15 years ago today. That has to be significant.

What changed?

Fifteen years ago I was a single mom with rebellious, hormonal teenage daughters. Fifteen years ago I was hopelessly in love with a man who'd left me after telling me he loved me and wanted to be with me forever. Hopelessly. Without hope. Begging the question, why would I want to be with a man who didn't want to be with me?

In fairness to myself, by the end of that September I wrote this to my mom.
You'll be glad to know that Marty is no longer part of the equation. I don't want him back and I don't want to contact him again. I just want to get out of this dark place and finish raising my kids and feel well enough again to someday maybe have a real relationship again. I suppose he was a wake-up call in my life, to look at what shaky ground I was standing on and rediscover the real priorities in my life, my children.
Unfortunately Marty was still very much part of the equation. At least I finally could see the smoke and the mirrors. In February I wrote this.
I would have followed him to the ends of the earth. Whither he went, I would go, and his people would be my people. I would have forsaken everyone I cherished for him, everyone who loves me and needs me.

Who needs that?!

The hell with him.
It's much easier to come to your senses when all is said and done and you're not in the heat of the passion.

I wonder what I would have done if he hadn't left me and if he had left Texas (as he eventually did) and if he had asked me to go with him.

I'm not sure.

I don't think I would have left my children, but I might have gone and taken them with me.

Except that even then, 15 years ago, they wouldn't have gone. Kandace was a high school junior, in a relationship with a boy she cared deeply about. Chelsea was in her last year of junior high school, president of the theater club, best friends with a soul mate. (OK, neither relationship survived longterm, but they were compelling back then.)

So would I have left them?

I don't know. Maybe.

And now I am leaving them and I'm remorseful and heartsick about it. And both of them think it's a great adventure. I'm the one with anxiety and guilt and doubt.

In 1987, I had the opportunity to tranfer from Conoco in Houston to DuPont in Wilmington, Delaware. I'd have been back on the east coast, near my parents in New York. The company flew me up for two days of interviews in early December. My parents drove down to meet me for dinner and a visit to Longwood Gardens, all decked out for the holidays.

I was home, taking a day of vacation, when I got a call to come in to work to discuss an offer. The head of my department, a company vice president, met with me, along with my direct supervisor. The offer was crushingly disappointing. They'd pay my transfer assistance but I'd have to take a $5,000 cut in pay.

I was earning $35,000 a year then.

I'd be moving to a state with a higher cost of living and state income tax (but no sales tax, so that balanced out the tax thing). My husband would have had to find a job, not really a pivotal issue since he changed jobs with some regularity and wasn't the major breadwinner.

We didn't own a home at the time, so the benefits of selling a house with transfer assistance did not come into play.

Also, my period was two weeks late.

I know women accept transfers and have babies, but it was something to think about.

I also thought about how many trips to visit my family $5,000 would pay for.

Honestly, I took the short view.

If I had taken the job, it's completely possible that new avenues would have opened up for me. I would have been back among people with much more in common with me. I might have knocked their socks off, professionally speaking. I well might have prospered at DuPont and I certainly might have made up the shortfall in income over time.

But I kept coming back to the thought that if I accepted the transfer, they'd know I was only doing so for personal reasons, since there are no good corporate reasons to take a 14.2857142857% cut in pay (but who's counting?). How could they see me as a serious employee if I did that?

(As if anyone would remember that after a year or two.)

Bottom line, I was too afraid of change. I was too afraid of Jon quitting his job and me being the sole support of the family on a decreased salary, and having to find a place to live that we could afford, and having to learn a new job, and doing all of that while pregnant.

I turned down the offer. I gave birth to Chelsea the following August.

My parents moved to Florida six years later.

Jon and I divorced when Chelsea was nine. I met Neil in 2002.

There are so many ways to slice and dice my decision to stay in Houston with the benefit of hindsight.

You can only connect the dots looking backward. Steve Jobs said that.

There is always the path taken and the path not taken.

In general I regret the things I didn't do more than I regret anything I ever do. I probably made the wrong decision about the transfer, but I have to start where I am. Now, here, today.

So I won't be digging my heels in and holding back. I won't be moping or complaining or crying (too much). I will get on board with this adventure. I will try my darndest to let the sleeping black dog lie.

The left side of that pad of clay will be what we will call home.
Another view of our pad and our next door neighbor.
The neighborhood to the left of our house.
New neighbors, two houses down.

Traveling at night
The headlights were bright
And we'd been up many an hour
And all through my brain
Came the refrain
Of home and its warming fire

And home sings me of sweet things
Life there has its own wings
To fly over the mountains
Though I'm standing still

The people I've seen
They come in between
The cities of tiring life
The trains come and go
But inside you know
The struggle will soon be a fight

Traveling at night
The headlights were bright
But soon the sun came through the trees
Around the next bend
The flowers will send
The sweet scent of home in the breeze

Oh home sings me of sweet things
Life there has its own wings
To fly over the mountains
Though I'm standing still.

(Martin Lee Gore, covered by Karla Bonoff)

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