Starting to look more like a home.
I feel as though I’m slowly coming back to life. It has been one week since I moved across the Hudson River from NYC to Jersey City. Not a big move, by many people’s standards. But a big move for me, for sure.
They say that three of the most stressful life events are the death of a partner, divorce, and moving. Well, I can count all three in my life experiences in the last decade and can attest that moving is right up there stress-wise. There were times last week when I thought I was going to fall asleep standing up or collapse into a bucket of tears. I felt so depleted I could barely function.
Enter accepting help from friends. This has always been a challenge for me. I don’t want to ask for help. I don’t want to inconvenience my already-busy friends. I learned all about receiving when my partner Ralph died. It took something that serious for me to let down my “I can do it myself wall” and allow others to nurture me.
Sometimes the nurturing roles get reversed. The weekend before my move, my daughter, Amy, flew in to help me pack boxes and stay focused. Even when we weren’t focused on the move, having her there helped keep me grounded.
On moving day my friend, Manon, stayed with me all day. From packing up last-minute items at my old apartment to directing the movers on where to put everything at my new place, she stayed with me until the end, on the hottest day of the summer, so far.
I was a zombie. A zombie who had forgotten everyone’s advice to pack an overnight bag. No toothbrush to be found, no sheets, no clean towels. I decided to just collapse on the mattress. Actually, I did this for the first two nights.
My friend, Stacey, having just moved herself two weeks ago, with three young children (one broke his arm just days before the move) and umpteen things on her own plate, insisted on coming over on moving day to bring lunch because she wanted to make sure I had eaten something (which I hadn’t). She fretted that she couldn’t do more, but little did she know that her constant moral support was every bit as valuable.
Once I was officially over on the Jersey side, I found myself completely overwhelmed and frustrated. I was bone tired but surrounded by boxes and crates, plants that needed attention and seemingly much less storage space than I had before. My artist’s eye wanted everything done NOW but I lack in the organization department – big time.
Enter Monica Abbatemaggio. I first met Monica and her sister Barbara about fifteen years ago when I wandered into their tiny but amazing little boutique in Tribeca just a couple of blocks from my apartment. We became fast friends and to this day, most of my dear NYC friends I met through the girls at their shop.
Sorelle Firenze (means Sisters of Florence) was more than just a store with great clothes. It was a place to stop and have lunch or a cup of tea, maybe a glass of wine, and always always some laughs. These two beautiful sisters not only are masters at styling, they are organizing geniuses.
Monica lives in Jersey City and when I woke up six weeks ago with the thought “I have to move NOW” and kept “hearing” a little voice say “Look in Jersey City”, Monica was the person I called. She ended up finding me an apartment in the building next door to hers and began her selling job on Jersey City.
Back to friends, and receiving. On the fourth of July, Monica’s only day off all week, she came over for four hours and whipped me and my place into shape. I had woken up that morning just wanting to bury my head under the pillow. I felt sad, frustrated and lonely. I felt like I was living in a chaotic, messy hotel room. Monica would have none of it.
You know how we all have something we do that we’re gifted at? Well, organizing spaces is Monica’s. She is super-organized (a Virgo) with an incredible eye for beauty and she moves at lightening speed. She is an organizing tornado. In fact, most of the pictures I took are slightly blurry because she was in near constant movement. Well, okay, they might also be blurry because I was exhausted.
It was a beautiful thing to behold. Going from room to room, Monica found a place for everything, and her creative solutions to what I saw as unsolvable problems blew my mind. In just a couple of hours, I started to see my new home taking shape. She had found sheets for my bed and completely organized my kitchen.
When Monica left, Manon returned, also giving up part of her fourth of July. She swooped back in to help me unpack the rest of the giant blue eco crates that were still left towering in my apartment. Manon Chevallerau, a postpartum doula by profession (talk about nurturing!), is also a gifted artist/designer who loves decorating and arranging spaces. So, again, I was in the hands of someone with a critical eye. When she finally went home, I sat in the dark watching the fireworks outside my window, feeling vastly different than I had when I woke up that day.
After a couple of good night’s sleep, I began to venture out into my new neighborhood. Getting lost is a great way to find your way around and I’ve discovered lots of good places within walking or biking distance.
It still seems surreal to me that there are so few people on the street. It’s quiet and I’m struggling to get used to that. This is a perfect example of Ayurveda wisdom. We need the opposite of what is in our nature to balance us. My Vata craves excitement and movement and busyness, but it needs calm and quiet and stillness for good health and longevity. I’m hearing birds chirping in the morning when I wake instead of cars and horns. That’s a good thing, right?
I went for a bike ride by the river on Sunday and when I looked at the NYC skyline I saw it through a completely different set of eyes. The dense “concreteness” of it made me pause and think about the rapid pulse of the city and its physicality. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a NYC hater all of a sudden. I will always love the city and am grateful to be just a five minute commute away. It’s different being on the other side. Time will tell how I adjust but I feel pretty positive that I already am. That apartment in the city that I cried for three days about leaving? Hasn’t crossed my mind. Isn’t that amazing?
I’ve learned so many lessons during this move. I learned that having lots of awareness doesn’t make you immune to the difficulties, but it can sure help you pass through them much quicker and with a little bit of grace, if you’re lucky.
I learned that it is absolutely necessary to let yourself feel and express every emotion that arises. This, to me, was critical. I believe it helped me process my decision to move, find a new place to live, mourn and let go of the old, and make it through the actual physical move.
I learned that everything doesn’t have to be done immediately. Every wall doesn’t have to be painted, every picture doesn’t have to be hung right away. This is where I do battle with my artist’s eye. I am so visual and affected by my physical surroundings that it pains me to not have everything looking beautiful NOW.
Just when I needed to hear this the most, my friend, Cathy, wrote to me: “Remember, it takes months to form a child, let the apartment have time to form too. No need to rush. Just enjoy the unfolding. No need to push, just glide in like coasting on a bicycle. Wind at your back, instead of in your mind.”
So many of my friends are going through moving experiences of their own right now. I have been thinking of each and every one of you this past week – sending you love and good wishes for an easy transition.
And to all of you who have checked in with me via phone calls and texts and Facebook messages – well I just LOVE you and am so grateful to have you in my life. Your messages lifted me up and carried me through one of the toughest (but positive growth) experiences of my life.
P.S. If you’re moving and need help setting up your new place or you just plain need help organizing and clearing clutter, give the Sorelle Firenze sisters a call. HERE they are in action!