I sit at my desk and look out the window. Through bare trees in the foreground and across sunny fields to the distant hills of Vermont, I see the view that has become as familiar as seeing my friend Pril and her two Labrador Retrievers who now walk across the scene. In this place I have gazed at the greening fields in spring, watched the deer leap across the open spaces, felt the sharpening of light in fall and the silence of snow in winter. This is my haven, my place for contemplation and inspiration.
But today I feel anything but peaceful. Today I am waiting for my husband to come home so that we can make a counter-offer on our house. We’ve had the house on the market for months, but now someone has made an offer, and suddenly the idea of moving has become a reality.
I shift positions in my chair, go downstairs for tea, skip around on the internet, and fret. Will the deal fall through? Will we end up with a house still for sale on an already-glutted market?
Beneath the surface of my thoughts, I am aware of a deeper meaning. Soon this place where I sit and gaze will no longer be my place of refuge, and this house, the house we designed and built, our dream house, will no longer be our home. A change is coming, a seismic shift that will disrupt my orientation to the world.
We want to move to be near our daughter and granddaughter. To be a part of this new life, this spark of energy and brightness that is a grandchild, that has brought such joy and hope, such a sense of renewal into the family, is something I yearn toward, like turning my face to the sun on a chilly day.
But yet, to leave our dream house, our community, the place where we have friends and roots?
Moving On, Emotionally and Otherwise
I’ve never felt so torn, so drawn in two different directions at the same time, as I have in the past year. Because, although I’ve moved many times in my life, this move is more than just a physical move. This involves a transition from one stage of life to the next.
In my practice as a psychotherapist, I’ve worked with many people who are adjusting to new lives as grandparents, whether living near or far, whether caring for the grandkids or negotiating visits and relationships. But until now, until experiencing it myself, I haven’t known how profound the changes can be.
The psychologist Erik Ericson observed that our lives progress in stages, and that each stage has challenges and tasks. The last two stages are generativity and ego integrity. Generativity occurs in middle adulthood, which takes us though age 65. This is a time to generate, to make contributions beyond ourselves and our own lives. We can find fulfillment in caring for the younger generations or in giving to the community. In the last stage of life, at maturity, our challenge is to integrate the ego through letting go - of attachments to success or possessions - and to find fulfillment and wisdom in our connection with the greater world.
A flock of cedar waxwings descends on the crabapple tree in the yard, with their little black masks and the sparks of yellow at their tails, and they flick to and fro, plucking last year’s fruit from the tree, chattering and singing life into the atmosphere.
This year, I realize, I am doing both of Ericson’s last two stages. I will be taking more of a role in the care of a new generation and I will be letting go of the landscape of my present life – the house, my friend next door, and my attachment to this particular place on earth. Any transition involves a letting go of the old, and letting go involves a loss. So I know that, in spite of the fact that I greatly look forward to my new life and being with my granddaughter, I must let go of my home, I must feel that loss, and I must grieve.
Finding Peace With the Decision
My husband comes home, and we call our realtor with our counter-offer. I busy myself with laundry and to-do lists and try not to let my thoughts and worries run amok. I come back to my desk to attend to emails.
When I look up, the birds are gone, and the crabapple tree is silent and bare. I gaze across the empty field to the hills and the clouds in the sky above. And I recall a line from Thich Nat Han:
Peace is all around us – in the world and in nature –
and within us – in our bodies and our spirits.
Once we learn to touch this peace,
We will be healed and transformed.
So that even within the loss and the grief, as well as within the excitement and hope for a new generation, I can let go. Peace within.
How well do you get along with your grandchild and other family members? Want to know if your personalities mesh?Find out here.