2.11.2013

On Transition, Clarity and Luck

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by Rachel A.

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.If you’d have told me a year ago that in just twelve months my life would look like it does now, I probably would have laughed…or let’s be honest, maybe cried a little.


A year ago I was living just outside of Washington, DC in Arlington, VA, balancing work and home life. Our little family of 3 was living in a cozy little house on a charming street—you know, the kind where kids run across the street to play with their friends, your neighbors feel more like family members, and summers are filled with block parties and impromptu gatherings on each other’s lawns. We had great, supportive friends who really leaned on each other because most of our families were far away. Don't get me wrong, we would have loved to feel a bit safer in our community, have better access to outdoor recreational activities, and less access to traffic; but for the most part we were really happy.

Life in DC Photos
We were preparing for a little bit of change: I had learned a few months before that after a year of worrying that I may never have another baby, I was pregnant and would welcome our sought-after little one in late June. We were thrilled. With that change, I was starting to think more about how busy life was, and wondering if working as many hours as I did was worth it. Our house was always a disaster, many week days I would come home having no idea what we were eating for dinner, throw something together just in time to slide my daughter into PJs, help her brush her teeth, sing her songs and kiss her goodnight. It felt nothing like quality time, and (while she didn’t seem to mind) I often questioned if we were doing our best job as parents.

Waiting for the overdue babyLife as a working mom was hard—I never felt I was ever really doing a great job at either profession, and that was frustrating—but work was also invigorating and I felt like my daughter and I got along much better when we didn’t spend ALL of our time together. I loved that she would see me doing important things at work. I loved bringing her to my office and secretly hoped she would see that this was something that could be in her future, if she wanted it.

As the baby’s arrival grew closer, it sounded more and more like I would not be able to continue working. Childcare was too expensive, and my salary was not where it would need to be to come out ahead of those costs. I was some parts distraught about this, and some parts relieved—relieved that the decision was being made for me, but at the same time, wishing I could decide for myself that I was ready to transition to a life as a stay-at-home mom. As the weeks before maternity leave approached, I still wasn’t sure I couldn’t find a way to make it work.

Story time with GrandmaAlmost exactly a year ago, my father took a job in DC, and moved south from New Jersey, where they had only been about a year. We had loved being on the East coast with them, and found ourselves traveling to visit them every couple of months. We were excited at the prospect of seeing them without battling hours of traffic to do so. We (especially my daughter) were so blessed to get to see them several times a week, as their apartment was only 15 minutes away. We often had them over to dinner, and were loving watching our daughter develop such a close relationship with them. It was also reassuring that, as we transitioned to a family of four, we would have two excellent grandparents so close to help make it easier, especially on the little lady.

Playing with GrandpaI went on maternity leave near the end of June, giving myself about a week before my due date to spend with my daughter, and get life in order before the baby was born. A day or two into maternity leave I got a phone call from my husband in the middle of the day. He told me he had been asked to relocate, and would have between 3 and 4 months to sell our house and move to Great Falls, Montana. I’ll be honest: I cried. Ugly cried. Sobbed. Some might say I was furious. Although I absolutely loved visiting my in-laws in Montana and had wonderful childhood memories of summer trips to lakes and cabins in big sky country, I had always been fairly certain that I did not want to live there.

The choice to move was given to us—we could have turned down the relocation, which was my vote. “The timing is just not right,” I said. “I am supposed to have a baby any day!” Moving was not what I wanted to be focusing on at that time. After about 36 hours of thinking, discussing, and praying, my husband felt that we were supposed to move. Unfortunately, at the time, I didn’t feel the same way, but trusted that he wouldn’t make a declaration like that on hollow grounds. [It should be noted that this trust didn’t come without a lot of anger and resentment…it was a real test of our relationship, and one I’m glad we’ve come through.]

Failed inspection The next four months are some I never want to experience again. We broke the news to family and friends—most difficultly: to my parents who felt we had performed a professional bait-and-switch. I delivered our beautiful little boy on July 5, a week after his due date and also after a week of 100-degree weather and no power (read: no A/C!!) in our neighborhood, due to a huge storm that knocked down our power lines. For the next two months, our new baby was not happy (I don’t really know what “colicky” means—unless you’re talking about horses—but if he was awake, he was crying unless you were feeding him or holding him outside), and became affectionately referred to as our grumpy boy. In the meantime, to prepare for selling the house, inspectors and contractors were coming through the house almost every day. We learned our foundation had a huge structural crack that needed extensive repairs, which meant noisy jackhammers. For those that aren’t sure: jackhammers and colicky babies don’t mix well. I juggled trips to the county zoning & building permit offices, activities for my daughter, breast-feeding my son, and trying to cram in as much time with friends and family as possible.

Sleeping Beauty at the wheelFinally, after a house hunting visit to Montana, where we found a beautiful home, finishing the remodeling of our home in Arlington, selling that home, having never ending farewell parties (we were never ready to say a final goodbye), and packing up a truck with all of our things, we hit the road and drove 2,073 miles to our new life.

As we drove, I was a mix of emotions: denial, sadness, excitement and anticipation. At some point I received a bit of clarity, from none other than A.A. Milne (author of Winnie the Pooh):
 
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Even though I felt we were abruptly torn away from a life I loved in Virginia, I know I was blessed to have those experiences and those people that I loved. Now our family has entered a new phase of life—one that has required quite a few transitions besides the relocation. We are adjusting to real lifestyle changes, and much different surroundings. We are so grateful for the chance to live near so many of my husband’s immediate and extended family. We have loved getting to see so many of them so often. We enjoy Skype sessions with my parents and have several visits planned to see each other.

John Lubbock famously said, “What we see depends mainly on what we look for.”

Life in MT Photos
Instead of dwelling on what I may be missing from my life a year ago, I’ve tried to look for the things we have gained through these transitions. Among many other things: I now have the chance to take care of my kids all the time (while, ironically, still fitting in a bit of “work” work). We are able to experience nature and the earth in a way that just wasn’t possible in the DC area. The Mister no longer commutes 2.5 hours a day. We even occasionally get lunch dates with him! We are making new friends, but are relieved to find we have not lost the relationships we had with the old.

I am still very much in the midst of my transitions, and would love to learn from your experiences. What kind of transitions are you going through? How have you navigated change in your life?

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39 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your transition experience in this open and honest post - I found it very heart warming!
    We moved last year from the UK to Vienna, Austria, just before our kid #2 was to be born. We now feel pretty much settled in many ways, but I what I keep missing is the proper roots, which we had back in the UK (actually, to feels like we left the roots there). Maybe because we moved away not only from friends but also family? I don't know for sure.
    Either way, I love your quote to make me be grateful for what we had and what we still have.

    Thank you! Good luck with your journey! :-)

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    1. Thanks Rolaa! I love what you said about roots. I was chatting with another friend that recently moved from DC, and we both agreed that life was coming together well, but we really missed the familiarity we had with the people we left behind -- which is the closest thing to roots for me. I think that comfort and familiarity will come as we become invested in a new community and set down roots in our new homes, but until that happens it's tough not to feel like you left a piece of yourself behind.

      Thanks for sharing your story!

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    2. Right rolaa? This quote almost made me cry as I read this post!

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  2. I love the quote! We're finally getting settled in New Mexico and expecting baby #2 in a couple months. It's hard moving. My husband still talks about DC all time and how much he misses all the fun things we used to do there. I miss our friends.

    I love our new house, something we wouldn't have been able to afford if we stayed in DC and the people here are really friendly. Our plan to move back to DC after my husband retires makes it a little easier, like this is only temporary. We'll see if it actually happens :)

    I'm really excited for the new baby, but also terrified about having to take care of two kids. Hopefully I can hack it!

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    1. Thanks Tiffany - it's so great to hear from you! Congratulations on #2! I can't wait to see pictures :)

      How fun to know you'll be going back to DC someday. In a strange way, I think it is easier to look past flaws in a community when you know you won't be there forever. Hopefully you'll still be able to enjoy New Mexico for what it is - I've heard it's beautiful & warm (so jealous!). I know your family will do great things there!

      Good luck with the baby. It's a crazy juggling act, but so fun to watch your kids play and interact with each other. Keep me posted!

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  3. thank you thank you rachel for sharing your story. although i didn't work in northern va, i lived there and graduated hs there and worked there off and on while going to school. i do know what you left behind that is so very different from your new good life. thank you for being so honest. i will look forward to hearing more from you. your children are so very beautiful. they are little for such a short time. enjoy the moments! love

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    1. Hi Heidi! So great to see your face & thoughts here. I had no idea you were from NoVA. Thanks for your comments - I will definitely cherish the time with these little ones, it already feels like it's going to fast, and I know it will only get faster.

      Hopefully we'll be able to meet up with your fun family soon!

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  4. I love this post! I appreciate you candor and I really relate to your experience. That quote really speaks to me!

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    1. Thanks Meg, I love the quote too. FYI, the picture is formatted as an 8x8, so you can print it out if you want ;)

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  5. Like everyone else, I really like the quote too. Leaving DC was really hard for me too. I would have loved to have stayed out there, but it just couldn't have worked out. Good for you for putting a positive spin on a less than ideal situation. I really admire you and all you do!

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    1. You are so sweet Andi! It has been so fun watching your family on Instagram. I'm glad you're writing here with me - it'll be fun to work together!

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  6. I always wanted to write a post about leaving D.C. Thanks for doing it for me... or for inspiring me to write my own. XOXO

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    1. Love it! Would love to hear your story!

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  7. Transitions are hard! I'm not sure anyone in our DC ward ever even knew this ... but I had to be hospitalized for a week about 4 months into our move out there. Serious nervous breakdown :). I laugh about it now, but it totally sucked then, and the weird thing was -- I loved my job, I loved living on the East Coast, I'd handled harder transitions in my lifetime -- but for some reason I just failed that transition completely! I'm glad to report my move to WI and life as a stay at home mom went much smoother than my move to DC and life as an inner city English teacher.

    I think my only advice after that experience would be, our bodies HAVE TO SLEEP! Yes, I feel the need to yell that over the internet. I know it seems like such simple advice, but changes are demanding and if we don't sleep we loose control of our minds, quiet literally in my case.

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    1. Liz! Thank you for sharing this. When I moved to D.C. and had no job, no friends and only an apartment, i had MAJOR anxiety! My heart was ALWAYS racing and I had nothing to do! Before moving away from Utah and family, it didn't even cross my mind that it would be difficult. Finally I started getting out on my bike and riding along the Potomac, and it honestly saved me. I miss that trail all the time. Thanks for sharing your experience, and I too am a total believer in HAVING TO SLEEP! I'll shout it with you. Would you ever be interested in writing about your experience on Doe a Deery?

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    2. Hey Liz,

      I loved your comment and your honesty. I feel sad I wasn't more help in DC. I just moved and had a baby and my husband is gone a lot. I'm feeling a lot of stress and a little crazy right now. I feel like I can relate to your experience. It's funny because DC was a welcome change for me and I am actually really struggling now that I am back home in Utah. Who would have thought? I am trying to adjust and reading experiences like yours helps me realize I am not alone. Thanks! It is good to see that you are doing well now!

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    3. Hi Liz! I can't believe I didn't know about this! You always seemed so good, happy and confident! I do remember a good chunk of time that I couldn't figure out where you were - I'm so sorry I didn't investigate further. Thank you for sharing your experience. As I told another commenter: I really thought I was ok with change (even looked forward to it usually), so my reaction to all the change this year really threw me off.

      Thank you for your sleep advice! Sometimes I feel that sleep is the first thing I let slide, especially when I am working so hard to get settled in my new environment and role as mother of TWO. I definitely think you could do a great job guest posting if you're interested :)!

      I have loved watching you and your kids on Facebook. Our kids are similar in age...it is cool to watch the fun things you are doing with them. Thanks again for your comment!

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  8. Great post Rachel! I can definitely relate. Although we wanted to leave DC so that part was harder, transitions to new places are hard. It's hard to meet new friends and get used to a whole new lifestyle. I still struggle with it and wonder when I will feel more at home. And then there's staying home instead of working and I still don't know where I'm going with that either! I enjoy following your adventures!

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    1. Yes! I think that the combination of the location and lifestyle change made this transition especially difficult; especially at the beginning. Here's to taking life one day at a time! So glad to hear from you!

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  9. This is a beautiful post, Rachel. The writing and photography are wonderful, and I love that A.A. Milne quote. I've had a few little moves and one really big move in my life, and even though I love and my family in S.A. no matter how much time passes, I'm grateful for my life in the U.S. and my family and friends here -- and for the "foreign" visits we get, and get to make!

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    1. Thanks Shan! I've always LOVED your foreign roots (as you well know), and loved the bits of S.A. culture I adopted because of your family. I also love that though I haven't lived near you in ... what 15+ years (?), I still feel like close friends when we connect.

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  10. After six moves (give or take) over the last 11 years I have come to realize a few things: goodbyes are always hard, watching your children cry as they say goodbye is even harder, I don't feel like I am home until I have been there about 6 months, and it usually takes about a year before I know I'll be sad to leave again when the next assignment comes. After growing up in the same house from the time I was a toddler moving was not something I really thought about. However, my kids ask me about where we are going to live next on a weekly basis. For us it is sometimes hard to live right now and not think about what will happen in a few years. But as hard as it can be I wouldn't trade it for anything. I have been to many wonderful places (that I never even knew existed) and I have made some amazing friends. When no one has family you bond faster. I now have friends and "family" all over the world.

    The best way we have found to cope through all of the changes is constantly growing and evolving traditions. We make it work wherever we are!

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    1. Wow! What great and resonating thoughts! Your comments about watching your children cry as they say goodbye really hit home. I grew up in a family with young parents who moved quite a bit due to schooling and establishing a young career, so I really thought moving was no big deal to me. I even typically find myself getting antsy for a move when I've been somewhere longer than 5 years.

      I love the advice to develop traditions that can be a constant regardless of where your are or what your life situation is. Thank you so much for your thoughts!

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  11. I am loving this post, Rach! I think transitions can be scary for everyone—I feel like I even enjoy change and new things, but the actual transition makes me uneasy and my thoughts run wild in the middle of it, wondering if I'm doing the right thing or if I should look for an undo button asap. The thing that helps me the most is throwing myself into the new change—transitioning from one city to another, or from two kids to three, or from having a side venture and leaving it—just focusing on where I am and trying to find the good there. I still have a long way to go to be good at it, but I'm trying. :) Thanks for the reminder that thankfulness and attitude go a long way. The quote really hit home for me (it sounds like it did for lots of people!) Thanks for sharing. And for being real. Loved it.

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    1. I always knew I liked you. The more I think about it, the more I realize that this is a story that SO many people have (YOU included). I think we are given difficult situations to push us outside of our comfort zones - so we can GROW. Sometimes growth is no fun though. I love that you dive in a focus on the good where you are-I think that is just what the John Lubbock quote is referring to, and you embrace this wholeheartedly!

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  12. love this post. transitions are so hard for me. change is not something i like. LOVE this quote and pinning now. can't wait for more posts from you rach! xo

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    1. Thanks Erica! It is amazing how much these life transitions can affect us - I'm so glad to know I'm not alone in my reaction to change!

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  13. So true. Isn't it funny how we all relate? We are all going through transitions everyday, maybe not life changing, but change the same. Hopefully we can all just keep in mind that we are blessed to have what we have;)

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    1. Really good point Josie - we are all going through change to some degree. Thanks for commenting!

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  14. What a wonderful post Rachel! I have to admit I cried.. It reminded me of all the people we have met and left behind. I am so grateful for the opportunity that we have had to meet those amazing people and that they are still a part of my life. Some of my best friends are those I have met along our crazy transitions and have remained my biggest supporters. I am so glad you are finding some of the positives here. We are so lucky to have you. Although we have gone through many moves, I have found that Ryan me have had to rely on each other so much more. We have lived here for almost 4 years now and it is amazing the transitions we've had to go through here also.
    The biggest transition for me this year is losing friends and support. I have always had so much support and love where we have lived and we (as a whole family) have lost that and its been very hard. However.. It has brought me and Ryan to another level of close that I don't think we would have found without it. I also used to rely so much on the Church as a source of relationships and love. Being a convert to the Church I think that I had needed that and I think its good. Now however... I have a deeper sense of why I go and have a deeper understanding of what I want in my life and for my family. Transitions can be and let's face it are just plain hard.. but I am actually trying to find transition and "newness" as something to look forward to. I think that is what makes us stronger and helps us to grow. I loved your post and your honestly.. It is nice to be able to relate to one another and help each other when we need it. If you ever feel lonely (which i'm sure you won't here) but our door is always open! We love you guys and are grateful to add you to the list of good friends we have met along our journey in life! Hopefully I didn't have any wrong "too's or theirs". ;)

    What kind of transitions are you going through? How have you navigated change in your life?

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    1. Thanks so much, Gina! We've had a great time with your fun family. Thanks for all you've done for us.

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  15. Thanks for sharing this Rachel. I'm touched by your honesty. You are brave and I admire it. Ugh DC hit me like a ton of bricks...or rather I hit it like a ton of bricks. I think that what I've come to realize is that I don't have to like this place to love my life. I do love my life. I've also really pondered the concept of blooming where you are planted. I think it is true, but it is silly to think that any soil is is equally equipped to provide exactly what nutrients you need. Sometimes it is just harder to bloom in certain places. But as focus more on the meaning of the life that I am living than the happiness (read this article http://luanncoliver.blogspot.com/2013/01/theres-more-to-life-than-being-happy.html) then my heart fills up. Best to you in MT. I heard on the radio that someone hacked into the emergency alert system in Great Falls and said there were Zombies on the loose. Hilarious! Did you hear it?

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    1. I should admit that I had a little bit of "poster's remorse" after clicking submit :), but the comments and conversations this post has generated have really been worth the small bit of anxiety being so honest created. We loved getting to know your family in DC - I'm glad you're finding your place there and figuring out how to find meaning and happiness in life there. Miss you!

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  16. Let me just say that I really, really, really sympathize with this post, particularly given my current state! I think the A.A. Milne quote is the perfect way of looking at the situation, and I am going to repeat it every time I feel pangs of homesickness for the life we just left behind in Denmark. Fundamentally, I see myself as the luckiest person in the world to have so many places and people that I love and that are worth missing! Speaking of which, I miss you! The saddest thing about this post is the reminder that you left DC literally just before I got back.

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    1. So, I learned you were coming back the week we moved into our new house... I have to say that it re-opened a wound that I thought was mostly healed; I was SO disappointed I wouldn't be there to welcome you back! Good news is that we'll visit (hopefully) often.

      I'm glad this post resonated with you. Over the last few months I have found myself repeating the quote whenever I feel those pangs (best definition!) - and it really had helped. In the meantime, I'm going to count down the days till I get to squeeze Nellie. Your kids are beautiful.

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    2. Whenever you make it back to DC for a visit, I have no doubt we are going to have a joyous reunion! And it's very possible that Kip will fall a bit in love with Harper and her gorgeous curls :)

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  17. Thank you so much for this!! You have no idea how much this helped me. We just moved from living in Falls Church, Virginia to Austin, Texas and it broke my heart to leave. The goodbyes are so hard. I love the quote. Thank you, thank you!

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    1. Emily, thank you for your nice words - how crazy that there is someone else dealing with a similar move! Good luck incorporating yourself in your new community. I hope you can learn to love it just like VA! Would love to get an update sometime ;)

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