I recently moved house.  Having moved several times before, I felt confident I knew what was ahead of me and thought if I stayed organized and prepared everything would be ok.  Initially things were going well and one by one all of the “to do” items on my list began to be checked off. However, as moves go, it wasn’t without some anxious moments and stressful events.  Having to find a different moving company 5 days before the scheduled move was difficult and I will admit caused me to take many deep breaths (and maybe even swear a little). In addition, there were all the usual stressors associated with moving.  We are downsizing so there was a lot of hand wringing over which items could go and which we “had to keep”. We combed through our many memory bins we had in storage on the back porch and discovered I may have a bit of a tendency to keep every single piece of paper associated with my family.  This can become a problem after 30+ years! However, we managed to carefully look through everything and little by little we prepared for the big day.

As I said, I’ve moved before, so I although I was excited I told myself “you got this”, “you know what to expect”.  We had been house hunting via the internet for months and now it was time to actually go see some places. I happily planned the trip and as the time came closer, I felt excited and prepared.  I knew what we wanted to find, and we had spent hours talking about size, location and type of home we wanted. I was confident I knew what came next.

However, as it turned out I wasn’t as prepared as I thought.  As we began looking at places, I experienced some dizziness. I dismissed it as hunger and just pushed through.  The dizziness was soon joined by some nausea and then a distinct sense of floating or maybe an out of body experience.  Since we were accompanied by a real estate broker, it was not a convenient time for me to become “ill” so I just kept taking deep breaths and tried hard to focus on what was being discussed around me.  This wasn’t easy and as others were talking I felt myself withdrawing further and further from the conversation.

It wasn’t until I stopped for lunch that I allowed my emotions to surface and I found myself experiencing the disorienting feeling of happiness, confusion, fear and anxiety all at the same time!  I lost my appetite, I began to cry, and I became completely overwhelmed.  

I needed air.  

I needed to breath.  

I needed to calm down!

This experience lingered the entire day and although I assumed it was anxiety related, I didn’t really understand what had happened.  I wanted this move, I was excited about it and had been looking forward to it!  

So why the mixed emotions?

After the move, I began to unpack and I took on the task that is both my least and most favorite job every time I move.  I began to unpack my books. I have a lot of books (understatement) and many of them are both important to me for their content and for the memories attached to where, how and why I came to own this particular book.  It is a time consuming task and always made longer by the fact that I find myself constantly sitting down thumbing through book after book as the memories flood my mind.

As I stood back to admire the books I owned lined up on the book shelves, I was once again overwhelmed with emotions.  However, this time it was a feeling of warmth, comfort and feeling solid on my feet. The vertigo and nausea were gone as I enjoyed the site of all of those books out on display.

So what happened?  Why did my books give me such comfort and clear out the anxiety of the move? What were these mixed emotions I had while looking at homes trying to tell me?  

As clear as I can understand it, my books are an extension of me.  They reflect my interests, my passions, and my curiosity. Included in those stacks are books given to me by people I love and they reflect back the importance of those loved ones in my life.  They remind me of things I have learned, my accomplishments, challenges I have overcome and places I have visited and lived. These books are the best reflection of me! Suddenly I understood the original anxiety when I had been house hunting.  I realized as I stood in these new homes in this new city that I was having trouble seeing myself. Because everything was unfamiliar, it took a big dose of the familiar to help me feel like myself again.   

My books allowed me to move from a sketched outline of myself in this new place, to a full color picture of me in this new life.

I remember when we moved out of the country several years ago and I kept feeling like my mind couldn’t catch up to the reality of living so far away.  It took several months, maybe even a year, to adjust to the change and even then there were many times when I wasn’t as settled as I eventually became.  

What does it take to adjust to a big change?  Whether we are moving across the world or across the street we have to adjust and change with our new environment.  Maybe the change is a job related move or a relationship ending, maybe we are happily initiating it or maybe it is a necessary change.  It doesn’t matter, change can be hard.  

Surrounding ourselves with something or someone familiar to us can be a good reminder of who we are and can give us the support we need to begin to deal with the many new challenges we run into when we move.  The security of the familiar can be a place where we can occasionally go to give us the confidence to embrace the change. Change can feel like a loss, and reminding ourselves of an intimate or well known part of us can be helpful in learning to live with that loss.

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