I wasn’t really expecting to have to ask for help with this, but as it turns out, my emotions have surprised me, and I find myself in need of some help.
As you may or may not know, I’ve recently become a property owner for the first time, aged 23, with a little 1-bedroom house that’s big enough just for a single rodent. And, despite being a bit frightened of total independence to begin with, I’ve actually grown quite excited about having my own place. I’ve already been envisioning ideas of how to redecorate it to be something all my own (well, as much as it can be, given it’s Grade II listed), and also being able to plan life to my own needs.
Despite this, part of the reason I’ve had to get a place of my own is because my mum has been trying to sell the family home so she can downsize to something cheaper. The reasons for this are complicated and would need a letter all their own if I even attempted to explain it, so let’s just say this decision is for the greater good. And, less than a week ago, we’ve managed to find someone who’s made an offer for the house. That doesn’t mean its outright sold, but the chances of us officially selling are highly likely.
So now, pretty much being given the official word that I’m going to be moving out, a few fears have struck me by surprise.
For one thing, there’s the matter of adjusting to my new life in my new home. It might sound rather daft, but I think the thing I’m going to miss most about this house isn’t the memories of what I’ve done here or how big the rooms are, but it’s the layout of this place. I have my little routines attached here, like how when I come home from work, I instantly walk through the kitchen and utility room to my downstairs bedroom/office and check my updates on my tablet, which I usually leave by my bed. And, being autistic, any sort of change often becomes a stressful event, so repetition and sticking to routines is very much a comforter for me in a world where things can become so chaotic and disjointed. With my new home, it’s going to be a whole new routine of how I live my life, and I’m not sure how quickly I’ll be able to adjust to this place. When I went to the USA for my first ever FurCon, I gave myself over a year to book things and mentally prepare myself for the journey. All I’ve been given for adjusting to my new life is 12 weeks!
For another thing, I don’t know how I’m going to be able to support mum during the move. This was essentially her dream home, and she’s put her heart and soul into making this place both her home, and her business (we run it as a Bed & Breakfast). So, now that it’s going to be switching hands and that she’s going to have to remove all her belongings and will pretty much be barred from entering this house ever again, this is going to be a big emotional hit for her. She told me from the day she put this house on the market that she was going to cry when the time came that she’d move out, and I really don’t know how I’m going to be able to comfort her when that day comes. It always hurts me deep when I see her in pain, and again, 12 weeks isn’t long for me to prepare myself for this!
I should probably make it clear that this isn’t the first time either of us have moved. We moved to this place some 14 years ago, essentially moving countries in the process (England to Wales) to start anew. However, in those 14 years, in one way or another, we both have grown attached to this place. I have with my routines and habits, and mum has put her heart and soul into making it hers. And, now that those attachments we’ve grown are going to be broken, I’m not sure how either of us are going to be able to cope.
Sorry for making this somewhat two questions in one (I know you have your “One Question per Letter” rule), but I guess what I’m asking in general is how can I be able to cope with this move, both dealing with my own stress and my mother’s?
Thank you for taking the time to read my letter, Papa Bear!
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Well, yes, in a sense this is more than one question, but they really are all related; they are all about the attachment to things. Buddhism teaches us that the attachment to things is the source of pain, and this is very true.
I’m familiar with what you and your mother are going through. I’ve moved several times after being attached to homes and it can be gut-wrenching. The move from my 1865 brick Michigan home to a kind of crappy apartment in Palm Springs was a huge hit on my heart. The Michigan home was a place I loved and the last place my wife and I lived together, as well as where my beloved dog Keisha spent her life and died. Moving to California was very much like moving to another country; it is culturally extremely different from the Midwest. I remember moving my stuff into the apartment. It was October, and a flight of Canada geese flew overhead, just like in Michigan, and I wept with homesickness.
But I got over it. And now I love my new home and have absolutely NO desire to return to Michigan, believe me.
Humans love the familiar because it is comforting. Familiar surroundings and routines give us a base of stability in a chaotic world. Big life changes like the one you are going through, too, are especially challenging when you are autistic.
Let’s address you first, and your new little house. The first thing I would suggest is to try and transfer as many familiar things to your new home as possible. Also, try and arrange it as close as possible to how you have it in your current home. The more familiar objects in your house the better. Right now, I bet, when you looked at the new house and decided to buy it, it didn’t look anything like your house now, and this might have made you a little anxious. Try to imagine it with your stuff in it. Picture this every day until you move there. Figuring out exactly where to put chairs, photographs, tchotchkes, and so on. You might try taking a paper and pencil, drawing out the floor plan, and writing in where you want things. A good mental exercise that could calm you. Keep in mind not only the objects, but also the paths they create when you walk between them. Try to make these paths similar to the current ones (although the multiple floor pathway is not an option). It won’t be exactly the same, of course. But you can make it similar. Paint the walls a similar color. Even put in light fixtures and light switch plates that match the current home.
As for your mother, I’m guessing she is doing this move for financial reasons? Or perhaps the current home is just getting too much to maintain. Remind her, please, that the house is a home not because of its walls and windows and doors but because of who lives there. I’m reading between the lines here, but is this may be more about your moving out and her being alone than the house itself?
I’m not sure where your and your mom’s new homes are, but hopefully they are not too far apart that you can’t visit her. I know you are concerned about your mom and being there for her, so try to be there for her. During the move and soon after, you should visit often, but over time it would be healthier to gradually make the visits a little less often. Let her transition into this new phase of life slowly as you transition into yours.
For both you and your mom, focus on the positive aspects of this new phase in your lives. For you, this will be more independence and more self-confidence; for her, it will hopefully be less stress and a more peaceful, simpler life. Also, keep in mind you still have each other in your lives; that won’t change.
Life is about change. Change can be scary and nerve-wracking, but eventually we adjust to the new circumstances, which will, hopefully, make us stronger.
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