Relationships & Love
It was just about a year ago when I said to my husband, “I don’t want our next move to be into assisted living.” He laughed. I was serious. For some time I felt we had entered a period of stagnation. I was painfully aware of my husband’s unhappiness in his job; after 15 years it was clear the problems were chronic and would never change.
More personally, some of my closest friends had moved away. The house, which we remodeled twice in the 27 years we owned it, was crying for new updates. Most significantly, our only child lived far away. I felt at 60 my husband and I had at least a decade or more of work and play ahead of us. As a professional energy worker, I felt moving would be a way to shift our increasingly sluggish vibration, shake things up and keep our energy flowing and prevent us from becoming ever more fixed and static.
I’d also was doing some reading and learned that while many older Americans move in droves to retirement-oriented communities, it’s just as true that, at a certain age, inertia rules the day. It’s been proven that the longer a person lives in one place, the less likely it is they will leave. It was my choice to rail against inertia.
Without going into too many details, let’s just say that within six months my husband found a new job much closer to our son, but not so close he felt crowded by our presence. I found a place for us to live on Craigslist. We sold or gave away two thirds of our belongings. I rehomed the cat.
One day we loaded our old dogs in the car and drove across the country to start new lives in a radically different address. If you’ve never had the experience, just driving across the country is quite the adventure.
Now that we’ve been in our new home for two months, the realities of our move are sinking in. It is hard to get used to new situations. It was surprisingly hard to learn a bunch of new names! Many of the people living in our new community are of Scandinavian heritage, so it wasn’t just a matter of learning new names as much as it was training my ear to foreign ones. What I did learn is it’s much easier to make new friends and get into the swing of things if you choose to volunteer.
So that’s how I began. I volunteered. Within two weeks I volunteered my time and my physical labor to a couple of causes I could enjoy and relate to, and that’s how I began making new friends. To be honest, back at home, I mean the one I just left, I wasn’t much for volunteering. I felt that was a job for people who had no other job. And it’s true that most of the people I’ve met through my new volunteer affiliations are indeed retired. But now they are familiar faces I see in the local coffee shop and in the post office and on the street. They are familiar faces and friendly faces. And that’s a good thing, because when you move to a new place, for a very long time, everyone and everything can seem very strange.
My husband is happier in his new job, which is a blessing. At the same time, it’s more work than he anticipated, and in truth the transition hasn’t exactly been a piece of cake. There are still kinks to be worked out, but that’s true of any new thing. Working at home, I’ve felt more isolated. Luckily, through social media and the good old fashioned telephone, I’ve been able to maintain my connection with the friends who count back East. One of them has already come out for a visit. After being given a tour of the area and spending 4 days in our new digs, our old friend pronounced our move “Perfect.” That’s all we had to hear.
Tips for getting in gear to make a move:
Even before you have any idea where you might go when you do make a move, begin downsizing. This is beyond de-cluttering. This is about getting serious to own far less things.
If retirement is in your picture, research retirement communities. Visit as many of them as you can. This will help you decide if you prefer to live in an adult-oriented environment or one that is more age-diverse.
Talk to and visit friends who have already made the move. Ask them to be candid about what problems they encountered and how they feel about the move now.
Once you’re there…
Become a joiner, even if what you join is one thing. Whether it’s a book club or a trail clean up or stuffing envelopes for your local land conservancy, you’ll meet new people and feel involved and get out of the house and away from the TV.
Get a library card. Libraries are often the pulse of a community. Read the bulletin boards.
Establish new routines. The first thing I did in my new community was to go to the same coffee shop every day. Sometimes twice a day! Within a very short time I was making new friends just by hanging out and talking to people. What I quickly learned – surprise, surprise – was that many of the people I was meeting were also new to the community. Just like me, they were eager to make a change.