And I thought I’d just make my plans, work through them in my organized fashion, settle on my home, pack my bags and get going, putting South New Jersey behind me. Shallow roots can be upended easily, right? Well … not so fast cowboy. It turns out that I have made a number of friends and acquaintances who are having a hard time with the final reality. There are the goodbyes. I forgot about that part. And there is “acceptance“. Not so easy either.
The reaction to me flying back from Phoenix with an actual Arizona address and this not being just moving-out-of-state chatter has run the gamut from curiosity, sadness, surprise, horror, confusion, denial and even anger. (I guess there are seven stages of departure like there are with death). Anger surprised me. I wasn’t expecting that. And the close friend who arrived at a farewell dinner ready to be critical and judgmental and wounded and determined to pick a fight and end the friendship right then and there and thus not have to deal with goodbye. Perhaps sadness and anger are twins. If you are angry, you don’t have to deal with sadness. Don’t have regrets. They will find you anyway.
And like all my plans, these plans were long in the making after months of contemplation, thoroughly thought through, every “i” dotted, every “t” crossed, every detail covered. (My apartment search was two spreadsheet pages, 23 complexes to visit and consider, color coded by zip codes, with square footage and price). So none of this should have been a surprise. But, clients have reacted with … “You’re actually leaving?” and “I think I’m having palpitations” and “can you squeeze in one final project?” and “can we quickly do my bathroom renovation” and “you’ll probably be getting a call” (about work!?) and “are you really sure about this?”
I guess the sweetest reaction was from my dentist’s receptionist, Carolyn, upon hearing that I was leaving after 16 years as a patient. She asked, large appointment book open to pages months ahead, “when would you like to schedule your next cleaning?” My response, “no, no. I’m leaving”, was followed with … “Yes, I understand you’re leaving, but when do you want to schedule your next cleaning?” At that point I considered sign language or wildly flinging my hands about in the air to illustrate my departure or Swahili or Double Dutch. All of these would probably have the same result. What is it about “I am leaving” that is not clear?
Then there is my own reaction, my own surprise and my own emotions, separation anxiety conveniently and temporarily ignored. Like being thrilled to sell off excess chattel in a yard sale, but then my eyes following my lamps and my books and my object d’art out to the new owner’s departing car and a small piece of me misses the familiar items that I really don’t want, haven’t used in years and have no room for in my new home. But, old habits die hard. You find yourself going to a drawer, a shelf, a cupboard for familiar item no longer there and you miss their uselessness.
So “cowboy”. Getting “out of Dodge City” has it’s consequences. But, I am glad that Dee has chosen to journey with me. I’m taking a familiar slice of South Jersey with me. The parting will be softened.