Grateful for Letting Go

When our children were growing up, we tried to instill a sense of gratitude in their character. They had things I couldn’t dream of when I was a kid. So I’m not sure I was always successful in making sure they understood how hard we worked to provide for them.

Over the years, we’ve amassed a lot of stuff and while I’ve reveled in the feeling of being lighter in the last few months, I’ve struggled with the tension between being grateful for the life we’ve had – complete with all the trappings – and letting go of it all. ‘Am I grateful enoungh?’ I’ve asked myself.

Attachment isn’t something I’ve ever struggled with. I inherited this from my grandparents, who picked up and moved on a regular basis my Mother’s entire life. It’s why she has lived in the same house for over 50 years and is afraid of swapping out a table cloth, let alone moving to a new house.  Perhaps it skipped a generation and I have a little gypsy in me somewhere back there.

Wading through our stuff, putting price tags on things that cost 100 times more at retail, felt strange. They need to go, so were priced to sell. But even stranger, was when people looked at those things, with the prices I put on the little colored stickers, and tried to talk me down further. And with 25 cars in our cul-de-sac, it was like being attacked by a swarm of bees.

The first time, my jaw dropped.

‘Do you want me to tell you the story of this rugby ball? I bought it in London on a cold foggy day on Portobello Road. It’s from the 1920’s. You can’t get another one of these in this state.’

The guy shrugged – he was wearing a National Rifle Association ball cap , so I think Portobello Road isn’t a top destination for him. But still, he pressed his case. Finally, I gave in. I’m not taking that ball with us. And my kids don’t want it. But how do you sell things to strangers who will never appreciate the provenance?

They don’t know the story of the pitcher from France we got from a dear friend for our wedding. She hand carried it 18 hours and I’ve kept all my kitchen utensils in it ever since. Or the crystal Tiffany champagne bucket from our wedding we use when something really special happens in our lives.

Some times – I had to just say ‘No’ the price is the price. I’d rather donate it than sell it for $5 less, to a person who doesn’t understand the value. But I admit, towards the end, I let some things go for nearly nothing.  Time is running out and there is no more room in the boxes.

Walking through the kitchen I realized – No more toast, no more blending, no more air popped popcorn – because we no longer own the things that can make that stuff. No cakes or cookies or homemade bread. From now on,  I’ll be making coffee in the mornings on the stove in a Turkish coffee pot that will go in my suit case.

Closing up the garage, there are only a few things left to make decisions about. Donate or send to the landfill.  For a moment, just a moment, I wondered if we were crazy. How can we be grateful for the life we’ve had and yet, practically, give it all away? It goes against the American Way. Every commercial on TV and every show I watched growing up. More – More – More. Walking away from those messages, so deeply embedded, is  harder than you’d think.

I need to remind myself that swimming in the same direction as everyone else isn’t me.  It’s time to find a new stream and that means letting go and traveling light. But I will say, it would have been easier if just one of the vultures that descended on our house this weekend had once, just once, said something nice.

We sold everything left over after Jeff’s initial website back on November. And the proceeds will pay to ship the things that are left, and will make their way to Spain on a container ship. I guess that was the whole point. And, at the end of the day, I’m grateful for that.

 

And just like that…

I just picked up our translations from the Post Office. Of course, I had to make two trips because I was so excited, I forgot my wallet and they wanted ID to pick up a signature required package. But that’s OK. I went back home and on my way back to the post office, I got the Money Orders for the visa application fees and the tax.

documents

Just now, I sat here putting them all in order for each of our packets, according to the consulate check list.  I just need to make copies and it’s done. Finished! Just waiting to go to LA and apply for the visa at our appointment on Feb 5th.

Our original appointment was for a week from today – but I moved it out because I had no idea when our apostilles would come back from the State Dept. or if the government shut down would impact us. With my document karma, I felt sure we were in jeopardy. But we have crossed back over the River Styx. The ferry man in Document Hades is rid of me, at last. So long – suckers!

Here we are – a with a week to spare, but I’m not sorry I pushed it out. We have a bit more time to get things done. Like this morning when I signed the contract for our overseas shipper. They will pick up our stuff from the house the week of the February 19th. So that’s locked in.

My assistant in Valencia is shopping for internet service for us – so we’ll be ready to hop online when we get to our new home. She’s been at a squash tournament in Portugal for the last week or so, and is back and ready to make our transition go smoothly.

We’re living out of suitcases now – not as fun as you might think –  and I’m going to start shutting the house up, room by room. Just so we don’t miss anything and to make sure everything is ready for our garage sale this weekend. I posted pictures on some sale sites and I had people over the weekend leaving written notes on our front door, wanting to jump the queue to buy our stuff early. Crazy.

But right now – I’m going to celebrate this milestone. I’m making myself another cafe con leche, and I’m going to watch Episode 3 – Season 2 of Las Chicas del Cable. That Carlos – Grrr. And Marisol and naive Pablo? Don’t get me started.

Oh well. Guilty pleasures aside, I must admit, it feels a little strange to have it all completed. I wonder what I’ll do with myself now. Oh wait – I’ve got plenty to do. But no more Document Hades.

Camping in your own Backyard

When my kids were small, we would set up a tent in the backyard, or even the family room (if it was cold outside) and we would get out the sleeping bags and ‘camp’. They loved it – all cozy in the tent with just the things we needed to survive an overnight – complete with indoor plumbing and a refrigerator just steps away. Flash lights and snacks, a thin requirement. Those were good days.

But I was in my 30’s back then. Sleeping on the ground or an air mattress wasn’t a big deal. I popped up in the morning, and rarely felt the effects. Today? Yeah – not so fast. What a difference more than 20 years makes. Yoga. Definitely a yoga day.

Yesterday, Jeff had a great idea. ‘Lets pack up everything we’ll need for the next 6 weeks, just like we’re getting on a plane tomorrow. We’ll live out of those suit cases and find out what we can’t live without, while we’re waiting for our stuff to arrive in Valencia. Since we have to get by without it all for as long as 16 weeks.’

I thought this was great idea. Our bed is already gone. The dishes we’re taking are in carry on suit cases. Our pots, pans, cooking utensils, etc. are in a checked bag. That just leaves our clothes, shoes toiletries to make sure will fit into our two bags each. So we got to work – seeing if it would all fit. And Surprise! For me it did. Turns out, I am evolving as a human being.

The garage/yard sale is scheduled on some garage sale apps and Craigslist for next weekend. The goal by sunset on Sunday of next week? We’ll just have the boxes & couch we’re shipping in the living room + a TV we will donate before we go (gotta have my new found Spanish shows), a few odds and ends dishes, mugs and cookware in the kitchen (again, we’ll donate when we leave), our bags that will go on the airplane with us – including the air mattresses we’re sleeping on now. And that’s it! We will be camping – just like the old days.

It’s good our kids aren’t here. I can hear the eye roll and head shakes at how crazy this all is. I mean – who spends a life time amassing ‘Stuff’ and then in the course of 6 months, gives it all away? Maybe we’re fools, but we’re happy fools. Yesterday, as we made decisions about a ton of stuff, we both felt lighter. I had my doubts at times too. How could we get it all done? But I think we’ll make it. Until then, we’re camping and enjoying every minute of it.

The Review

Today, I woke up bone tired. It could be the fact that we’re now sleeping on an air mattress, but we’ve been going for days, and I needed coffee. So I made a café con leche from the precious beans I have left, and I reviewed the list I made back in September of all the things we needed to do to move to Spain.

Back then, the list seemed like it was never ending. On a daily basis I was adding, rather than checking off. But the excitement was palpable. I was optimistic and, of course, we had 6 months to do it all. Plenty of time – Easy Peasy!Countdown

The review today revealed just how much we have gotten done since then. Something to celebrate! All the visa hoops, sure. But also, renting an apartment, getting a lawyer, etc. None of that was on the list when I started it – and all of it has been done. They’re painting our apartment in Valencia this week and the appliances are being ordered. Even our utilities are being hooked up in our name. Check, check, check.

And now the list has only 12 things left unchecked. Sure – they’re some big things, like our consulate appointment, doing our taxes and selling two cars. But 12 lines nonetheless. I added a calendar count down app to my phone and it’s just 42 days away. That’s 3.5 days per item. Of course, that means nothing. Things don’t get done that way, but it feels better reducing it all to math. I can touch and feel numbers, and the abstractions of ‘to-do’s’ starts to feel less nebulous.

This week, our international shipper will do a FaceTime inventory so we can get a realistic and final estimate. And I’ll try to work out how we’ll get rid of the odds and ends we have left in the house – maybe an old fashioned garage sale! Checking all my alerts, the cost of plane tickets for the 28th of February have plummeted, so I’m itching to book those after our consulate appointment February 5th. Today we paid our translator and by Monday of next week, all our translations will arrive. Then I’ll make photo copies of our packets and put them into snazzy folders. Tick tock.

I just sent the whittled down version of what we have left to do, to Jeff at work. I haven’t heard back from him yet, and I’m not sure he can see how far we’ve come in the last 6 months, but I thought it was important for him to have visibility into where we are. The final 42 days will not be a walk in the park, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I believe it’s not a freight train but will open up to a bright future!

Road Trippin’

Oh, how I love a road trip! It’s an American tradition. Since back in college, road trips represented freedom. You drive and you eat at random places. Seeing tourist signs for things like ‘The worlds largest ball of twine!’ or ‘The Corn Palace’. You stay at the closest hotel when you’re tired of driving. It’s awesome and unpredictable! And tonight, after Jeff gets home from work, we are heading to my parent’s with our UHaul truck full of things they can use, and boxes they’ve agreed to store for us. I feel like we’re in college again!

Last night, we loaded our king-sized adjustable bed into the truck – that was fun – and a couch for my son, and other boxes and treasures we are planning on storing there. Things I don’t want to go on a ship that could be lost forever.

This morning, I’m buzzing with excitement! We are driving to Portland in January. So the weather might present challenges. But Jeff will do all the driving, so he’ll swear and clutch the dashboard a lot less. And I get to look out the window at the scenery like a Golden Retriever! It’s going to be fun.

The last real road trip Jeff and I took together was when I took a job in Phoenix. But that trip was filled with nervous anticipation as we hadn’t yet found a place to live. Our SUV was full of all the stuff I thought I might need, until he moved down when the house was sold – with the rest of our stuff, the cats and the kids.

I had brought 9 large suit cases of clothes and a few other things. At one point, in Salt Lake, we were stopped by the police who were doing random searches for drug cars on the highway – seemed strange.

‘What’s in the back?’ asked the cop to my husband.

‘Those are her clothes.’ explained Jeff

‘That’s all your clothes?’ he asked – completely skeptical.

I leaned in to help smooth the way.

‘And shoes too.’ I clarified – just so he would understand. ‘I know. Just the essentials.’

My husband gave me serious side-eye. I wasn’t being helpful, apparently.

‘She has a new job in Phoenix, so we’re moving her down there to help set her up before we sell the house in Seattle.’

The cop looked at me like I was an alien.

‘Who are you working for in Phoenix?’ he asked me.

I told him, and then he asked who I worked for in Seattle and BINGO! the light went on.

‘Ah. OK I get it.’ he waved us away to head back to his car.

‘Wow! I never realized being in possession of too many clothes and shoes was a crime.’ I said to Jeff.

He looked at me in disbelief, and for a long moment he said nothing – then he sighed and shook his head before starting the car.

We won’t have that same problem this time. We’re just two people in a Uhaul – like probably hundreds of others on any given day across this country. Moving our stuff, complete with our cats – Clubber and Lucy. Heading off to new horizons. I’ve got the drinks in the cooler and the road food ready to go on the front seat. Now all I need is my driver!