Wednesday, March 1, 2017

When Moving Brings the Blues

I know.

It's a cliché that moving is one of the most stressful things you endure in life. Technically, according to the Holmes and Rahe Test Scale, moving ranks way down at number 32 on the list of stressful life events. To be fair, another research study in the UK found moving homes to be as stress-inducing as the death of a spouse. I'm not arguing. But for me – and I think for many of us – the true stress isn't in the act or process of packing up one home, selling it (although that had it's tense moments like when our home inspection revealed a leak we hadn't known about), finding the perfect new home, and settling in. The real stress is in the actual living and making a life in your new home, your new community. I went in as excited and enthusiastic as I could possibly have been. This was my chance to create a new life.

Six months later and I can barely get out of bed. Depression wraps her cold bony hands around me and pulls me down, deep down. Every day, a battle.

The packing, spending three months on an extended road trip with my boys and our dog, making arrangements for places to stay, finding a friend to foster our cat until we got settled...that was a breeze. I loved it because I was busy, busy, busy. I was also still seeing friends as we traveled around and back and forth to Atlanta. Even once we got to Chattanooga, I was busy and my mind occupied with helping the kids adjust, unpacking, decorating. It was exciting and fun.

But pretty soon, the kids had friends. My husband had already been here for six months and had a rich and active social life that I was not a part of and still am not part of because his friends are single, or childless, or somehow I just don't fit. Suddenly, I'm just alone. As alone as I've ever been.

The election happened, too. Holmes and Rahe rank election years as being quite stressful and I honestly think that did not help me.

I've tried some things and met people I genuinely care, wonderful women that I hope to know better. But I haven't found my tribe yet. And trying to actually find them is kind of scary. I feel like a kid on the first day of high school looking at the various tables of cliques in the high school cafeteria and not knowing where I fit in.

My old tribe was pretty awesome. They were a group of women from my neighborhood and kids' school or from playgroups when the kids were younger. Still there when the oldest is 14 and the youngest 10. Smart, funny, compassionate, passionate...always there for each other. And I've managed to keep in touch thanks to Facebook and the modern marvel of texting. I've been home once and my best friend from the tribe has been to visit me up here. And I mostly don't feel forgotten.

Still, though...and this is one of the darker aspects of social media I feel stupid for falling victim to...the part where we allow it to shade our thoughts with what we imagine to be the case, or by our own negative self-talk.... Still, though, it hurts when I see pictures of all my friends at a party that I probably would have been at if I still lived there. Or posts that include a reference to a joke I don't get because I wasn't there. I shouldn't be hurt. No one is actually doing anything to hurt me. And of course I neither want nor expect anyone else's life to pause because I'm not there. That's not it at all.

The IT here is the profound loneliness I feel, day in and day out. Even when I'm laughing with the very kind and welcoming basketball moms I hung out with during basketball season or my terrific neighbor or having lunch with a new friend, I don't feel that warm, comfortable yet inexplicable sensation of belonging that you feel with a tribe member. It's a sense of knowing that this person is yours and you are hers and you've totally got each others' backs. That's the thing that's missing. Sometimes you meet someone and you know instantly you'll be friends forever. It's the platonic version of love at first sight. I may have met "the one," actually. But my inner voice tells me not to be presumptuous. (What if she's just being nice, right?) We've tried making a couple of coffee dates, but sick kids prevented our meeting. I'll have to wait until we meet again in person to validate that there's real and shared friendship chemistry underlying our shared love of music and pop culture.

Compounding the loneliness is my deep need for a sense of meaning and purpose. With nothing to occupy my mind, I have a lot of time to ponder why I'm alone. That's why I'm blogging now. To paraphrase Buddy the Elf, "Writing is my favorite!"

I came to the conclusion that I have to write and create my own meaningful work after spending a Friday night crying myself to sleep after driving my child to Atlanta to spend the weekend with a friend. I knew I'd come home to hang out with my teenager for a few hours then spend the rest of the evening alone while my husband was out with his friends. Sometime in the night, I awoke and while reading Twitter, I saw a link to this post by James Altucher. It was just the thing I needed to read to pull myself out of the spiral. And it was the inspiration I needed to resume writing. (I still haven't formally done everything on the list, but it got me started. Maybe you'll see a few of the lists turn up as blog posts!)

The job market is tight here. And I don't believe I'm going to find my purpose in a traditional job anyway. So, I've decided to focus on freelance writing again, and to work on this blog. When I think of what my real purpose is, I always come back to the idea that I want to help other women who might be going through the same or similar things that I am or have gone through. As hard as this experience of adjusting to a new city, making new friends, and building a new life is I believe it can serve a greater purpose. As I reinvent myself and create a new life here in Chattanooga, I want to highlight the things that work for me and share them with others. I'll still be writing about the rest of my crazy, beautiful life – I still love life despite feeling like I hit rock bottom and wallowed in my hopelessness several days out of the last two weeks.

I hope you'll come along with me on this journey. I want you to share your experiences, your trials. We'll take it day by day. Let's figure this thing out together...decide what to be and go be it.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think. Love y'all!


Sarah Bonn said...

It does get easier. I've made a few different circles of friends and have gotten involved in clubs and community service, I'm even volunteering in my town government. I think the difference is that I've yet to find another person who I share many interests / points of view with, whereas my main circle of friends in GA had several ladies that fit the bill. Here, it's more like just 1 interest category fits at a time. I think being in the trenches of mothering babies along with a person cements a friendship in ways that can't be replicated, so it will just take longer.

Wendy J said...

I'm sorry you're having a rough time. Moving is so hard. I hope things improve and that you start to feel more connected to your new community. xoxo