Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey
It is so seductive to float through life on the calm seas of predictable routine. It’s a comfortable, if somewhat tedious existence. But the alternative means enduring upheaval and uncertainty, not the kind of excitement we generally seek in our lives. In the novel “Andromeda Strain,” author Michael Crichton quotes Lewis Bornheim, who defines a crisis as “a situation in which a previously tolerable set of circumstances is suddenly, by the addition of another factor, rendered wholly intolerable.” Now that’s a lot of long words from a guy I’m pretty sure is fictional, since the only references I can find for “Lewis Bornheim” is that quote from the novel. But let me put it to you this way.
An afternoon drive in the country becomes a crisis when the engine quits. Dinner preparations become a crisis when the oven stops working. A Super Bowl party becomes a crisis when the flat screen dies. Work on a paper or a project becomes a crisis when the blue screen of death appears on the computer monitor.
In my case, the even tenor of life was thrown into chaos when I was informed that I was being transferred to another state. Granted, this was something I desperately wanted to happen, but I discovered that there is a huge difference between wanting something, and actually getting it.
My new employers are making this process as easy as they can, but there is still a mountain of work for me to accomplish and not a lot of time to get it done.
The first priority has been to prepare the house for the real estate market. These days, that’s a scary leap into some very troubled waters. Home values have plummeted. At one time the concern was to gain as much equity as possible in the sale. Now homeowners desperately hope that the offers will at least clear the mortgage.
In reviewing real estate listings online, I’ve learned something very important. I see a lot of interior pictures of homes for sale where you can’t see the room for the clutter. As homeowners, we decorate according to taste. For some, that means displaying evidence of our passions, be it stuffed animals, statuettes, souvenirs from trips, or (in my case) way too many books. What I had to learn was that potential buyers aren’t interested in my passions. They want to imagine what they can make of the room if it becomes theirs to own. You can’t do that when there’s too much “stuff” in the way. So, I’m going from room to room, boxing things up, clearing shelves (even that repository under the coffee table), and generally getting my life out of the way. And that’s a lot of stuff. It took five boxes alone to clear the living room.
My next stop is the kitchen. Like many folks, we’ve inadvertently turned horizontal surfaces into ad hoc storage. The kitchen has become a real nightmare, and I know that’s going to take at least a full day on its own. But it’s not just the accumulation of papers, magazines, recipes, etc. that have piled up. We have to take away some of the appliances as well. I want people coming in to marvel at all the countertop space and the only way that’s going to happen is to make the space empty.
The third trouble spot is going to be the closet in the master bedroom. The shelves in there are jam-packed with all manner of detritus. I think most of it just got put there one day when I had to clean someplace else in the house.
Now this process is going to create some inconvenience in my life and will force me to change some habits, for example storing and taking my prescription meds in the closet. And if I need to research information in a certain book, I have to remember to put it back when I’m done. This is not the comfortable pattern of my life, but in order to get this house sold, I’m going to have to accept some discomfort for a while.
Change is never easy, especially when it’s a major kerfluffle like a transferring jobs and moving houses. But change can’t be stopped or avoided. It stalks us every day, waiting to pounce at the most inconvenient moments. As adults, we must accept change for what it is, a part of life. and face it bravely.
Really, it’s the only way we can grow.