Woke early and got to thinking, often not the best thing for me but hey. Everyone says moving is one of the most stressful things you can do, coming second only to bereavement; also, that it’s harsh on kids and, after a brief adventurous window for some people in their twenties, gets more traumatic as you get older. All this is true.
I wanted to move. My old place was expensive, I’d moved there after a long live-together relationship ended in a way that traumatised me, the house was small, cramped, perpetually dark and, I discovered, had terrible damp in the living room. Moreover, I wanted my mum, who has Lewy Body Dementia, to move in with me rather than end up in a care home. She couldn’t even get through the front door of the old place with her walking frame, let alone wheelchair. She could never even come for a visit. I’d gone from lonely and lost when I opened the front door for the first time to having lots of friends I knew I wouldn’t lose by moving. I was ready for a year before I got a no fault eviction notice as the landlord had decided to sell the place out from under me.
All sounds like I had good reasons to move, apart from being eventually forced to, right? Well, finding a new place wasn’t easy and suddenly I was on a countdown timer. That boosted my anxiety levels back to the days when I was being gaslighted by someone I loved.
The old place had some strong memories attached to it. I rebuilt my life there. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and MADD (who the fuck came up with that acronym – Mixed Anxiety and Depressive Disorder). My best friend died of cancer at the age of 47. My father, who had vascular dementia, died from catching antibiotic-resistant E.Coli in hospital at the age of 96. I was ready to start anew.
Except, you don’t start anew, not entirely. I decluttered, took countless boxes of stuff to charity and still, being a geeky book, film, comic and sci-fi collector, I had, as the removal men said, “more stuff than a family of four”. I tried to minimalise. Honestly, I did. But no. How could I part with my complete collection of 1970s Star Wars comics, my Lilo & Stitch memorabilia, my Funko Pops, my LEGO… You get the idea. And so, a great volume of my stuff came with me and I felt like the old lady in the film ‘Labyrinth’ who had a pile of junk on her back.
I needed space for my mum and her stuff, though, so the new place had a usable attic – 300sq m of space – and had just one big problem: it had no flooring. I got it floored and much of my stuff is now parked up there above my head. Some of it will come back down when my mum’s no longer here. I’ve promised myself to go through it all, slowly, and dejunk over time. We’ll see.
Anyway, the move happened with the help of friends and the new place was turned into a beautiful desirable residence within about a week. It’s taking longer to feel like home. I’ve been in it five weeks. Mum moves in with me in another three weeks. Her room is ready to be populated, with furniture totally out of sync style-wise with the rest of the house. As it should be. She needs to imprint and feel it’s her room, so while the rest of the place is contemporary, she’s got pine, ancient photos, and ornaments anyone under 70 might really find themselves disliking.
All this is the physical, mind: the relocation of people and goods. What’s harder to write about and communicate are the psychological impacts of moving home. Not only will both my mother and I have to get used to living under the same roof again – the last time was 31 years ago – but I find I’m feeling, well, strange things. Some good, some less bad then they are unsettling.
I’ll be frank. For years after my last long-term relationship, I switched off any and all interest in dating and intimacy. Okay, I’ll say it: sex. That’s not the case since the move. I’ve come alive again, finding myself looking and interested. Like a bug somehow able to scrutinise itself under a microscope, I’m fascinated. I had no idea moving would light a fire under my libido.
The thing is, a libido boost is great if there’s someone there to help you deal with the fire but, right now in my life, there isn’t. And with that comes a certain frustration and, yes, loneliness for want of special company. I don’t rush these things and don’t want to make foolish decisions but the point is, I didn’t have any of this before the move. Life was simpler but, arguably, it now feels, that word again: alive. It’s like I’ve come out of hibernation. Hello world.
That loneliness, though. It’s difficult at times. I haven’t had loneliness like this in decades. It’s a subtype of it, obviously. I’m not ‘lonely’ in general terms. I have some truly fantastic friends, I’m always busy doing too much, I have a great social life. But I can’t quite determine where inside that new (or so old it’s unfamiliar) loneliness resides. I do know I’ve no desire to jump into bed with just anyone who makes themselves convenient – in these days of hookup apps, there are a lot of people giving it away – and so I know this isn’t about the relatively simple mechanics of lust. It’s not about being horny. And it’s very, very different to that awful, crushing, debilitating loneliness and sense of being lost that I felt when I moved to the old place after 14 years of living with the ex. No, this is a narrowband, sharply delineated loneliness.
Maybe, besides sharing my home with my lovely mum in what are her last days, I’m wanting to share the joy of it with, well, someone else. For there is much joy here, much to like and love, and that very much includes myself. It took me a long time to recover from psychological harms inflicted. I went through therapy for two years, during which I was told that, actually, I was making fairly rapid progress. After what were five, six years at the time. That astonished me. Apparently, people can never ever get over a relationship breakdown or can take decades to do so. Seems seven is my magical number and testimony, perhaps, as to why everyone keeps telling me I’m stronger than I think. I’ve certainly become wiser without, importantly, becoming bitter. And I still believe in love. I’m still a romantic to my core.
Moving house is unsettling. It shakes up the sand in the jar of water, and those grains take a while to gently float back into their new configuration. My personality has been affected in good ways. I’m more confident, more sassy, because I’m secure. I never need to move again unless and until I choose to do so. So, I’m feeling better and safe in my castle. It’s no wonder my mind and body feel able, at last, to be open to the possibility of dating, romance, falling in love, experiencing hurt even (though I will never have hurt like I had in the past, because I’ve learned from that).
I think I should welcome this loneliness, if that’s even the right word for it, as a friend come to tell me I’m okay, I’m human. Go out and see what the world has in store for you, it says. Enjoy your new home. Invite friends over. Look forward to getting to know new people and have new adventures. Maybe someone will recognise you as amazing and want more, and you’ll find yourself feeling the same way about them. Who knows?
We are so focused when moving on the chess pieces – people and possessions as the rooks, pawns and queens – but really it is the underlying board, shaking and relocating, changing, that has the biggest impact. It’s vital to give yourself mental space when you move, to maintain self-awareness and practice self-care. You don’t know who you’re going to become when you enter your new home, but you can embrace the mantra that change, while often traumatic, is a universal constant and can lead to much that is good and wonderful.
I’ll end these musings with a conversation I had with my mum, just before the move, in my car when I was taking her to a hospital appointment. “I’ve been thinking,” she said. I asked her, what about? “It’s time you got a boyfriend. It’s been seven years and I think it’s enough time to put him where he belongs. In the past. I want you meeting a nice fella and he can move in with us.” “Mum!” I declared, blushing at the wheel. “Well,” she huffed. “You know I’m right. There’s got to be a nice one out there somewhere.”
As always, thanks for reading!
Andrew’s latest book, myfibromyalgia: one man’s experience of living with chronic illness, is out now in all Amazon store territories the world over. The ebook is £5.99 and the paperback £8.99. UK Amazon link.