To that place when it was all you ever knew? To those streets and the people who lived in the houses that lined them and the events they contained. When all of that was everything that made up your life?
What would you tell that version of you? Run? As as fast as you can? Soak it up. This is it. Keep going.
In the past 10 years I have lived a number of places and known a number of people. My life in each of those places—jobs held, relationships formed, return addresses penned on letters mailed, coins pushed into washers and dryers, grocery aisles walked—those everyday pieces that make up a life—changed. And not once, but over and over.
Our lives are only what we know and have known up to this moment.
There is so much more.
Streets to walk. People to meet. Events to happen.
It can feel disorienting to come across a place or person that you knew before. Drive a street you used to daily. See someone else walk through a screen door that used to be yours. Bump into an old friend or colleague. Something or someone that once defined a piece of your existence but no longer does. Your life changed, the place or person you knew kept existing, and maybe changed too.
It can be sad to think of ones that have gone. Opportunities, people, moments that will never again be what they were. But also a relief to think of others that have passed.
When we think of this moment, right now, it can feel so final. Because it is all we know. But if we look back and see how much can change in such a short window, it can offer a shift in perspective.
Life will keep changing.
What will we bring forward with us to the next moment?
In our eight years of marriage Levi and I have had seven addresses. We’ve moved a lot and started over a lot and we still have a significant amount of hand-me-down furniture with layers of corporate move stickers on it.
After living in Missouri, Illinois, and South Dakota, we bought our first home in Centerville, Ohio. That was four and a half years ago. At the time, I didn’t want to buy a house, but Levi said it was a better investment than continuing to rent. So, after reluctantly looking at listings online, I told him I’d go see one house. One. We ended up buying that house and we lived there for a little over three years.
It was the longest we had lived in one place and it was our first home. We gutted and finished the master bathroom, hand-scraped thousands of apples off the kitchen walls in what can only be described as a truly amazing wallpaper print. We repainted every cornflower blue room, fixed up not one, but two nurseries, and Levi hand-dug 40+ postholes and raised a fence in our back yard. We did a lot of these projects with the help of family and friends.
We hosted family dinners, birthday parties, and cooked and shared meals with our closest friends around our dining room table. I finished writing my graduate thesis on a barstool at the kitchen island. We rode out heatwaves, ice storms, stomach bugs, and sleepless nights with newborn babies.
It went from being a house, to being our home.
When we first talked of moving—leaving the house I didn’t even want to buy–I immediately began crying. We didn’t lay the cement block foundation or raise the walls of that colonial, but we had built our home there. I had built a business there. We had built friendships there.
We had built our life there.
It takes both time and work to stake out a corner of the world and call it your own. To know it as home. To have that and choose to leave it–to uproot with a toddler and an infant and move hundreds of miles away to a new city where you know no one and your closest family is hours away—is tough.
This kind of move is different than moving to a different home in the same city or the next town over–that comes with its own set of challenges. But this kind of move, the one I’m talking about, is where you leave behind the life you know and start a new one. And this is its own kind of heartbreak.
At first it feels like you’re wearing someone else’s clothes. Like your luggage was lost and you are borrowing someone else’s sweater and pants for an unknown amount of time until yours arrive. You’re just waiting for a new house and a new town to feel like yours.
You spend the first two months learning your way around with GPS. Making mental notes of street names and landmarks. Figuring out where the good grocery stores are. Finding new doctors, pediatricians, veterinarians, hair stylists, babysitters, and dentists. You so badly want it to immediately feel like home and it’s easy to forget that “home” feeling from the place you knew before, your old home, only came with time.
Slowly, you paint a room, hang a picture, become less dependent on Google Maps. You learn to love the way the morning light creeps through the windows when you sit in your favorite chair. Then, you build a fire in the hearth when it snows. You sit on the patio on a cool spring night and look for Cassiopeia. You sit on the same patio and watch your babies run through the sprinkler on a warm summer day. You put yourself out there and meet new people. Some turn out to be people you want to see again, others turn out to be people you won’t. Some eventually become friends.
This starting over, hewing a new life from a fresh block of wood, is one of the most difficult things you will do. But it will open you up to more experiences and people than you knew a mere matter of months ago. It will force you to see the world differently, to have more empathy. It will challenge you to prioritize what is important. It will make you ache for your old home, the one that smelled like home and you already knew which floorboards creaked and what windows rattled in the wind. It will make you envious of the people who’ve never moved—the ones who’ve never had to figure out where the grocery store is, or start over from scratch with friends, or not have family close by to help out in a pinch. But ultimately, it will teach you things you wouldn’t have otherwise known.
This is for the movers. The ones who do what most others haven’t and won’t. The ones who say goodbye to one life and take their young families somewhere they’ve never been to create a new one.
It’s that young family you’re doing it for. To give them every opportunity. But it’s you who unexpectantly also ends up with new opportunities. Your circle grows, your perspective grows, you grow. It’s hard, but you do it. And finally, one morning, you wake up and realize there is more than one corner of the world that can become home.
For the past seven or so years when I’ve had an opportunity to work out I’ve gone for a run. Aside from the solid exercise and post-run high, running has been a great metaphor for life.
That “push-through-the-pain, show-up-and-get-it-done” mentality can be applied to just about any situation.
In parenthood you show up (everyday), but that doesn’t mean anything is going to get done. With toddlers and infants there is no pushing through the pain. You actively sit in the pain. There is lots of smiling through gritted teeth and swearing in your mind while you enthusiastically encourage them (for 30-minutes) to eat a cup of yogurt on their own…. and then watch as they wipe their yogurt-covered hands on the table, through their hair, and across the bottoms of their feet in one fluid motion.
Small children cry for inexplicable reasons. They love certain foods one day and act like they’re tainted with poison the next. When you don’t let them go outside on a 20-degree day or make them wear shoes on a splintery boardwalk you might as well be throwing their security blanket through a wood chipper in front of them.
I know, I know they’re growing at lightspeed and getting teeth and trying to make sense of the world around them and the emotions they’re feeling. But that knowledge doesn’t always make it easier at 9 p.m. when they refuse to go to sleep after getting up at 5:30 a.m.
Parenthood is a high-rep exercise in patience.
For so many years showing up and gutting-it-out worked well in whatever I did. Even if I absolutely dreaded the thought of doing something, the job would get done. There was a goal, a finish line.
In parenthood, sometimes the job doesn’t get done. And sometimes it gets done and you have to redo it. Twenty times. In a single day.
Parenthood has no finish line. It’s from the moment those two lines show up until, what I can make of it, all eternity.
And this is why I’ve found such an outlet in Power Yoga.
Power Yoga is based in Ashtanga but it moves more quickly. You lift and hold your entire body’s weight constantly, making it a great strength training exercise, but there are also poses you hold that are extremely difficult, whether due to a balance element or strength element, and breathing through some of these intense poses is what it’s like to remain calm and composed and breathe through inexplicable toddler tantrums, or 11 p.m., 1, 3, and 5 a.m. nighttime infant feedings.
And did I mention the room is heated to 90 degrees? Which to some sounds awful, but I Live. For. The. Heat.
Being able to step out of the house, by myself, and get in a solid workout, mentally and physically, makes me feel better and gives me a perspective shift when I need it most.
Running is an exercise but yoga is a practice. You start every class with an intention and carry that through. Usually at least once during class I will side step, or even fall, while trying a new pose but I hop back in the pose and keep going.
In running success is measured by completion. You finish the run, you get a PR.
In yoga—and parenthood—success isn’t measured in outcomes, it’s measured by how you handle the situation.