My World is Flipping Upside Down

My World is Flipping Upside Down

When I first moved back to Portland after my horrendous year in Dallas, I was angry and flippant. Once again I was moving to a random US city for my husband’s job, and to top it all off we purchased a house that would ultimately lock us to an unknown place I had never lived in. When we signed the papers to purchase the house, I had to repeatedly ask my husband that the house would not make Portland permanent for us. That we could sell it. He said yes. With hands shaking, I signed the papers to the house located in a city I knew nothing about. I was scared. I was nervous. I was confused.

The dining room I love… the sunlight that hits this room is magical

After a few months, despite my initial huffing and puffing, the house grew on me. I loved the way the light bled into the dining room hall and lit up our plants during sunset. I would dance and sing happily as I listened to jazz while cooking healthy meals in our fully equipped kitchen. During lazy afternoons I would cuddle in the nook of the sofa in the living room, wrap myself up in a blanket, read a book, and doze off into a nap while staring into a window that looked into a sea of green trees, flowers, or empty branches, depending on the season. Our house smelled like the fresh wood of the forest, and I would suck in that smell every time I walked through our door. During winter, I would open the windows and listen to the pitter patter of Portland’s constant rainfall, deeply breathing in that fresh scent of moisture into my lungs. I felt settled enough to buy plants and even considered getting a pet. I tended my houseplants happily, talked to them as I cooked dinner, and lovingly gazed at them when I studied or read books in the living room.

My favorite cozy nook… it’s hard to see out the window, but the branches are dead now in winter. In summer the window turns green with foliage.

And then, before I knew it, I had fallen for the house. I was settled. I loved my house, I loved my neighborhood, and I loved my city. Three things I could never say before. After being a nomad for so long, I finally had a place I could call home.

But it was lonely. I spent almost every night alone, since my husband works the graveyard shift. The weekends consisted of me wandering the neighborhood and going on solo hikes. I wish you were here, I would often say to my friends in Utah via text, as I sipped on a beer at the latest microbrewery — alone. I would picnic at the nearby park staring at cherry blossoms, enjoying the solitude and bliss, but also wishing that my husband or friend could be near my side. I loved my Portland life — but it was intensely lonely.

What a beautiful view! …. to enjoy alone

Then, COVID hit. My dad became very ill. I spent almost half the year in Utah helping my mom take care of my dad. I lived out of my suitcase in my brother’s room and my life felt like a jumbled mess. I felt awkward in my brother’s house, unable to cook meals or relax. The closets were already full of my mother’s clothes and I found it difficult to fully settle in. I felt like a long-term guest, and I missed having control of my life. Yet it was nice to not be alone. To see my brother everyday. To eat dinner with my mom, take care of my dad, see my best friend on the weekends.

When I applied for a new job in Utah and subsequently received an offer, I was paralyzed with shock and indecision. Do I leave a city I love to be with family and friends? Do I really want to flip my life upside down one more time — even after I’m so settled in Portland?

Do I really want to leave this dreamland?

After a long talk with husband, I decided to take the job. I was scared and hesitant. If I was 25 I would have jumped at the chance to change my life for the better and take on a new career; but at 35, a feeling of uncertainty takes hold when I think of leaving the familiar and venturing into the unknown. I’m frightened to learn a new trade, get to know new colleagues, and start over in a new city again — but repeatedly told myself that being close to family was more important. In March, I flew back to Portland to spend one last month in the city and say farewell to the house I grew to love so much before I transitioned to Utah.

However, a few days later, my dad’s health took a nosedive. I took a same-day flight from Portland to Utah. I held his hand in the hospital. I held my brother’s hand as we watched him wither away in the hospice wing. I cried as my mom said her final farewell to him, holding his hand and whispering that she would miss him, the love of her life, the soldier she met in Vietnam.

And then he passed away.

Only two years ago….

The next couple of weeks were a blur. A flurry of talking to relatives. A cascade of administrative planning for the funeral. A mess of paperwork and documents I had to sign to transfer benefits to my mother. Endless nights of fumbling through my dad’s paperwork and photos, blinking back tears, pushing forward to ensure I would plan the perfect funeral and write the ideal obituary and make my dad proud.

The funeral is over, the relatives have stopped calling, and I find myself lost in thought. I’m a mix of emotions: sadness for my father, worry for my mother and brother, anxiety for the new job, uncertainty about another big move, hesitant to step forward.

Moving forward

I feel like I dropped a puzzle on the floor, the pieces scattered everywhere, and I’m left standing in shock — the puzzle box in my hand — wondering where I should even begin to pick up the pieces and begin. My life feels like a jumbled mess. I’m in between homes. I’m far away from my husband. I’m anxious about a new job with more responsibilities. I’m trying to be the pillar for my family, to be the guidepost for them through this difficult time, yet I feel the relentless storm of life and circumstances beating me down.

From the forest to the mountains…

Yet again, my life is flipped upside down. I will move for the seventh time in five years. Honestly, I’m tired, and I don’t know why I do this to myself. I keep telling myself I’m making the right choice — especially for my family — and I can only hope that in a few month’s time life will become normal again. I hope I can find a new place to call “home” in Utah that I can love just as much as my Portland house. I hope my new job will be a good fit for me. I hope my husband can move here soon. I hope being around friends and family will be worth the cost of this move.

Today is a new day. The sun is shining. Spring is here. The world is coming back to life. Life is full of new beginnings. It is the season of rebirth.

Take a deep breath, concentrate, and move forward, Mary. Move forward.

Apologies for the very personal post. I felt compelled to write something in this very pivotal time of life for me. Thank you for reading.

12 thoughts on “My World is Flipping Upside Down

  1. No apologies necessary! I am glad to learn what’s going on and excited for new adventures. I have no doubt you will continue to kick ass, despite your own self-doubt.

    What an exhausting year. Portland is beautiful, no doubt, but even the most beautiful home can feel like a prison without human connections. I had a neighbor who moved to Portland a few years ago. She was from the East Coast and so excited to go back to a place with rain and seasons. And she hated it. Her kids hated it. They had a hard time making friends, the cultural diversity was minimal, and they felt isolated. They moved back to our neighborhood in SoCal and everyone is so much happier.

    I’m glad you get to go back to Utah and friends like H. I hope R can join you soon and work a normal shift. I’m glad you will be closer to family. And I hope the new job is fulfilling. I can’t wait to hear more about it. Go, Mary! Well done!

    I think it’d be a lot harder for me to be in SoCal if my friend JM hadn’t moved out here, too. There are so many times we’ve considered going back east, to be closer to family. But we’ve got our little community out here and, more importantly, so does the kid. If we moved, he’d probably shiv us in our sleep.

    1. Aw, thanks for telling me the story about your friend. It makes me feel better that I’m not alone! My husband had an easy time making friends at his hospital, and they were a really diverse crowd, but because I don’t work with them I didn’t really build a bond. I guess I realized that living where you have roots and a community matters more than living in a beautiful city…. although man, I am so bummed I am missing Portland in spring…!!

      And Autumn, you never fail to make me laugh! The shiv comment was great. If I were you I would stay so my kid could have a normal childhood and not be separated from friends.

      Thank you for all your support!! I’ll do my best!!!

  2. Oh, Mary. I’m so sorry for your loss. What an ordeal you’ve been through but I’m glad you’re closer to your mom even if that puts you further away from your husband.

    But this is an old-ish post. I’d love an update. Feel free to email me if you need a vent or a chat. I’m all eyes and ears 🙂

    For me, while PDX is a pretty city, it was a hard place to make friends and connections. I tried twice, too. And I’ve always been so jealous of your ties to Utah, so I’m biased as all heck.

    Take good care, dear. Hope things are looking brighter.

    1. Hi Lani, thank you for the kind words. It’s been a really rough year.

      It means a lot — A LOT — to see your comment on here. It’s always hard dealing with loss and having someone offer to listen means the world to me. Thank you so much.

      I’m glad that it’s not just me who struggled to make friends in PDX. It’s such an amazing city and I love the nature, but gosh darnit, the people are kinda *too* weird and I just can’t make any friends.

      Hope you’re doing well!! Thank you again for the comment. It truly made my day.

      1. OH, good. I mean it. Drop me a line: anytime. I love email.

        And yes, funnily, the Willamette Weekly had a cover story when I was there ages ago about how PDX is the worst city for singles. Folks that have lived there all their lives have a tendency to stick to the friends they made in h.s. I had my worst date there, too. Hahahhaa. It’s a tough nut to crack.

        And yeah, which is crazy because it is a beautiful city with great food — so I call it the “Stepford Wives” city. 😛 Obviously there are lovely people and they were the ones who came up from California. JK. Sort of.


        1. Thank you Lani!!! I will take you up on that offer. I need to find a good headspace to write. I’m sure you’ve had blogposts in the past about putting yourself in a good environment to write — I need some tips there. Sometimes I feel like I have to whip out my laptop and write even if I’m unmotivated/tired/in an uncomfortable place.

          Hahaha omg all of my friends dating in Portland are having a super rough time finding a partner. Nowadays the Portland dating problem is: everyone is polyamorous! No one wants monogamy anymore in the pac northwest, it seems.

          Yeah, I wouldn’t say people in Portland are unfriendly, but I definitely noticed the locals tend to stick with the locals. I weirdly haven’t met too many transplants into Portland, maybe if I move back that’s where I need to start — gotta find all those Californians moving in, haha.

          Thanks again Lani!

          1. You’re a great writer. I remember in the past when you were posting a lot and I was impressed (and jealous)!

            My best advice (and you’re going to hate it) is to find what works for you. It’s like exercise, you gotta try different things, and speaking of…

            Is poly- the new bi- ? 😀 I can’t keep up with all the kids these days.

            And yes, to answer your question from another post, we’re moving back up to Northern Thailand. If you’re up for it, you can read it on my NL here:

            And I’ll be waiting for your email… xxoo No pressure though!

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