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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.