Seven Reasons to Love Moving

moving photo

I’m not moving again. Not yet, anyway.

The condo that I’m renting is being sold this week—which means another move may be on the horizon. Fortunately, I’m on a lease through the summer, but there is a great big pile of unknowns waiting for me when that lease expires.

I hate unknowns. Especially these:

  • Are the new owners slumlords or decent humans? Will they fix the broken stuff or let the place fall apart?
  • How high will they raise my rent? Will I be able to afford to stay?
  • Will they renew my lease?
  • If they don’t renew my lease, will I be able to find a new place that will accept my dogs?

As a chronic worrier, I find that sometimes, the most helpful way to deal with worrying is to work through the worst-case scenario. In this instance, the worst case is that I won’t be able to afford the new rent or they will not renew my lease. In either case, I will have to move. Again.

My fourth move in five years. Here come the voices in my head:

Cheerful Meg to Worrywart Meg: C’mon! It won’t be so bad! Moving is kind of cool!

Worrywart Meg: Moving SUCKS, you idiot.

But you know what? The secret truth is that Cheerful Meg, though obnoxious, is not entirely full of crap. I do kind of like moving. At least, there are a few things I like about it. And since I may not have a choice, I may as well focus on the good parts.

What good parts, you ask?

Allow me to itemize them for you:

  1. Purging. I love to get rid of shit. I feel righteous, self-controlled—rich, even—when I get rid of things. Before a move, I go on an epic purge of my belongings. Pare down to only the essential six or eight sets of cloth napkins for all my imaginary future dinner parties. Whittle away all but my truly indispensible twelve tubs of holiday decorations. Ruthlessly eliminate extraneous craft supplies until only the most critical shades of glitter remain. I am no hoarder! I am organized! A lean, mean domestic machine!
  2. Anticipation of decorating. Decorating is even better than purging. Decorating is one of my very favorite things, and moving to a new place means I get to decorate EVERY ROOM. Before I move, I measure each room in my new space and actually draw out a floor plan to scale, and then I cut out little paper furniture and rearrange everything a bazillion times. I cannot overemphasize the amount of satisfaction this gives me. It’s downright freakish. I pick paint colors (most of which are never used) and draw sketches and pour over the Craigslist used furniture section in a sort of feverish HGTV hallucination. It’s glorious.
  3. Moving day love. To all my friends and family who have helped me move so many times, I apologize for this part. I know everyone hates to help people move. But you know what? It’s pretty touching that they love me enough to do it. And they’re even pleasant about it and show up with food and useful gifts and make hilarious jokes all day so it becomes kind of fun. If I could spare them the opportunity to love me like that, I would…but if I can’t, well, I’m going to just enjoy the love. Right?
  4. Excuse to eat lots of pizza. As a thank you for the moving help, I buy pizza and beer. And I consume a ton of it. Since I’ve burned 348,964 calories lugging boxes and furniture around, I can eat that pizza with no guilt. Guilt-free gratitude pizza, anyone? Come help me move!
  5. Harnessing of Superpower. Have you ever noticed what an insane amount of work you accomplish on moving day, and the days just before and after? Apparently I have a secret reserve of energy that is only tapped in the event of a move, and it allows me to tirelessly plow through purging, packing, moving, cleaning, unpacking, and more cleaning at a speed that is quite staggering. Sometimes when I can’t muster the energy to wash the dishes or dust the bookcase, I try to channel that Moving Day Superpower. Never works. That power is only accessible on Moving Day. So you have to enjoy it while you can.
  6. Excuse to be messy. Thanks to a lifetime of conditioning by my mother, I have deep and abiding shame when someone comes over and my house is messy… unless I’m about to move or have just moved. In that case, free pass! Come on in! Just pull up a box to this grimy table piled with junk and have some of this leftover gratitude pizza!
  7. And of course, a fresh start. When there are boxes piled in every corner, but at last the beds are made and you can finally lay your aching body down in your new bedroom, you think about all you’ve accomplished and all those who helped and how much there is to do tomorrow. Laying in that new darkness, feeling the unfamiliar energy of the house settling around you, hearing those strange nighttime sounds that you haven’t gotten used to yet…you know the worst of it is over and you can finally turn the page and start a new chapter. And the last feeling you feel—just a quick glimmer before you fall into delicious, dead-tired sleep—is the rush of possibility.

Beginning, for Somewhat Ineffective People

If you’ve spent any time in corporate America, or in the self-help aisle of the bookstore, you know about Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  I have spent a great deal of time in both, so I’m pretty familiar with the Seven Habits.  I admire them, I respect them, and occasionally I even try to practice them.  Alas, I’m still not terribly effective.

Habit #2 is “Begin with the end in mind.”   The idea is to have a clear picture of what you’re trying to achieve—a detailed, crystal-clear vision of the result you want.  This applies not only to building mousetraps or what-have-you, but to your whole life—envision the life you want and the things that are important to you, and make your choices accordingly.

(You people who have your acts together—you Highly Effective People– can stop reading right here. Go make some choices and be effective.  Somewhat Ineffective People, please continue.  You might find this helpful.)

Here’s my problem: I can’t picture the end. I don’t know exactly what I want.  I’m almost 40, and my life vision is as clear as mud.  I put a lot of mental energy into it. I do workshops, take tests, see therapists…. I make some decisions, get my vision all squared away, and then change my mind. While all this thinking is going on, nothing gets done.

That’s highly ineffective.

But a couple months ago, my aimless wandering paid off in an unexpected lesson.   I took a painting class on right-brain painting at The Art Bar in Santa Ana. The instructor was Whitney Ferré.

The class wasn’t about creating fine art or learning techniques. It was about quieting your left brain—the logical, linear, rule-based side—and allowing your right brain to do its intuitive, free-form, creative thing.  For the sake of the lesson, we were going to paint owls. That’s all I knew.

Also, I could bring wine…wine and painting is a good combination.

Each person was given a big, blank canvas, a paper plate with some paint on it, and a fairly chunky paint brush.

The first instruction was to cover the canvas with paint. “Just cover it,” Whitney said, “It doesn’t matter what it looks like; you’re going to paint over this part anyway.  Don’t worry about the colors. This part is just to get you past your fear of the blank canvas.”

For the record, I’m a crafty girl. I like step-by-step tutorials, templates, and pre-coordinated collections of fashionable colors.  I like to see a completed example of what I’m about to make, so I can mimic it. I’m good at that.

So I wasn’t exactly comfortable with this “it doesn’t matter” approach. I didn’t even get to pick my colors. How was I supposed to know what I was going for, without an example?  In this case, I really, really wanted to have the end in mind.

But, I’m also a conflict-avoidant girl, so I just did as I was told and covered the canvas.  My plate had red, yellow and white paint on it, so my canvas turned all kinds of gorgeous shades of pink and orange.  It was lovely.

The next step was to paint an outline of an owl using basic shapes.  (For this step, she did give us some examples to copy. We were a bunch of beginners, so we needed some help.)

Reluctantly, I took my chunky paint brush and, with black paint, slopped an outline of an owl over my pretty sunset background. It didn’t look like Whitney’s; it was kind of lopsided and way too big, but whatever.  I was sipping my wine and happily covering my canvas, and the “it doesn’t matter” approach was growing on me.

Just then, Whitney said, “Now get some different colors, and fill in the shapes you’ve created.  Just paint right over your background.”

WAIT! Those are my favorite colors! I don’t want to paint over them!

“And you’ll paint over the next layer, too, so don’t worry about the end yet.  Don’t worry about how it’s going to turn out.”

ARGH!  What kind of stupid art lesson was this? Don’t worry about how it’s going to turn out? I heard my corporate-trained left-brain squawking all kinds of effectiveness at me; I could feel myself obsessing.

With eerie timing, Whitney advised the class, “Don’t obsess. You’re taking yourself too seriously. That’s ego.”

Well, far be it for me to have EGO. I painted over the orange. I tried to pick other colors I like just as well, like aqua. Maybe some purple.

Dang, it was turning out cool.

After a quick lesson in color strategy, a couple more layers and a little more wine, my painting was complete:  a big kooky owl with goofy eyes and ridiculously bright colors. He looks like he dropped some acid and flew through a rainbow and landed on my canvas. I love him.

I love that silly owl every time I look at it, and here’s why: because I tried something new, I didn’t know how it was going to turn out, I shut off my ego and my need to be CORRECT, and out came something colorful and fun.   It’s a product of my own fearless, intuitive right brain.

The moral of the story is this: if you can’t begin with the end in mind, begin anyway.  Just try.  Sometimes the vision takes shape after you pick up your brush, or start typing, or say hello.  Sometimes it evolves after some layering, some learning, or a glass of wine. The important thing is to be open to all kinds of beginnings. Don’t worry so much about being effective. Just begin.

Here I am in The Art Bar with Whitney Ferre and my owl painting.