Accept and DIVE IN!!

It was late morning when I countered the buyers’ offer and the day went by with no response.  Ugh…..Maybe I should have accepted.  Maybe they changed their minds.  Maybe, maybe, maybe.  And then it hit me – just STOP doing this to yourself.  They want the house.  You’ve decided to sell it.  Eventually, you will come to an agreement, it just doesn’t have to be THIS MINUTE.  So I went to Karen’s bait shop in New London, waited on customers, counted sandworms, sold clam necks, and sat out on the back deck a lot soaking in the sun.  And we laughed and talked and passed the time.  By late evening, my anxiety was starting up again and I once again managed to talk myself down.  What will happen, will happen, I decided.  If the buyers walk away, perhaps they weren’t the right buyers.  With that in mind, I passed the hours enjoying my friends and not worrying about what time it was.  And to be honest, I even forgot about the whole thing! Then at 8 pm, the phone rang much to my surprise and there it was – a new offer from my buyers.  This one hit the the magic number I had held in my head and I accepted!

Now comes the reality.  I have to move.  I have to leave my beautiful little home.  I have to leave my sister (by another mother), Karen.  And Jo.  And Barb.  But I HAVE to do this.  For my own happiness.  For my own health.  And hopefully, they will visit me often and we will have phone contact often.  Because I cannot imagine my life without them in it.  I love them.  They are part of me.

Obviously, I don’t know what religious beliefs, if any, my readers may have.  But I feel that if we listen hard enough, God, or the Universe or whatever you feel helps you along in life, speaks to us.  And so it was that night after I went to bed and started reading my latest in a series of historical novels set in Virginia immediately after the conclusion of the Civil War.  The heroines of the book were each trying to blaze new paths using their passions and they were encouraging one another to brave new frontiers.  One remarked to the other:

“My grandmother asked me one time to think about who the happier woman would be – one who braved the storm of life and truly lived, or one who stayed securely on shore and merely existed.  Her words gave me the courage to leave home, but there have been other times I’ve forgotten my answer and decided to stay on shore.  I’ve always regretted not taking risks.  I hope I’ve learned to never do that again, but life can be scary.  It’s easy to want to hunker down where you believe it’s safe”.

Wow!  What the heck?  Was someone talking to ME???  I could not believe that I was reading those words on the very night that I chose to say yes to sell my house!  Yes to leaving my home state.  It was like a gentle push telling me to go ahead and embrace this change.  And then, if that wasn’t enough, came another line that spoke so clearly to me.  Me personally.  Because it described EXACTLY what I had been doing.  It was EXACTLY what had been holding me back.  Because I don’t take anything for granted.  Not the gift of another day.  Not my dear friends.  Not the old 1998 car I still have.  Nothing.  And after having come close to leaving this world twice, I am SOOOOO grateful for everyone and everything I have in my life.  But there it was in black and white – the next line of the book that resonated with me:

“Change is hard for people because they overestimate the value of what they have, and they underestimate the value of what they may gain by changing”.

I had to really think about that sentence.  Overestimate the value of what I have?  No way!  That sounded down right ungrateful!  Until you look at the entire sentence that is.  Basically, it was saying to me that I was committing a transgression other than the offense of being ungrateful.  It was the crime of not fully embracing the life that had been so mercifully given back to me.  Twice.  First after I broke my neck in 2010 and again after I survived peritonitis last year.  OK God, I am listening to what You have to say to me.  I know there was no coincidence that I saw these lines on THE SAME NIGHT I shakily agreed to sell my beloved home and move 1,322 miles away.  I’m going to stop underestimating the value of what is out there ready for me to gain because that in itself would be ungrateful.  So here I go!  Ready, set, DIVE IN!

Showings

The “Ball Is In Your Park” decision; the BIIYP, as you may recall, ended quickly with a request for a showing.  Geezzzzzz!!!!  So SOON??!??  This was supposed to take awhile!  I just got used to seeing the sign for Pete’s sake. I was quite comfy in BIIYP and was not ready to have strangers (otherwise known as BUYERS to regular people who list their homes) coming into my home!  No!  I didn’t want to show it!  But the PIA voice started nagging.  I could clearly hear her lecturing me about wasting Marilyn’s time if I wasn’t serious.  About having wasted MY time too.  “Alright ALRIGHT!!!  I’ll show it!  Shutup already!” I hollered to the PIA voice.

So you might think that with my half-hearted attitude about selling, that I would give showing the house a half-hearted effort, but that is just not me.  Nope.  Everything had to be perfect.  Each showing was akin to preparing for a visit by heads of state.   Every tiny speck of dust removed, every pillow karate-chopped just the right way.  Did I mention that I am a Certified Professional Home Stager and HGTV addict?  Well, I may not have really wanted to sell my house, but darn it!  It was going to look like it jumped out of Better Homes and Gardens for every showing no matter how I felt inside!!  Probably the funniest incident happened when I was in such a pre-showing rush and panic, I whipped myself around and accidentally stuck the running vacuum cleaner hose into dog’s water dish and it started sucking up water!!  So that showing wasn’t quite perfect of course since I had to have the vacuum upside down in the basement sink draining out the water.  Lesson learned.  “Budget your time a little better” the voice said…….  At another showing, the PIA voice nagged about giving more attention to detail.  “Maybe next time, you can remember to take down the bra hanging from the clothes line in the basement.”

I met each prospective buyer at the door, at least momentarily.  Yeah, yeah….I know you aren’t supposed to.  I cleared out quickly enough, but I wanted to get a read on the people who might buy “my baby”.  All told, I had a crew that came in and toured 3 times and each time they came, the entourage grew (should I set up a polling station??).  Another couple who came twice and spent at least an hour both times (The house is all of 1,176 square feet.  Seriously???  I don’t take that long to view some of the mansions at Newport).  Then they gave me an insulting offer.  Obviously, after all the time they took to look, they gave not a second’s thought to the problem with ticking off an emotional seller.  They found out quickly enough……  Then there was the couple who said the yard was too big (that would be why there is a lot size and lots of pictures in the listing (sigh…).  The single lady who had a big house and was trying to downsize.  A former colleague who told my agent that she knew my house was perfect because that’s how I did everything at work.  I decided to take that as a compliment and ignore the PIA voice reminding me about my tendency to nit-pick.  Each time, I did NOT want to show the house.  Each time, I ran myself ragged making everything perfect.  And each time someone didn’t want it, I felt myself indignantly asking “And just why the heck NOT???  HMPH!!!”.  Most importantly, with each “No”, I was able to stick with the satisfaction of the BIIYP.  Hey, I had no control over these folks, right?  I was doing my best to make the house look great.  It wasn’t my fault that no one was buying (or forcing me into changing).  So basically, I’d put in a good faith effort to make it look great, and feel a bit put-off when someone said no.  But if truth be told, there was that feeling of “Whew…I dodged THAT bullet!”.  There is probably some technical name for this in the psychology books under general weirdness or wishy-washiness or something along those lines, but I think the term “scared of change” would be most appropriate.

And then THEY came.  I liked them.  They loved my home, but decided it was too small (dodged another bullet HA!HA!).  But then they came back for a second look on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend.  And apparently, they REALLY loved my house.  Ut-oh…….

Marilyn called me the following Thursday evening chirping “Well, we are going to have an offer tomorrow”.  My response was “Oh yeah?  Hmmm.  What made them change their minds?”  So after all the staging and yard saleing and furniture listing on Craig’s List and Letgo and Facebook and just general angst, my response to her was “Oh yeah?  Hmmm.  What made them change their minds?”  Well, that’s what she heard anyway.  But what I was actually saying, with wild-eyed, screaming anxiety was “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!   I      CAN’T      DO      THIS!!!!!”  I felt the tears behind my eyes, just waiting to explode onto my cheeks as I struggled to keep my stomach from flipping.   Instead of jumping for joy, I was terrified!  Scarlett came to my rescue.  I didn’t know what the offer would be, Scarlett decided.  It could be as bad as that first one.  So Scarlett wrapped her arms around me and decided “I can’t think about that now.  I’ll think about it tomorrow”.  I love Scarlett.

By morning, I had gotten hold of myself and was OK with the idea of selling my beautiful little house.  Still not jumping for joy, but OK as lukewarm as my OK’s usually are.  And so there I was…. waiting for the offer.  And waiting.  And waiting.  And then doing what I normally do when I’m stressed – I find something to do.  I took the dogs to the park even though it was 88 degrees.  I don’t have a problem with heat as long as I stay in the shade.  Perhaps wearing fur coats, however, is what made the dogs less-than-enthused.  They sniffed a bit here and there and then looked at me, tongues hanging out of their mouths, as if to say “Seriously????  What is your problem woman??”.  OK.  Home we went.  Since they were hot, I took that as a good time for baths.  Of course, that also means washing their beds.  And what the heck, while we’re at it, I might as well strip my bed and wash my sheets too.  Having completed my “torture” of the dogs, there were a couple of plant stands that I had intended to sand and spray paint.  That kept me occupied for a few hours even though I found myself checking the time regularly and wondering……WHERE…..IS……THE…..OFFER????  Sigh.  The personification of cool am I (not).  Moving on, I cleaned all the windows on my car – interior and exterior.  Finally around 8 pm, I couldn’t take it anymore and texted Marilyn with “Well….Did they change their minds?”  As it turned out, the offer had come in late and she hadn’t had a chance to look at it yet.  I wanted her to see it first.  Silly?  Well, maybe, but I know how I am.  Just in case it was another insulting offer, I wanted to give Marilyn time to come up with her calming words of wisdom.

As it turned out, their offer came in with great financing and a fairly decent first offer.  More hemming and hawing ensued, but not even Scarlett could save me this time.  I had to make a decision.  I HAD to embrace this change.  The price wasn’t quite there, so I countered.

And so the DANCE begins……

For Sale!

In my last post, I left you staring out of my back window with me wondering what I should do.  Well, time passed and the leaves got bigger and greener, the flowers were popping and the chorus of bird songs filled the air.  I spent more and more time staring out the kitchen window while doing my dishes, savoring every bit of nature’s summer loveliness.  But breaking through the peace of that exquisite scenery and the delightful bird songs was………that annoying, pain-in-the-ass (PIA!) voice in my head telling me “Sooooooo….you DO want to end up regretful don’t you?”  UGH!!  SHUT UP VOICE!  By mid-June, Scarlett’s “I’ll think about it tomorrow” became Nadine’s “Alright!  Alright, voice!!  I’ll find a real estate agent!!”.  After four interviews, I picked the one.  Her name is Marilyn and she had no idea what kind of nut she was signing on with, but she seemed like she could handle it.  I can’t possibly have been her first wavering client.

In July, I shakily signed the paperwork that would bind Marilyn and I as partners for the next six months.  And so began the “Ball Is In Your Park” decision; the BIIYP.  Hey I did something, right?  I made a decision to sell my beloved house!  A decision to move on to Florida!  A decision to change!  That was it.  The decision making was now up to the buying public.  It was out of my hands.  Having to make any decision and actually change anything was no longer in MY ballpark.  Whew!  Glad to get THAT off my chest!

A couple of days later, I was in the kitchen staring at my beautiful yard again, when I heard a loud, thump, thump, thump sound.  I went to the front of the house, looked out the window and swallowed my heart.  There they were.  Pounding a “For Sale” sign into my front lawn.  I resisted the urge to run out in my pj’s and bedhead, screaming “Get that off my lawn!!!!  I didn’t mean it!  I changed my mind!!!”.  Instead, I just quickly moved away from the window so no one would see the blood draining from my face.

And so it begins…….

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Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

I have always loved Florida.  For years, it has been my dream to move there, but year after year I would visit and then chicken out about buying a house.  In the fall of 2013, after much hang-wringing and driving my friends crazy asking for advice, I finally bought a home in Venice (a shout-out must be extended here to my long-suffering friends who went through THAT decision making process with me – poor things).  And then I went back home to CT to start a series of what I affectionately call decision delayers.  Which are basically change avoiders.  I’m really good at these.  I like them so much, I have names for them.  Being from the corporate world, I got used to using acronyms.  In the corporate world, we can speak in entire sentences…sometimes even paragraphs…completely in letters!  But don’t worry, I’ll keep spelling things out.  I’m out of the corporate world now.  Time to relearn how to speak like a human anyway.  So here we go……First there’s the big one.  The Decision Not To Make A Decision, hereinafter known as the DNTMAD.  There is the “Ball Is In Your Park” decision delayer, or BIIYP.  Then there’s the “I’m Too Busy To Make A Decision”, the ITBTMAD.  And last, but not least, my favorite.  The Scarlett O’Hara “I’ll go mad if I think about that right now.  I’ll think about it tomorrow.” (said with back of hand placed gently on forehead while swooning and speaking in true Southern-damsel-in-distress voice).  I’ll just call that one the Scarlett.  It’s too pretty for an acronym.  So what’s the difference between the Decision Not To Make A Decision (DNTMAD) and the Scarlett you ask?  The Scarlett is short duration decision delaying – after which time, the independent woman that I can be decides to drop the Diva Drama and DO SOMETHING.  The Decision Not To Make A Decision (DNTMAD) is not as dramatic, but it can carry on for extended periods of time.  Sometimes months…sometimes years!  And it comes with really, really logical excuses.

After returning from my Florida home purchase I decided that I had to go back to work until I was ready to retire.  So I flew comfortably into Decision Not To Make A Decision (DNTMAD).  Hey I was proud of myself!  I had the house decided upon and purchased.  It was rented to nice tenants.  Life was good!  No need for further changes!  But by the following summer’s end, it was obvious that my spinal cord injury was creating havoc with my ability to function in today’s fast paced, high stress office environment.  And the air conditioning that blasted from vents all around me caused me pain every day.  Winters were no relief from the A/C as the corporate-required 69 degree air blew cold drafts on me constantly. It was miserable. I was miserable.

By the time 2015 rolled around, I had actually made another decision!  (Feel free to applaud).  It was time to retire and head to Florida!  I started with the work of getting my house together to sell and my target date was April 1 to have it on the market.  But my handy man’s appearances were unpredictable at best and when he was here, 4 hour stretches seemed to be the maximum time he could spend helping me.  And then IT happened.  On March 24, at 2 o’clock in the morning, I woke up in agonizing abdominal pain.  WOW!  Never had gas pains like that before!  What the hell did I eat this time???  OMG!  At one point, I actually broke out into a cold sweat, ripped off all my nightclothes (the person who is always cold, remember?) and laid on the floor waiting for whatever it was to pass.  Finally, I felt a little better, so went back to bed – and there I pretty much stayed for 2 days thinking I had the flu – or food poisoning from eating some out-of-date food item (a subject for another post).  To make a long story short, it wasn’t the flu.  My appendix had burst and by the time I finally got to the emergency room, I had developed peritonitis.  I was in the hospital for a week and when they sent me home, I was still sick.  Ten days later, I was whisked into emergency surgery when my temperature hit 102.9 and they realized I had four abscesses growing and pressing on other organs.  That led to another 10 days in the hospital and a recovery period that I could not have imagined.  And so began another version of the Decision Not To Make A Decision (DNTMAD).

See, that little tiny organ called an appendix had a lot of power.  It made me terribly sick, but it also bit a huge hole into my self-confidence.  I am a fairly independent person, but suddenly I found myself unable to take care of me.  My dear friend Karen had to do my grocery shopping for me and buy meals for me.  I had to leave my dogs in the care of my friend Jo the vet as I just did not have the energy to deal with them.  I would get up in the morning, eat breakfast, do my dishes and collapse on the couch, feeling like a wet dishrag.  I did not begin to feel like myself again until August.  I suppose that I could have put the house on the market then, but my psyche had taken a huge hit.  What if I got sick again?  I have people who love me here – who would help me in FL?  I have snowbird friends there – what if I got sick in June when they were gone?  Suddenly, moving to Florida was not very appealing.  I was seriously scared.  And so, I hunkered down.  Decision Not To Make A Decision (DNTMAD) was really comfortable at this point.

That delay did have a beneficial effect however.  First, it allowed me to heal.  There was no way I could have handled the physical demands of moving with a 6 inch, still-mending surgery wound on my abdomen.  And then my dear friend Karen, who so kindly did my grocery shopping and other errands while giving me tremendous emotional support, was diagnosed with cancer in May.  There was no way I was going to leave her to do that battle without me.  I drove her to her chemo appointments and stayed with her while she went through those truly frightening appointments.  Karen and I have been friends for 46 years and I can honestly tell you that our sicknesses brought us closer than we have ever been.  She is not just my friend – she is my sister.  And her family is my family.  And of course with that closeness comes another reason to NOT change my residence…….

As I happily spent the winter of 2015-2016 nestled in Decision Not To Make A Decision (DNTMAD), I had what I guess you could say was an epiphany.  One day when I was staring out of my window looking at my yard, I thought of my Dad.  I had begged him countless times to leave his house and move to a retiree community.  He stubbornly refused, but he paid the price in loneliness.  Before he died, he said to me “I should have listened to you”.  And there I was, staring out of my window and saying to myself “You aren’t taking your own advice!  Ut-oh…..I hate when this happens!!

So in January of 2016, I started back on prepping the house for sale.  Which of course, initiated an extended session of I’m Too Busy To Make A Decision”, the ITBTMAD.  I worked like a dog.  I cleaned.  I organized.  I bought things with which to stage the house.  I moved furniture.  And I am not kidding when I tell you I spent the entire month of February in my basement.  What the heck was in the basement you ask?  I think my entire life of “things I just couldn’t part with” was there, that’s what.  Folks, let me tell you something I learned.  Get rid of that stuff NOW while you still have the chance!  OMG!  I had my very own TLC Hoarding: Buried Alive starter kit!!!

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OK.  In all fairness, that mess you see is what it looked like after I took it all out of neatly stored boxes, but still…..AIEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!

After 3 yard sales and countless trips to Goodwill, my house looked like a normal person lived there.  And I fell in love with it all over again!  It was comfortable and clean and organized….  Ahhhhhhh!!!!  And then spring came and the yard just looked so……. beautiful!

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A little unwarranted medical scare at this time moved me back into another Decision Not To Make A Decision (DNTMAD) session.  When that disappeared, I went into an extended Scarlett with the oak tree you see in the picture as the backdrop (just use your imaginations and picture a swooning redhead there by the tree).  My inner (my friends might say outer) Drama Queen was in full swing.  What to do?  What to do?

And the motivation is….

Connecticut is a lovely state and I am fortunate to live on beautiful Long Island Sound.  Living close to the beach is not only a wonder in itself, it is also a weather moderator for us.  In the summer, the cool breezes from the water make hot days bearable.  While people ten miles away are getting snow in the winter, it is often raining at my house.  Big plus here – You don’t have to shovel rain.  On the flip side, while we get less snow, winter doesn’t move on as quickly as I would like.  It is often still chilly into May.  Way too far into May…..  I distinctly recall wearing a wool suit to work in late May one year.  And in May of 2005, I had friends from Florida come to visit on May 15.  They were horrified to see not one leaf on the trees and swore they’d never come back! No, its not normal, but it happens.

Presently, I live approximately 2 miles away from the town in which I was born, grew up, got married, got divorced, bought a home and had spent my 35-year career.  I have had the same doctors, dentists, attorney, and veterinarian forever. (That veterinarian, Jo,  is also one of my best friends).  I have worked for two of the area’s largest 3 or 4 employers.  Many of my high school buddies still live in this area and I see them more than one might think.  It is rare that I can go somewhere and not run into someone I know.  I am, therefore, a typical New Englander, at least as far as the change issue is concerned.  I read somewhere once that New Englanders are the least likely people in the country to relocate.  We generally don’t venture out too far from home base for long.  We measure driving distances in time, not miles.  Visiting a friend who lives 45 minutes away is akin to taking an overnight trip somewhere – it takes a lot of planning.  I thought perhaps it was just us older folks who are like this, but yesterday, my 20 something dental hygienist told me that she could not talk her friends into visiting her college friends in Maine.  Don’t get me wrong – we do travel.  It’s just that people in other parts of the country seem to be more …well….spontaneous about their excursions.  I’m not sure what it is about us.

I have never liked being cold, but in 2010, I broke my neck and now live with a permanent spinal cord injury.  While I am able to walk and breathe on my own (which I came very close to NOT being able to do!), my fingers, hands and arms are hypersensitive to cold.  Emotional stress and inactivity also leads to burning pain.

So it has occurred to me that CT winters aren’t going to get any warmer.  And I’m not getting any younger.  At the moment, I own a house with a large yard.  In that large yard, I went a little crazy with flower gardening.  Oh my…what an understatement.  More than one visitor has described it as looking like a park.  Such a lovely compliment, but taking care of this “park” used to be a lot easier.  You know…back when I was you…..youn…..Um…a few years back.  Also, I am retired now and so I’m a bit lonelier since I no longer have forced interactions (called a job) any longer.  Yes, I thought about volunteering and I know I would be a tremendous help to some organization, but when it is cold, I just have such a hard time going outside.  I am afraid that it would just be too easy for me to convince myself that I really don’t NEED to leave and go out into the cold.  And that just wouldn’t be fair either to the organization or to myself.  There’s also the matter of being with people of your age, background and interests.  During the week, most of my neighbors are out working.  Yes, I do have other retired friends, but I really want to DO something more.  To be a part of something.  To work toward something that matters and helps others ALL the time and not just when it is warm outside.  BUT if I move to a warm place, well, that problem of me burrowing deeper under the covers in January and February (and March…and April….and….well, you get the idea) just melts away.  Stay tuned!