Going through difficult times is a bit like wearing uncomfortable shoes: you don’t realize how bad they feel until you take them off.
Nearly a year into our new home venture, it feels like we’re emerging from a tunnel. There have been many challenges, surprises, upsets and a lot of really great stuff.
On March 18, 2017, we chose our new home and began the moving process. Three months prior, my husband had had back surgery to correct a bulging disc that impinged on the sciatic nerve. He was doing well. We had discussed leaving Austin for a smaller town and decided Kerrville filled our needs.
After the move in early June, the back problem re-emerged–no doubt, at least in part, related to packing, lifting, painting, cleaning and everything else associated with moving, even with movers. And it was a nightmare move, mostly because of the movers, who were incompetent and surly. (One large item, a Japanese stone lantern, did not find its way home until fall, when I literally went and got it from the warehouse in Round Rock. Other items, including a favorite framed still shot from the movie “Casablanca,” remains missing.)
Anyway, we accomplished a lot over the summer and ensuing months despite husband’s back problems: balancing and correcting water quality in a neglected swimming pool; acquiring a hot-tub (balm for aching muscles); setting up composting; hiring lawn care; decorating and hanging art; going all-out with Christmas trees and decorating, hosting two holiday parties! We’ve made an effort to meet like-minded people. I go to a weekly knitting group; we have joined a church; we have become involved with local liberal/progressive politics (futile as that might be in this red-meat part of a blood-red state.)
Our granddaughter turned 11 in November. She is doing well in school, but a pre-teen pubescent girl can be a handful under the best of circumstances, and she has presented a whole lot of challenges on top of the normal ones.
As we approach our first anniversary in the new home, I celebrate the following:
- My husband had another back surgery last month and is pain-free and moving toward full functionality.
- We are slowly the turning the battleship of the granddaughter’s challenges.
- We have a community of friends, good neighbors and an active social life.
- We go to art shows, concerts and plays.
- We’ve traveled a bit, mostly around the gorgeous Texas Hill Country, and we’re near a Unitarian-Universalist retreat center, where we can re-charge and appreciate incredible dark starry skies.
- I’m digging a garden, which I find surprisingly satisfying, especially yanking out that devil’s spawn, crabgrass. I’m looking forward to bringing in more soil and planting herbs, carrots, radishes, peppers, greens and tomatoes (a “salad” garden).
- I have a nearly perfect studio space, where granddaughter and I paint and I make my “kindness” postcards, along with another blog to show my art.
- We got through the winter without flu. All of us, including the four-year-old rescue dog, are healthy. (Sadly, one guinea pig died, and I would love to re-home his cage-mate.)
- Regular acupuncture treatments are keeping my sinus headaches and allergies under control, and my other chronic ailments are well-managed. I’m an exceptionally vigorous and healthy 70+-year-old!
- I have developed a spiritual practice that helps me stay calmer and more grounded than I otherwise might be. (I intend to expand on my spiritual growth in a future post.)
My primary spiritual practice is constant gratitude. I get up very early (5:18, to be exact) to have quiet solitude before getting the child off to school, and I miss that best retirement perk, sleeping in. But as my feet hit the floor I am grateful for another day I can keep doing this. I nap most days.
My previous post was about physical aspects of settling into our new home. This post is about finding connections as we make this town our home.
After living in Austin for 35 years, I was burned out on the big city and looked forward to small-town life. We chose Kerrville because it met our needs in many ways–geography, scenery, affordability, schools, health care, the arts (theater for husband, art and music for me), a Unitarian Universalist congregation. We knew it would be more socially and politically conservative than Austin–almost anywhere in Texas would be–but we also knew there are people who share our views and we would find them.
The connections made so far (some of them overlap, as do many of the people):
- UU Church of the Hill Country. Good minister, friendly people, small, attractive space, many activities in addition to Sunday services. Choir practice starts this week and I’m giving it a try. Like so many activities in this older community, rehearsals are in the afternoon. As long as Gary is here at 3:15 when granddaughter comes home, I can do it. She also likes the RE program because it’s small and not overwhelming.
- Chicks with Sticks Knitting group: this is at the Baptist Church, and though I probably don’t share the religious views of some of these ladies, they have welcomed me and I’ve enjoyed the conversations, with lots of laughter, monthly lunches at a restaurant, and two hours a week of dedicated knitting time. They do charity knitting, so I’ve been making winter hats for an organization that fills backpacks for school kids.
- Hill Country Chorale: after years of singing with the First UU choir and Panoramic Voices in Austin, and mostly giving it up the last two years because of late rehearsals on school nights, I really needed to get back to serious singing. After a reception and two rehearsals, I am happy.
- Now that school has started I will try to participate in some small way–probably just through PTO or helping in the classroom. Last year I got a little overwhelmed with being on the PTA board, but I also made some wonderful friends. School involvement is so important.
- Even though I haven’t participated much yet, I’ve joined the Kerrville Arts and Cultural Center, the Riverside Nature Center, and have attended some Democratic women’s events.
- Next week I’m going to the Women2Women fundraiser for the Hill Country Crisis Center, where Lara Logan will be the speaker.
- We’ve attended a couple of theater productions. A woman in our church is very involved with the Hill Country Arts Center, which includes theater and art. Yesterday she gave him a tour of their facility. Now that he’s feeling better he is curious about the theater community here.
- I’ve attended one session of the Hill Country Poets. Although the critiquing aspect isn’t as rigorous as I’m accustomed to, they are friendly and welcoming, and I like the leader very much. They meet in the Unity Church, another community I’m interested in learning more about.
- Neighbors:one brought me some irises when she split her bulbs. The guy next door lent us a ladder and trimmed some branches.* The other next-door neighbor shares his lawn guy with us. I met an across-the-street neighbor at a yoga class, and she brought us brownies the other day. After we moved in, a man across the street helped us connect the washer. Walking the dog has allowed us to meet some interesting folks, including theater people. The owner of the house behind us came over to apologize when they were doing some roofing over the summer, and his mom, who occupies the house, visited us soon after. A woman on another street, whose daughter is the same age as our granddaughter, is becoming a good friend. I’ve made several friends via people I know in Austin. We feel so welcome, and nobody asks if/where we go to church or for whom we voted.
- In every activity, there is a connection to something else. Yoga/neighbor. Church/nature center/chorale/theater. Acupuncturist/yoga/chiropractor/computer guy. I ran into a knitting friend in a thrift store the other day. We’ve been here less than four months. I’m going to have to start wearing makeup to the grocery store!
Because of Gary’s back and hip issues we have done less exploring of the area than we would like, but we’ve visited some of the surrounding communities. We look forward to seeing more of the Guadalupe River. We’re close enough to San Antonio to take advantage of museums and culture there, if we can tear ourselves away from everything going on here. We’ll take granddaughter to the S.A. Zoo and museums when it gets cooler.
I had planned on only parts 1 and 2, but this is long, so Part 3 will be about my personal journey in this new place.
* A few days later I made a big batch of soup and took some over to him. He flat would not take it. He’s been friendly and a good neighbor, but he would not accept my small offering to thank him for his help. This still puzzles me.
Sometimes you push through. Sometimes you pull back. I’m doing a little of both to get through this slump.
I want to make it clear I recognize the difference between clinical and situational depression, and this is the latter. It’s not unusual to have a letdown after a major life change, even a happy one.
Four months of adrenalin-fueled hard work take a toll. I feel like I’ve aged a couple of years through this move.
But I’m English–stiff upper lip, pull up your socks and carry on. Here’s my plan:
- Self-care! Acupuncture. Chiropractor. Naps. I have to stop dinging myself–small cuts, burns and bruises. No falls.
- Stop giving myself artificial deadlines. Unpacked boxes, annoying and unsightly as they are, will eventually be gone. We are gradually sorting and hanging art. (Half-awake one night, I imagined the bedroom was full of dark boxes closing in on me.)
- Get out: a river walk, a play, a visit to the library or art center, a browse through a thrift shop.
- Plant things. I’ve never been much of a gardener. After leaving most of the container plants at the condo, I’m rebuilding–herbs and other container plants for now, but I’m eyeing a spot for a meditation garden, and I’m going to look in thrift and antique shops for a bench.
- Read. I don’t remember the title of the last book I read. I keep up with periodicals: the New York Times (online), the New Yorker, the local daily, and now that we have cable TV for the first time in 20 years there are overwhelming choices of news and movies. Books are unpacked and I’ve started a fascinating biography of a pioneering Texas women doctor who reminds me of Anne of Green Gables, except her story is true.
- Make friends. This is a big challenge. We’ve met a few neighbors and dog-walkers, and I have some connections through Austin friends. I attended a Democratic women’s mixer. I have joined the Arts Center and plan on checking out a knitting group and a poetry group. When the Hill Country Chorale starts rehearsals in September I plan to join. We will soon start attending the local UU church. I must remember it takes time to establish friendships.
- Create art, knit. Art is satisfying, knitting is meditative and calming.
Most important of all is gratitude. I am so grateful for the good life we are able to have, that we have the resources (physical, financial, emotional) to care for the granddaughter. When I check out of the grocery story with a full basket, it’s such a relief to pop in the debit card and not worry about whether there’s enough money in the account to cover it.
Gratitude, patience, knowing when to push ahead and when to pull back. There are no deadlines.