Instead, the reality is that moving is hard, as are most big changes for most people; we're still adjusting and some days are tougher than others. Wanting to represent the complexity of the experience more accurately yet positively, however, I changed my response to include the fact that we went into this knowing that it would be difficult; to stress that we made the move when we did so that we could manage the difficulties at a time when we both still enjoy good health; that our timing also honoured our hope that we could build a new nest and a new lifestyle with a good chunk of life in which to savour those; and most importantly, that while we might not have arrived at maximum contentment yet, mindfulness is guiding us to note, moment by moment, the riches that surround us now, large and small, rather than to regret (and falsely idealise) what we've left behind.
All good, right?
I thought so. The only way to move, after all, is forward, and given all the privilege in my life and the choice I've been able to exercise, being pragmatically positive seems the wisest, healthiest option. So I firmed up that narrative and carried on. Gardening on the terrace as spring advanced slowly; meeting friends old and new for drinks or lunch or coffee; spending more time than ever, in less commute-costly ways, with the grandchildren (it was always a delight to have them as house guests on the island, but being able to have an hour visit at their place and then walk home has its charms, I must say!); working with a new Personal Trainer and building up my running mileage again over new routes; and reading and writing a few hours each day. . . . overall, life has been very good, although I do sometimes still wake at 3 a.m., thinking I hear waves or a foghorn as if I were in my old bedroom, and wonder, Why?. . . .
But in the light of day, I know this move has been a good decision, and I know this condo is well on its way to being a very cosy nest.
|A little leavening to all the prose -- my Illustrated Journal entry for yesterday, when I was trying to distract myself from an afternoon dental appointment with a trip to VanDusen Botanical Garden. . . where the skunk cabbage were still blooming.|
Which is why I was so very surprised, in the dentist's chair a couple of weeks ago, to find tears scrolling across my cheeks and into my ears underneath the large dark glasses the hygienist had asked me to wear as she scraped and prodded and polished my teeth. Involuntary tears that seemed to well up from nowhere, but a nowhere that had a very deep reservoir. I'd dab at them, trying to be discreet, but my eyes would just keep oozing. Actually, I need a verb much closer to "gushing." "Flow" will do, I suppose, if rather on the cliché side of things.
Arguably, it shouldn't be surprising that I might be apprehensive at a new dentist's, even upset. I've found new professionals and service providers nearby to replace, one by one, all those stalwarts I sought out over twenty-five years in our last community, hair stylist, GP, physio, pedicure painters, and yoga teachers. Gradually, I've begun building trust in these new names and faces, and in some ways these changes have brought renewal, invigoration to important care-structure relationships that might have grown stale. But I'd stalled on finding a new dentist.
Childhood memories of a 50s-60s dental office, so many cavities filled under a regime that measured anaesthetic very grudgingly, those sparkling, tinny rings we chose from a tray at the end of each swollen session not quite compensation enough. . . . those memories kept me away from any dentist at all for a couple of dangerous years in my early 20s. I was brought back into the fold by a root canal, necessitated by my negligence, but fortuitous in being at the hands of a dentist whose office my sister managed. He was so gentle and respectful that I learned to trust, and since then, through two moves, I've been lucky enough to find two subsequent dentists, similarly kind and competent and watchful of my responses. My last dentist looked after all four of my kids through to their early adulthood -- when my son was about six or seven, he puzzled me once by speaking of his friend, Rob. I couldn't think of whom that could be, until my son, becoming a bit impatience at my slowness, repeated, "My friend, Rob, you know, Rob the dentist." Ha! In my mind, as a child, "friend" and "dentist" were two words that did not go together. . .
I'm not sure how many root canals and crowns and fillings and reconstructions of fillings Rob's taken me through, even an extraction a couple of years ago, with an implant our next potential project together. So I'd thought it might just be better to stick with him as a dentist, making an excursion over to his office ever six or nine months or so, coordinating it with visits to friends -- after all, it's only a three-hour trip. Each way. If I take my car (okay, so a $90 fare each way as well) and if there's not a big line-up, as there often is, early spring through mid-fall. . . .
Gradually, I conceded that plan wasn't such a realistic one, and I began to feel pressure from the calendar in my head that told me I'd passed the nine-month mark since my last exam and cleaning. Pater already has a dentist here from the years he worked in the city, but his guy only does one day a week now and isn't taking new patients. Plus, looking forward, it's smart to bring as much of the service stuff of our lives within walking distance, I think. Which also ruled out our daughter's dentist, well-loved by them but a 25-minute drive away. So after a bit of research on-line, there I was, a few weeks ago, in a small, bright office in a strip mall five or six blocks away. A friendly enough receptionist, but not one who knew me when I was a 30-something Mom, not one whose twins I'd ask about.
The chairs in the waiting room were comfortable enough, although not the same quality as the ones at Rob's. And the clinic itself reflected our proximity to "inner-city" conditions, so much different than the nearly smug, muted, sub-division, suburban insularity of my last one, as reflected in its name, Lakeside. In that previous clinic, I didn't have to ask to use the washroom -- there was one reserved for patients, just off the waiting room. In the newer one, the receptionist was happy to walk me through the necessary doors to a washroom which was, wisely enough, not accessible for easy use by homeless people or, worse, drug addicts who might otherwise be drawn to it. In the old one, a respectful hush prevailed, and any billing issues kept relatively private thanks to an ample distance between the waiting-room's black leather couches and the fairly long, deep, chest-high, counter of the reception area. Not so in the new, where I became, each moment, aware of the privilege I had long enjoyed. And now was aware of having relinquished.
Perhaps that was one source of the tears, my lost privilege, and if so, perhaps I should be too embarrassed to share that with you. But I suspect it's more complicated than that -- the tears were probably part "parasympathetic nervous-system" response, simply a letting-go of tension I wasn't entirely aware of. They were probably also about that gap between privilege and non-privilege, those of us who have dental care at all, of course, being privileged no matter what clinic we receive it in, but yes, I've crossed a gap that used to protect me much more from an everyday awareness of social injustice.
At the simplest and most obvious level, though, I'm pretty sure those tears went to deeper sorrows about what we've/I've left behind: the care of young children's emerging molars, their adolescent braces removed long ago now; the privilege and security of being known and liked and respected as I move through my days, all those comforting cumulative interactions with community, superficial in many ways and yet through years of exposure providing a depth that will not easily be rebuilt here; the ease of knowing where the washrooms are without having to ask -- the washroom being a synecdoche, of course, for all those little knowledges that make our daily logistics easier (where are the cream and sugar in the café? is there free parking nearby? is that a one-way street? what time does that shop open?).
The tears continued, disturbingly, throughout most of the cleaning, and were somehow invigorated by the dentist coming over to introduce herself. I apologised to her and to the hygienist, explained it had nothing to do with either of them, nor was it going to be typical of my visits in future. Then, just when I thought I had the crying (which at one point was threatening the accompaniment of a sob or two) under control, we were done, and I went through the doors back into the reception area where Pater was waiting. And, of course, the tears started up again, under the sympathetic eye of the very kind, young receptionist. I went ahead and booked my next appointment, though, and I've consoled myself that at least I've made some big inroads into ensuring that they know me, now, at my new dentist's office. And, despite the embarrassment of that appointment, that's a privilege I will enjoy,
You might like to know that I cancelled that appointment once, just wasn't ready to sit through a filling at the hands of a new dentist who only knew me through my tears. But yesterday, I followed through, sat in that chair, had small cavities cleaned out and filled in two of my wisdom teeth -- and I learned that my new dentist (and her assistant) seems to be as kind and respectful and competent as my last one. With any luck, perhaps I'll have another twenty years to confirm that opinion; I'll also be confirming the wisdom of moving to a new community of caregivers now, while I still have the strength to sustain the many challenges of the change, rather than leaving it until later when I may have less control over the process, never mind less time left to enjoy the eventual benefits.
So I've circled back to the questions my friends and former neighbours were asking me a few months ago: How do I like our new urban life here in Vancouver? And my honest answer would still have to be that I like aspects of it very much, and there are other elements that are still challenging. It's exactly as tough, in fact, as I anticipated it would be, and exactly as worthwhile, although sometimes the toughness pops up in surprising ways -- tears in the dentist's office -- and the "worthwhile" can surprise as well -- the French text messages from my tutor pinging a Bonjour as I ride the Skytrain.
What about you? If you've ever made a big move (or perhaps just one that felt big), were you surprised at what you found difficult? Were you ever ambushed by tears at realising you'd left a favourite restaurant or hairstylist or dentist or whatever behind? If you think there might be such a move in your future, what do you think you might find hard to replace in your support/service community? Or are you among those who won't have to leave that community or those who will fight leaving it until the last possible moment? And one last question: how much have you thought about the privilege you've enjoyed where you are, how much that might be threatened by a move, and how you might handle that threat?
Big questions, I know, but I do think these are questions we might think about at this "certain age." And the more we think about them, arguably, the more control we might have about the quality of our next several decades. So let's talk, okay?