Thinking about the patterns that form my now 37-year-old self, I can see that I’ve always enjoyed periods of big, bold change. I decided to leave my comfortable, low-lying suburban upbringing for chaotic, sky-scraping, and often (especially early on) brutally lonely NYC. I drove cross country and subleased a room in Seattle for a few months while saving for a quick trip up to Alaska, even though the plan required me to work three jobs. One summer in Alaska, I moved temporarily into a school bus to save some money gearing up to my self-imposed career demotion as I picked up my life to move to Reno for “true love” (and work a retail gig, combined with WWOOFing). I said “true love” tongue in cheek at the time; insurance in case it didn’t work out – but happily, sweetly, it did.
Marriage, and especially stepparent-dom, required me to stabilize some. The periods of major change became fewer. Ultimately, we bought a house. Career moves were something to be carefully negotiated and orchestrated because, the mortgage. There were many, many other considerations that play into orchestrating and nurturing family, especially across distance – the airfare, PTO, generally keeping the lights on and feeding our (discerning) faces.
Wes and I joke that our most bitter arguments are about how to load a dishwasher (spoiler: it’s not actually about that), whereas when it comes to life’s big stuff we navigate together with good, sometimes gallows humor and dance-like mutual support. This is true.
But coordinating proactive life change between two people isn’t just doubly challenging as it is for one. Creating change together is first multiplied by the number of factors in both of our lives (family, personal, career, hobbies, commitments), and then magnified again by both of our desires and fears.
As my stepdaughter started college, I felt that urge rise in me pretty fiercely: all of our lives had and were changing, and it was time for my husband and me to follow suit. After ten years of being together and me taking my considerable, but also wild and and often intense, energy and sinking it in, down, in one place, I needed freedom and possibility.
I needed to no longer be tethered to a mortgage. I needed to take risks in order to explore and grow my ability to focus on art and writing, more.
My husband was there, too, in spirit. But he grew up in one place, and stayed there for a long time. His life experience wasn’t about fecklessly moving temporarily into a school bus for a summer. His adventures were many, but more local.
So I could see the steps where he couldn’t as easily believe in them. As we started taking these steps, he caught up quickly and often outpaced me. Example: I did the bulk of driving us in planning our month in New Mexico in January. But once there, I had a difficult time adapting to my new environment. I felt like I was catching up with myself as I took tentative walks through the neighborhood. Meanwhile, Wes found and ran up multiple mountains in the first week. (That’s not an exaggeration).
What does it take to change a life? The answer is a lot, and it’s incredibly complicated. There is no safe bet. But I can tell you, stepping into this new chapter as we are right now – mortgage-less, renting a tiny home at the foot of beautiful and world-class Hatcher Pass, continuing to grow Alli Harvey Art and I am painting/writing more and more – I feel an electric sense of possibility and excitement. I have this tell-tale chest expanding feeling that points at something big on the horizon.
It is. I have big plans for Alli Harvey Art, friends! Looking forward to sharing more soon.
Meanwhile, here are some photos from recent times:
You amaze me!! I love all you do and admire the guts you have to DO IT!
I am fresh back from 2 months in Taos, my former home prior to AK. The assignment proved to be a gift beyond my imagination. Saying YES wholeheartedly sometimes come from a blind knowing, right?!. If I had really looked at it, that chicken-shit part of me would have never complied.
As always I am wishing you the best today, this winter and year.
see you around the hood
<3 Joanie, you're amazing. It's nice to know that you, too, would have trepidation kick in were you to actually be aware of the scope of what you're about to do. Ever get called brave? People used to say that about be moving to Reno, and it was always a head scratcher. We're just doin' life. Glad to have you back here and looking forward to seeing you.
Typed a long lengthy response and then somehow deleted it?!? In any case, this resonated SO much for me. Tom and I also navigate these changes completely differently but somehow manage them with a ‘dance-like’ mutual support. Though ours isn’t always in tempo and sometimes feels like we are listening to different music! Changing a life is incredibly difficult and Joanie is right, it must be approached wholeheartedly and often trusting blindly. I, too, have been called ‘courageous’ which I also find a total head scratcher. Cause, yeah, we’re just doing life. (and just so you know, we used to argue about loading the dishwasher – now we don’t have one. Problem solved! :-p
Jan, your comment 1) prompted me to look into and change the approval settings on my blog – I’m always finding new quirks of WordPress, and now you can just comment w/o approval. Looks like that’s how the longer version got lost, sorry about that; 2) made me super happy to read – you know I am cheering you + Tom on, and it’s somewhat relieving to know your coordination is similar to ours. Agreed on building on the dance metaphor. AND, lol to the dishwasher – guess what, we don’t have one in the tiny home OR Airstream! Who says you can’t solve marital issues by removing the surface cause.
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