Friday, September 11, 2015

Gearing Up to Move (?)

I've learned from experience that I don't handle big life changes well. And here we go.......

Actually, it depends on what the change is. I didn't have a second of doubt before marrying my husband; that decision was as easy as pie. I'm usually pretty good about adopting cats and kittens, too, although Toffee and Lion were hard for reasons that had nothing to do with their superb feline qualities. I was worried that Toffee, being so marvelous, was actually a lost kitten and not a stray. And the rescue where we adopted him has a rule that previous owners can claim lost pets who were put up for adoption up to one year after the adoption happened. So I was very nervous about getting too attached to him for those first few months. (My vet tried to calm me by telling me she would use Sharpie markers to alter his tabby stripes. I hope she was kidding but one never knows with her.)

Long-time readers will remember (and possibly roll their eyes) over my agonizing indecision over whether to keep Lion. We knew he was fabulous; it was more a question of whether we could or should have five cats. That turned out happily although I am still astounded by the sight of our five eating dinner side-by-side. I feel that way almost every day. Having five cats feels kind of crazy to me, I guess, but I made the leap.

That might because I am, in fact, crazy. My realtor thinks so, because I am going bananas, suddenly, over this move despite six years of being eager, if not desperate, for a move to happen.

In a nutshell, I'm feeling overwhelmed and having cold feet because of the huge expense — and the realization that it will take a lot more money that we don't have to fix certain problems that seem insurmountable at the moment. Like the fact that both bedrooms are just a little more than 8 feet wide and configured so that our full-size bed doesn't seem to fit well anywhere. What were we thinking? We were thinking it would work out somehow... until we finally saw the place empty, last night, and could get out our measuring tapes and discover that it won't.

Then there's the frat, with more than 40 MIT brothers, just behind the building. I discovered this right after we signed the Purchase & Sale Agreement. So I did my diligence: I called the police to find out about noise complaints... just three this past year. I asked another neighbor in our new building... they don't mind them. I asked the neighborhood association if they've gotten complaints... they cooed about how the frat helps them clean up the alleys every spring. So I calmed down and told myself it would be okay.

It's not. When we were measuring in the living room last night, I could hear a big group of guys,  talking and chanting loud and clear, even with our windows closed. It looked like they were having a study break or gathering in their dining room with their windows opens. I'm unusually sensitive to that kind of noise. I know this, and I know there's nothing I can do to tolerate it better. aside from growing deaf. For the past year or more, I've spent a great deal of time running a loud white-noise machine that masks similar racket, or playing music when it can't handle the job. I was so looking forward to experiencing real, restful quiet rather than the manufactured kind. So the frat will be a problem for me. (I also hear they are working to get a city permit to allow up to 20 people on their roof deck, which will definitely create lots more noise for us, especially on our roof deck. The city had closed all the fraternities' roof decks after too many students fell from them during parties or just stressful times.)

I'm waiting to hear from our lawyer as to whether it's possible to walk away from this deal unscathed, but it's just a formality at this point: our agent and our banker are certain it's not, and that we might not just lose our hefty deposit, we could be sued for breach of promise, or something [Update: we can't be sued.] So we're stuck. Best to make the most of it and remember that we won't have to live there forever if we're unhappy. Just two years to avoid capital gains taxes and however long it takes to save a small fortune and sink it into improvements to make it attractive to another buyer.

I keep reminding myself that I hated our current place when we first moved in. I find it lovely now, but in the beginning it didn't feel anywhere near as nice as our rented apartment, which had two huge, fireplaced rooms covered in walnut wainscoting and 12 or 14-foot ceilings (they grow ever higher in my memories). My husband and I both remember my words during the walk-through before the closing in 1998: "I think I'm going to throw up." (Empty apartments often look awful; at least ours always do.) At the closing, the lawyer for the seller stopped the proceedings, looked me in the eye and asked sternly if I were signing under coercion because I looked so ashen and reluctant.

Back then, it took me two weeks of painting the place, with plenty of help from my husband, to feel somewhat reconciled to moving in. I have no memory now of why I objected so powerfully... well, it did have an outdated and ugly kitchen and bathroom in addition to its graceful, high-ceilinged living room and bedroom. We renovated the kitchen within a year and have loved it ever since. It took us years to save up for the bathroom, however. Still, we put up with a pretty bad one for several years without angst or misery.

One does get used to things. Sometimes.

I keep reminding myself that my feelings were unfounded then — and similar to how I feel now. I tell myself to snap out of it, or chalk it up to my inability to handle big changes well. To remember that no place will ever be perfect and that every new home needs to be retro-fitted and filled with one's possessions and cats to become "home." I keep trying to dwell on the positives: there's a roof deck for god's sake, a lot more space, two pretty fireplaces, two living rooms (one of which might someday deserve the name of "master bedroom" instead) and lots of walls to hold our library.

My husband has planned a great office for himself in one of the two long, skinny bedrooms. He chose all the furniture with great care, and found reinforced bookcases to make a book wall 16 feet long and 8 feet high. He is psyched for that, at least, and I'm glad for him. You'd think I should be able to arrange our four pieces of bedroom furniture in some kind of reasonable adult fashion in the other, similar bedroom. Not so far. (I wonder if I could have my shoulders and hips surgically narrowed to help me squeeze around the bed.)

I tell myself the ugly, shiny off-white paint will go, along with two hideous ceiling fixtures, and the rusty medicine cabinets, and things will be better. I distract myself with novels, and long walks, and three Milano cookies every night. I take a break from getting rid of stuff when it becomes too painful. I'm doing whatever I can to get through this and hopefully out the other side.

It helped to discover recently that I am a Highly Sensitive Person. (Are you? Take the quick test here.). I discovered only recently that this innate personality trait has been quantified, researched, and written about extensively. I was surprised and comforted to learn about it — it explains so much about me, including my current issues. (Moving is hell for HSPs.) I told my therapist about my discovery at our last meeting a couple of weeks ago (she just retired) and she was stunned. It had been completely obvious to her from the beginning, years ago. She said she had brought it up as a known fact at one of our first meetings — assuming I knew what she meant, and that I'd agreed with her. I vaguely remembered that... but I hadn't known she was referring to sensitivity as a Thing. I'd just thought she was saying it along the lines of "Well, you are terribly fussy..." — as I've heard all my life.

Anyway, I'm trying my best to get myself through, or out of, or around this apparent mess I've made of our lives, home, and finances. If you don't hear from me awhile, know that I'm working on it. I'll get back to you as soon as I can do it from a better place. Maybe that will even be the place up the street. I just don't know.


  1. It's pledge season, that only happens once a year. Be calm, do your 4-7-8 breathing and this too shall pass.

  2. I'm familiar with most of the MIT frats in the Back Bay and would be happy to tell you what I know. For example, the one I'm affiliated with on Comm Ave (between Fairfield and Gloucester) is a mad-scientist type frat. But there are some in Back Bay that are more traditionally fratty. FWIW

    You are amazing at making things work. You will make this place work too.

    1. KellyJMF, thanks for your kind words, which mean a lot to me! The frat is PKT, which is not the mad-scientist one, I believe. It's the one with the pool table facing Comm. Ave. Gosh, we seem to have a lot in common, between Back Bay and Acadia! If you would ever like to email me my gmail is ProperBostonian.

  3. being told you are a highly sensitive person and being told you are being diagnosed as a highly sensitive person are two completely different things.

    I totally get the aversion to the new, because it isn't yours. I mean technically it is, but you haven't moved in, you haven't put your stuff in it, and you haven't mentally moved in yet and claimed it, which is so much work. Think of it like if you were a cat and you had to go about 'marking' everything by rubbing on it all.. it isn't right until you do.


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