There’s no way that one word alone can sum up the experience of moving house. It should have four or five names, at least, to begin to reflect the massive creature that it is, with all its many arms and heads, and the way it takes hold of your life for a few intense weeks, gets in your face, wraps around you, and threatens to entangle you.
Okay, so perhaps that’s a little too dramatic. But moving house is indeed one of those particularly intense life seasons that cause you to stop almost everything else for the time it takes and focus only on it.
A more appropriate alternate name, for instance, could be Battle of the Boxes. Armed with tape gun and permanent marker, it’s you against the cardboard packing crate, which never seems to close easily (or at least not for me, as I tend to overburden my boxes with stuff upon stuff, just wanting to SEE IT GONE!)
Or what about Master of Deception.
We have moved house ten times in our thirteen years of marriage. Mostly local Sydney moves. One was up the coast, another was interstate. As a child and then teenager my family moved house a lot too, for various reasons.
But no matter how often you do it, you are, in many ways, none the wiser. You forget. It’s a little like giving birth, if you’ll allow me to indulge in a metaphor close to my current biological situation. Even if you screamed yourself through the night, by the time the baby comes in the morning, the memories already start to fade. In birth, and in relocating, people often go back for a second round, sometimes a third (ahem), or even a fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, despite the level of struggle involved (and for those who have made it to these mind-boggling birthing levels, you have all my admiration, and awe).
At various phases of this week, as Dr M. and I and the kids have found ourselves buried in piles of paper, and boxes, and books…don’t get me started on the books, my emotional response has gone up and down, often within hours. ‘Its not that bad,’ I say, surveying the chaos of the living room, like a farmer surveying the state of his crops after a big storm. ‘I think we are getting there.’
Then two hours later I’m on the floor, exhausted, and all around me, north, south, east and west, are random scattered items. Aren’t those the worst? Those small, idiosyncratic details that refuse to be neatly categorised and thus dealt with. They are usually the last to go, thrown into a final ditch effort box marked ‘Random’, which is where they probably came from in the first place, and where they will most likely stay, and yet somehow they insist on enduring, being hauled from place to place because their owners are too overwhelmed to take care of them.
Another name of course is obvious: messy. Master of Mess. The moving monster jiggles everything up. Your schedule, your sleep, your diet, your sense of order. If you try too hard to keep it all together, you’ll go crazy.
But despite all this, moving is a also a time of reflection. Moving, can be, in a sense, a Meditative Experience. If this sounds a little weird and far-fetched, particularly after all I’ve been saying, bare with me while I explain. Even amongst all the chaos, moving accords time for internal recount, in a sense it cannot be helped, it just happens automatically. Along with various items come memories, associations, stories. In moving, for a short time, we can become archeologists of our own lives, and those of our families. We uncover things we had forgotten, or had believed gone, over. Like any life event, it is an opportunity to see the Lord’s hand, to see areas of growth and change.
At its optimum, this time can be a time of thanksgiving.
Of course, I’m aware I write all this from a perspective and position of privilege. In a sense, Dr M. and I, and the kids, gave the moving monster its power in the first place by accumulating so many possessions, by having a house to leave, and another to enter, without having to worry about what happens inbetween. One cannot help but think about those who have no homes to go to, who are forced to leave their homes, without even a backward glance, due to natural disaster or conflict. And what about the permanently dis-placed, with no home on the horizon, existing in places far from home-like.
And then, one thinks of Jesus, with no place to lay his head, not like the nesting birds, or the hole-hidden foxes. As one of my favourite (now departed) Christian artists, Rich Mullins wrote:
And the hope of the whole world rests on the shoulders of a homeless man….
The Lord of heaven and earth who left his home with his father to make one for us. One we need to pack no boxes for, or search for ourselves, or secure through contract of our own making. He prepares a lavish home for us, with many rooms, and secures our safe passage there.
Worth thinking about.