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Beyond the Status Quo


Art by Jodi Adkins

When my partner Jodi presented her MFA thesis on “Disrupting the Status Quo,” I applauded wildly. First, because she is such an amazing human, but also because every word she said is true. Some of the most meaningful discoveries in our lives come when we get outside of our safe nests and try something totally new. Every word she said that day resonated with me as a writer, as a person who is embarking on a new phase of life, and as someone who is regularly seeking a deeper connection with the world around me.

As I beamed at her and nodded my head at every phrase, I wasn’t thinking, obviously, about the disruption of my own carefully constructed protected harbor. This week, we moved.

Our new house is less than a mile from our old one, but my gut reaction to even this iota of disruption is kind of astonishing to me, to say the least. You would think from the level of anxiety I’m experiencing that I had been booted from my home by a mean landlord and forced to live in the wilds. You might even think from my unease that we are moving to a dungeon or a prison or a hell hole. You would probably be surprised when you see how poorly I'm sleeping that moving was our choice. We simply wanted to live in a slightly smaller, more manageable house, to a place where we can “age in place,” as Jodi says.

You would think from the level of anxiety I’m experiencing that I had been booted from my home by a mean landlord and forced to live in the wilds.

My family moved a lot when I was a kid, but I was never in charge of making it happen. I just happily explore my new room and all was well. I didn’t love adjusting to a different school if we moved to a new neighborhood, but mostly I found my way and it was all fine. So I can’t blame my current state of unease on a childhood of torture. This current experience has simply reminded me of just how primitive I am. I like to know what’s going to happen, and when and where it will all occur. When you move, it’s like sliding over into the passenger’s seat and letting some stranger take the wheel while you’re blindfolded.

Early in the process of getting our old house ready to sell, which meant living for about a week surrounded by plastic on the carpets and paint cans everywhere, Jodi bought me some new running socks. That’s when I knew that I was officially the least flexible person on earth. They weren’t my regular white running socks; they were new and colorful and interesting. I tried to smile. I tried not to whine, “I want my old socks,” but I wasn’t successful. Now, in my old house, which I have taken for granted for years, I am in full, deep appreciation, adoring every inch of what feels like my last grasp of familiarity. “I love that wall,” I think. “Our new walls won’t be that wonderful, I’m sure.”

But of course I know that this is simply my reaction to change, not to the house, or the move, or my new street, or our old back yard. More than 40 years ago, when I quit smoking, I was choosing to do it, and I knew it would be so much better for me, but I was also convinced that I would never be as happy again. But I know much more about myself now than I did when I was 23. One primary piece of knowledge I have is that, if it’s this hard to make a change, it’s time to do it.

On an intellectual level, I look at all of the people I know who have moved many times and discover new worlds and new neighborhoods and new things about themselves. They don’t spend their days grieving over new garbage collection days or a different view in the backyard. I want to be a person who can change with grace much more than I want to be a person who can’t.

The status quo is lovely in its own tiny way. It’s a place we find occasionally where we can rest and dig in roots and learn what needs to be learned. Then we look toward the horizon and realize there are some more things we’d like to do. I can’t help but think that this is where we get to experience the real richness of life. We find out some new things about ourselves, we make new connections, and we literally see the world from a different angle. This is not the most fun process I’ve ever experienced, but I trust fully that something lovely is about it happen.