Surrender. Breathe. Repeat. Lately this has become my life motto. For weeks the new house wasn’t a home. The old house wasn’t a home either anymore. 6.30 A.M. I would wake up in the old house. I kept a few possessions there and would get ready for work. 5.15 P.M. I would make my way to the new house from work. I would tare out carpets, scrub wooden floors until my hands were raw and painted the puke coloured walls with a less repulsive shade. The new house was a tumbly mess of boxes and contents and old furniture and new furniture. The old house was an eerily empty space stripped down to the bare necessities. (Note to self: abandon mission minimalism.) The absence of just one place I could call home was lesson number one in surrender.
Lesson number 2
We have finally moved into the new house. We have given the keys of the old house back to our former landlord and neatly arranged our dishes and glasses in the kitchen cabinets of the new house. Some of the boxes are unpacked. The floors are clean. Most of the walls are white. And the pungent smell that had been left behind by the previous owner has faded into the background. But there is still a lot to do before I feel at ease in this unfamiliar place. The bathroom and kitchen have not been modernised since the 70s. (Do I need to say more.) The front door has a cat flap and with my cat allergies, the chances of us ever getting a cat are zero. We are only halfway there. Having my things tucked away in the shelves that the space provides has made it feel more like home. I can carry out my usual routines. I just have to carry them out in a less than perfect house. That is lesson number two in surrender.
I write this as if it was a simple of matter accepting the situation. For some it might be, but for me these lessons in surrender were brutal. Anxiety was running through my veins as I navigated the uncertainty that engulfed the weeks gone. Surrender wasn’t a peaceful act of compliance for me. I struggled and resisted. And I schemed my escape more than once. That is what anxiety makes me do. I have moved countries, broken of relationships and abandoned university degrees because of my anxiety. When a situation becomes too dire, I jump ship. But when you’re chin-deep into a relationship and you just bought a house together, you cannot simply jump ship. When love is on the table, you have to defy the impulse to jump ship.
So life beckoned me on my knees. I could sputter and moan all I wanted. There was no fleeing the situation. Not this time. When my skin felt like it was burning from the inside out, I had to sit with it. When my head was spinning a million miles an hour on top of my exhausted body, I had to sit with it. Face the anxiety head-on. With the world’s most ungraceful (and at times ungrateful) attitude, I caved in and surrendered.
There was no enlightenment. No peaceful feeling or deeper understanding. It was just a matter of putting on foot in front of the other. An act I have performed many times when anxiety came for a visit. Action is the antidote to despair. What was different this time is that I eventually let go of struggling with the struggle. I was no longer anxious about being anxious. The struggle was there, but the meta-struggle disappeared. No peace, but less distress. A simple three-step plan. Surrender. Breathe. Repeat.
How was November for you?