OUT OF CHARACTER

One of my newest blogosphere friends, Uju over at Through Mirrored Lens, presented me with the freestyle writing challenge.   As summer has kicked into gear over here and I’ve gotten busy with a teen underfoot wanting food all the time, sports physicals, driver’s test questions, carting said teen back and forth to his new job, etc., I initially turned her down saying I didn’t have time.   However, finding myself with a few free minutes to myself this weekend, I picked it up and gave it a go.     My challenge prompt was:

Tell us about something OUT OF CHARACTER.

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know some of my more recent background.   However, my brain still seems to be trying to process it all because it came out again in this writing.

Credit Google Images

Credit Google Images

Imagine for a moment that someone picked you up, took you out of your usual surroundings, removed you from your family and friends, took away most of your material possessions, and set you down in a new place in direct contrast to how you always believed you would live. This is what happened to me two years ago.

Everything was going my way and I was finally living how I wanted to live and loving it. I could see the road ahead stretching brightly before me. I had so many plans for the future! Just a few days after our trip to Europe that year, we made the abrupt decision to move for my husband to take a new job. Abrupt is not our norm. I am not one who does well without A LOT of planning. Alas, LIFE had other plans for me. Within the course of 4 weeks, my husband was to begin a new job in a new state. He was to go for training for a couple of weeks and then we would follow.

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My husband needed this. My son wanted/needed this. My mother kept saying it was the chance of a lifetime. I tried to embrace this as an adventure. Instead, I just felt crazed. Crazed with the need to get our son enrolled in school in a new place and get records transferred in the middle of summer, crazed trying to find a rental home in a place that doesn’t have a lot of homes for year-long rental, crazed trying to get my husband’s paperwork filled out, insurance forms submitted, and our house on the market.

And then we were there. School started. My husband’s job started. I was alone. I was living in a tourist destination in the off-season. I was now in a hotter-than-hot climate with a husband doing a daily 4-hour commute (due to a situation that developed right after we arrived and had signed a lease) and a child happily ensconced in a new school so small he had the girls in a tizzy. They treated him like a rock star – following him around, calling him at all hours, and clamoring for his attention. But I was alone. Alone in a place where I knew no one. My son was busy being the new rock star. The school was so small there weren’t many young families close by so no meeting new people that way for me. My husband was busy learning a new job and, with the 4-hour commute each day, basically showed up to eat and sleep.  I was alone in someone else’s house with the bare minimum of furnishings we had brought. The nearest shopping was an hour away.  There was no mother there to grab a quick lunch with.

It was months of being alone. And then I met Mary……my 80-year-old neighbor (a.k.a. saviour) who picked me up, carried me through the loneliness, gave me reasons to explore, helped me discover, grow, and continue. And through Mary came Agnes, yet another person who made the difference and helped me re-find myself in the midst of the devastating mental landscape where I had been dwelling. And so many others along with them….they became my whole life there.

Out of character is something I avoid. I have spent a lifetime being me and by now I’m pretty good at it. I’ve always been quite proud that of my parents’ three children, I’ve always been the “stable” one, the responsible one, the one that can be counted on. You know what you’re getting with me because it almost never changes. But this “out of character” experience, it changed me. It shook me to the core, took away everything I thought I knew about me and about my world, shook it up, and when the dust finally settled and I made it back to my home state, I found that the me I’ve always been had been greatly altered.

Some of it was good – I’m calmer. I’m less attached to THINGS. I’m more certain of what I need to survive (my family!). I notice the small things. I have a much slower pace after a year in a community of senior citizens and basically living the life of a retiree. I don’t know many people here, but I was quicker to approach the neighbours here and make myself known to them. After all, a neighbour made the difference for me before. And I know now, I can survive change. It may not be the most comfortable thing but I can actually do it and it can be good in ways. I know now to keep my eyes peeled for people who make me a better me by giving me a place to contribute and matter. And how strange it is to have a child who, in our old life, was trying hard to slide between the cracks and stay under the radar, is now on the ski team, the swim team, the tennis team, and a newly-certified lifeguard with a job at 15!

But there are drawbacks. I’m more disconnected now, even still. That kind of rattling that hits you all the way through isn’t easily gotten over. I know I’m not as trusting in LIFE as I was before. I’ve lost a lot of the naiveté that comes when you believe that things will always follow the path you have mapped out in your head. Maybe that’s a plus, not a minus. Who knows? I’m in a new home. Some might say a better home. But it’s not the home where we raised our boys. Our things are all mixed up now, new with old, combinations of tables and chairs and knickknacks in different rooms than they were before to accommodate the new house. It all feels so strange sometimes. I also find that I’m not interested in plastering the walls here with pictures of the life we had before. I want to take and hang new pictures for this new life whatever that will be. I still don’t know what to make of it all.

But if I could, would I go back and skip this part of my life? Would I refuse to move? Would I change the past? No, I wouldn’t. My son has thrived through all this. He’s come into his own in such a huge way that he’d never have done without this. My husband has a job that he loves. It challenges him. It makes him feel vital and gives him growth. He, too, is thriving. For myself, it’ll probably be the very hardest thing I ever did, but deep inside, I think I needed it to happen too. I needed some of the changes it brought. I was too rigid. I needed to slow down and see a lot of the things that I did there – things I wouldn’t have noticed before. I needed the new friends I made there – they each brought something important to me in their own special way. It was actually hard to leave because of them.

I also needed to learn what I did about me, about my husband, about my parents, about my son. It’s all part of my story now. Not a chapter I ever thought I’d write, but one I think makes the difference because I did.

I went over the stated time on the challenge.   Always my issue……having too much to say and trying to figure out stuff through writing!  Therefore, I can’t really call this part of the challenge but I’m posting it anyway because I tried.  I went back after I wrote and added a few pix because a blog post of just black text on a white screen isn’t a very exciting visual…….I also took time to add the links to the post and to write the intro and last few facts.   Finally, since I basically screwed up the whole challenge anyway, I did go back and do a few edits once I was done.    I blame it all on that whole “firstborn, perfectionist” thing!    Anyway, challenge completed in my own inimitable style!

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56 thoughts on “OUT OF CHARACTER

  1. Wonderful post! I do not deal well with change, and for the last three years, there has been nothing but constant change for our family. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster. I’m glad you are doing better. Things like this make us stronger, even if we don’t want it to happen!

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  2. I can relate to so much of this. In the first 20 years, my husband’s job had us moving across country. At least twice, I had to give up career opportunities that mattered to me. It was all about economics…his was the better salary. But, it hurt, and I harbored some resentment about “what could have been”. It changed once we started a family.. we moved them to Maryland, South Carolina, and back to Pennsylvania, before planting roots. I actually embraced most of these moves, seeing them as an adventure. It changed us all in positive ways, and helped us grow close as a nuclear family. We always landed where we were meant to be at the time. ☺ Van

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    • Wow. It sounds like you’ve gotten very good at this whole “change” thing! Also most impressed that you, too, ended up in PA! Are you still here? I can only imagine how upsetting it would’ve been if I’d had to leave a job that mattered to me, let alone twice! Sounds really tough! The funny thing is….though we’ve both had totally different adventures along the way, we both subscribe to the same theory…that we land where we are meant to be at the time. I like that. Not easy getting there sometimes, but worth it in the end it seems!

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        • Hah….that’s what I thought too…..”Oh, I’ll move for retirement…” Watch out with thoughts like that…….you never know! LOL. As for where…….the possibilities are endless….I’m sure you’ll know which way to go when the moment presents itself!

          Liked by 1 person

  3. You threw the challenge out of the window and yet owned it totally 🙂 This was a great post and something that I have been thinking about a lot – comfort zone in particular. It is exciting and adventurous alright but after a while you just feel like saying “ENOUGH!” You leave behind a trail of “What ifs?” destined to be never answered. But when you look back and see how far you have come, those questions don’t always seem SO relevant 🙂 We make peace.

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    • What a nice comment, Parjakta! Thank you. I totally agree about looking back and the questions not seeming quite as relevant in hindsight……sometimes it’s enough just to get through and find peace on the other end!

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  4. Fantastic post! I’m a person who enjoys routine and doesn’t care for change, either. Your story sounds challenging, but I think your ability to self-reflect and to see the lessons and positives in the situation is such a gift. Although it’s been difficult at times, you’ve grown as a person. You took a tough time and became better because of it! And, isn’t that really the point in life? So happy you are in a good place, now! 🙂

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  5. I bet it did you some good just to write it all down. I hope it did you some good to share it, and to know people are listening. It’s hard to step out of your comfort zone, but it always seems to bring some unexpected good.

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    • It seemed to flow out of me as soon as I started writing and yes, it really does help. I’m also constantly amazed at the bloggers on here who so often relate to my own feelings…you do have a tendency to get caught up in your own world and think you’re the only one, but on here, it’s like being caught up in a giant bear hug! LOL. Totally agree with you on the fact that stepping outside that zone always seems to come with huge rewards at some point.

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  6. It just kept nodding my head about what you were writing. Great post!

    I could take some advice from you. You see, we have been so transient that I don’t know how to be settled, and we are going to be here in Chicago for a while. I keep waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under us.

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    • Hah. Don’t, please don’t, think I’m ready to dispense advice quite yet….I’m still reeling over here…LOL.

      I know EXACTLY what you mean about waiting for that rug to get pulled out from under you….there were days last year that I was actually scared to get out of bed worrying about what the day would bring. I’ve been in this new area up here almost a year now…..10 months actually, and it’s only been the last 3 months or so that I’ve calmed enough to know I can get up and have a perfectly fine day with no disasters befalling us. (It was really a disastrous year in MD!) But……I still see myself trying not to get too attached to the new house or the neighbours, and/or my new writing group…..it’s a battle right now that I have to wage to make sure I don’t live in that disconnect. Hoping that habit and having lived a full year through all the seasons up here will see that calm down sometime soon……

      Chicago area sounds like a great area to set up shop for a while…..lots to do, plenty of people to meet, interesting sites, yes, I think you’re going to do just fine there and perhaps you’ll be surprised a bit down the line to find yourself settled without any effort at all! Habit is a wonderful thing……..helps in all sorts of ways!

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  7. Here I am again Torrie. I totally relate to your first paragraph in bold. I did just that 10 years ago and I’m not settled yet. Your feeling of being disconnected I relate to as well. I hope that feeling disapates for you. I’m not sure mine will after all this time. My very best wishes to you to be settled in your new home and I hope you don’t have to tolerate that uggy Maryland humidity ever again.

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    • Hello again!

      I’m so sorry you have similar feelings of that disconnect. It’s a tough one for sure. I think if I was much younger, I’d have done alot better with that move and this one. As it is, I think we get to a point where we know what we like, we set ourselves up in a life that we enjoy, we get comfy and when that’s yanked out from under us, we just don’t even have a plan. I’ve had the thought many times that we were set – I had the retirement all figured out, I knew where we were going and bam! I still look back and can’t believe we did this. I know we’re in a much better place now as far as neighbourhood, area, etc., but geez! what a way to break out of the mold. I can’t think of anything more stressful all the way through.

      I hope you come in for a landing soon too and that you end up as I am now…..perhaps a bit battered, but also a bit wiser, closer to those you love, and hopefully even happier at some point down the line…….that last part I’m still waiting on…..right now, I still consider myself in recovery mode!

      As for that Maryland humidity….yeah…Maryland is one of those places I’ll NEVER do again. I didn’t even get into the horrible sequences of events we suffered through while there, but suffice it to say, there are signs and then there are SIGNS that you are just not meant to be somewhere and at this point, I won’t even fly over Maryland to get somewhere else! LOL.

      Hang in there, Carol. There is a season for all things…..

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I really enjoyed this post too and am happy you wrote as much as you wanted. This line resonated: “I know now to keep my eyes peeled for people who make me a better me by giving me a place to contribute and matter.” That’s smart and lovely. Good advice.

    I’m personally not a big fan of changes “visited” upon me, which is largely what you describe. I need to rail and fuss for awhile before I am willing to “start making the best of it” or learn something. I admire adaptable people but I think for me, having a certain amount of control and not a lot of roller coaster changes helps me feel secure, which I value. I’m guessing you’ll understand….

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  9. Torrie – I loved this! It’s so hard to have to give up “the familiar”. But always good for us – if we embrace the changes. You did well.
    I also – 6.5 years ago – got way out of my comfort zone (seems to be the story of my life) and finally am in a place I really do love. It is slowly becoming clearer in my heart about The Burg…… we’ll see what the future brings.
    Thank you for sharing your heart here. ❤
    cate

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    • Cate, I so appreciate this comment. I was so unsure about whether this was “too close” or “too much” or “too negative” to be sharing on here but I’ve had so much reassurance and your comment is golden to me. The very best thing about WP is getting feedback like this and knowing that others have travelled similar paths and have made it! I’m so glad that you’re now in such a good place for you……perhaps it takes travelling these roads just to appreciate the peace at the other end, huh? Can’t know the future, but maybe it’s enough to be happy in the present…..

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  10. Great insight into your journey Prompt. Change is constant, life is uncertain. I haven’t ‘physically’ moved around much these past few years but I find that change (life, death, illness, friendships, jobs, tragedy) comes in other forms and can be just as unsettling and challenging. What doesn’t kill us, right?

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  11. What a great post Torrie! it was fun to learn more about you and your “adventure.” I love how it changed you to be a neighbor that reaches out – what a wonderful gift that is you got in all of this eh?

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      • That is awesome! We never know what someone is going through – but it is nice to know you got through this and seemed to come out even better from it. It’s great to look for the small gifts and treasures along the way :).

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  12. I loved this post because it covered so many of the feelings I had when we loved across France for PF’s new job five years ago. A friend told me, “don’t try to recreate what you have here down there, or you’ll never be happy. Creating something new won’t make what you had before disappear”. He was right, and we adapted. But the whole experience changed me too.

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  13. Change is good, so they tell us, but it can be pretty challenging trying to incorporate the new person we become because of the change with the old person we thought we were. Seems to me you’ve done that well and even if it feels like a work-in-progress, you’ve been able to see the positives out of the experience and that’s probably the most important thing. Really compelling post to read, Torrie.

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    • Thanks, MOSY. I do think you’re right……kind of like my furniture….the changed me and the old me are still trying to make friends and find the balance, but I think we’re slowly coming up for air more and more……..fingers crossed that we’re finally going to calm down a bit…..

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  14. I used to have this motto that came from an old Woody Allen film that was: Change Equals Death, and found that although I clung to that thought, my life was in constant upheaval. Being on tour, living on a bus and in hotels, and renting apartments for no longer than 6 months at a time is a pattern I had to get used to, but wasn’t terribly keen on. But without it, I’d never have seen or experienced the things I have, nor met the people I’ve come to know and love.
    I think it was Budha who said, “Nothing in life is certain except change.”
    I’m trying to embrace that idea as much as possible. It has brought a richness to my life that is unequaled to anything else I compare it to.
    A beautiful story, Torrie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow. I can’t imagine having to get used to that much upheaval. Thanks for this comment….I can see that richness you describe in my own life because of this one experience I’ve had…..good to remember.

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  15. When my parents moved from the town of my birth while i was in boarding school, i felt like someone had ripped out a part of me. i hated that I wasn’t given a chance to say goodbye to the land that had molded me, hated that i hadn’t been allowed to do my own packing– so things i would have loved to keep ended up being left behind. It was a troubling period with new faces and new alliances to forge. I can’t say i’ve managed making new friends well so far, but whenever i walk down the road and the woman who roasts yam, the store owner selling frozen meat, and the man at the drugstore call out to say hello, i feel like i’m finally grounded.

    Thanks for doing this and sharing your story 🙂

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    • Wow! What a story and I’m so sorry! I can only imagine how hard that must have been on you. I really feel every ounce of your pain…..the one thing I did have, at least, was that finality of packing things up and taking those moments to say ‘good-bye’ to our old life. I’m glad already for the settling you’re feeling in your new place in life. And as hard as it might be, Uju, I hope you will try and get out there and meet people. I know the natural instinct is to curl up and try and hang on to the old life while you heal but hard as it is, the only way forward is by getting out there and creating a new life….it’s only possibilities right now, I know, but with your efforts, possibilities become reality.

      Thank you for challenging me on this. I was reluctant at first, but it’s been a very therapeutic exercise and since posting on here, one that I’ve found alot of people were quite ready to share with me. A good experience all the way around.

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  16. Our lives are very similar and yet we’re the counter-opposite when it comes to change – I love it, and get bored and fed up when things turn predictable. I’m usually looking to generate my own purpose for inciting change at this point whether that be on myself or those around me – I strongly suspect those around me prefer a degree of stability every now and again :-). It’s really interesting to hear about your journey and upon reflection, what you made of it. It’ll be interesting to hear what you reflect upon given your recent move in another 3 years from now!! Looking forward to that instalment 🙂

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    • Hmm, I wonder if I’ll be the same someday…..I just said to someone yesterday, chaos seems to be our new normal….still, I think I’ll probably always do best with a solid home base. Can’t imagine how all this will feel in 3 years….still getting used to the changes from the past 2 years! You are a lucky girl to embrace change as you do, Clare. I really admire that!

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      • Has it’s moments!! Lol 😊😊. I always judge things by asking myself whether in 10 years time I’d look back and regret not having done stuff or tried stuff. That way I can always say, tried it – it’s great, or tried it – but won’t be attempting that again! Whatever the path, we’ll have a laugh & memorable moments en route …… 😊

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  17. If I remember correctly (but I’m usually wrong) it was the story of meeting your neighbour where I first read and met you, so I’m glad it all happened.

    I feel sorry for you having bare walls, so if you want a picture of me to put up in sure I can arrange something….lol!

    Seriously though, my friend started a memory wall and I love it, different frames and different pictures etc. You could put some of your writing from your ‘retired days’ in one 🙂

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    • Fear not, Juls, I have tons of non-photographs on my walls and clocks and other cool stuff. It’s just the photographs I’m gradually taking and hanging now…new pix for a new life. Do very much like the idea of that memory wall…..will have to think on that and see where it might fit in. as for the pic of you, I will put it right over one of the mantles so send it on! LOL……you are full of great ideas! Thanks so much!

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  18. Wow. The only moving I’ve done is within my home town (except when I moved in with a boyfriend or two…) yet they were still not too far away! Hubs wanted to move to the West end of Montreal and I cried NO because it would then be long-distance from my sisters!

    Now? Sometimes I wish I had had a chance to up and go somewhere totally new. Maybe when the boys move out I’ll get more adventurous. I’m already 51 so before they bugger off, I could easily be 60. I’m counting on remaining in good health and getting the travel bug! 😀

    Loved your story and, thanks to all the positive feedback you’ve gotten here (took me ages to read ’em all!), you will do fine.

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  19. I’m glad you went over the time. Some things take time to be said and for this amazing post all those things had to be said. Love it. It’s so true… Sometimes it feels like your a tree being taken out of its forest and then planted again somewhere totally different. The roots have to grow back, they have to grow deep again in order to keep the tree stable. I love this post, I love what you’re saying and I hope your roots will grow back. Deep and strong.

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  20. Thank goodness for you and your inimitable style! Having been moved twice during my senior year in high school I can relate to the trauma that huge life changes and sudden uprooting can bring. I have come to believe in the past few years that every step of our journey is intentional, even if it does not jibe with our picture of where/what/who we should be. I applaud your courage and honesty in facing upheaval square in the face!

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    • Aww, thank you, Karen. I, too, (albeit unwillingly and with much kicking and screaming…LOL) have come to the same conclusions……I know each step is important in the grand scope of who we were meant to be and that each step adds just that little bit more to the total, but darn if it isn’t hard getting through it when your own pic and LIFE’s pic aren’t matching up! 🙂

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