4 life-saving steps when dealing with Big Change


image via SheMadeCrafts

Years ago my bed linens became a window into my own psyche.

‘Tis a strange statement from someone who rarely makes her bed. I tried for years to take the Martha Stewart High Road (even google-ing how to fold a fitted sheet. Life is waaaay to short for that, btw) and it just didn’t take.So I just closed the ‘ole bedroom door and prayed that none of my guests wanted to take an upstairs tour.

I digress…

Back to deep thoughts about pillow cases and dust ruffles. It began the day the hub came home and asked me if I still had a spirit of adventure. Such a loaded question! It was more like spirit of relaxation in that moment because we had only been in our house a year and 1/2 after a very long building process (our DREAM home that my spouse built with his own 2 hands). I was only two days past unpacking the last box, ready to take a breather.

“Adventure? What kind of adventure?”

Heavy sigh from me.

Wide-eyed wonder from the hub.

He’d been offered a promotion in his company and it required a New York address. He launched into the our-kids-are-young-and-flexible-it-would-be-fun-to-do-something-rash speech and all I could do was look around at the plates and pans that finally found their final resting cabinet place.

Luckily, my spouse was clued in to my wanderlust nature when we first got together. He was counting on me thinking about the positives (Manhattan fun, snow storms, road trips to new places, learning to say Cwa-fee and dwag), yet all I can do was bite my nails and ask a million questions about what his other options were.

After two look-see visits, a lot of freaking out about how little you get for your money anywhere near the city, and one very teary-eyed talk with our extended family, we did it: Packed up two toddlers (one that had been potty-trained 4 days prior), 16,000 lbs of stuff (I know, what on earth was in that moving truck?) and drove 8 days to start our new life.

This confessional writing is not about our move, our NY experience or even how we decided to return to the Northwest. It’s about the weeks in between when we really weren’t sure if we were going to do it.

The agonizing feeling of letting go and letting the answer unfold on its own.

Enter the bed linens….

I started doing something really weird. Like, strange Who am I?  weird.

I started ironing my pillowcases and the top sheet and made my bed every day. At first I tried to ignore this behavior and pretend to myself that it was perfectly normal. But, really? An iron and board set up in my bedroom for weeks?

As we got closer to saying the final yes and set out to make an appointment with our selling realtor, I broke it down for myself in a journal. First, I was beginning to see a metaphor—ironing out the wrinkles and making something perfect was very therapeutic when my life was about to be turned upside down. I also came to some interesting conclusions:

I do not like to feel like things are out of my control.

My first inclination with change is to be fearful.

I elicit control in strange ways when I feel helpless.

And here’s an even funnier element of this little tale—I continued to iron away even when I figured out the psychology behind it! Cracked myself up. Of course, NY turned out to be fantastic and I look on that move as a total positive because it really has added to our lives as a family. The moment we pulled out of the driveway, I released the sheets, the iron, the need to know what comes next. The whole experience taught me trust. Trust that it’s really out of my hands. After this experience I made a list for dealing with Big Life Changes in the future (and I’m counting this whole simplicity thing because it hasn’t been easy):




1) Welcome adventure and new learning experiences

You just never know what kinds of wonderful are waiting around the corner from new opportunities. New York seemed bigger than life to me, but it did so much for our family bonding experience, not to mention broaden our view of this great country. Some of our closest friends were made there. I still check the ridiculous winter temps in Warwick, NY on my phone.

2) Be positive and expect great things

When we’re fearful and apprehensive, it shows to the world and can cut us off from people who can make transitions easier. Show your best self—believe that this change could be amazing for you and/or your family and wait for the angels to show up. They sure did for us.

3) Recognize that change can also bring necessary sacrifice

There were many things we missed when living in the East. There were days we just yearned to take a walk in February without six layers of clothing. Yet, the snow was incredibly fun. My kids still talk about the winter where we couldn’t see our front steps for a week. Big Change can also help you to be grateful for what you had and also for what can be in a new situation. It’s all about perspective and being open to what good can come out of transitions.

4) Understand that Big Change is a process and patience is required

Whether it’s a cross country move, a change in lifestyle, a new career or even a nest being emptied, it all takes time. Thank goodness for that because overnight change just isn’t a a fun, stable place to dwell. I dealt with our move by journaling, talking incessantly with my spouse, going online to look at places we would be able to visit, and of course, ironing. The process of moving back home was also a major adjustment and being the predictable creature that I am, the iron made another appearance and I just went with it. 🙂

What about you? What’s your ironed sheet when you face the unknown? What big changes brought all kinds of unexpected greatness into your life?


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22 thoughts on “4 life-saving steps when dealing with Big Change

  1. This struck a cord with me! I’m about to move out of my parents house and in with my boyfriend of 4 years and I have so many mixed feelings about the whole thing, but most of it is coming out of my serious dislike for change and the potential for stress!

    • It’s true that a book can provide so much perspective. I satisfy my wanderlust issues by reading about families who just hit the road with their kids (or get a plane, whatever the circumstance). I like reading about bravery. Makes me want to be brave too.

  2. What a helpful post. I’m curious about the reasons for your move back to the NW and your feelings when you did so.

    My life in the PacNW is a mess according to paper; at the moment no job, chronic health issues, few acquaintances, one awesome yet very busy friend, and standoffish neighbors. This is in spite of a Master’s degree, gainful employment in my field for almost 20 years, and an outgoing, kind disposition and personality.

    In spite of having little to show for it, I like myself more than I ever have, I act more true to myself, and I have better discernment than I ever have. And, in the midst of this state, I am realizing issues I assumed were mine are not. My experience of things is there is a cold and aloof and at times fake (as in words-but-no-action and usary) vibe here, as well as a high level of judgment.

    As someone who cares way too much about my impact on others and who tends to internalize others’ judgment than spit it back, this has made me more anxious, not less, which has affected my physical well-being. I long for authentic community at work, in my neighborhood, and in general. I think an enjoyable job and well-functioning health will follow. I am asking myself:

    What if I find and move to an as-yet-unknown-to-me part of the city where there are genuine people, capable of relating?

    What if I do and things go back to feeling how they do now?

    What if I move back to the warm South of my upbringing? Will this also lead to connecting with warm people who are real, or just a more palatable illusion?

    The latter idea seems crazy, to move back to the politically backwards place I ran from, back this time into my parents’ basement, at 40. This wouldn’t look great on paper, either, but it could make for a classic comedy film that I don’t want to star in. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing about how you ironed out things and dealt with the shakiness of Who Am I. I am looking through old journals and photos from my early times here and my life back ‘home’, to help me understand just who I am, and where I need to be next.

    I haven’t found my version of the ironing board, yet.

    • I totally hear you on how difficult it is to leave the south for the Northwest. Now, I don’t want to offend anyone from the NW (because I was born and raised in Seattle, so don’t email me! 🙂 ), but there is a definite pioneer spirit here and it is hard to get to know people. We will be friendly in stores, be glad to give you directions and even chat you up in the grocery line, but we will not be first to ask you to dinner upon your arrival in our neighborhood (again, if you are a friendly NWerner, forgive the generalization). My spouse is one of these people who takes a looong time to warm up to people. I, on the other hand, was raised by a mom from Virginia and the warmth was translated to me…yet, I’m not first up to help you move either. It’s strange because when we moved to NY (the Hudson Valley) our neighbors were incredible. So helpful, warm and kind. I just loved it there and took note of the difference in relational climate. I actually miss it—those folks taught me a lot. I sympathize with your situation and have a couple of suggestions. Are there any southerners around you who have also been relocated to the NW? Seek ’em out! Also, I find that being the first to invite people warms others up out here. Once we witness openness and neighborliness, it is contagious. Keep me posted as to how it is going. Where are you in the NW? Sometimes it makes a difference. Best to you—L

  3. It’s a funny thing to recognize all the coping mechanisms we use to help us deal with change or anything else we’re uncomfortable with.

  4. My version of ironing in times of imminent (read: exciting but terrifying) change: clear surfaces. Every glass, cup, book, bunch of keys, phone…nothing must clutter the house. The family cringe and move around the place with personal belongings bulging in their pockets for fear I will “clean them away” as I tend to forget where I put them at times…lucky I am so loveable 🙂

    • I do this too! The Clutter Police, my family calls me. It’s that whole I-can’t-cook-in-the-kitchen-if-the-counters-aren’t-clear thing. Drives my hub crazy. But, I yamWhatIyam. It’s good to be loveable! 😉

  5. Oh my gosh as soon as I read the ironing thing I knew what you were going to say it was! I have that same reaction, more when things in general feel out of control. For instance currently we are building a house, Hubster has to go for neurosurgery in a couple of days, I have some weird medical stuff going on, work for both of us is crazy and our Insurance is trying to get out of paying for Hubster’s surgery.
    So here are the kind of reactions I have when I feel things are out of my control; my bed is made every morning (normally I subscribe to your whole ‘if the door is closed then it is kind of like Schrödinger’s bed’ 🙂 ) if Hubby is sleeping in I will still make my side with him in the bed. I get really frustrated if the book or DVD collection are out of alphabetical order. I do A LOT of laundry! and sometimes compulsion clean with lots of disinfectant. Also my nails and hair are usually nicely controlled for those few weeks. Basically I keep myself busy controlling everything I can.
    SO WEIRD I know, but I suppose it is a healthier way of dealing with things than just bottling it up… at least at the end of it I have a clean house, my laundry is done and I am looking pretty awesome. Downside being that whenever Hubby comes home and smells pine-o-clean he asks what is wrong hahaha I am so transparent 🙂

    • You’re so right that there are worse things you could do during times of crisis, right? Beats drinking alone 🙂 Unfortunately, my Laundry Monster stays the same…sigh…I think my teens who go through a gazillion outfits a day would love it if my control issues involved washing all of their gear. For now…the bed and surfaces win out.

      I’m so sorry to hear about your husband’s upcoming surgery and that you have to deal with insurance issues during a time when you should just be focusing on his health. I’ll send a prayer up for you both. Hang in there…you sound like your sense of humor is a plus for your family 🙂 Take care!

      • Thank you for your prayers.
        See I don’t have teenagers, if I did I might possibly “forget” to do the laundry hahaha. I solved this one for my Mum when my brothers (who were in their 20’s) were still living with her, I got her to buy them each a laundry hamper for their room that way she wouldn’t have to look at their laundry. She did it and went from doing 10 loads a week to maybe 2… 3 if she did the towels and bed linens! As you are still at the teen stage this might be harder though.
        Crazy right! After awhile my brothers got used to doing their own because the dirty clothes would smell out their room hahaha. With the extra time my Mum started gardening more 🙂

  6. Oh, ironing. My mother told me it was good for the soul. You could iron out all your problems. It was meditation for her. I rarely iron, except for my quilting, but I see the timeshifting creation in the mundane.

    • Funny how ironing is the last thing I will do when there’s smooth sailing. I wore the worst wrinkled white pants today to my class and my students asked if I had “folded them weird” in my drawer. Pretty sad when you’re getting wardrobe commentary for 9-year-old! Ha!

  7. Another great post! One of those things I wish someone had told me all those times I was moving around the country for college/Americorps. I really like points 3 and 4. Discomfort is an unavoidable part of the change process, and learning to sit with that discomfort and be patient with it is the best way to deal with it. Trying to rush through it or shortcut around it just doesn’t work, as I had to learn time and time again!

  8. Pingback: Midweek Reads #4 | Goedeker's Home Life

  9. Reblogged this on swiratno and commented:
    Being told by my dad that we had to go back home, shocked the hell out of me. 1 and a half year to go until graduation, and all of a sudden I have to go back and start all over again? Its stressing me out.
    I don’t know if I deal with the situation or not. Adjusting to the way of lifestyles that are the opposite in here, and even the education system. Leaving friendships that I had just been able to build, and going to start from 0 again.
    It is kind of a big thing for me to go through these changes. But these inspiring words helped me to cope with it. Ive been thinking lately, maybe changes is not a bad thing, maybe I would be able to find bigger dream out there. Hopefully, I will get to realise my ironing.

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