Moving On and On and On

I’m moving in a couple of weeks, about thirty miles farther north and west, to a duplex (basically a conjoined twin of a cottage) a block and a half from the Pacific ocean. I’m really looking forward to it, and not just because of the fact that I’ll be in a house with a yard and a deck, a nearby beach, and walls painted colors I picked. (Although I did go by today to see progress on the painting, and wow, my new living room is violet. “Awesome Violet” to be exact. That’s the name of the color.)

I’m looking forward to being in a place where I don’t have neighboring apartments all around me, with pot smokers and fish burners below me, and loud phone talkers and little yappy dogs outside my bedroom window. I’m looking forward to living in a neighborhood of real houses, instead of low-income apartmentville where I live now, where my car was keyed in the garage, and I have to wonder if it was because of my “I ❤ Cowgirls” and HRC gay yacht club flag and wavy rainbow bumper stickers, or if it was just random vandalism.

I’m looking forward to living close enough to San Francisco that going into the city to do things is always an option. Looking forward to living in a town (Pacifica) that is, at least in theory, very queer-friendly, after my four years here in a mostly Hispanic immigrant community, where I always turned heads, and not always in a good way. Which isn’t to say that people here have been hostile, but there’s been a sense of constant challenge from the clusters of teenage boys in their oversized t-shirts and falling-off trousers that congregate in my neighborhood. I’ll be glad not to feel constantly on my guard when I walk down the street.

In the process of packing for this move, I’ve had to lay my hands on things I’ve left undisturbed for years. I’ve unearthed old photographs of myself and my family, photographs I’d share if I had a scanner, but I don’t, so you’ll just have to imagine it. Though I’ve always thought of myself as fat, I can see now, looking at those pictures — some almost twenty years old and dating from my first year living in California — that I wasn’t. I was tall and broad-shouldered, but not fat, not at all. I look at that girl in those photographs and I honestly have a hard time seeing her as me. She has long brown hair and big, owlish glasses. She wears skirts and in some pictures, lipstick. Is she really me?

She looks like she doesn’t quite know how to be in her body, like her skin doesn’t fit quite right. That part is definitely me.

I feel protective of her, somehow. I remember her, so awkward and unsure of herself, so easily hurt, so eager to mold herself into whatever shape would make the people around her love her. Trying so hard to hide the boy inside under a veneer of feigned femininity. There are traces of her in me today, but only traces. The DNA is the same. I think she’s the larval form of the person I am now. I want to spin a cocoon around her, to protect her soft caterpillar body. She has no exoskeleton, no carapace.

She has no wings.

I wish I’d learned all the hard lessons that gave me the armour and wings I have now a little faster. I wish I could go back in time and sit on that first California apartment balcony with her, and tell her, “Hey, listen, it’s okay to be queer. Don’t stay with that man, he abuses you. It’s never okay to let someone belittle you. It’s never okay to let someone hit you. Go get into therapy, dump his ass, cut your hair, dye it blue, and ask that girl from your Shakespeare class out. Go dancing, stand up to your father, start writing, trust your instincts.”

I also wish I could tell her, “For fuck’s sake, don’t save every goddamned piece of paper, every book, every gift, every potentially useful little thing, every scrap of evidence you’ve lived. Because some day you’re going to have to move to a smaller, cooler cottage by the sea, and then you are going to be sorting through this detritus of twenty years and fantasizing about a fire destroying it all, forcing you to start over.”

But of course I don’t want to really get rid of everything. I’ve pared down my books by maybe 30%, which comes out to about fifteen boxes of books. (Yes, you heard right. I own a lot of books). I’m keeping some of those old photographs, all my art and movies and music, the good kitchen implements, my furniture — almost all inherited from my Tennessee grandmother and her kin, and far too many of those potentially useful little things. I’ve let a lot of things go, too. I think when all is said and done I’ll have given away three-quarters of the clothes I owned. All the girly things, except the brown silk skirt, because I still love it. All the things that don’t fit. All the things with stains or rips or in strange colors that I never wear. And there’s still so much to pack. Oh god, so much to pack, and so much to go through. It’s exhausting.

And it’s lonely. It’s astoundingly lonely. I keep being taken by surprise by how sad I’m feeling, despite my eagerness to move to my new violet-walled home. Or maybe it’s just a sign of how much I hate housework, which packing basically is. I keep swinging wildly from optimism to despair and back, as I convince myself it’s going to come together, then confront another corner of chaos that needs taming and stare in dismay at the myriad decisions that need to be made: do I keep this thing? What about this one? And this? Where do I pack them? Is there no end to things? And then the fantasy of a fire destroying it all, taking away this dreadful choosing, forcing me to start over.

But. But look. I’m strong, right? That’s a core piece of self-identity that was there even when I was that awkward girl twenty years ago. I’m strong, I can take an astonishing amount of punishment and keep going, I can soldier through anything, as long as I just keep trying. So I’ll keep getting through this packing, no matter how much I hate it, because the reward is going to be so worth it. Maybe in the end I’ll have wings.


~ by Nezu on 29 August 2010.

9 Responses to “Moving On and On and On”

  1. Wow. Thirty percent is a LOT. That’s really great.

    Reminds me of going through my mother’s house. Yes, it took a tremendous amount of time and effort, and many a time I felt it was dragging me down. But it was also quite rewarding in the end. So yes, endurance is what it takes. Keep it up.

    BTW I have an extra flatbed scanner if you need one… And if you have room. I’m still a bit guilty about you ending up with my mother’s sewing machine. If you need to sell or get rid of it don’t worry about offending me.

    • Thanks, Masao. I think I do have to part with the sewing machine, and I’m glad you’re not upset. It’s a good one, I just don’t have room for it, and I’m not really sewing anymore. I’m gonna see if I can find a buyer on Craigslist for it and for my couch. And I’m giving away my CRT TV to anyone who will come pick it up. It’s time to move to the Flat Screen Generation.

      I got to a point in the book purge where I had to remind myself that it was alright to keep some books. I still sort of wish I could just purge them all, but 30% is a good start, and I do want to keep the important books.

  2. The bitterswwet feeling of moving…
    I remember all the little things I found in boxes and shelves and the big question what to do with them. Keep them as a reminder of the past or better give/throw them away? Yes, lonely is a good description for that time, I believe.
    But in the end, standing in the new home with much less load and the feeling of a new start, all the doubts and the stress were so worth it.
    So YAY! for moving! 😀

  3. Phoo, I couldn’t imagine moving that much. Just about everyone I know is moving, including me. And including my girlfriend! And my two other roommates!! Ahem.
    But my point was, stuff, stuff, stuff! Holy cow. I’ve helped so many people pack and move this week (ah, the lament of the strong and friendly butch…), as well as packing my own stuff. I have about four boxes of stuff–clothes, books, music, kitchen stuff, art stuff. That’s about it. Everyone else has just mountains! Unbelievable piles of stuff! Most of it heavy, and awkward for me to carry down stairs. I am in awe of it still!
    The lady-friend has been “homeless” for the past several months, and so has been using my place as home base as she couchsurfs. Two boxes of her stuff, plus her storage cube, full to the rafters. AAAAUUAUGHhhaaaa… hem. Anyway…

    • Yeah, part of my stuff accumulation has to do with a concomitant year accumulation, if you know what I mean. Twenty years of living on my own (or with a partner, but not with my parents) has left me with many more than four boxes of belongings. My artwork (a lot of it framed Japanese woodblock prints) fills five boxes, and that’s not counting my portfolios and art supplies.

      Due to a dearth of local butch friends, I’ve been relying upon the kindness of femmes and gay men for my moving aid. Good luck with your moves!

  4. I am going to face packing and sorting sometime in the next year too. Yesterday I was hunting for some paperwork and realized I had not cleaned out the bottom drawer of a file cabinet for years. Oh my. Found reviews from my job at apple. Now that is years ago. Time to do some purging on my end. See you soon!!

  5. I’ll make my first comment in this space fun and exciting…

    Moving friggin’ sucks.

    I’m becoming a pro, and I HATE it.

    I’m excited to find your blog, though…and I’m looking forward to reading more!

    • Hey, and welcome. Yeah, moving. First it was the neverending packing. Now the neverending unpacking. I hope I get to stay here a good long time.

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