A Nice Story About Death

I used to work for a company that did maintenance work on properties that were foreclosed upon and had become bank-owned. Our company contracted with vendors who would do lawn work and maintain the interior of these non-lived-in homes all over the country. Among other things, we also did clean outs of homes that the previous tenants or owners had left their stuff in for one reason or another, typically for the most depressing reasons. I didn’t feel particularly good about that work, but this post isn’t about that.

This post is about one particular clean out a few years ago. Crews would send photos of the interiors and the debris within before removing it so we could determine if there was anything of value–specifically something we called “personal belongings”–left behind. Of course, “of value” has a different definition in that world, and very few things (among them mostly irreplaceables like family photos or obviously expensive jewelry) constituted stopping a trash out and holding up the bank from getting their hands on an empty and marketable house. But one day a crew called me with one of those very few things.

Typically we identify this kind of stuff prior to beginning the trash out, and then put the whole thing on hold as when one thing is identified as a “personal belonging” then everything in the home falls under that jurisdiction, but in this case, the crew was halfway through when they called me. Dear Reader, you don’t want to get a call from your crew saying they’ve already brought a load to the dump and then found “personal belongings.” And you definitely don’t want them to tell you that what they found was a fucking urn.

To make this news doubly stressful, my manager was out of the office that day, so I had to go to another manager who I did not know that well for help. (This other manager had, in fact, trained me when I first started at this company, but I have always been incredibly forgettable most of my life, and she didn’t remember me though she seemed to remember literally everyone else. So I guess it wasn’t that I didn’t know her that well, but more that I felt very small and embarrassed that she didn’t know who I was and I had to do that whole introduce myself to her even though we’d met and worked together a lot already thing that only you other poor, forgettable fuckos understand.)

So I went to this manager, reintroduced myself, and explained my predicament. Her eyes went wide. “An urn?” she asked with both the horror and excitement of the realization we almost threw away human remains and now we’d have to deal with this. “An urn,” I told her with a solemn nod, holding back laughter because humor is how I deal with everything and this was, at its core, kind of ridiculous.

We shut the trash out down, obviously, and the manager set to contacting everyone she could in regard to the house in question. Somehow, through the long line of everyone who had handled the house thus far, she had gotten in contact with the former owner of the house. This was unprecedented as, in my particular position and department, we were typically very far removed from the former occupant of the houses. Talking with people who think you personally are taking their home from them is particularly terrible–I would learn this a year later when I picked up overtime by answering our emergency phones after hours and got yelled at and threatened by all sorts of people who didn’t pay their mortgages–but speaking with someone who has lost their house AND the remains of their family member? Horrifying.

So the manager called the woman (thank the gods) who was now residing on the other side of the country, and when informed we had found an urn amongst her abandoned belongings, do you know what she said, Dear Reader?

“Well, I thought we left someone behind!”

As it turned out, the remains were not human, but of the family dog, and we were all a little relieved this wasn’t someone’s grandma, but still, right? You see, a lot of people, when they’re foreclosed upon, leave behind a bunch of stuff sometimes out of necessity and sometimes out of spite. I don’t blame these people, I basically had a job because of this, but very rarely was something of this caliber discarded so thoughtlessly.

So the manager asked the lady what she’d like to do. This was, after all, all that was left of a beloved pet, and the family had already been through enough losing their home and packing up with little they could take and relocating, so we were willing to send the ashes to her–something we wouldn’t have done for any other belonging–and the manager was going to pay for it out of her on pocket.

But to our surprise she said no, and for a moment I was particularly upset and not just because I like animals more than people. First she forgets Fido, and then when given a second chance through an incredibly kind gesture, she blows it off! But her reasoning was thus: that house we found the ashes in had been the dog’s home its whole life, and that was where she belonged. Not tinned up on someone’s shelf or, worse, in the back of a closet, but there, at home. So she asked us if we could bury the ashes on the property so the dog could “watch over the house forever.” Those words will stick with me my whole life, Dear Reader, and I don’t think I will ever be able to tell this story without crying.

The crew completed the request and sent me pictures, digging the hole, putting in the ashes, filling it in, and even placing a handful of wildflowers on top of the spot. We sent the photos to the woman and received a heartfelt thank you. People who clean out houses for a living are incredibly tough, foul-mouthed, strong people. Often they lied to me because the system was a game and they needed to win so they played dirty, and to be honest I respected that, but I think in just about everyone’s heart there’s enough room to get it together to bury someone’s pet with the love and honor it deserves.

I like to think that even though she was abandoned for a bit and never reunited with her family, that dog is very happily haunting that yard to this day, raising the hair on the back of the mailman’s neck and chasing off the errant squirrel, and, pleased with a good day’s work, she curls up on the back porch every night to sleep. So yeah, I helped trash out foreclosed houses–I don’t feel great about that–but I know I did right by that ghost doggo.


Get Me Outta Funky Town

Funk is such a fun word, but put depressive before it and everything gets all fucky. Trying to get out of a depressive funk is rough. I’m not suggesting that I’m experiencing a real bout of depression that requires any sort of diagnosis or medication or therapy, but I’m definitely in the dumps. Motivation is hard to find, though I have had fits where I’m exceptionally productive as if all the productivity I should have during the day gets balled into an hour-long session where I run around the house cleaning EVERYTHING while simultaneously narrating an entire chapter to a project I haven’t touched in months. My body and my brain want to get back to normal, but they’re failing miserably.

But it’s probably not depression, or even just plain old sadness. What I’m dealing with is most likely grief, a term I’ve never given much thought to before now. Grief, specifically, as it’s the sadness that comes with death.

I find myself on the verge of and more easily persuaded into tears lately, and not at all wanting to engage with others for the same reason: the weirdest shit is triggering. I saw a cardinal on the way to the post office a couple days ago, and I was immediately blinded by a rush of tears. I really don’t want this to happen in front of someone, and, truthfully, I really don’t want this to happen AT ALL, so I think I’m sort of avoiding everything in order to just suppress it. And sometimes being alone feels really good.

As you may have noticed, Vacancy has taken a regoddamnediculously long and unexpected hiatus, and it’s hard to get back into the swing of things, but what makes it so much harder is that the next part has some death-related things going on in it. I can’t exactly skip those things, they’re integral to the plot, and when I just go work on something else, I feel guilty about not finishing this, so I am kind of languishing here. (And to add insult to injury, when I did decide to work on an older project, I picked up at a spot editing where I was just killing someone off and experimenting with my main character’s sorrow and reaction to that so FUCK ME RUNNING, HU?)

I had these plans of having a daily routine figured out by now, almost a month into our move, but that’s gone to hell. I literally have all the time in the world, but I feel the hours slip away like they’re nothing and the pressure of imaginary deadlines looming thick and fat over my head, but the joke of it all is there are no actual consequences? Which almost makes me feel worse because it highlights the crux of this feeling: nothing I’m doing matters because all the people I love will eventually die and someday I’ll be dead too, so what’s the point?? And maybe it never did matter??? But at least before it mattered to me.

But somewhere I know these things, the projects I want to work on, they really do matter to me, they just need to come out of me. (GET THE FUCK OUT, WORDS!) At least I hope they do. I mean, my fish aren’t dead yet, so no worries. I still feel something, so apathy hasn’t totally settled in.

I did find something very helpful to me, though. I’d like to share, but I want to stress that this is very helpful to me because it aligns with my personality and views on the world. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and I’d encourage everyone to find their own brew, but if you are dealing with the death of a loved one, grief, and pseudo-depression like I am right now, Caitlin Doughty’s Ask A Mortician series might be helpful.

I’ve always been intrigued by the physicality of death, and there was a short time when I thought I might want to actually become a mortician (but eventually realized I’m way too soft a person for this). I thought maybe my outlook was easy for me because I’d never really cared very deeply for anyone who’d died before, but I find that in my saddest moments now, these videos are incredibly comforting for me. She shows death for what it is: an inevitable end, but makes it a hell of a lot less scary and even a little less sad by dealing with the facts head on.

I don’t know what my thesis here is. I’m feeling particularly shitty, but I do think I’m getting better and doing so by seeking out resources that are tailored for me. I wish I had something better to offer you if you’re reading this and having the same issues, but maybe sometimes there really isn’t anything that can be said. Sometimes you just have to wallow in it for a little bit and then one day you won’t feel so shitty anymore and you’ll get on the treadmill and you’ll go to the grocery store like you’ve been meaning to and you’ll do the dishes and things will start to feel normal again.

Things I Just Don’t Fucking Understand: Mom’s Memes

My mom has a folder of memes saved on her computer.

If you noticed my absence the last week or two and happened to see my last post, Eulogy, you can probably put two together and figure out my grandma passed away recently. I traveled to New Hampshire for her funeral and to visit with my family. While there’s plenty to ruminate on there, I’d rather focus on something more lighthearted for now. And that brings me to my mom’s laptop and her folder of memes.

It’s here I should clarify a couple things for you, Dear Reader. One is that I am not an enemy of fun. I want people to have a good time and unabashedly love the things they love. As long as you’re not hurting anyone else, you do you. And two, I pronounce it “mem” like in re-mem-ber, not “meem.” It appears I’m wrong, but I wanted to throw that out there to see if anyone else might do this too.

I’m not entirely sure when the concept of the meme changed from a template image, captioned with slightly altered but relatable and reproducible text to basically any picture with writing on it, but it has, and that’s fine, but this expansion mixed with the boom in older adults utilizing more and more social media has produced a plethora of images that I, personally, do not find humorous. But my mom does. By gods, Dear Reader, does she ever.

While I was visiting her, I paid for my room and board with technology lessons. After answering questions that I didn’t really have the answer to, she opened My Photos. Here, you can see a preview of each of the sub folders. Mostly mountains and snow, but there was one folder, quite dissimilar to the others. The image was clearly compressed and not a photo so much as a solid white background, some text in a near illegible font, and a yellow, amorphous blob. Something in my brain seized at that, but she quickly opened a different folder from a hike she did two years ago and lulled me into a false sense of security. Dear Reader, I’ve seen 90% of her photos before. In fact, I’m in at least half of them, but viewing them with her is just another form of currency, and I’m glad to pay it. But then she confirmed my fear and opened it. The meme folder.

So I got up and started making nachos, because that’s the only thing a sane person can do in that situation. She would chuckle in the background. Increasingly loud chuckles. She was baiting me. “Got some memes there, do ya?” I asked, sprinkling Mexican Four Cheese onto a single layer of tortilla chips because that’s how you do it, Dear Reader: single layer of chips, cheese, another single layer of chips, cheese. Fight me.

“This one’s so funny!” she insisted, and then she read it to me.

Dear Reader, under threat of slow and painful death at the yellow-nailed and pigs-blood-covered hands of an inbred, cannibalistic, radiation-blasted family of the undead, I could not recall what the meme was because when I saw it, my brain shut down.

It’s this thing that happens when faced with something that I don’t agree with on a fundamental level, and I can’t muster the fraudulent expression needed to continue the conversation. I just kind of turn off. It’s basically what happens whenever I see one of these fuckos:

Then I am filled with a BLINDING RAGE and cannot be held accountable for my actions.

But I decided instead to try and make something of this. Why did I have such a reaction, and why was it so in contrast to her own? I avoid these things like the plague, she she, my own mother, the loins from which I was born, seeks them out and saves them as if they won’t be eternalized in the infinite cloud that is the Internet. And for her, someone who has tremendous difficulty on a computer, saving an image from the internet is not an easy task. But this, she learned all on her own! I had to teach her how to set up her bank account alone, but this was more meaningful to her! So I asked: What makes a meme worth saving?

She was quiet, the remnants of a good laugh still plastered in a smile on her face as she stared wistfully at the screen. Then came the reply, “I dunno! They’re funny!”

I know. Take a breath.

I tried to dive deeper into this: Was it that she liked the sentiment of the meme? Were they all similar in some way? Or perhaps she cared for the person who sent or posted them, or even the specific situation that person had referenced with the meme? Every time you see that one-eyed, yellow, banana-loving bastard, do you remember a very specific hike into the snowy mountains of New Hampshire?

“Yeah, I guess.”

She guesses, Dear Reader. And that’s a good enough answer, I guess, because really, no one has to justify their actions to anyone else, especially ones so incredibly insignificant, and especially in response to someone who isn’t doing real science, but I still felt perturbed not getting to the heart of the matter. Her inability to enthusiastically or even completely commit to that answer told me it wasn’t true.

So why does she think they’re funny, but I don’t? Why does she insist on showing them to me even when I say they’re not funny? It’s as if I’ve said nothing or, worse, as if I actually laughed, as she keeps offering another to me. “But this one has Garfield in it!” she tells me despite that the words attached to the image have nothing to do with lasagna or Mondays which just further boggles my mind: these memes are almost completely devoid of meaning beyond the images themselves. In no other context (or really even their own context) would they make sense which I thought was the core concept of a meme–that the image was recognizable and offered additional commentary on the text.

I don’t have an answer for these questions, just like I don’t know what that notification is that keeps popping up on your phone but it’s not there right now, so you can’t show me, but it pops up like five times a day and you can’t get it to go away except it’s not there right now. I can come to some conclusions about why I hate these things, and even some hypotheses as to why she loves them, but I fear we’ll never come to an agreement on them. I’ll forever be making nachos and she’ll forever be giggling at Snoopy drinking wine despite that he’s a dog from a children’s show.



In Billy Joel’s Master Class, he tells the story of explaining to his young daughter what death is. He told her that people never really die, they never really go away. Instead, when you die you go into other people’s hearts, and they take you on their journeys. In this way, no one ever really leaves us.

I really like that idea for the obvious reasons, but also because it’s so much easier to use someone else’s words when you can’t figure out what to say. If you know me you know I love words, but I don’t think I could ever find the right ones to define my grandma’s life. There are a handful that stick out: crafty, musical, hard-working, charitable, loving, but none of these can sum up who she really was.

She tried – emphasis on tried – to teach me to play the piano. My biggest regret, and I think one we all share, was not listening. There are only so many times you can play “Hot Cross Buns,” and only so many times the average person can listen to it, but Grandma wasn’t average. Just like how she never got sick of playing “Für Elise,” Grandma endured listening to us hit the wrong keys over and over because she wanted us to be on the same journey that she was: a quest to always be a better you.

She love music, singing, art, and I think she instilled that passion in all of us. Not necessarily for painting or piano, but she gave us the ability to develop a deep and enduring love for something. She taught us all a lot of things. For example, she taught me key words and phrases in French: bonjour, merci, au revoir, pamplemousse – that one’s grapefruit. She also taught me to call my grandpa “Tony” or “To-neeeee!” But most importantly she taught me to keep learning. The world is full of more than any one person can ever really take in, but it’s our responsibility to try.

Everyone here played a role in my grandma’s life: a caregiver, a friend, a son, a daughter, a husband, and you all gave her things so special, so dear, that they are irreplaceable. There is nothing left we can give to her now that she doesn’t already have in abundance where she is. But there is something we can do, though it may be more for ourselves. Carry my grandma around in your heart, bring her wherever you go, show her the world, take her on your journey, because she would want to see you keep learning, and she would never want to stop.


The Big Move Part III: Resignation

Part I and Part II if you’re interested.

Cat wrangling, much like ballet, is simultaneously an art and a sport. It leaves you breathless as well as creatively drained. On the morning we were to finally leave, the Thursday after Valentine’s Day and a day behind schedule, our furry children had to be put in cat carriers to be transported for the long drive. This is that story.

We rose on moving day at about 4am. There was, of course, more work to do because moving is interminable. In fact, I believe a shadow of myself still haunts my old house, forever carrying boxes from one room to another, lingering in doorways and sighing mournfully over dust. We loaded the bed, frame, and headboard into the truck, Husband packed away what little food we had left, and I did a final sweep for things we may have missed. I attempted to ignore the fact that this was likely the last time I would ever be in that house. You see, I loved that house. I knew it was to be our home based on pictures alone. I frequently hugged the house, I loved it so much. So I focused on just getting the work done, powering through, but then I broke the seal.

Let me take you on a little side journey, Dear Reader. Husband and I used to have two cars, one of which was a Dodge Stratus. It was a little, navy, two-door, rusted, low-riding piece of shit that we acquired after my Chevy Tracker was totaled (notice the very purposeful passive voice here) back in 2010. I resented the Stratus for two reasons: it replaced the car that had been the love of my life up until then, and it was so goddamned low to the ground that me and my broken pelvis could barely get in and out of it. Also, I had zero say in picking it out which was pretty fucking annoying, but that was eight years ago, so maybe I should get the fuck over that.

Anyway, that car took Husband, when he was still just Boyfriend, Bart and Di, and me all the way from Ohio to Florida with all our belongings crammed into it. Despite the ire I held for it, I came to love that car so much that when we donated it because it wasn’t even worth selling in 2016, I cried big, fat tears on multiple occasions. You might be noticing a pattern here, but I actually felt bad for the car. Guilty for abandoning it. Why do I tell you about that car? Because I hung from the rear-view mirror a little sachet for good luck and safe travels (side note: I’m a witch, don’t worry about it), and when we got rid of the car, I removed the sachet with those big, fat tears pouring down my face, and instead hung it around the house’s door handle for the same purpose: to protect us whenever we crossed the threshold.

So as you can imagine, removing the sachet from the handle not only made me sad to leave the house, but brought up all the sad memories of abandoning the car. And now I was abandoning the house. The sink had been right for breaking all along. Blubbering notwithstanding, I tried to just hold it in and move on. I asked Husband to get my wooden turtle wind chime down from the front entryway, but my voice cracked with the question, and all I could do was point and sob. So this wasn’t a great set up for what we has to do next which was the aforementioned cat wrangling.

Rutherford, the baby, was first. I threw a toy into the car carrier and he bounded in after it. The mistake here was choosing a jingly ball as that toy that I would then have to listen to for the next eight hours. Next, we got Bart. Bart is an old soul, and I’m pretty convinced he understands human speak in the way that dogs do: he doesn’t know what you’re saying, but he knows you’re trying to convey something, and he desperately wants to make you happy. I asked him to get in the carrier and though he hesitated, when we made eye contact, and I said “Please?” he could read the exhaustion and brokenness in my soul, and instead of using it against me like his brother would, he relented and climbed inside and laid down because he is forever the goodest boy.

Then came Di. Unlike Rutherford who is evil but stupid, I’m pretty sure Di means well, but unlike Bart who wants to please you, Di is significantly more interested in his own security. Throughout the moving process Rutherford wanted to play and Bart just wanted attention, but Di, the smartest of the bunch, knew the horrors that were to come, and immediately holed himself up under the kitchen sink. After 48 hours of packing, moving, loading, bruising, worrying, complaining, barely eating, and crying, it’s hard to have patience with a dumb beast who doesn’t know what’s best for it. Like, seriously, bud, who’s going to feed you if you stay here alone? Who’s going to snuggle you? Who’s going to give you chicken? The ghost of me will be too busy feeling sorry for herself to do any of those things.

Husband tried first since Di loves him the most. He gently called to him, spoke in a quiet “it’s okay” voice, but to no avail. He looked at me and simply said, “I can’t do it.”

But I had this, mostly because I’m the one small enough to fit under the counter. I slid him out, all 19 of his nails (one is missing, that’s its own story) scraping across the wood, and put my body between him and where he had been. The carrier was waiting for him, and he howled “nooooo” in that horrifying way that only cats do. Once he was in the carrier, after a lot of heaving and reorganizing of limbs, my black leggings were white, and I was picking fur out of my teeth the next day, but I’d be damned if we were going to leave one of these fuckos behind.

I decided to have Di ride beside me in the car since Husband was driving the UHaul, and Bart and Rutherford filled up the backseat. This turned out to be the best decision possible for two reasons: Di does a lot better when he can see you, and when Di inevitably shits himself in the first hour of any car ride, you can easily access the cage to clean it up. Because that’s exactly what he does, Dear Reader. He gets car sick, but from the other end.

So I drove about eight hours in the car with naught but meows and Billy Joel to keep me company. The cats were surprisingly well behaved, especially Bart who answered when I called to him to see if he was still alive, but otherwise just chilled. Rutherford had one attack of the crazies, but when he discovered he couldn’t rip open the cage to run circles around the interior of the car, he gave up, and Di cried on and off while looking balefully up at me to let me know he was blaming this discomfort on me forever which, honestly, that’s nothing new.

And, Dear Reader, we made it. We’re all in our new apartment and we’re all alive. The cats are still very uncomfortable, but most of our things are unpacked and save for a package containing a Costco-sized soy sauce and maple syrup busting in the back of the UHaul (a placement Husband now admits was a terrible idea, obviously brought on by the mania of moving), we made it mostly intact. Here’s to a happy future and great things! Oh, and regularly scheduled blogging.


The Big Move Part II: Betrayal

Have you, Dear Reader, ever felt betrayed by an inanimate object?

I often attribute human characteristics to objects. I mentioned how Mari Kondo does this in Letting Go, and I said it’s probably a little nuts to other people, but on some level I think most of us do this. I apologize to or become infuriated with things when I bump into them, dependent on my mood, and that’s probably not that rare. But when an object broke on me while we were moving, I felt betrayal in the very core of my being.

On day two, the “extra” day that I had so optimistically considered a gift from The Universe, things were going well enough. It was Valentine’s Day, I had expected to be driving all day and instead I was boxing things up, but I still felt ahead of the game. My cheeriness only increased with every snag or problem. It would be fine, I insisted, everything was fiiiiine. Getting upset would serve no purpose, so I plastered on some faux confidence, and pushed through.

We were nearing the end of loading, and the sun was setting. We tried to clean out rooms as we went, and I was actually starting to feel genuinely good. I’d faked it til I made it, you could say. As I cleaned our master bathroom after everything had been moved out, I found the sink stopper underneath the counter. I set it on the counter, finished scrubbing down the mirrors, the sink, the faucet, and with a giant smile, popped the stopper into the sink, the pièce de résistance on my beautiful bathroom. The stopper slid all the way down into the hole, sealing it, so I shrugged and pushed on the back of the faucet to pop it back up. Dear Reader, it did not come up.

Then it hit me: the reason we were storing it under the sink to begin with: the stopper mechanism in the pipe was broken. I tried frantically to remove it. It would come out, of course, if I could slide my nails under it. Or perhaps with a pair of tweezers? Or a screwdriver? But in all my prying and pulling and profanity, I’d only managed to lodge it deeper into the drain, rendering the sink in the house I was about to drive away from and hope someone would soon buy so we didn’t have to have carry a mortgage and rent at the same time, absolutely useless. In a last ditch effort to get the stopper out, I slammed the screwdriver into its side, and popped the domed top off the actual stopper, leaving the rest of it just below the sink’s edge, proving that I could, in fact, actually make a hopeless situation even worse.

And so, Dear Reader, I proceeded to have a mental breakdown. Every ounce of frustration and rage I had compressed into my bowels and tried to band-aid over with fraudulent joviality came erupting out of me like a swarm of Africanized honey bees. I threw down the screwdriver, somehow not chipping the tile or shattering the porcelain, and screamed at the sink, “HOW FUCKING DARE YOU?!”

The insinuation/question was completely organic; it was exactly what needed to be said. I felt, in that moment, that somehow the sink, the stopper, the entire goddamned house, had conspired against me so that I would not be able to leave it–and that’s completely insane–but it’s where my brain went.

From there, it was a snowball of epic proportions. We skipped having any kind of dinner, and continued to pack and clean while going back and forth on how to resolve the Sink Horror 2018. We made a trip to Home Depot for some possible tools which I quickly learned upon return to the house that they didn’t and couldn’t work and now I just had MORE SHIT to pack. I stifled tears even as I scrubbed the kitchen into gloriousness. I could tell it looked good, beautiful in fact, but I felt defeated.

The rock inside the snowball manifested when I was emptying out the last remnants of the garage and found a box of paperwork that I had been meaning to shred. I’d had this box for literal years, carried over in our last move from one house to another, I’d seen the fucking thing every damn day while maneuvering around it to get in the car for work. I’d said to myself every time I saw it that I should just load it up and take it to Staples, a literal half mile from my work, and have it shredded, but did I do it? No. Instead I pretended it was an inevitable but minor obstacle to always be in my life, and now there it was being exactly that, and there I was, paying the penance for my past laziness kneeling on the unswept garage floor. I tried to reorganize the papers because the box had been moved and gotten wet at some point, so it was falling apart, and as I repacked this box of paperwork from decades earlier (literally, it had documents from the 90s in it) I devolved into full on weeping. Another goddamned thing had to go into the truck that everything else barely fit into already, and I had to pack it, tape it, and we had to take it with us, I cried, and I couldn’t fucking believe it.

But, Dear Reader, all was not lost, because I have Husband. The yang to my yin, the cheese to my macaroni, the sane to my cray-cray. He got a neighbor to fix the sink, expertly navigated cleaning and boxing what I skipped, and when he found me crying in the garage, he made everything better.

We ended the night by eating the remnants of a few different meals in bed (the bed was to be packed last the following morning) and passing out. I fell asleep without the optimism of the prior night, but without dread either, just a yearning for everything to be over. It almost was.

The Big Move Part I: Optimism

If there is only one universal truth to life, it is surely this: You are never really prepared to move.

You can have a plan laid out, you can do as much ahead of time as possible, you can watch all the tips and tricks videos that exist, but you will never truly be prepared for the physical, mental, and emotional shitfest you are about to embark upon when you decide to uproot your entire life and trek it across the country.

That isn’t to say it’s all bad, but let’s be honest: you are not here for the warm fuzzies.

So Husband got an awesome new job in a new city in a new state. We’d lived in and around Tampa, Florida for almost seven years, the majority of our relationship, but in four different homes: two apartments and two houses. Including our time in Ohio, we’ve moved together a total of five times with increasingly more things. We accumulated plenty of stuff, and I did my best to purge it (see: Letting Go), but it’s never enough. You know those weirdos who can fit their whole lives into a single duffel bag? They have life figured out. The couple weeks leading up to the move, we threw away and boxed up so much shit. We made four trips to Goodwill with our Jeep Renegade FULL of things to donate, we filled our giant trash bins to the brim at least four times, and I pawned off and recycled what I could, so when I looked through the house the night before we got the moving truck, I was incredibly self assured. I mean, I was fucking pumped. No part of me dreaded the upcoming process, I was all smiles and checklists and positive affirmations.

And then we started.

The plan was to pick up the truck Tuesday morning (I had worked on Monday, mind you, my last day, and had been slowly packing the week prior), and we would take a load of large items to the dump, return home, load the truck, clean the house, sleep for a few hours, then get up at about 4:00am on Wednesday and go. That didn’t happen.

I did my best to stay peppy and upbeat, and even if everything had gone perfectly, the physical act of moving is exhausting. We did get the truck on Tuesday morning, and we did take large items, including our couch, love seat, and recliner, to the dump (I tried very hard to give these things away, but no one wants baby-barf brown, cat-shredded furniture nowadays: beggars really can be choosers, Val). On the way back from the landfill where, I have to say, I had a great time throwing a metal filing cabinet on top of a mirror and absolutely shattering it, I looked at the clock and chirped that we were making great time, it was almost noon, and we could go grab some of Husband’s favorite Thai place for lunch. Little did I know, he had already turned pessimistic (see: realistic), questioning if we had time to stop for lunch or even if we’d get done that day. Of course! I declared through a pearly white smile, we’d be done in no time! All we had to do was fill up the truck and sweep up the floors. THAT’S IT.

That was incorrect. As we Tetris’d our belongings into the moving truck, it became apparent there was much more to do. I uncovered what felt like whole rooms of things that still needed to be boxed up, including almost all of our breakables. I held off on buying packing supplies specifically for dishes and stemware for gods know what reason, and I ended up stuck using napkins and extra blankets to buoy the most fragile things we owned. (Spoiler alert: NOTHING FRAGILE ENDED UP BREAKING SO YOU CAN FUCK RIGHT OFF, UHAUL, WITH YOUR $20 DISH KIT!)

When evening came I was beginning to crack ever so slightly. I could feel a hot rage boiling beneath the surface, pricking at my skin, begging to be released, the sight of cardboard boxes and tufts of cat hair long hidden under furniture inciting a primordial ire in want of release. But Husband quelled it without even knowing it: “I have a proposition,” he said.

We just don’t move and stay here, jobless and miserable until we die and the cats devour our corpses sans remorse? I asked, but only in my head.

“Why don’t we just leave on Thursday instead?”

“I love you.”

It was the perfect Valentine’s Day present, and it didn’t even feel like defeat, just like an admission that our goals were too lofty. And too-lofty goals aren’t the worst thing. It felt much like being ahead of the game, like “O, wow, I have just been handed an extra day to do with whatever I want!” And I went to bed that night very happy, lulling myself into another false sense of security. I did not learn, Dear Reader, and that was my first mistake.