Chapter turns

Sometimes I imagine my life as a novel, the author in her study deciding on
grand plot twists with the flick of a pen. Sometimes the sentences seem to flow
in easy lovely prose. Sometimes they are dark and halting. At this major chapter
turn, the grand author of this story seems to have been writing fragments, half
sentences, crossing things out. There are ink blots and smudges, paragraphs
washed away by spilling tears.

Nothing has progressed smoothly or as we would have expected. Aidan’s move
out of the home we have shared for nearly three years–and Aidan’s move out of
the family home he has shared with his parents for his whole life–has been
made messy by the difficulties of the tightest London rental market in decades.
He awaits the paperwork that will unlock the key to his lovely new flat. But
the paperwork is slow and the clock is ticking on the end of the lease on the
house we have shared. Which one will happen first? Will Aidan and his partner
and two best friends be cozy in their new flat or scrambling to find a place to
stay and to put their belongings in storage? This week should tell us.

Here in France it is not so much easier, though obviously we have a roof
over our head. We arrived about five days ago to find that the furnaces weren’t
working–the first beginning of them in the winter is obviously tricky and we
didn’t know how to deal with them ourselves. We have gotten to be particularly
good friends with the plumber, who comes every day. We have had guests this
first week too–guests in the first 24 hours–so our table is filled with six
of us who live here and four guests each night. Delightedly, these beautiful
people have rolled with the lack of heat in bedrooms, the occasional cold
shower, the toilets off limits because of leaks.

Each of these branches of the story has emotional heft to it. I expected
deep sadness as I moved without any of my children for the first time in 25
years. I was less prepared for the waves of grief that wash over me in the
choppy sea that is my life right now. In many ways, the timing is perfect for
this move. Aidan is in amazing shape and loving his graduate program in
philosophy. I adore his partner and his two best friends and know them so well.
I love their new home. And now I finally am feeling into the deep sadness I first
imagined when Naomi was just a tiny infant strapped to my chest. This is what
it feels like to love your children beyond reckoning and then send them off
fully into the world. Naomi is thriving in New York City. Aidan will thrive in
London in a place of his own (as soon as he gets the damn keys). We have raised
them so that they could live fully in the big world. And still, the rogue wave
hits me as I shop for olive oil or do the dishes and I am almost on my knees
with the pain of it. How is it that time is so merciless, so unidirectional in
a world that is mostly made of swirls and waves? (The answer from modern
physics is that time probably isn’t so, I know, but my experience binds me to
this sense of the unspooling of my limited twine.)

But there is the practical too. Some other day I’ll describe this lovely
place, but for now let’s just say that most of it is furnished (because it was
a small family resort and was sold with all the furnishings for that small
family business) and the rest of it is empty. It is into those mostly empty
rooms that our big moving truck with disgorge its things today. It tried
yesterday. Michael and I left our first French lessons to meet the truck on the
road outside our place. Darren, his impenetrable north England accent more
mysterious in some ways than the French we had been studying, seemed to be
communicating difficulty. Where was the translator for this?

We discovered that the truck couldn’t pass under the entrance gates, couldn’t
make the turn off the narrow road through the other gates. Keith came out to
pace out alternate routes. Olivier, our part time handyman and gardener, raced
over to be of service. He grabbed the tractor and pulled it up to see if it
could be of use. But no. The truck with all of our things in it sat at the foot
of the driveway, tantalisingly close but shut tight to us. The next chapter is
like that now. So close we can touch it. And so far away that it’s hard to

But here is Michael back with the small white van and the movers behind
them. It will take twice as long to shuttle the things into the van, up the little
driveway and into the house. Maybe all the transitions will be twice as long as
I imagined they will be. But they are beginning now, the boxes of my past
unloading into the chapter that is my future. Let’s see if my things and I fit
in this new world. 

The gates, lovely and yet a little low
Michael was cool with it all
Olivier on the tractor–if only we had had a big platform for the tractor to tow!

The boxes arrive at last!

The luck begins to turn as the writer finds her stride…

5 thoughts on “Chapter turns

  1. I see you ❤

    So much resonates so well and so deep ❤

    Looking forward to that crossing of paths! For now let's rise and fall with the waves, let them take us where they will, sting our wounds, heal them faster than they would alone, settle into the uncertainty & transition that is life, when we have the eyes to see it. Your house is beautiful. Next time I'm in TLS I will come visit 🙂


  2. Congratulations on your new adventure! I do hope that you will be hiring a cook as well as the handyman and gardener. The fewer chores that the people in the community have to do the happier the community people will be.


  3. Dear Jennifer, thank you for being so honest about this moment in your life and for capturing the roughness, the heartache, and the beauty of it. May this next chapter keep evolving in the richest way possible. Your previous blog post was one of the most impactful ones for me this year, and I keep coming back to its message. I love that you’re sharing it all…it inspires me and helps me immensely. Thank you and all the best.


  4. Dear Jennifer I am touched and inspired – as I so often am by your writing – especially by your willingness to be touched and impacted by life even when it is painful or uncomfortable, and your ability to keep laughing and crying about it. And the photos of your new home call forth nostalgia for that kind of “seasoned beauty” that France can still have – I hope you will find a deep sense of belonging there.


  5. I couldn’t just stop myself thinking ‘at least it didn’t rain’ :-)) Thank you for sharing this humanity Jennifer, I just read Unlocking Leadership Mindtraps twice during my last week holidays. that humanity makes it even more real and powerful. Be gentle please, we moved 5 times in the last 4 years it’s intense, beautiful, physically trying, emotionally shaking, etc. Hope you have a great network of friends and healers around you.


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