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The Uncertain Certainty of Moving

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The last time you heard from me (January 23, 2013, if anyone's keeping track), Downton Abbey's Sybil Branson (née Lady Sybil Crawley) was still alive. So, for that matter, was Matthew Crawley, heir to the popular British program's eponymous estate. The last time you heard from me, Pope Benedict XVI was still wearing his famous red shoes. Advance word from Hollywood revealed, however, that due to copyright restrictions, another pair of famous red shoes would not be worn in Oz: The Great and Powerful.

The last time you heard from me I was still living in Richmond, Virginia. That is no longer the case.

Yes, the world will turn. And with every revolution, changes large and small are writ large and small in lives large and small... even in lives fictitious.

Following a nine-week social media sabbatical, I am slowly making my way back to something resembling an online life. Blogging, tweeting, and Facebook-ing all took a back seat to real life, and although I've had pangs of guilt about my absence (Would my readers think I'd abandoned them? Would they rush into the arms of another midlife second wife and abandon me?) it was necessary to stay away. I haven't had a vacation in years, and this hiatus in the real world felt like a vacation, albeit one with considerably more packing involved.

It's easy to forget just how much work goes into in a cross-country move -- how many details, large and small, demand one's attention. The sheer physicality of moving is exhausting. Just as exhausting are the weeks preceding the move, when your life is in flux and you don't even know where you'll land.

In a recent New York Times interview, David Rock, director of the Neuroleadership Institute, talked about the notion of certainty in relation to the brain. Using the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy as an example, he said:

The feeling of uncertainty feels like pain, when you can't predict when the lights will come back on and you're holding multiple possible futures in your head. That turns out to be cognitively exhausting.

I cannot begin to compare my own comfortable situation to those displaced by natural, political, or financial disasters. I do think, however, that anyone who has ever moved, for whatever reason, can agree that the months preceding a relocation -- with unsettling uncertainties about where one will live, where one will create a life and a home -- certainly feels like pain. Certainly it's every bit as cognitively exhausting as it is physically draining.

House-hunting is fun for about the first week; after that, it's fraught with existential angst. Where will our new pizza joint be? What neighbors will we have, and what will they be like? What sort of days will fill our daily lives? Where will we dream our nightly dreams?

In The Poetics of Space, the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard writes that "an entire past comes to dwell in a new house," which is to say that "wherever you go, there you are."

As I write this, my husband and I have been in our new home for 36 days. We have brought our past lives with us along with our books, dishes, and furniture. We are unpacking and storing, organizing and setting up, making room for all of these things in our new space in Northeast Ohio. The rooms that were bare and strange upon our arrival are starting to take on the look of us, the look of the familiar, as if we've lived here longer than 36 days.

And all the while the world is turning, and changes large and small are happening all around us.

Thank you for waiting for me. It's good to be back.