Tuesday, 24 May 2016


I spent some quiet time with a friend yesterday and we talked extensively about changes and timeliness. She told me that she was making a concerted effort to tackle the decades-long procrastination of wading through the mountains of "no longer relevant" stuff that was cluttering up her home and mind. Given our impending move, it is a task to which I am intimately acquainted. Sifting through the clutter of our lives has been a year-long process that has been draining on both body and soul. But, the conversation with my friend got me to thinking about the nature of timeliness and how and when we make momentous decisions in our lives.

I have always been in awe of those of us who make "five-year life-plans" and stick to them like shoes to tar. We all know the type. 

Year One: Get Married and save some money. 
Year Two: Get that dream job. 
Year Three: Buy our dream house. 
Year Four: Renovate said dream house. 
Year Five: Have first dream child. 

When it works, it's amazing; clean and straightforward. But, life is all about the curves and how we react to them. Show me the person for whom this type of planning has been successful and I will counter with ten who have had to alter their projections.

Now, I am certainly not suggesting that we shouldn't have a plan. What kind of Type A personality would I be if I did that? (I have moving lists that are longer than Santa's at Christmas.) I am merely proffering up the thesis that there are times in our lives when we should do something because it feels right in that space and time. Case in point: By today's standards, we had our children when we were relatively young. We absolutely made a conscious choice. We certainly weren't financially secure and we sure as shit didn't have a clue as to what we were doing 90% of the time. (A deep and heartfelt apology to my sons.) Most of our friends back then were still in their partying and very single '20s, some were backpacking the world, and on many occasions, we were left on the outside looking in simply by virtue of the changed nature of our family status. And yet, I didn't regret my choice then and I still don't regret it today. My boys were and continue to be the best that I have done with my life. The Husband and I instinctively knew that the time was right to start a family (even with all of the obvious obstacles) and with any luck at all, we would reap the benefits of young parenthood in our middle age. Timeliness.

But as I have aged, (gracefully, I might add) I have come to realize that time has a nasty habit of flowing in only one direction. When people around me today talk of five-year life-plans I wince and attempt to bite my tongue. I have seen and experienced too much to pretend that life isn't in the here and now, and that if circumstances allow, those momentous decisions we have been putting off should be made while we are still able to reap the benefits.  

Hence our upcoming move to the urban jungle of Canada's largest city. We have talked about it for years. For the sake of timeliness, the time to stop talking is now. (with a hat tip to Rabbi Jordan Pearlson z"l) Over the past two years, we have been rocked to our core by changes. Births, deaths, illnesses, retirements, weddings, new jobs, new businesses, new relationships, new understandings of old ones, aging, and most of all, a deep-seated understanding that life offers no dress rehearsals. Moving is difficult. I won't pretend otherwise. It has dredged up much emotional turmoil and physical pain. (My back and knees might not survive until August.) But as my conversation with my friend, yesterday reminded me, I have passed the long-term planning stage in my life. I am living for today because tomorrow might bring a shitstorm.

Rav Hillel famously said: אם אין אני לי, מי לי? וכשאני לעצמי, מה אני? ואם לא עכשיו, אימתי 

Im ein ani li, mi li? U'kh'she'ani le'atzmi, mah ani? V'im lo 'akhshav, eimatai?

If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? But when I am for myself, then what am "I"? And if not now, when? (Pirkei Avot 1:14)

Hillel understood the struggle we face trying to find a balance between self and others. Living a life of complete selfishness or selflessness never works. Both must be factored into the equation. But, Hillel went one step further. He acknowledged that since we are uncertain as to what each day of our lives might bring, we must look at each opportunity as a "once in a lifetime" opportunity since we really don't know if it will ever come around again, and even if we think it might, the context will have certainly altered. Timeliness.

This is one of my favourite songs of the past several years. Do yourselves a favour and spend 4:30 minutes listening. You won't be sorry. 

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

A House is Where Your Stuff Is. A Home is Much More.

"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in."~Robert Frost 

We sold our house last night.

It is something that we've been talking about for several years but haven't actively pursued until the past several months. It has been a veritable whirlwind of paperwork, open houses, cleaning, purging, and the scouting of possible new landing spots for The Husband and me. Last night, we finally made it official.

We high-fived each other and hugged our wonderfully diligent agent; we immediately called the boys and our parents to let them know the news; The Husband poured himself a dram of one of his favourites, and I immediately retreated into silence to watch the wretched series finale of Castle. (Don't you just hate it when your favourite series devolves into frustrating and unapproachable storylines that moronically deviate from the original premise? But I digress.) The Husband, ever the concerned and caring partner, worried about my distance. I assured him that I was just overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation. The idea of planning, downsizing, and packing was daunting and that I just needed a bit of time to process it all.

True. All of it.

But there is more.

It would be easy to claim that I am overly sentimental about this house. After all, this is the house in which our children came of age. This is the place where we hosted countless holiday gatherings, seders, Shabbat dinners, birthday parties, and poolside get-togethers. We've sat shiva here and we've celebrated an engagement and a wedding here. This house has been overrun by teenagers on numerous occasions, (and a bevy of wholly unwelcome squirrels) and it has been the seat of learning for more B'nai Mitzvah students than I can accurately count.

And yet....

That isn't the reason for my melancholy.

In truth, I view the house as merely a vessel for the memories and those memories will endure no matter where I next choose to park my tired middle-aged carcass.

Instead,  I am struck by the sheer magnitude and enormity of the change. For the first time since the early days of our marriage, we are making a lifestyle decision that is solely about the two of us. We aren't moving with an eye toward good schools, playgrounds, proximity to health care professionals, or even synagogues. For the very first time, we are forgoing the practicality that comes with raising a family and we are choosing for just us. And that.....is where the seed of my discomfort lays. There is something uniquely unsettling for me about that turn towards self.

I suppose that I have become conditioned (not always healthfully) to worry about how my decisions will affect others; parents, children, friends. Throughout this process, I found myself in uncharted territory, abandoning those restrictions, and embracing a freedom that I really had forgotten existed.


Perhaps, but isn't that ok? Our children are grown and off on their own paths. We are extremely proud of the people they have become, but they are living their own lives and pursuing their own varied interests. They AREN'T coming home. (I used to joke that Older Son would sooner beg on the streets and live in a garage rather than deign to move home. Such is the extreme independent streak so obviously apparent in his personality.) They may bitch and moan about having to clean out and dispose of the shit they've left behind, but they certainly aren't interested in inhabiting their old rooms with all of that stuff.

So, this is our time and this decision reflects that feeling of self. I am nervous and nauseated, but I wouldn't be me if I wasn't. The Husband keeps telling me that if we wait for the perfect time to do that which we want, we might never get to do it. Life has a funny way of evening up the score. We still plan to have family dinners and parties and maybe the occasional seder. Our friends might miss the pool, but we can offer them front row seats for the CNE airshow. We hope that our near and dear will enjoy making the trek south into the vast urban wilderness and us, in turn, have no qualms about re-visiting the North Jewish Ghetto. My house is the place where I store my stuff. My home is the place where I store and make my memories.

**I will have much more to say about this move in the days and weeks to come. In the meantime, we are purging and downsizing. If anybody has knowledge of individuals in need of housing supplies, please contact me offline. We might be able to help.