the light at the end of the tunnel

There’s a weird sort of thing that happens when you get close to an ending that’s still just out of reach.

Right now, I’m very close–but not quite there–to arriving at a number of big accomplishments. I start a new job two weeks from today. In just about a month, my family is going to be moving to a brand-new city, leaving behind the roots we’ve put down in Western Massachusetts over the past year. I’m just about 12,000 words from the ending of the first draft of the novel I started for National Novel Writing Month back in November 2015.

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and won. because I’m great.

It’s weird to be coming up on so many changes at once and to not be rolling in absolute anxiety attacks 24/7. That’s not to say I’m not totally freaking out (so many freakouts, team. so many.) but rather that I’m trying, actively, to remind myself that this transitional time is temporary, and is going to end in things I’ll be able to be proud of and excited about.

That said: Endings suck, a lot. I’m coming to the end of a job where I’ve met amazing people and been able to make a visible difference in the lives of kids and their families. My husband and I are leaving our first “real” home as a married couple, and the first place we’ve lived for more than a year since we both left our parents’ houses at the end of high school. I’m inching closer and closer to completing a novel draft (something I haven’t done in…yikes, four years? and that last one was a mess, so we won’t even count it). I’m excited about moving on to what’s next, but saying goodbye to these people and places and projects is hard. Perhaps the hardest part is that these endings are close, but haven’t quite arrived, and in a lot of ways, I’m still in the slugging, logistical drudgery of transitions: finishing all of my paperwork and client transition documents, looking for new apartments and making packing lists and booking travel arrangements, outlining scenes and cross-checking character arcs to make sure everything gets at least wrapped up at least moderately nicely. Hardly the romantic wrap-up I like to daydream about, where I step out of one section of life and into a beautifully set-up and organized next section.

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If this picture represented me, I would crash into the far cliff and fall down.

A gal can dream.

In an attempt to deal with all of these transitions and keep my eye on the light at the end of the tunnel of these projects rather than getting stuck in the muddled middle of the tunnel, I’ve been trying to find ways to bring a bit of that end-of-the-tunnel light to where I am now. Because I’m obsessed with planning and lists, part of what’s keeping me sane is just keeping track of what needs to be done by what point helps me to not only look see what I need to be working on, but also how much time I have to complete each task (and, of course, gives me that thrill of victory when I cross something off the list).

I’ve also–and judge away, y’all–finally caved and indulged myself in a Pinterest account and started pinning all manner of interior decorating things. Part of this is because I am absolute trash for Apartment Therapy, but I also just really like to be able to visualize spaces. The down side of this is that we actually don’t have a new apartment/home yet (which makes me do this a lot) so I really have no idea at all what kind of space we’re going to be in–so any kind of design planning is pretty hugely premature. But whatever, guys. It makes me feel better. Picturing a new home with our own furniture and books and blankets and dog toys, maybe with a few new design pieces or bits of art, helps the interim anxiety of packing and moving and unpacking feel a little bit overwhelming.

As much as I’ve been trying not to indulge my inner packrat, I’ve also started looking for mementos–solid, actual ways to commemorate these places and experiences. Going through my office, I’ve found pictures that my clients have drawn and asked me to keep, collages that I made with them as we explored the therapeutic process together. I’ve started looking at key memento ideas as a way to hang on to our house after we leave, and my inner crafting brain is already hard at work.

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adorable.

But most of all, and as odd as it sounds, I’m trying to enjoy this process. This point of almost-but-not-quite-there in a transition is usually the point where I start regularly looking longingly at bottles of wine, but this time around, I’m making a conscious effort to step back and listen to what my body and feelings are telling me. My goal isn’t to cruise through these endings, but rather to savor them: to be present in each moment, listening to my clients process their transition between clinicians, appreciating the textures and sounds and scents of my house before it’s time to say goodbye, enjoying the time I spend working on this novel and getting to know these characters and settings as their stories come to an end. I’m hopeful–not positive, but hopeful–that leaning into the transition and listening to my limits as I go through it, I’ll be able to enjoy the process, rather than burying my head in the sand and just waiting frantically for it to be over.

I’m not going to be the kind of person who learns to enjoy transitions overnight. But I’m trying. I’m trying.

And maybe that’s a light in the tunnel all on its own.

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