By Carrie Gress
Summer signals the unofficial "moving" season, as school comes to an end and the weather improves. Having moved countless times in seven states and to three different countries, I've found these 6 ideas indispensable in helping me to keep my sanity and settle into a new life in a new location.
1 The Hardest Part Is Just Before the Actual Move
That time before a move can be most trying. On the one hand, the demands of packing and tying up loose ends are very difficult, but it is all the more difficult because your life in that place is coming to an end. You are saying good bye to what is familiar, but without any of the reality of a new life yet. A major door is closing, but the new door hasn’t begun to crack open. You can imagine what may be there, but it is still not a reality. Being mindful of this part of the transition can ease anxiety just by acknowledging how challenging it is.
Experiencing this part of moving life so many times, I now have a greater empathy for what those who are dying are going through, in saying goodbyes, and tying up loose ends. It is a grace to understand in a superficial way because some day, it is something we will all experience.
2 Find God in Your Move
Moving is often a frantic time when it is easy to let our prayer life drop off the list of priorities. Even if you don’t have time to get in your regular devotions, being mindful that God is with you in every piece of your move is important. So when you encounter challenges and frustrations, ask for his help and the help of the saints. Recalling God's presence can also help focus our thoughts and prayers when tempers flare, fatigue sets in, and life feels like too much to bear.
I helped a friend move into a new apartment in a big city. All the boxes were in and it was time for those of us who had helped her move head home. I could see her hesitation and anxiousness in her face, the what-have-I-gotten-myself-into look. As she grabbed the door handle to close the front door behind us, she saw a white plastic rosary hanging on the handle. It was that little wink that she needed to know that God and his Mother were with her and everything would be okay.
3 There Might Be Bigger Changes than Just Your Address
Sometimes when we move, we expect our new life to unfold the same way as our old life – that we will find similar friends, churches, schools – just like the way they were in the old place. But often, God has other things in mind. When we don’t find these comfort zones, we have to wonder if perhaps he is trying to redirect our attention somewhere else.
One move brought me to a quiet neighborhood without any close friends near by. I found, however, that given the demands of my small children, the quiet was an opportunity for me to learn how to "pray always." Previously, finding time for Eucharistic adoration was easy, but once I started having children, that changed. My new home provided fewer distractions, and I found myself praying more throughout the day than I had before. This would not have happened if I had remained in a place where I had a ton of friends and plenty of social demands to distract myself with.
4 Don’t Expect Others to Welcome You
Sadly, our neighborhoods aren’t as friendly as they used to be – depending on where you live. When moving into a neighborhood, it is now a rarity to have neighbors reach out to us immediately. Putting aside expectations of how you should be treated in a new environment avoids disappointment and opens the door to taking your own initiative.
After moving into one home as newly-weds, my husband and I made a cake. We decided to decorate a big piece for the single woman who lived next-door and left it nicely wrapped at her front door. Little did we know that it was her birthday. You can imagine her surprise – and ours -- when she found the cake. It was a start of a very good friendship, but it took us going out of our comfort zone first before the relationship started to bloom.
Parishes can also be a place where it would be nice to have someone welcome us, but many churches have large transient populations, making it difficult for new people to get noticed. Additionally, people frequently get caught up in their own lives and comfortable relationships. Having been the new person so many times now, I tried to keep an eye out for people who might be new. One woman I introduced myself to said that I was the first person to actually speak to her at the parish in the 8 months she had been going there.
5 Be Patient
A friend of mine once said that she thought it took about two years to really feel at home in a new place. Depending on the community, sometimes it doesn’t take so long, but in suburban areas around big cities, it can take even longer if people have long commutes or the area is particularly transient. This is where patience and small victories go a long way in making you feel like your new place is a home. It just simply takes time to make new relationships, so patience is a must.
6 Remember that God Does Not Change
Moving can make us feel like everything that is familiar is suddenly in flux and where the many things we have relied upon are suddenly taken away. I have found that during these times of tremendous transition, the one thing that keeps me grounded is meditating on the un-changingness of God. He alone does not change. The constancy of God is a great comfort to cling to in the midst of chaos.