The Debt of Gratitude back story

2011 was my “big” year because I made a big change. After 15 years of building a successful career with one employer, I accepted a new position in another state and started my life all over again. I uprooted my family from the lovely small town in which I had grown up (a town so near to my heart I referred to it as “Mayberry” in my former blog), said goodbye to my dream house and to scores of lifelong friends, and moved all my earthly possessions and five pets nearly 300 miles away.

Despite the fact that I had made another big move years ago (after college I loaded up my car and drove myself to Boston to find a job), a friend asked if I was having a mid-life crisis. And I said I supposed I was, if a mid-life crisis included waking up one morning and announcing I was going to change my life come hell or high water. Truth be told, no one of a certain age wakes up on a single morning and decides to start all over. My “decision” had been at least a year or two in the making, even though I remember one morning in particular that seemed to be the turning point. My mother had recently died. I was still exhausted from her illness and the loss, and I had an acute sense that our time here is short. When the alarm went off at 5:00 am, I was filled with a kind of fatigue and dread that was familiar, but so much more overwhelming. I arose for my four-mile run, only to spend all my time in the shower crying and wondering why I was living an unintentional life. I vowed that morning to remake my life, as disruptive as it would be. Something had to change.

Haven’t we all been there — that place in your life where it feels like you’re wearing somebody else’s clothes, ill-fitting ones at that, and you can’t get comfortable no matter what you do? The conditions vary from person to person. For me, it was a job that had grown stale a long time ago and an interminable commute — all of which added up to a very discontented working mother. Despite the fact that I was living in my dream house, in my hometown that I loved so much I built a blog around it, and had the luxury of a large network of longtime colleagues and friends — many of them just down the street — I couldn’t quite shake the feeling, the deep-seated doubt, that this wasn’t the life I wanted to live.

I know on the surface it doesn’t add up. “You were tired of  your job and the commute?” So what, you might think, given all the hardship in this world. But it was more than that. When you reside in one town and work in another, and spend two or more hours a day on the road as a result, you live what I refer to as a disconnected existence. Besides the toll on your quality of life and sanity from all the miles spent commuting, there is a toll exacted on your soul by never “being put.” While at the office, I longed to be home. While home, I worried about the office. And the distance was so great between the two, I couldn’t simply run home at lunch to check on things, or stop by the office after hours to pick up a needed file. My life was divided into two great chunks — home life, and work life, and each life had a rigid schedule and a different cast of characters. I rushed back and forth between the two, day after day, feeling perpetually, terminally, neither here nor there.

So on that morning I cried in the shower, I realized I hadn’t been put for 20 years. Virtually all of my adult life I had been a crazed and scattered nomad. I could enumerate all the reasons I ended up in that spot (job security, financial reward, professional opportunity among them). What I could no longer do is rationalize them. Determined to integrate my life, I picked up and moved. My daughter, a high-school senior, was virtually inconsolable. My son and my husband, though cautiously optimistic about their prospects in our new place, had no shortage of inconveniences to endure and adjustments to make. The pets? Well, they kept running away. And I . . . I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and tried to focus on the positive.

There was plenty of positive to focus on.  Really, why else would I have considered such a major change? I was moving to a great job in a town recognized for its civic-minded leaders, good schools, and high quality of life, nestled in the heart of a beautiful state with abundant entertainment and outdoor recreation opportunities. It’s all good, right?

Well, you know by now it’s never all good. It’s a rollercoaster. Still, there’s been enough good in the eight months I’ve been here to know this:

  • As God is my witness, I will never commute again. After 20 years, I am 10 minutes from my office and it is life-changing, I tell you.
  • Stress is insidious. And cumulative. Don’t put up with it, for any price. Do whatever it takes to shed it.
  • Friends are one of life’s greatest gifts. Work hard to make new ones – even though it’s a pain in the ass the older you get — and labor tirelessly and selflessly to keep old ones.
  • In the words of a brilliant writer (not this one), all of life is sweet-salty, no matter how “perfect” the conditions. Quit expecting otherwise.
  • Every now and then, let go of the handlebars. You only get one ticket for this rollercoaster, and wouldn’t it be a shame to ride the entire trip with a death-grip?


  1. I’m starting from the “2nd” beginning and as excited as a young girl with a…. pile of new books and a lazy summer ahead


  1. […] town they loved growing up in as much as I did, but who was in search of a distinctly unharried, integrated life and who insisted they come along for the ride? Or will they remember me as a mother I am yet to […]

  2. […] really don’t think that is what’s going on here. I already upended my life once — last year — and when given the chance I didn’t set my compass to […]

  3. […] my inward journey, I woke up one morning and concluded I was going to change my life. If you read this essay, you already know the story of my desire to end two decades of commuting and to rebuild a saner […]

  4. […] re-potting was a great move on many levels. Though I was originally the one who instigated our transition, I think it’s fair to say all my family members now agree that the change of scenery did us […]

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