By JC Clapham
Moving house recently was not only a massively tiring task, it was also a hugely emotional thing for me, too. A couple of months ago I moved to a new place, one in the outer-west flanks of Melbourne. It’s a move I made for a combination of reasons, but had the primary benefit of giving my kids more options for high school and specifically, opened a specific school to my younger two, who are keen on that one in particular. Good thing for a dad to be able to do. Yay.
As moving day drew nearer, I felt pretty organised. Movers were booked, cleaners for the end-of-lease clean were booked (I vowed after my last move to never again do that task myself), and I had a stack of boxes I’d started filling with our stuff. But as someone who manages anxiety, I knew it would get hard at some stage. And boy did it!
The night before moving day, I had an estimated 4 to 6 hours of packing still to do. The beds needed de-assembling, my bedroom shelves and wardrobe needed packing, as well as all the random shit in out-of-easy-sight cupboards and nooks.
But I didn’t get any of it done… because my old mate decided to rear its head and fuck with mine.
Instead I spent that night pacing around my house and yard, berating myself for not being done yet, and cursing the fact I had to do it all on my own like the loser I felt I was.
I managed to pull apart the beds before laying on the couch for a few hours to snatch a few minutes of sleep here and there. Around eight o’clock in the morning on moving day, I did what any self-respecting almost-forty-years-old adult does: I called out for my mum.
As it turned out, my mother was wise to my potential to crash and crumble, and was already in Melbourne (not her home in regional Victoria). She was over at my place quick as a flash, and walked in with a knowing but supportive look on her face. I gestured towards the backyard, and out we went so I could bawl my eyes out and soak up a warm hug from my too-frequent saviour.
After a cathartic debrief, mum got me moving again and together we finished most of the packing while the now-arrived removalists were packing the truck.
Mum and I also filled our cars with stuff and our convoy ended up doing two trips to get nearly everything from the old place to the one I was moving into.
Mum came to my rescue, yet again, and I am so immeasurably grateful to have a parent, a hero, like her in my corner. My mum’s extraordinary and I couldn’t wish for a better parent to have.
Am I always going to need her? Shouldn’t I be fully independent and self-reliable, given I turn 40 this year? What kind of grown-ass man needs his mama to save him so many times?
I felt embarrassed and a little pathetic for weeks afterwards, and do a bit again writing this piece and sharing it with you, dear reader, but I also know those feelings diminish and pass. They always do, as I’ve come to learn.
My embarrassment gave way to gratitude. My self-shaming gave way to appreciation. Journaling, my other constant generator of catharsis, has helped enormously just as it has these past several years since I had a full mental breakdown.
At a recent check-in with my GP, I shared all of this with him, and he reminded me that moving house is one of the top handful of stresses people have in their life, even if it’s a relatively ‘smooth’ move. He’d told me this last time I moved, but I had clearly forgotten it and not pre-empted things as well as I thought.
The neat bow to tie around this experience has been that the house I’m now living in is a great home for me, and my kids when they’re with me. We have plenty of room, a nice outdoor area and plans to make better use of the backyard space, which means some yard work for me. I bloody love yard work now and then, so this is a good thing.
Moving house was also a good reminder and re-test for me. Big things require me to manage myself carefully and compassionately. And that’s something I’ll probably never nail, but I can always improve each time.
I’m actually looking forward to the next thing that reminds and re-tests me, whatever that might be. I’m confident I’ll do better than this recent move, and can already imagine beaming as I tell my mum and hear her say she’s proud of me. I’d love to one day feel as proud of me as she does.