In the past few weeks, my psyche has been on a roller coaster. I’ve counted five stages that lifted, dropped, and finally steadied me.
The Euphoric phase began when I prepared to move into my new apartment. I breezed through my To-Do list: Hire a mover, arrange for a house sale, unpack boxes with the help of a best friend, submit maintenance request for paintings to be hung, renew membership at adjacent health club.
Jubilant text messages and photos flew from my iPhone to friends and family. I gushed of exercise classes, breakfasts with friends, walks downtown. My daughters especially, returned words of happiness for me.
As prepared as I was Euphoria, I failed to brace myself for the next stage, and wound up capsized by Grief. This is what happened: The estate sale of left-behinds was over. I thought it wise to return and check out the house before the buyer’s walkthrough that was to occur on the morning of the real estate closing.
“Why are you going back?” a daughter asked.
“I just have to be sure all is okay for the walkthrough,” I said.
“Do you think you can handle it?”
“I don’t know,” I said.
I took the Blue LIne from my apartment, then walked the short blocks to my house. I got only halfway there when I could feel myself crumbling.
“Will you go with me?” I said to a neighbor as she was getting into her car. “I’m going to check out the house, and I don’t think I can do it alone.”
“I’m on my way to pick up the kids,” she said, “but I’ll get my husband.”
I stood on the sidewalk, sinking lower each minute, as she raced into the house and returned with her husband. He grabbed my hand.
“I thought I could handle it,” I said, already weeping.
“No problem,” he said.
When we arrived at my front door, my neighbor handed me off to the owner of the estate sale company who was awaiting a pick-up of my upright piano.
“I’ll take it from here,” she said, and opened her arms for my collapse.
As I hung on to her, I viewed the empty house, now devoid of furniture, artwork, clothing, pantry or refrigerator goods, and I sobbed.
The emptiness and finality summoned the same anguish as I experienced with my husband’s death.
“Get it all out,” she said.
By the time I left our house for the last time, I recovered. I reversed my route and returned to my apartment.
Two days later a text arrived from my real estate broker, “The walkthrough went fine, no problems.”
“Thank God!,” I sent back. “I was on pins and needles.” Because I had rolled the dice and moved out before the closing, I was especially grateful to enter this stage, Relief.
A few hours later, a phone call from the same person, “Congratulations,” he led off. “I wanted to be the first to tell you. The closing is over, all went well. You’re no longer a home owner.”
I sent texts to my daughters and friends who were awaiting the outcome of the closing, “‘Tis done!”
Their responses came immediately: “Congratulations!” “You must be so relieved!” “Yay!”
But instead of joining the glee chorus, I had an odd feeling of, how shall I say it, anticlimax. Where was the Euphoria I had felt when I moved, pre-closing, to my new apartment? Where was the Relief from the first text of a successful walkthrough?
I realized then that those positive emotions had been first put into play with Tommy’s death. His absence, the void, the empty house, the finality, would forever tinge these pleasurable feelings.
“You can pick up your check,” came the next electronic message. This, from the paralegal who had worked on the deal.
As I walked from the lawyer’s office to my financial manager, with the check from the house sale proceeds tucked inside my tote, I felt myself entering yet another stage, Pride. I had done it. I made the decision to put the house on the market. I had successfully, with my broker’s aid, negotiated a price that brought a bounce to my retirement account. I had moved, unpacked, and was already settled in my new home.
My roller coaster ride is easing into the finish line. I’m calling this stage, Tranquillity. Not as heady as Euphoria, much better than Grief, a companion to Relief and Pride, and an emotion that, prayerfully, will keep me company as I move through even more stages of this new life.