Opening Up / Heart wins out, and head can finally rest
Published 4:45 pm, Tuesday, November 1, 2011
I have changed my mind about selling my cottage in England. At the end of my time there -- the beginning of September -- I could not release my house to the market, to the seven people lined up to buy it. I could not do it.
You mean to say that after all that anguishing and reflection and actually having your decision published, you changed your mind?
Yup. Sometimes there is no way around looking like an indecisive fool. Strangely, though, I don't feel like a complete dolt. Perhaps I should, but I don't. Tell me where it is written that we are not allowed to change our minds?
Mid-August things got out of hand pretty fast. As I was secretly setting up the cottage to be sold, which involved meeting with the solicitor, designating a power of attorney, meeting twice with a real estate agent, making lists of what should be sold, what sent home, what for friends -- endless, it seemed to me.
At an art-show-opening party, an acquaintance approached me to say that she understood I was leaving St. Mawes. My jaw fell open. Her friend from Fairfield had been sending her my columns. Although I knew something of the connection between these families, I had completely forgotten about it when I wrote the pieces.
The jungle drums are wildly effective in St. Mawes; people suddenly knew and were reacting. I was overwhelmed by a steady rush of kind words and emails and even tears. Probably it was at this point that I began to waver, but the wavering was so deep within me that I pressed on with my plan without acknowledging it.
My daughter must have heard something in my voice on Skype soon after the news was out, because she said to me, "You know, Mom, you can always change your mind." I told her that I had decided, and everything was in place and to compensate, I would come back in the spring into a rental for a month. She let the matter drop.
My unconscious wavering then made a new move to get my attention. I stopped sleeping. Sleeping in St. Mawes is one of the best things that I do! I sleep like a rock in my cottage over the water in the dark, silent, star-filled nights. Now I was awake and pacing around, taking whatever I could find in my medicine cabinet, those pills that help with jet lag and such, but nothing helped.
I got these knots in my stomach and constant borderline heartburn that no amount of Zantac could relieve.
I was near tears all the time; I could feel them at the back of my eyes and the littlest thing would bring them forward. The sight of the boats gathered for the Thursday night racing made me wonder, "How many more Thursday nights do I have left to watch this?"
A friend saying quietly, "We're going to miss you," would guarantee a flood.
I would sit up in bed in the morning, having slept little, thinking, "I will never again in my whole life have a house on the water," and sink back on the pillow, a limp blob of sadness.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes, when the mind won't let go of something, you believe is the "right" and "sensible" thing to do, the thing you "should" do, that if your heart is not in it as well as your mind, the body will simply take over and make you miserable?
A friend nailed it. "It sounds like a head over heart issue," he said.
I couldn't leave my cottage in St. Mawes. Nevermind that my younger brother, who was always so fit, suddenly became very ill last spring, awakening in me a sense of mortality that had been nicely dozing. Nevermind that climbing the hill makes me more tired than it used to. Nevermind that the plane I always took to Bristol, only three plus hours from the village, had been eradicated and now I had to go to London and then get myself all the way southwest to St. Mawes. I was not ready to give up my cottage.
Changing your mind can be such a blessing! Sleep returned, my stomach settled down and the tears receded. I could live easily with being seen as that American woman up Church Hill who can't make up her mind. No problem.
Who knows how much longer I have there? Who knows how much longer any of us have anywhere? That's the kicker, isn't it? So as long as I can manage, come summer I'll be there.
Cecily Stoddard Stranahan is a retired psychotherapist and an interfaith minister. Her "Opening Up" appears monthly, and she can be reached at: email@example.com.