Decathect. Verb. to withdraw one’s feelings of attachment or energy from a person, idea, or object, as in anticipation of a future loss.
I sold my home a few weeks ago. Why does an empty nester need a 5 bedroom house when I only use the first floor and none of the huge yard? Over the past few years I’ve toyed with moving to a smaller place but always found a good excuse to put it off. Recently, however, an interested party contacted me. A favorable price was offered and I concluded that selling made sense.
Most everyone who visits remarks on what an incredibly beautiful home I have, and of course, I fully agree. My new husband says that it is “fully Jenniferized”. I have engaged my heart, my time, my resources and my vision into creating a home I love. But it’s size is now excessive in comparison to my needs. It feels wasteful to maintain so much when so little actually gets used. Lately I have felt the call to reduce, to purge, and to simplify. Now. While I still have the energy. I have seen what happens when parents get older or even die in the same home they’ve lived in for 30 years, leaving others to sort through the mess. I want to avoid doing that to my children.
This home has sheltered our family for two plus decades. We built it as our dream home, moving in when our youngest was a baby. That baby is now 6’5” and last year left to get his own apartment. We have celebrated birthdays, weddings, graduations and friendship within these walls. There have been play dates, sleepovers, prayer gatherings, dinner celebrations, teenage parties, family reunions, Thanksgivings and Christmases and all the attendant laughter and tears. The saplings we planted 24 years ago have grown into tall shade trees. We have experienced so much joy here but then, also, a single, defining tragedy after my first husband Mark was diagnosed with terminal cancer. We mourned his death in the living room. All these years later an aspect of his presence remains at this address. This is what makes leaving so painful.
The moving date is in three months. As part of the process of getting psychologically ready, I have begun to decathect from the place that has long been my sanctuary. To do this I am creating a sort of mash up of Marie Kondo’s ritual of thanking things for their service before giving them away, and the child’s board book Goodnight Moon. As I, with gratitude, mentally walk from room to room in my home, my internal script sounds something like this:
Goodbye so soon.
Goodbye big house.
Goodbye first spouse.
Goodbye warm fires.
Hello new buyers.
Yes, I realize that to many people this is silly, that really horrible things are happening all over the world, and that my sadness over moving isn’t a tragedy. It does, however, reflect very human emotions attached to concepts that most people can relate to: home, grief, sorrow, longing and belonging.
Because I have known, given and received great love here, under this roof, I associate this place with all things good. In decathecting, I am re-examining and teasing apart my link between this setting and my emotions. All the love and happy memories that these walls contain certainly can be transported within my heart and my children’s hearts. No it will not be the same in my new home, but it can still be good. Perhaps with the new freedom resulting from having less to take care of, there will be facets of life post-move that will be even better.
This story isn’t over and I do not have a neat ending to this post. I’m still working through the psychological component of becoming comfortable with the big decision I have already made to move and to downsize. That’s how our experiences are sometimes. Living each day is a messy, multi-dimensional, complicated, discouraging, sometimes joyful and often challenging task. We sometimes have a primary focus in how we react to particular circumstances but, if we think about it, there are good and bad parts to be considered in just about anything.
My hope for you is that when you are on the dark, sad or discouraging side of the equation, there will be those around who can lift you up. Conversely, when you are able to do the same for others, my hope is that you would also be willing.
And always, may our eyes and hearts be open so we can see the need to give and receive love, grace and mercy as we press on, doing our best to figure it out.
I have been where you are. It was a lonely and grief filled place. As a result, I have made it my mission to help other widows by suggesting that taking action to honor your husband’s legacy will enable you to set goals for yourself so you can begin to embrace life again. What do you mean, you may ask.