So we have been in our new space for just over six weeks now, but to be be completely honest, it feels like much longer. But in a good way longer. The farm and our life in the Midlands seems like a distant, hazy dream – you know the ones where you wake up all groggy as if you were were visiting a different spiritual plane and now you’re back in reality? That’s how it feels when I think of our old home and it’s probably because it didn’t really feel like home in those last few days when I was packing up all alone. There was so much to do and so much to think about and organise that I didn’t really have time to say goodbye. I remember walking through the house, turning off the lights and closing the windows after the movers had left with all our worldly goods, and it felt so surreal. All at once it was both the home we had lived in and laughed in and made love in and fought and cried in; but it was also just another set of walls under a roof. To be fair, I didn’t allow myself to linger; I couldn’t face the memories that would slowly start to seep into my skin.
And so we left, my brother and I, with three dogs and a cat in a car, and headed off on our reverse trek over the Drakensberg Mountains. Arriving at our new home in the twilight of the Cape winter was a little soul-rattling. That first night we stayed in a spare guest room with said three dogs and Abby Cat, as our furniture had not yet arrived. I let Millie out in the middle of the night and she fell into the guesthouse pool; cue both hysterical laughter and hot tears of frustration-relief. These last few weeks have largely smelt a lot like wet dog! The second night we attempted to sleep in the restaurant building where we had originally planned to live whilst renovations to the guesthouse were taking place, but the pungent smell of old burnt cooking oil and the sight of cockroaches in the drains soon pooh-poohed that idea! And so we have ended up in the guest manager’s house which is in a bit of a state (think no light fittings, peeling plastic flooring and tiles falling off the walls), but it’s clean and warm and has four walls and a roof.
From the moment we arrived, it was straight to business. If you haven’t already gathered, Andrew is running a guesthouse in Stellenbosch (have I told you that? I forget now if I have or haven’t) and the previous owner was supposed to not take bookings for our first two months – enabling us time to paint, fix, re-brand, unpack, settle in, build fences, setup reservation programmes and websites and employ new staff. He neglected to do what he promised and so we hit the road running, having to house and feed and attend to guests whilst trying to unpack and “settle in”. This settling-in thing is becoming a bit of an elusive concept, although I am still seeking its security… when does one become “settled in”? Starting off our move with guests to look after, dogs to control and staff to manage resulted in a quite a few tears, a large amount of shouting matches and blaming and a whole lot of unpacked boxes. My in-laws were also here at the same time and we were all sharing a kitchen, along with the staff, so that kind of accelerated the stress levels, especially since I’m a noise-sensitive person who cherishes and I mean, cherishes, her personal space. Looking back, I was actually a bit of a wreck! Thanks to my brothers and my friends who all took me out and kept me sane and reminded me that, this too, shall pass.
So whilst I was sobbing in showers, Andrew was out and about and on the go 24/7, which would frustrate me even more. I was all, why is he not commiserating with me??? This is because Andy is a do-er and a fixer and an organiser. I’m more of a contemplator, moaner, “I told you so”-er. I’m good at reflecting on shitty situations, I’m just not good at being in them. And yes, I can freely admit this now. I’m thirty and have lived on this earth long enough now to know what my strengths and weaknesses are. So whilst builders were banging around in our ceilings until 12 pm every night and the dogs were barking at any little noise, I desperately tried to remain sane. As the days have become weeks, I have discovered exactly what makes a good day and what makes a bad day for me. Here are my tips for surviving the settling-in phase after a big and stressful move:
I’m just going to straight out and say it: I MISS MY EARTH ANGEL very very very much. My life is just not the same without my monthly reboot and repair session with Colleen from Midlands House of Healing. I thought I would be able to make it up to the Midlands in November for a friend’s wedding but now that’s not going to happen and already I’m scheming about when next I can get back up to see Colleen’s lovely new space and hop onto her massage bed for some magical healing! Colleen and I both know what kind of person I am (highly-strung, emotional, sensitive to change) and so we agreed to do some distance energy healing just before I left for overseas and for the first couple of days after the big move. Distance Healing you say? Well, in a nutshell, distance energy healing is reiki performed on an individual by a reiki master from afar. Colleen sent energy and love to my inner child (that little girl is always seeking approval and trying to make everything perfect); to my adolescent self (oi vey, enough said) and to my adult self (she of the great creative insecurity and self-doubt). She also sent energy and healing to my partnerships and to my physical body, which probably explains why I’m still married today and also the great desire I had to get back on my yoga mat pretty soon after we arrived. On about the fourth day of distance healing, a greater sense of calm came over me as well as a sense of acceptance. This was the day that I finally got over myself and the fact that our bathrooms are peach and brown, got out of bed and pretty much unpacked boxes for twelve hours straight. I guess I have discovered a few new things about myself with this move; largely that when faced with big life changes, my body goes into some weird grumpy primal instinctive mode and I find myself lashing out at anything or anyone who threatens my desire and mourning for the old familiar. If you happened to be in my war path over those first few days, I send my humblest apologies (mostly to you, my darling husband). Only once the voices of my perfectionist inner child, grumpy adolescent and insecure adult were all silenced, did I realise how love and acceptance can only come from being loving and accepting, and things started to calm down. And boxes were unpacked. Thank you again Colleen for bringing the sanity back to my life. I feel you – even from afar.
Get into a routine as quickly as you can
I very quickly gathered that unlike life on the farm where I had very little other human interaction or interference in my home, the only way to survive my new busy surroundings, was to adapt to them. If I wanted to have a hot shower, I had to get it done before or after working hours (no more freelancer lunchtime showers) as our bathroom shares a geyser with the guesthouse laundry. I also learnt rather fast to walk the dogs before 8, which is when most guests are up and about and also when we have to fetch the staff from the train station. My dogs are impossible if I don’t walk them at least once a day, so sorting them out before the day starts really helps me ease into the day. The fresh air does wonders for the headspace too.
Start the day off with Yoga
I cannot explain the difference to my attitude when I start my day off with yoga. As soon as I had enough free floor space to roll out my mat, I was straight into downward dogs and tree poses. “I’m sorry for what I said before I yoga-ed” is basically my mantra. It takes effort to put your alarm clock on and get out of your nice warm snuggly bed in the dark (oh and man, did the Cape dark mornings take some adjusting to), but it’s so worth it. Ask my husband. Hah!
One box at at time, one room at a time
Lol. Let’s just say I did not practise the whole packing and labelling of things properly and I regret it so much! With limited time and no help, I kinda just chucked everything into random boxes with vague labels like “Andrew’s shit”. (shout out to mom for helping me label a couple of boxes appropriately on the last day) When it came to unpacking, I spent a lot of time running around the new place placing random items in their right place instead of just putting the boxes labeled “Bedroom” in the bedroom et cetera et cetera. Make sure you label the contents of every box rather specifically (the vegan hunt for the food processor was not pretty, I can tell ya!), as well as which room they need to be unpacked into. This is probably Moving 101. I just wish I had paid attention to these tips before. It’s good exercise though, getting everything wrong and muddled up, and I’m pretty sure I’ve lost weight with all the running around… except I can’t check because I still have no bloody clue where my bathroom scale is!
Before the immensity of everything gets you down, get out the house. Even if just for a quick drive. You will come back feeling re-energised and ready to tackle life (ie: more boxes, stinky dogs, noisy staff members). Thank you so much to Jonathan, Megan, Tash and Graeme, Chereen, Jackie, Zan and Trevor and Sally and Rob for inviting – and sometimes forcing – us to get out and about and thinking about something other than builders and all the different shades of grey you can get (there are a lot more shades of grey than you would think… perhaps if I had finished reading that crappy book, I’d understand the metaphor she was going for now). Eternally grateful to all you lovely folk for looking after us – I think I’ve repaid Tash and Graeme so far in funny voice notes. Andrew could use a bit more of this out and about stuff, but he’s a little ADD and is completely project-obsessed at the moment! As I type this, he is right now up a ladder with his new “light-hat” from Builder’s Warehouse fixing something. Yaaaaaa. The struggle is real. He did get his first five star review yesterday so the man is fired up!
This is fine talk coming from the girl in desperate need of a haircut/pedi/bikini wax, but take it from me – you need to do it! Even Andy has managed to fit in a haircut – and Lulu is going for hers tomorrow. I’m just hanging back hoping Tash will book me in with her guy. The one big treat I did have, which I completely loved, was attending a yoga class last Saturday in Stellenbosch with Yoga With Nicci. My teacher was Victoria, a dreadlocked, tattoo-donning steamcat who I’m now a little in love with. That morning to myself – nourishing my body, mind and soul with deep breaths and silence – was so delicious. I got home, climbed into bed and took a big whoooosa for the rest of the day. It was well-needed. Don’t feel guilty about taking time out when you’re settling-in, as much as you’d like to get everything done straight away. In the words of my grandpa Mac, “staddig oor die klippe”.
So that’s the last few weeks in a nutshell. On Friday, for the first time, I began to see fragments of me and him and us and our life together. For the first time, being here really started to feel like home. In a weird way, it feels like it always was. Perhaps this really is where we are supposed to be? At least for now? Throughout all the drama and craziness, I have not once thought that we’ve made a mistake in moving here and I have not wished to be back on the farm, as beautiful as it was… and this brings me comfort. I do not miss the small town shenanigans, the screaming of the factory-farmed pigs next door, the unforgiving dirt road and the heaviness of a dark history I can’t quite put my finger on. I’m tuning into the sunshine, letting my feet sink into the soft sand, thinking in another tongue, breathing in the scent of spring jasmine, sampling the local nectar and, most of all, giving thanks. Because this life is so damn lovely.