I have been living out of a suitcase for over a year now. Back in August 2008 I packed up my life into (not so) little boxes, and put it into storage. Since then the accoutrements of my life have been reduced to what I can carry. Over the course of the year that core amount of clothing and belongings has been pared down again and again as a suit has been left here, or a coat there, or a bag of books there. I am now travelling with my laptop and a trolley-bag of clothes and precious little else: and those clothes are perhaps a third of all I own.
Last week I packed up my life once more, made the decisions to take this but not that and jumped on a train, ready to start a new job. The first three nights I benefited from the generosity of a colleague who put me up in Portsmouth, and now I am in the spare room of some Chichester church leaders who happen to be related to the company’s founder. I have unpacked.
Only I haven’t, and I don’t know when I will be able to. The vast majority of my stuff is still in an East London storage unit, or in the houses of various friends scattered across London. I can’t unpack that stuff here because I am merely a lodger. Even if I find a room here which I can call my own… My contract in Chi (as the locals call it) is for three months. Can I really transport all my stuff down here for such a small amount of time?
If you haven’t guessed, I am feeling rather small and lost and homeless at the moment. I haven’t had a sense of home since I left l’Abri, and even that was transitory, temporary – full of the knowledge that “real” life existed outside it’s walls. In reality I haven’t felt a sense of home since Andrea left. Perhaps even since before we were married, since our “home” life together was such a disaster.
Every time I think about those boxes a bits of furniture I get down. Because it represents a snapshot of my life from years ago, when I was a different person: The Christian books, some of which I actually read. The furniture bought to make a new home with my new wife. The many wedding gifts, bought by friends to bless us in our new life. Even the clothes, purchased for a job I no longer have, which I would never wear unless I had to.
I have these two, strong, conflicting emotions within me when I think about all this. One is the yearning for home, for a place of my own. The desire to be able to unpack and settle and say, “this is my space, where I belong, where I am known and can be”. That yearning wants to get the stuff out of storage ASAP, and into a space that is mine.
The second is a desire to burn it all; to build a huge pyre in front of Bow Big Yellow Storage and set light to it all with petrol. To say that “this was me but no longer. I have moved on”. Or perhaps to bury my head under my pillow and forget it all.
I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how permanent a home to try an make here, in a new town where I know no-one, in a job which may well not work out and has little guarantees of the future. At some point I need to deal with the sequestered remains of my former life, but I don’t really know how.
I don’t want to be a lodger, a houseguest, for three months. I don’t want that permanent feeling of having invaded, of having to tiptoe around people and apologise for your very existence. But then how realistic (or even desirable) is it to move into a new place only to have to move again at Christmas?
You can see my dilemma, I’m sure.
And alongside all of this, running deep down is that dreadful undercurrent, that feeling of loneliness, of homelessness. I have lost my sense of belonging: of belonging to a person, to a faith, to a community. Some deep part of me is terrified that I have forever lost that sense of home, and am doomed to haunt this earth like a spectre, permanently detached from the best of reality. A ghostly remnant of a life now dead.
The future is an undiscovered country; we have no idea what is around the corner. Did I ever expect to be moving to a little slice of middle England to work in the jewellery trade? No. But the fortuity of this move is hidden in the mists ahead; I have no idea what the future holds, or even how to discern the best way to move into it.
All this is to say that transition sucks! I am fed up of feeling like a plate in a conjurer’s trick, being spun wildly in the air not knowing when or where I will land (and in what condition). Can we get to the end of this please?