It’s finally time to write about what’s going on around here.
I’m leaving the Chicago area.
I say “I” because Jim has been gone for nearly six months, and the boys are sticking around here: one in the western suburbs and the other just over the Wisconsin border (Kenosha County is considered part of Chicagoland).
This past year has been the most stressful one of my life. We’ve dealt with Roxie’s death (that anniversary is coming up in a couple of weeks), Jim leaving one job and taking on a new one four states away, his bike accident, my staying behind to sell this house so I can permanently join him, and some things I don’t ever blog about so I cannot mention them now.
It doesn’t look like much when I summarize it all into a little paragraph like that, but the reality is that I have been on the edge of Hot Mess for more days than I care to count. Truth be told, I still am. Some days are better than others but I feel like I have been stuck in this glass case of emotion with no escape on a regular basis.
I am feeling all kinds of things about this move, including heartbreak. I am a Chicago native. I lived here for the first eleven years of my life and after spending time in Texas, Tennessee, and Virginia I came back and have lived here for the past twenty-six years. I have lived in this town for the past twenty-two years, and I have lived in this house for the past sixteen years. Jim and I raised our two sons (and two dogs!) here. My second book was about Chicago. The brand I have been building for a decade is Chicago-focused. I have lots of friends here. My workout “family” is here. My Chicago roots are thick and deeply buried. Pulling them up and replanting myself elsewhere is harder than almost anything I’ve ever had to do. Something that weighs heavily on my mind is that normally it’s the kids who grow up and leave home, but in this case we’re leaving them to their lives here. It’s fine; parents and kids don’t always stay in the same area and I’m fortunate enough to have the ability to plan regular visits, but my heart cracks open when I think about it and the tears flow, again.
On the other hand, this move became exciting once I got used to the idea and realized all of the good that will come with it. Knoxville is where Jim and I met in high school. Our story began there, and it feels a little awesome to be moving back after being gone for three decades. Our parents and my sister are all there. We have friends there, both old and new. The cost of living is about thirty percent less there than here. The weather is glorious there. The Smoky Mountains are gorgeous. We are already intimately acquainted with the Knoxville area so it doesn’t feel altogether like starting fresh in a strange town. The drive to visit my New Jersey family will be four hours shorter. Thanks to blogging, I have “portable” friends all over the country who are just a click away on my laptop and because of that I’m not as scared of starting over in a new place as I would have been ten years ago. Jim’s “new” job is a great opportunity for him and he loves it. I can still do my job in Knoxville and will be creating a Chicago-themed home office in our new house, the one I get to go find next week. I’ll be commuting up here monthly through May for Chicago’s Listen To Your Mother show and will make lots of future trips to see my kids and my friends. You can take the girl out of Chicago but you can’t take Chicago out of the girl. Ever.
Most importantly, Jim and I will be under the same roof again. It’s been a long six months of back-and-forth and living apart. Being reunited is going to feel so good. (Yes, I went there. Thanks, Peaches and Herb!)
I fluctuate between the extremes of sadness and excitement sometimes hourly (I’m allowed!), but lately the latter has started to edge out the former. Now that we have a moving date set for the end of February I’m looking forward to feeling relief that this part of our journey is over. When I think about the light at the end of the tunnel it looks like Jim and me wearing pajamas on the couch in our new living room, eating pizza, and watching something silly on television together, probably sighing heavily and happily. The idea that I won’t have to be constantly thinking about something related to moving or the logistics of visiting my husband in another state for much longer is a little intoxicating and honestly, hard to believe…but it’s coming.
In the meantime, if you see me and I’m overly emotional, don’t worry. I’m on my way.