Hurry Up and Wait

Everything was going smoothly–maybe too smoothly: we’d worked our butts off and completed a huge number of home improvement tasks over the course of two grueling, almost sleepless months. The house had been almost entirely repainted and new baseboards installed. We’d done a cosmetic overhaul on one bathroom and nearly a gut renovation on another. We’d sealed and painted the enormous pool area/patio and put in countless hours of landscaping work. Surely now the end was in sight, right?

Knowing that listing the house meant it was serious Go Time, we loaded up boxes and bins and took out a storage unit at our local U-Haul vendor. Packing up the house would serve double duty: moving would be easier if we were already mostly packed, and staging our house to sell would be much easier if there were very few things left to keep clean.

We met with a real estate agent, talked pricing and timeline, promised to complete a number of projects within the week, and scheduled professional pictures and a video tour while she prepared the listing and the comps.

“I have a request for a showing at eleven,” the text read on my phone, only 14 hours after the listing posted. We had anticipated it, but not so quickly. We cleaned again, loaded pets into trucks and disappeared for an hour while strangers walked our house. How many times, we wondered, would we have to do this before we had an offer? (As it turned out, once.)

Anyone who has ever moved–anywhere–can attest to the fact that moving is a stressful experience somewhat akin to a major life trauma. That stress is compounded if you’re selling your home in one location and buying (in my case sight-unseen) in another. Not only are you dealing with different state requirements, but putting logistics into place from thousands of miles away presents an interesting sort of challenge. You are forced to place your trust in complete strangers, which is especially difficult if you are a self-identified control freak.

The closing date barreled down on us as we worked frantically to find a home in our new location, get an offer accepted, get all the necessary inspections completed and line up financing. We had three weeks to make the magic happen. Three weeks until the U-Haul needed to pull out of the driveway and hit I-95, traveling north.

We cleaned, checked all the cabinets and drawers for the last time, and said goodbye to all of our wonderful neighbors. Then we stood in the driveway in the bright morning sun and took a few photos of the house we’d loved so much for the last five years. (I may have ugly cried.)

My gracious in-laws offered to put us up for a couple nights, as our closing happened on a Thursday and our “purchase closing” wasn’t to take place until the following Monday. Not a problem, we thought, it’ll be a day of downtime before we start the drive.

“I’m going to check our financing account,” I told my husband as we pulled into the driveway of my in-laws’ home that Thursday morning. I just wanted to make sure everything was on track, as the loan officer had been assuring me it was for the past several weeks.

Seven new requests for documentation. What was this? All of this had already gone through underwriting according to the loan officer and none of it had raised any red flags. We were in the clear, he’d said. But according to what I was looking at now, almost nothing had been cleared. Some of the requests were almost insurmountable tasks, as we collected schedules and supporting documents, processed approvals, made back-to-back phone calls and sent upwards of 100 e-mails over the course of the next two days.

All of my ducks had stepped out of their row–been pushed out of their row, and suddenly I couldn’t sleep. I lay in bed for the next several nights, my mind churning, my heart hammering. The stress was trying to swallow the both of us whole and I thought to myself, “I have never been officially diagnosed as an anxious person,” but in that moment my sympathy for individuals who suffer chronic, intense general anxiety was at an all-time new level of understanding. I couldn’t imagine feeling this way all the time, or even for extended periods of time. The panic level was so intense, there were moments I feared I wouldn’t be able to catch my breath. (Would we live with my in-laws, out of the back of a U-Haul, forever? Try not to let *that* bring on your own panic attack.)

At the end of the day, I know better. I’ve been trained to handle stressful situations and to apply stress reduction measures: nutritious food, a sleep schedule and routine, meditation and/or religious practices, a gratitude practice. But do you suppose I remembered to do any of those things while my heart was racing and I was trying to catch my breath? (Well, I did remember deep breathing, in an attempt to engage the parasympathetic nervous system, but that wasn’t enough.)

Sometimes we need someone to step in and remind us that things are going to be ok, that terrifying situations are only temporary. It’s difficult to remove ourselves from that panicked head space without the help of someone with a different perspective. In my case, several friends patiently reiterated what I already knew: that everything does happen for a reason, even if I never fully grasp the why. That didn’t immediately talk me down off the ledge, but it helped me to step back for a second and to realize that a momentary stall was not the end of the world. Once again, this was not the end of the story.

Do you have a social network you lean upon for support, for humor, for different perspectives? Surrounding yourself with people who lift you up in your darkest times is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. Take the time to find and socially invest in friends who will laugh and cry with you, and even make fun of you when you’re being really ridiculous. It’s these very people who just might be enough to keep you sane during the trials of life.

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