Thursday, May 9, 2013

Earthly Fears on the Feast Day of the Ascension

Last week I wrote this post about moves of all sorts, including one that we're in the process of making, to another house in a better neighborhood in our same town:  "When we first moved down here, I was enchanted by the historic neighborhoods, but it was fairly clear we couldn't afford one of those houses. Now, because of the housing collapse and because it's fifteen years later and we have more resources, we can. A commitment to place can make some dreams come true."

That paragraph makes me sound so calm, so determined, so unafraid.  Truth be told, I vacillate.  I'm terrified of the debt load.  But then I look at the listings of some of the houses that we've seen, and I'm terrified we'll miss this chance.  I drive through the neighborhood where we hope to migrate, and I fall in love again, and I'm excited, and I can hardly wait.

When I was younger, if you had told me that I'd be afraid of moving, I'd have laughed at you.  Why, my family moved every several years, and my spouse and I moved every other year, if not every year, in the first years of our marriage.  I could box up my belongings in one afternoon in a minimum number of boxes.

Now I have considerably more belongings.

I remember when we moved to this house, I felt afraid of the mortgage we were taking on.  I had a friend who said, "The bank wouldn't loan you this amount of money if they didn't think you could handle it."

That was back in 1998.  In between then and now, we've missed the incredibly lax years, when banks didn't even require documentation of jobs or income.  Now we're back to needing lots of documentation.

When I'm not running numbers, I'm thinking of other risks.  I was trying to get to FEMA flood maps the other day, but I went to a different website with maps that show which property will be underwater given sea level rise that is expected with global warming.

I called my sister and said, "If you're looking at a property that has a 1 in 6 chance of being underwater given 1 foot of sea level rise from global warming, and there's a 20-50% chance of this happening as the years go from 20 years to 50 years, would you take the risk?"

She helped me untangle the statement and finally said, "1 in 6?  I'd take those odds.  After all, you can't be sure there will be sea level rise.  I'd be more worried about hurricanes."

Indeed.  I've had some friends ask why we'd move closer to the beach.  But I do remember some hurricanes when people in the western part of the county fared worse than those of us to the east.  So much depends on wind speed and quadrants and rain amounts and rain in the weeks before that makes the earth so soggy that trees fall over.  I'll pay the exorbitant insurance costs and hope for the best.

I think back to my fears when I was much younger.  I was worried about nuclear war and being separated from those whom I love in the aftermath.  Long before terrorists made us all aware that we needed an emergency plan, I'd tell my boyfriend (who then became my husband) that in the event of a nuclear war, we'd make our way back to campus and figure out what to do from there, how to make our way in an apocalyptic landscape.

I can't decide if I think that's unbearably sweet or incredibly naive or if, knowing what we know about the state of the world's nuclear powers, I was simply being prepared.

In fact, I thought about hanging on to my '74 Monte Carlo because it had an ignition that could survive a nuclear blast--it wouldn't be wiped out with an electromagnetic pulse that would come with a nuclear detonation.  My spouse pointed out that we'd soon be unable to get gas for the car, so it probably wasn't worth holding on to.

I have carted many an increasingly useless object across the country from move to move, but happily, I've been able to let go of some of the bigger items, like cars.  I had trouble getting rid of our '67 VW Bug too, but I forced myself.

I'm the kind of person who keeps multiple calendars in my head, and I'm aware that today is the Feast of the Ascension, the day that celebrates Jesus being taken up into Heaven.  If you were hoping for a poem for the day, or for a serious meditation, see this post on my theology blog.  I'm aware that my fears are quite earthly, and that I've been waiting for decades to evolve into the fearless woman that I catch glimpses of occasionally.

Of course, I hope to have several decades left on this earth yet.  Maybe by the time I'm 80, I'll have become the brave woman I know I can be.

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