Moving can tell you a lot about people. Specifically, the response you get from those you have known long time: family, colleagues, and neighbors who you instinctually believed always and forever had your best interest at heart. And vice versa.
Leaving my native Washington, DC, in order to be closer to my son, Andrew, was the result of months of soul-searching. I was at a loss as to how I was going to break the news to those closest to me. Had I been on the normal scale, I would have come right out with the news. `Hey, did you hear?’ I might have asked with a breezy and standoffish air of nonchalance. `I’m moving to Colorado.’
Turns out it was the mic drop heard up and down the National Mall. You would have thought I was blasting off to the moon to scout available parcels for an Amazon warehouse.
Alas, I was blindsided. Had I realized I was opening a relational wound this deep, I would have elected to keep my business private. I fantasized about firing off a change-of-address mail where they could note my Zip code had abruptly changed from 21044 to 80503. Or they could find out about it from any social media platform I’m not on. That’s how disillusioned I was.
During my journey of discovery, two distinct behaviors played out. The first was peppered with those who never wished me well, never even feigned offering even a tepid congratulatory handshake with a guy who had never lived more than 25 miles from the White House.
I got an earful.
Don: “Why Colorado? It’s cold there. There’s avalanches and mountain lions. Also, John Elway was vastly overrated.”
Tom: “You #%&! Who will I find to dump on now?”
Brent, my former student who has cerebral palsy and views life from a wheelchair: “I feel less invisible whenever we hang around together. Now I’ll feel like I’ve been erased with a Number 2 pencil.”
Carol: “Will it be permanent? Hope it’s just temporary. If you go, we want you to move back, please. Really.”
Don again: “You won’t last there.”
A family member: “Thanks for letting me know.” Then radio silence.
The residue from what I presupposed would be physical, social, and spiritual elevation drove me to the brink of seeing a shrink. But since he didn’t take my insurance, I turned instead to my wife, my resident fount of wisdom.
“What’s wrong with me?”
“Let’s put this in context,” she began. “You’re a mess at hanging curtains. Confused when trying to figure out if the simplest of tasks require an Allen wrench. You forced me to take control of the family tool belt.”
“Still, people like you. And you like them. You’re indescribably curious by nature. It works for you, because you take time to single them out. You have a knack for unearthing microscopic details about them that most normal humans wouldn’t ask. You don’t judge. Remember, we’re all me-centered. People look at your news through the prism of how it affects them.”
While I’m still flummoxed by the blowback, the old line about how time heals still holds. No longer am I steeped in the level of guilt I felt before, fearing my choice to switch from a front-row seat in congressional press galleries to life in the Front Range was wrong. Props go to a pair of other longtime friends who showed class. Leavened with admirable sensibilities, they managed to let their better angels take flight.
Ruth: “My gosh, we miss you already, but I’m glad you followed your dream to be near your son and daughter-in-law. They’re an adorable couple. Take care and be in touch.”
Joe: “Go in peace. Go with God.”
Kvetching aside, I my soul calls out for transparency. When my closest childhood friend up and moved to Israel the day after my wedding, it left a gaping hole in me the size of the Eisenhower Tunnel. We hugged, traded snail mail addresses, and we parted. That was forty years ago, and I had a marriage to learn and focus on. But I have gotten over his departure.
Yup, it’s always all about us.