Letting Go

As I returned to San Francisco from Indonesia in April, I expected to see a lot of my friends and family throughout the months ahead. But nearly 7 months later (where did that time go?!), I’m sorry to say that that didn’t happen much, as there’s just been too steady a stream of overlapping tasks at hand to address. We didn’t live in a bubble exactly. I was able to take part in both annual sibling hikes; visit dad and friends now and then. I witnessed my ex softball team finally win the city championship, and the Warrior’s incredible title run (still almost can’t believe either happened). We enjoyed a sing-along to the Wizard of Oz at the Castro theater with Matt and Rita. And old friend Arthur and I watched the Fare Thee Well broadcast of the Dead’s last show on July 5th, which further reinforced the theme of life going by.

The overwhelming message weaving through most everything this year has been of change and letting go. Perhaps the hardest example involved our 2 precious cats, Ozzie and Oscar. Cat Lives Matter! I spent a lot of time handing out and posting a flyer that I made, in search of the right fit. The whole process and prospect of giving them away made us very sad. We were determined to keep them together, but try doing that with 2 older adult male cats. In the end, my sister Kristy in Antioch who adores animals -but who already had 2 cats and a dog- offered to take them. I still well-up at the importance of her gesture. Not only would she provide the best cat home ever, but we’d also always have visiting rights! It was a strike of lightning that we didn’t see coming.

Meanwhile, we were saying goodbye to our world, including many dear neighbors. Lil is 88 now. She lived in our house until her 40’s, and then moved across the street when she married neighbor Mario. They sold me her old house after her mother passed on. Mario passed away a few years ago, but Lil and I remain dear friends. News of our leaving broke her heart at first, but now she’s a big supporter of our life adventure. For years, Jennifer and I enjoyed rotating potluck dinners with 6 great neighbors whose backyards share our common corner. We all enjoyed 1 last happy dinner party together, which we savored. Bernal Heights is a treasure of a neighborhood. We were so fortunate to experience such an artsy, progressive, charming, and close-knit “village on a hill”. The open space at the top is a true SF gem, as is Cortland Street, Wild Side West, Inclusion’s Gallery, the Alemany Flea and Farmer’s Markets, the many stairways and varied nooks and views all around the hill, and the close proximity to other interesting neighborhoods, including Potrero Hill where we were married. Contrary to the current view of many, I believe that with only a few exceptions, Bernal (and all of SF) is a better place now than when I first moved there in 1998. The fixer-upper I bought back then is much nicer today. Those years of hands-on home and yard improvement represent my most rewarding and challenging creative project ever. Maybe down the road I’ll do that again somewhere.

We looked at many options for letting go of our stuff, and settled on a weekend sale event, organized, priced, and sold through an estate sale company. We each had to go through our personal things for months ahead of time just to decide what to keep. I’d long been intrigued by the concept of letting go of my stuff, and wondered what that process would be like, and it was every bit as sweet and sour as I imagined. Most every thing had an emotional attachment. Many times I needed to remind myself of how I do not want to keep accumulating stuff, nor storing a collection of memories to look back on when I’m old. I’m sentimental enough already, but want to look forward to new things throughout the rest of my life. If I hadn’t used or missed it in 2-3 years, then I didn’t need it anymore. It was a difficult, challenging, and really interesting examination and process to go through. In the end we let go of about 3/4 of our stuff, and hope to cut what survived in half during this coming year.

We kept the obvious things such as photos, vital documents, and a smattering of smaller personal items, but musical instruments (guitars, piano, keyboard, accordions, amps, etc): out. My hundreds of treasured record albums: out (I compromised and kept my CD’s and tapes). Most all my clothes, art and art-supplies, camping gear, tools, books, housewares, bedding, furniture, and sorted knick-knacks: out. Some things didn’t sell, despite veeeery cheap prices. So for 2 days afterwards we scrambled to sell the last things on Craigslist, while compiling an extensive “freebie” pile on the sidewalk -which would be gone each morning. The final cherry on top was an impressive pile of varied stereo equipment that somehow still wouldn’t sell. Finally, come Labor Day, that long, hard push was done with. Like it or not, our house was empty, our stuff was gone, and so were we -mostly.

We needed to be out of our house by then, but were still very busy with other tasks and needed to stay close to SF. Through September and October we were greatly helped by the kindness of others, for which we are so grateful. Two of those backyard neighbors had Bernal friends who allowed us to stay in their home across from Holly Park while they were away for 2 weeks, even though we’d never met. We enjoyed experiencing this other nook of our neighborhood, and it helped us transition away from our home nearby. Then we house-sat in Woodside for 2 weeks at an amazing home owned by old college friend Mike and his family. We loved the natural setting and common sights of horses and the Santa Cruz mountain range, and their cat Rascal. From there we moved to Walnut Creek, into sister Kathy’s home for 2 weeks while she was away. We appreciated getting familiar with that nook of the Bay Area, enjoying her 2 cats, and strolling or biking the Iron Horse trail each day. Finally, we spent 2 weeks back in SF, up near the blue water tower of the Excelsior district while Dore and Clara were away. I loved their cat Klimey, and the chance to explore McClaren Park, which is as underrated as it is beautiful. Our apologies to their neighbors for inadvertently tripping the very loud house alarm 3 different times, including once during an hour-long walk! The best part of their home was the fabulous, sweeping corner view of southern SF, centered on our slope of Bernal Heights. Well over a mile away, we could still see our home. I’d just spent 17 years over there looking at this blue water tower and hillside of homes. It seemed quite fitting now to be looking back at where I’d been all that time.

-matt

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Matt Colonell
    Nov 09, 2015 @ 05:00:37

    A very touching and thoughtful description of the huge transition you and Jen are making . . . thank you for that, Matt. Great to have you blogging again!

    Reply

  2. Alexsandra Trevor
    Nov 10, 2015 @ 06:49:56

    Ahhhh….. been there…… I know …… but now we are more free to explore…….

    Reply

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