On emptiness

I have been selling my furniture. This week, my couches and the kitchen table and chairs left, and the increasing emptiness of my current abode grows greater and more hollow. This place used to be filled with books and art and life. It was cluttered, but in a fruitful and inspiring way. My friends always told me what an oasis of peace and comfort my home was. I’m trying to keep a sort of Zen attitude about this loss, but between the emptiness of the rooms and the grey and drizzle outside, it’s hard not to be a little down about it all. The sheltered, comfortable space you see in the photos below is gone and I remain.

Living Room

Living Room


Dining room

I’ll admit it: I’m used to my creature comforts. I like soft, squishy couches. I like to be surrounded by my library and my art. I prefer somewhere comfortable and off the floor to sit. While I frequently eat at my desk, I do prefer to have the option of using a table. It’s been a very long time since my life was this stripped down. I’m sleeping on a tiny borrowed day bed and sitting on a borrowed desk chair. Pretty much every physical thing that matters to me is in a box in storage in Seattle. I’ll be listing my dresser on craigslist later today, and next week I may be living out of a suitcase until I leave because of that.

There are moments when this feels like the years I spent couch-surfing because I couldn’t afford a place of my own. This emptiness, on some level, reminds me too sharply of poverty. I know that I am no longer in that situation, that I am doing this by my own choice, that I am  moving on to something exciting and adventurous, yet the emotional impact of this hollow, echoing space remains. I have 27 more days to live in this increasing emptiness.

On the good days — and there are a lot of them — I look at it as releasing my old life and the weight of what had come before. The things we own so often define us, and not always in positive ways. This letting go peels away layers of possessions and habits that I had perhaps needed to change, but found myself too ingrained to deal with. Inertia is a powerful force. Each thing I pack to ship to Italy has to be considered. Do I really need this? Can I take this? Can I replace this? Will I be able to live without this for several months while I get my own place and wait for the shipment of my possessions to arrive?

I’ve mailed a few boxes of things to my brother so that they’ll be there when I arrive. It’s comforting to think I will have a little of my life already waiting for me in Italy. I have a couple more yet to send, including some of the books I’ve been using to study Italian. I don’t need all of them all the time, and they’d take up space and weight in my luggage on the plane, so off they’ll go.

Along with all the physical possessions I’m shedding, I’ve also let go of a name. In 1989, I changed my legal name from the one I was born with to one I liked better that I had already been using for several years. My brother noted that I will probably need a copy of my birth certificate for some things when I arrive in Italy, so I wrote off to the state of Rhode Island to have them change my name on my birth certificate to match the name on my passport and other identity documents. Trying to trace the changes from the birth certificate through marriages and divorces to the name I use today would be confusing for people here in the US sometimes, so I could only imagine how convoluted and confusing it would be in Italy, where people rarely change last names even in marriage, and presumably almost never change first names. The rectified birth certificate arrived yesterday with the requested apostille attached so that it can serve as a legal document in Italy. It has been placed in the folder with all the paperwork for my visa application and I’ll carry it on the plane with me when I go.

The days are passing swiftly, yet every moment feels drawn out, stretched to a breaking point.


6 thoughts on “On emptiness

  1. Letting go is always frightening, that momentary “I’m falling” or something similar. But it also has it’s joy and delight as floating free.

    thanks for the reminder. I still need to contact New Mexico about my name change as well.

  2. Arg! Soooo sympathetic with that whole ‘hurry up and wait’ feeling! Never quite to the degree you’re having it, but then I’ve lived here in this same town since I was 3. Yeah. Travelling isn’t the same as moving. I’ve moved around here a lot, actually, but within the same town is WAY different to moving to another state or another COUNTRY. So, I can imagine, I certainly empathize, but I cannot actually KNOW your individual unhappy; however, I am eager for it to become a happy, the adventure we’ve bantered about, and for you to find the exciting, fun part of this journey. Hopefully, you’ll have a lot of that, to counter the more negative parts of this process. I’m firmly looking forward to there being much squee.

    I’m hoping your emaily upfookery is sortable, and you know you can text, if all else fails, just lemme know if there’s a new addy or you’d like to try something.

    Oh, also: *huggaluvs* ❤ You're in my thoughts, as you know.

    • Thanks Random. Email seems to be working properly again. I’m not sure what was going on. I listed the dresser today and have had two inquiries, so we’ll see if anyone comes by to get it tomorrow at some point.

      I’ve spent a lot of my life moving around, from being a kid with a military parent to being in the military myself, and even after I got to Seattle I moved around a lot. It feels a little surreal to think of how long I’ve actually been here.

      I have read what you sent me and liked it. I’ll be able to actually comment on the next section when you send it. ❤

  3. Those little things that are yours really do help. I’ve moved into someone else’s mess with minimal possessions twice. When I moved to Scotland I moved into a furnished flat. The only piece of furniture that was mine was a super cheap desk and office chair, which never felt like mine since they were bought on day one of living there. But, I had my ancestors altar, and I had a handful of books, and that made the strange displacement more bearable until I started buying picture frames and populated the empty shelves with my own memories.

    When we moved to Brittany we had not nearly as many things of our own as we had when you came to visit (my parents came down some weeks after the move with our things). The house was also full of little knicknacks. We removed those immediately. You should’ve seen it, every surface had little lamps with fringy lamp shades, there were clowns hanging in the kitchen, grapevine candle holders everywhere. That helped a little, but once our possessions came, most of them remained in boxes, but just being able to unpack a few of those boxes, and have something of our own… it’s worth so much!

    It’s surprising what you can actually live without, though. Since we want to renovate each room now before we fill it up with furniture, we have very little. Any guest is going to have to sit at the kitchen table or on the floor. Some days I miss having a living room dreadfully. I loved sitting together, reading, in the evening, in a peaceful and clean environment, but then I think about how great it’s going to be with a sofa in front of the fireplace one day, when we’ve tiled the floor and installed a wood burner, ant it’s all okay again.

    • Wow, clowns? *shudder*

      Yeah, I figure when the library and the art arrive, it’ll feel like my space again, no matter what else happens. Having the altar stuff when I arrive will help immensely as well.

      Thanks very much for your thoughts. I’m hoping I’ll get a chance to see you and Magnus again sometime in the next year or two!

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