Fresh flowers on the mantle — peonies from our garden. Deck painted, repairs done, kitchen counters cleared, the detritus of a busy life put neatly away. Everything dusted and vacuumed, clean behind the ears like a farm boy on the first day of school.
We put our house on the Market a few weeks ago. We spent several months, before that, getting it fixed and tidy and ready for potential buyers. It sold quickly, no conditions. Now we must move. Our home has never looked better, and now we must leave it…
It’s been an emotional time for me and my partner, our kids and their other parents — our very own “Modern Family”. For two years we’ve been planning and wondering — plondering I guess you could say — and we’re all feeling stretched thin, like silly putty.
The whole experience has given me some empathy for what congregations go through when they move out of their church building. If you haven’t read my blog’s About Terry Harrison page, you might not know that I work for the BC Conference of The United Church of Canada as the Property Resource Team Lead. In short, I work with United Church congregations to redevelop their property (or, in some cases, to sell it, so they can relocate). In the redevelopment scenarios, the existing church building is demolished and the site rebuilt as a mixed-use redevelopment featuring brand new custom-built church space on the main floor of a multi-story apartment building, with housing on the floors above the church. As the PRT Lead, I oversee the professional design and development team, and liaise with the congregational leadership teams who oversee the process of moving and relocating their congregations.
Redevelopment is risky, complicated, expensive and lengthy — just like the process of selling the family home has been for us, albeit on a far smaller scale.
The hardest thing seems to be the uncertainty. The question of “what’s next” hangs over us like a late November sky over the Burrard Inlet.
Disruption, loss of security, a temporary state of affairs. We wait for the dust to clear and the next thing to emerge.
Like the Congregations with whom I work, my family is moving because we have changed. We are different than we used to be. Our kids have grown and left the nest, which seems natural and right, and we have responded accordingly. The nest needs to be renewed.
We, as a family, made some strategic adjustments over the last few years that gave us some extra time in situ, but they were never meant to last forever. Nothing does. The place in which we watched our children grow up is now too big for us, and we’re no longer up to the effort of maintaining it. It doesn’t mean we’re not “family” anymore, it’s just that how we relate to each other, how we move in the world, how we use and share space has to change in order for us to become V.2 of the Maxgraffisons.
What will our family in diaspora look like? Who knows? We haven’t followed the nuclear family template so far, and we’re not going to start now. As always, we will strive to have faith in the unfolding.
How each member of the extended family responds to the “not knowing” is different, so there are many shades of anxiety in the family dynamic these days. We’re coping well enough, but it does put stress on our relationships. Each of us are being called to do our own emotional work, which we do because we know that our individual well-being forms the bedrock of our relationships with one another. And, ultimately, it is the strength of these relationships that will determine the quality of the transformation we’re going through.
That’s why — back on the work front — I’ve tried to place a real focus on building strong relationships within and between the Design and Development team and the Congregational Leadership teams. Everyone comes to the table with different gifts and skills, hopes and concerns. And each of us functions from a different area of authority and accountability. We’re not all the same, and that’s okay. Look at an orchestra or your very own church choir (or your favourite hockey team, if sports are your preferred metaphor) and you’ll notice specialization matters. So we draw on the diversity of the group and create teams that are a unique mash-up of personalities and capacities, bound by a common goal, a shared sense of purpose and built on the strength of relationship.
This whole selling the family home experience has been ripe with life lessons for me. What a relief it is to find, among these lessons, that my work and my family don’t exist in separate compartments. That there are some real intersections between these two very important aspects of my life.