I spend a lot of time convincing people that I'm a brave person, but, in truth, I'm just good in a crisis. I collapse like anyone else after the crisis is over. And so, you can understand, that I'm more than a little bit terrified at the prospect of moving to the UK in January. (Although, technically, it's a reverse commute, a rather good phrase I've now copyrighted - don't you think there's a ring to it?)
First of all, my children are deeply unhappy about it, as you can imagine, and I'm not particularly thrilled at the prospect of not being in the same place as them. But, I get to see my mother for a bit, which is something I haven't done regularly since I was 22.
Secondly, I was terrified to tell my clients, because I thought they wouldn't take it well, but, as it turns out, that has proven to be wrong. They've all said in unison that they know they'll be taken care of and don't care where I do it from. And they know there will be an office in LA and someone to take care of them on the ground and that all the strategy and planning can be done from anywhere in the world, and that I'll be back for the really important stuff. Most of what I do is on email or the phone, after all.
Thirdly, I've lived in LA for the last thirty years. Thirty years. Essentially, the whole of my adult life has been spent in this beautiful crazy sexy place. Thirty years of California light, of LA sunsets, of earthquakes and bad public transport, of skunks and cowboys and sweltering heat and bizarre flash floods, of wannabes and fakers and attitude and the seriously rich, of the Westside and the LA National Forest, coyotes and our lonesome Canyon owl. I live only a few yards from where Joni Mitchell lived, for goodness' sake.
Fourth, this house in Laurel Canyon has been my home for nearly twenty years. My children grew up here. I've had four dogs live and die here, and two more who are still living with me. After John left, I scoured the house for his stuff, took down all his pictures, try to erase all trace of him, but how, exactly do you do that when you've been with the same person since you were twenty? I look at the stuff we have: the plates and glasses and painting and tchotchkes, the yards of books, the boxes stuffed with photos, the baby stuff, the Christmas ornaments we've collected over the years, and which I'm going through now as I decorate the tree in an effort to embrace the season, and I'm sad.
Yesterday I started to collect my things, the painting that are mine, some silver from my Norwegian grandmother, gifts from the children: Mexican crosses and horseshoes wrapped in colorful wool, and pictures of them with the dogs. I went through bookshelves to take only the most special ones (A wise friend said, take only those things that will make you feel at home) and found old notes and postcards stuffed between the books, photographs that had been turned upside down, perhaps because once I didn't like them, drawers with more books, tiny ones, and little hand-scribbled notes. I pull pictures off walls so that now my bedroom wall, once an army of little black-framed pictures, looked like an overpicked strawberry patch on a hot summer day. All the things I'd tucked away to work on later -- prints I'd bought, still in their stiff card envelopes, a piece of tapestry, a bag of fabric from which I'd vowed to make a patchwork quilt -- now reveal themselves to me in their unfinished glory. What are they exactly, but evidence that I start things and don't finish? But more than that, the house feels cold without my little buddhas and kuan yins which I kept to keep us safe. The cushions that have LOVE written on them because I wanted to continue to promulgate that notion that it existed here. The books on birds and flowers and trees of California that I'd take out and use for a week, madly excited and then put away again. The old drawer with the mixtapes and the children's Christening presents. Oh, it's all too much.
The shippers come on Monday. I have it in black and white. They will arrive between 3pm and 5pm and then all things that make this feel like home will go, including my grandmother's candlesticks, and I will be left with two naughty dogs, two grown-up children who are unhappy with me, and the dull sense that I could have, somehow, made more of this time.
My mother says "don't buy too many things until you get here" when I suggest getting a bed and a sofa. She's right of course. The adorable cottage I'm renting I haven't even seen in real life. I trust her taste, of course, and Charlie's. The pictures are awfully sweet. It has tall chimneys and paint-chipped windows, and low ceilings because it was built in the 17th century, and it is mine for the next year. Three bedrooms and a vegetable garden, a tiny sitting room, some wood burners, and bookshelves. And right in the middle of the beautiful Chilterns, near an Iron Age fort, and ancient woodlands. I was thinking of the nature cure, of being able to immerse myself in woods and watch the dogs in their leaping happiness. "Just look at the place before you get anything" she said and I know this comes from a good place. "Can you imagine what it will feel like not to have a home?" I say. When I leave Laurel Canyon, that's it, that's no longer my house. I'm not sure why I feel this so acutely. It's just stuff they say. I know it is.
I'm a homebody. All of my confidence comes from this arcane idea that there is a heart at the centre of my home that beats for me and my children and our loved ones. And venturing away from that beating heart, and its warmth, and love, is frightening.
When your children go away to college, you gradually get used to the idea, I suppose. Not really. Looking at the old photos yesterday on my packing mission, I felt pangs of sadness every time I saw them as little ones, smiling at me, guileless, before they knew how to hate me. I still pick up the phone whenever they ring. I still buy them presents that I think will make them happy. I still pray for them every night, and light candles for them when I visit cathedrals. I feel there is a connection between us, a tiny silk filament that links us. Sometimes I tug. Sometimes they do. Knowing that they are both happy is the best thing ever. And knowing that they both have amazing, awesome, kind partners who love them, is all I could ask for.
But still. Not being able to have them round for our traditional Sunday night supper whenever I want to, is a hard thing to think about.
There is a good man, a tall, kind, handsome, sweet man in London who loves me and only wants the best for me. I know that. He is my English Oak. He is my good fortune. He is solid and brave and unmoving and he tells me that everything will be fine and every time I'm sad he reminds me that he is there, loving me. And that is really all I need.
But, gosh, this is very, very hard.
I'm going to publish a picture of this little cottage so you can see why I like it.
And thank you, each and every one of you, who have supported me through all the horribleness of the last five and a half years. I'm sorry I've been such a lousy blogger, but I'm so grateful to you all for being so kind.