As bitter cold and the holidays descend on Seattle, we find ourselves quickly moving things forward. We have holiday events to plan and attend, plane tickets to purchase for family gatherings in other states, and gifts to bake, make and buy. In addition, we decided to move the rest of Kelli’s personal belongings from storage – where they’ve been for over a year – into the house, which necessitated conversations, negotiations and compromises as we chose what to keep, what to release and where to place what remains. Though the act of combining all of our belongings was not unexpected, the timing was, since we’re still living in a smaller home than we wanted to be living in by now…
I knew that when Kelli moved her furniture into the house it would take the place of most of mine, for hers is newer, nicer, more comfortable and coordinated. I thought we’d have a larger home when that time came though, and that my furniture, particularly living/family room furniture, would find a place in a family/game room. This was not to be. I had to let go of furniture, books, decorations and belongings that we have no room for, some of which don’t ‘fit’ me anymore – easy to release- and many of which still carry meaning and memories – much harder. I’d bought most of my furniture and belongings when I left my ex-husband 15 years ago, and while all of it was now more functional than elegant, it represented freedom, authenticity and self-sufficiency. It was a challenge to let go of my things, however I did so knowing that it’s important to Kelli to have all of her things with her, and because doing so enables Kelli and I to more fully merge as a couple. I did have one request; what we didn’t sell we’d donate to Sharehouse, a non-profit agency providing furnishings to people moving from transitional into permanent housing. If I have to let go of symbols of my freedom, at least they may become that for another.
During the process of letting go, I noticed the waves of grief that overtook me as I navigated sorting, packing, purging, and organizing. I noticed my conflicted feelings wanting to move forward in my relationship versus not wanting to negate my past, my decorating choices or my identity by replacing my things with Kelli’s. I had to find a way to release without resentment. And what I found very hard to do was tell Kelli about my inner conflict, because I didn’t want her to get defensive or believe that my emotions meant I didn’t want the merge to happen. I’m (unfortunately!) adept at submerging my feelings for what I believe is a noble cause or a greater good, stoically dealing with them on my own. Not exactly the way to build intimacy or deepen connection.
When I told Dorothy about my desire to move the rest of my possessions into the house, I knew it would stir emotional feelings…not to mention pile another big task on us during the holiday season. However, for me, it was time. I needed to be/feel totally integrated going into the New Year. 2013 has been a year of many changes and transitions, both expected and unexpected. Children, aging parents, families, friends, and jobs have taken much of our time and energy…more than either of us planned. Our coupleship has remained strong in the midst and fully merging together in our home seemed the next best step for our future.
I’d done my greater letting go last year when I moved from Austin: selling my house, leaving close friends and family, relocating to Seattle, securing most of my household into storage. What felt unifying for me now represented a loss for Dorothy. While she grieved over letting go, I felt relief and finally truly integrated into our home. My grief, over not having many of my things over the past year and a half, was lifted and I was feeling more celebratory. When Dorothy opened up about her inner conflicts, I understood her perspective though was admittedly disappointed that the experience didn’t feel more exciting to her.
Dorothy and Kelli speak
After the big move was complete – boxes and furniture taken by Sharehouse volunteers, carpets cleaned and most of our things in their respective places – we spent the weekend decorating and preparing for the holidays. We pulled out Christmas boxes and put up our small tree in the window of our living room. I, Kelli, let Dorothy take the lead placing her heart-themed ornaments on the tree, her decorative ceramics on tables, shelves, and windowsills and her holiday candles around the house. I wanted to give her space to situate and find herself amongst the new furniture, which was primarily mine. I knew it was important to her to have her holiday treasures out and in view. Our stockings hanging side by side were enough for me. I could give the rest to her.
Our relationship speaks
Dorothy and Kelli know that moving forward invariably involves letting go of parts of their past, physical and emotional, in order to make room for their present together. Lingering feelings along with memories may remain, even if the tangible symbols of previous experiences and relationships are released. Dorothy is learning to talk more about the sadness and grief that can sometimes overwhelm, and Kelli is learning the ways in which to best support her during these times. In the midst of their conflicting emotions, the disorganization that moving and merging bring, and the stress of current life events, Kelli and Dorothy remain close, eagerly planning holiday celebrations and looking forward to a New Year filled with more intimacy and personal connections.
Kelli Williamson holds a Master of Arts degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling from The School of Leadership and Education at the University of San Diego. Kelli has extensive experience working with couples, children and families. She has worked in private practice and held leadership positions in non-profit organizations directing counseling services, supervising staff and interns, and providing training in child and family therapy. In addition, she consults with non-profit agencies providing organizational development and leadership training.
Dorothy (Bosteder) Emerson graduated from the University of California at Davis with a degree in Economics. She is a Senior Product Manager in the banking industry and has served on the board of directors for non-profit agencies serving women and children. Dorothy has expertise in building relationships by facilitating communication and collaboration while navigating complex systems. Dorothy is also the mother of two teenagers and she offers clarity and focus on listening to and following one’s heart as a parent.
Dorothy and Kelli can be reached at email@example.com.