The Awkwardness of New Surroundings – Change Can Hurt

Change can hurt.  Literally and figuratively.

I sold my house last week and I’ve arrived in California.   Sausalito, to be exact, just north over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.  I’m in tiny temporary quarters until the renovations on the place I’ve rented are complete.  Though the space is small, the bed is tall – 5 ½ feet off the ground with a metal stepladder to go up to it.

First night, 4 AM (7AM on my body clock) I decided to get up.  I stepped carefully down to the first step, then automatically  stretched my leg down for the ground as I was used to doing at home when I used the small stepladder I had at home.  Yes, you guessed it.  My leg did not reach the ground and I tumbled down, banging up both my knees.

Luckily, the only damage was blacks and blues, not any serious injuries.  But it demonstrates to me how much our brains and bodies are attached to our old ways of doing things.

It’s been 3 weeks today since I left my Florida house, the house we outfitted with things to make life easier for my husband, like a touch faucet in the kitchen.  I’m still banging the faucet here trying to turn it on and off.  How long will it take for my brain to learn the new pattern?

Far more distressing is the discomfort of the unfamiliar, from the view out the window, the faces I see walking the dog, the dials on the stove, to the furniture. Our brains automatically react to unfamiliar stimuli as dangerous – it’s a survival tactic?  Consciously we don’t think that because our brains are doing an override, making sense of what’s new, but it still feels strange.  When it’s familiar our brain doesn’t have to do any work.

There’s also the complete sense of incompetence that comes from not knowing.  Not knowing where to put the trash.  How to get to the grocery store.  What the COVID rules are within the grocery store.  Etc.etc.. I felt like crying first time in the grocery store.    It’s incredibly uncomfortable to feel so unskilled.

So what’s the lesson in all this? My move wasn’t the wrong thing to do just because I’m uncomfortable, or in pain, even.  Same with any changes you go through.

Just because it feels scary or uncomfortable doesn’t mean the old way is better, though our brains will tell us that as a reflex.  Just because we feel stupid or incompetent because we don’t get it at first, doesn’t mean we won’t get it or that the change is wrong.

It’s a matter of hanging in there, letting our bodies and brains get accustomed to the new patterns, new ways of doing things, telling ourselves that the feelings of discomfort are normal.  Repeating “things will get better.”