Grace Under Pressure

The hard part of the move is over. The van is loaded, the extra van is loaded too and the gift of lessons has been presented.

What’s a “gift of lessons”? Life often takes interesting, unexpected twists. They are generally not fun. If we learn quickly from them, we can adjust and move ahead. If we fight the lesson, refuse to see it, insist it isn’t there, demand it to go away, it will still be there, but we will be exhausted and miserable.

Figuring out how to navigate those life lessons to get the nourishment and leave the stress is a rare gift. I had one of those gifts yesterday, during the height of the move. We had rented the largest van available. The plan was to load it and use the extra space to move the motorcycles. A friend built a special rack.

When you figure out how much of a van you need, you use calculators that ask for room size, special furniture (gym equipment, big screen TVs) and other bulky items. No calculator ever asks if you have books. They simply assume you have about 10 pounds of books. After giving away hundreds of books, I had hundreds more. Books that make good reading, art books, instruction books. The van filled quickly.

At first I thought it was a matter of deciding what to take and what to leave behind. But it wasn’t. The only choice was to rent another van. That wasn’t in the plan. It was more than I’d budgeted for. In a wonderful flash of understanding, I realized that it didn’t matter what I had planned, the reality was right in front of me–rent another van. The van in the driveway was full, the motorcycles weren’t in it yet, and there was still furniture in the house.

Much as I hated the option, it was the only really workable one. Even after careful pruning, there was too much I owned already loaded in the van. No use beating myself up, no beating myself up for not knowing (how could I have known?), simply quick and direct action–finding an available van and bringing it back. I did it.

And my reward? Less stress. A feeling of making a necessary decision. A feeling of mastery over my emotions. (Want to feel a lack of control? Do a cross-country move.) We can not control the occasional smelly fish-head life tosses at us. But we are in total control of the decision-making process and the reaction we have. We can choose to be angry, yell, make unreasonable demands, engage in attention-grabbing drama.

Or, we can cut the drama, control our emotions and move on. Doesn’t get as much attention, but gets the job done. The American author Ernest Hemingway (whose books are in the van), defined courage as “grace under pressure.” Choosing to make the best decision at hand now is not always easy, but it opens the road ahead for smoother travel.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. She is moving cross country with more than 500 books, a husband and three cats. See her work at

3 thoughts on “Grace Under Pressure

  1. Flexibility is the key to survival. When the small truck isn’t big enough, get the bigger truck. If you can’t sell everything you want to part with but can’t give it away, pack it, move it and sell it in your new locale. If you order tuna salad and it’s no longer available, go with the peanut butter and jelly sandwich!

    Moving really brings out the best or the worst in people: some think they are in control of everything (yeah, like the moving van companies are our serfs?). Soon they find out that they control nothing except their own reaction to what is going on. Remain light on your feet, shake the tension out of your shoulders and keep taking notes for the blog!

    By the time you move more than one continent or another with the military telling you exactly how many pounds of things you can take (like I’m going to weigh my belongings?!) and delivering them in some obscure order of sanity which makes sense to only them, you realize that like everything else in life, the things in life which are most important are not things.

    Hope the cats travel ok; the weather has been bumpy lately here in the middle of the US so hope they made it all right without any problems. The vans will get there ok and you’ll have the house ready for them when they arrive. In a few months this whole experience will be nothing but another memory of cranky, funny, goofy, sad and insightful moments. Just get enough sleep, and be sure to drink plenty of fluids (Baileys and coffee sounds right just about now! LOL)..

    —-> You have magnificent insights. Iced coffee and Bailey’s turns out to be the solution to almost all of life’s stresses! -Q

  2. Quinn I follow your stages of moving with much sympathy and empathy for this time next year in the month of august I will be where you are now.

    In september we will receive The List of countries where we might me heading and that list also includes NL, which is back home. Somewhere in march or april we will know which country it will be.

    Going back home is the easiest to do but nevertheless still hard work.
    Going to a new country, well, that will be tough but how tough is still a surprise…

    This week I have already begun to de-clutter our appartement. I felt inspired by your busy work and I just felt like it đŸ˜€ and from experience I know that I have to cherish those moments. đŸ˜‰

    There will be people who pack our stuff and there will be a big container available. Still I do all the organising beforehand, and my husband does the paperwork and takes care of all the insurances etc…

    At them moment I deeply envy you for you already know where you are going to live and you are looking forward to it.

    I know that you are all still in the middle of it but you are doing fine. Once you are riding those vans you will begin to feel so good. And the best part still has to come: to go to the new house and unpack everything, make the place really your house and your new lives can finally begin.

    —>My heart goes out to you.
    Moving is always stressful, whether you have help or not.
    I’ve done it both ways, and while I’d rather have more help, I got rid of more stuff when I was packing.
    But either way, we chose where to go, and that made it so much easier. When you don’t have a choice, it must be so much harder.
    Tell me how you get used to a new city you didn’t choose.

  3. Lots of life lessons in that moving van space-crunch.

    “We can choose to be angry, yell, make unreasonable demands, engage in attention-grabbing drama. Or, we can cut the drama, control our emotions and move on.”

    Movin’ on down the road…right.

    Are you driving the second truck?

    —> There is more to this story, which will be tomorrow’s blog. One lesson learned at a time! Kent’s friend Don is driving the second truck. My job is to follow the money–fly to Phoenix, pick up the cats, and go through the closing of the new house so we have a place to unload the vans!

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