“Rightsizing”—it used to be a sinister term, a euphemism rolled out by tycoons laying plans to throw hundreds of employees out of work. To us at Women’s Voices, though, “rightsizing” signifies making appropriate change—looking positively at the transitions we need to make as we head into the second half of life. Linda Texter Hall’s article is the second in a series by writers who have made those transitions—both the easy ones, fueled by longing to be in a different place, mentally or physically, and the hard ones, made necessary because of fragile health or financial need. —Ed
“Don’t make any important decisions for a year.” I took this wise advice to the extreme and waited seven years to sell the 1950s house of my dreams after my husband’s death.
I loved the neighbors and the neighborhood. I thought I could stay forever, but the house and my dwindling finances gave me a loud wake-up call. A new roof. Floods in the basement. Appliances breaking. Trees falling down. I met with a financial advisor and reality hit me in the face. I had to start purging the first and only house I had purchased with my beloved husband. And I had to sell it before I knew where I would go.
I wasn’t ready for the emotional and physical toll it would take on me.
It was easy to decide which furniture to keep, give away, sell, or donate. The bedroom set would go with me. The antique ship’s wheel over my bed. The gold wing chair. Pictures painted by my first boyfriend, my mother, and my aunt. My nephew and his wife were glad to have the dining room set that had been in our family for years. My niece’s daughter was delighted with the desk that belonged to her grandfather. It felt good to donate furniture, clothes, and kitchen things to a local women’s shelter.
Much more difficult was sorting through all the boxes of photographs, letters, and keepsakes. I hauled the cartons up to the back porch, and sat on an old wicker chair with my cat curled up beside me. Ambushed by memories, I was suddenly aware of my age, and how I missed the people in those old photographs and letters. I found poems and journals I had written, and wondered what had happened to that girl who had loved to write.
Sometimes I forgot to eat. When I was able to sleep, my dreams were filled with longing for the past and fear of the future. I lost twenty pounds without trying. I had panic attacks.