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Written by: Byron Edgington
Date: August 1, 2016


Hanging by one’s fingernails can be exhilarating…and terrifying

I could not find my fingernail clippers. I searched high and low in my once orderly abode that’s now utterly disrupted as we embark on our move across the water. “Where in the holy %#@* are those blasted clippers!?” My wife retreated to a far corner of the kitchen to escape my growing irritation. “…mumble, snarl, curse…blasted, rotten…clippers!” My gut churned; my chest roiled. My heart rate soared to unhealthy levels.

Why was a grown, reasonably calm and collected, otherwise sane 68-year-old distraught over a lost $1.50 nail clipper? Here’s why. I only teased this out later, once the actual clippings began plinking into the trash bin. Clipping my nails can be very therapeutic. In the middle of a monumental life change such as my wife and I are making, emotions run high because change becomes the rule not the exception.

Emotional aspects of change

For those of us in the third-third of life, the truth is that change is our reality, but it’s also what pushes our emotional buttons — really hard. And here’s the thing: I swore that our pending move was going to be easy for me, a piece of cake, walk in the park, yadda, yadda. “I thrive on adventure,” I boasted. “No problem, I love a new challenge, bring on the chaos!” Well… Let’s just say I’m not as young and insouciant as I once was.

I’ve written in previous Next Avenue Cbus posts about my pending relocation to Panama, and the various considerations involved in doing so: The packing and planning; the shedding, gifting, disposing and discarding; so called minimizing and the liberating sense of detaching from ‘stuff.’ There’s dealing with the phone/internet/data plan. Utilities and mail. Get busy learning passable Spanish. What about the magazines? Sell the condo, or rent it out? What to do with the car? Do we tell the kids where we’re going or not? Okay, the last item was to see if you’re paying attention. Of course we’ll tell the kids where we’re going, just not when.

There are a lot of moving parts involved in a trek out of the country, and we’re hoping we’ve managed them all. But the emotional part of upending our lives somehow escaped us — until the great clipper caper brought us back to reality.

Owning our fears

The emotional part, it turns out, is the biggest obstacle. Oh, the packing and planning and particulars of a long distance move are daunting. But the self-awareness and introspection required are more important, because they’re hidden and often denied.

For those Next Avenue types moving toward a new adventure, remember that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. You’ll move forward, but every step will feel a bit tentative, a bit threatening. It’s okay to acknowledge that apprehension. It will happen a lot. Hanging by one’s fingernails can be exhilarating and terrifying. Don’t be afraid to own the fear. Fear is the basic emotion, the one that kept our species alive when we dropped from the trees and scanned the Savanna.

It’s okay to fall apart over little things. In fact, it’s the little things — like lost nail clippers — that put us over the edge fastest, because they’re so inconsequential that we question ourselves for assigning them emotional heft. My advice when it happens is to let it. Use the irritation, the tension and anxiety to uncover and confront whatever latent fear you’ve been denying. Finding the clippers helped defuse my anxiety. But here’s what truly calmed the savage beast. I let go of the fear by talking it out.