So what is it like to have just three weeks left at post? It is stressful. Apparently so stressful that it can cause you to fall off the treadmill. Well, that is what happened in my case at any rate. Yes, last night at the gym while on track for one of my faster 5Ks I made a misstep resulting in an Oscar-worthy fall, scramble on my knees, and finally a had-to-be-funny-to-watch slide off the end of the treadmill. I cannot be sure it is correlated to my impending departure, but since I have never fall off a treadmill before I cannot but find the two are related.
Three weeks left at post mean that shopping trips have become boring espisodes in my life. I am duty-bound to do them but they hold little interest. I buy items because we need things like eggs or milk. I do not buy extra things although the temptation to do so grows ever stronger knowing it makes NO SENSE to do so because anything extra I buy today I will not see after pack out for 2 months (if in my unaccompanied baggage – UAB- which will be sent to DC during my training) or 8 months or more (if in my household effects – HHE- that I will see again only after we have arrived in China). When previously in Indonesia, yeah, I may have bought a few extra handicrafts that were on my “must-buy” list for awhile and I wanted to remind me of my time in country. Yet in Juarez the handicrafts sold here are generally from elsewhere, like Oaxaca, and if I am going to buy Oaxacan handicrafts I would rather buy them in Oaxaca. And to be honest, the things I want to buy now are in Target in El Paso. These are not things I need now by any stretch of the imagination. Wants must be surpressed.
Three weeks left at post mean every single time I look at any item in my house I am thinking whether it will 1. go in the car with us, 2. go into UAB, 3. go into HHE, 4. go to Goodwill, or 5. be thrown out? Every single time I look at ANYTHING! All of my “stuff” is under scrutiny. It is mentally exhausting to do this. As a daughter of pack-rats I find the purging that comes with regular moves to be carthartic. That doesn’t mean I like it, but it can be helpful. Cartharis is defined as “the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, especially through certain kinds of art.” And there is an art to the pack out. I’m not saying I am particularly good at it, but I have my own mad, crazy technique. And in the end when the pack out day comes, regardless whether my technique is good or not the movers drive away with my stuff in boxes headed for the next post.
Three weeks left at post lends itself to going without some things. Like when your vitamins or your favorite tea run out you do not buy more because what would be the point? You’ll just end up with one more thing to pack and you cannot stand the idea of one more thing to pack. Or you ration items, like, say, cheese. While maybe in the past you were more generous in your cheese portions you are not now because you don’t want to buy more and end up having to give it away. I mean, a half a bag of shredded cheese is not the kind of gift most people ask for. Or you hide items, like salt. If you have perhaps a nanny who has a tendency to use up your staples without asking and you are down to the last bit of salt, you might find yourself hiding the salt container high up on a shelf behind a gift box of Starbucks expresso cups. I’m not saying I know anyone personally who has done this, but it could happen. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Three weeks to go mean I become that person at work who when someone asks me a question like “how do I do blah-blah-blah?” I respond with an answer that invariably ends in the annoying phrase “and I have only X number of days left.” I don’t want to be that person but I have become that person. I cannot help myself. It is as if it is my moral imperative to become that person.
Three weeks mean it is too early to change your address although you do not receive mail at post anymore. It means you are on your way out but you still have enough time left at post for it to not quite feel real yet. It is a weird and stressful and exhilarating time. And sometimes even when you think you got a handle on things you stumble. On the treadmill.