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I’ve been going through a move recently.

Moves, it turns out, really sensitive you to the narrative frames you use in your daily life.

Most of the time, your narrative frame is static; everything in it implies stability, sameness. You have one car; one residence; one girlfriend or boyfriend, etc. The financial commitments, especially, imply a fixedness of space and purpose that stays the same over long periods of time. The overall impression is of sameness, with small variations nibbling away at it over time. In the short term, you’re the same today as you were yesterday as you were the week before, like your possessions.

Moving throws this out the window.

When you move, your narrative frame, suddenly and dramatically, switches to flux. Everything becomes about change, about crashing and breaking against the cliffs of stability and order. Your house, your supermarket, your circle of friends, everything will be thrown in the blender and chopped up within a week. It’s no longer possible to make any pronouncements about this week or this month, every item of note is replaced by a question mark. You become acutely aware of impending change around every sunrise, so much so that the present moment seems unreal and ghostly.

This is a very different lens through which to view the world.

This has its uses. It’s helpful to frame things, to change the default to the expectation of impermanence instead of permanence. There’s a real truth to seeing friends and thinking, each time, this is the last time; for that particular configuration of circumstances, it is. It also implies a loosening of your boundaries, a recognition that the way you are this moment is not the way you’ll be in a week, a month, a year. This is all very true, also, as one of the ways that we can be hurt by our friends is by the stone-like sense that our circumstances cannot change, that we’ll be forever stuck wherever we are.

Moving puts the lie to this.

Yet an all-is-change perspective has its limits, like its opposite number. In the process of such a move, you get a glimpse of the normally invisible, the sense in which you’re powered by your habits. You are your habits, you learn – nothing more, nothing less. Your life takes the structure it has because of the habits you have, and strong habits don’t recognize changes in time and place. New computer, new apartment, new everything, but it doesn’t feel very different when you do the same things with them.

So to start over, you want to be in a good place, but you also want to, internally, be aware of what you’re doing there. It’s not enough to leave it to a place to define you, because you think that because you’re here or there the work is done. Defining yourself is constant and ongoing, no matter where you are.

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