A Different Kind of Empty Nest
Dear Nicholas, I’m in the midst of moving my office–my writing nest–after sixteen years of working in desk-to-desk chatting distance of my dear friend writer Carrie Knowles. This place has been a second home for me.
We’re moving out because the building is sold. I’m leaving this nest behind–empty until the violin maker moves in and these rooms become home to a different kind of music.
To Be Perfectly Clear…
I’m not retiring. I’m not slowing down. Instead I’m taking my office to my home– a radical move since I’ve rented small offices for my small business for the past forty-eight years.
The process of the actual move is at the moment a little exciting. As I write this sentence, movers from Helping Hand Mission are gathering up emptied file cabinets (with many dozens of pounds of unneeded paper already recycled.)
This is not a move I would choose. I’ve loved these years here.
There couldn’t be a more fun workplace. And productive: I’ve finished three books here in these years: one (Cobalt Blue) published, one coming out in the next year, and one newly in the hands of my agent. Carrie has produced more than I have, her most recent being A Musical Affair.
Authors and Authors and More!
The upstairs writer in the building, Steven Norton, has made big progress on his second novel in the much shorter time he has been here. Conveniently for the women downstairs, he is also a hair stylist running his own hair salon up there, regularly trimming my own “luscious locks” (his words, not mine) He has kept an entertaining traffic of people passing my open door as they go for cuts and coloring.
Many other writers have worked here, as well as other small businesses. Among the authors are Elaine Orr, Swimming Between Worlds, Rachael Wooten Tara: The Liberating Power of the Female Buddha, Susan Ketchin, The Christ-Haunted Landscape, Jodi Barnes, Santa Breaks Bad, playwright Ian Finley, writer and cellist Virginia Ewing. Many writer-clients have come through for classes and manuscript consultation.
For a while Kat Hall (also a writer) was delivering facials and energy work upstairs at her Rosehips Skincare Studio. Carrie, who is a visual artist as well as writer, has held art shows in the foyer and her studio.
The building has been and will be until the last minute a lively stimulating place. (I’m not the sort who needs quiet for writing. My character was formed in a newsroom. Helicopters once hovered directly over this two-story building and I did not notice until a friend called and said Barack Obama was on the campaign trail one street away from where I was sitting.)
Alone in a Silent House?
I could find another office, but it wouldn’t be the same. And I’m ready to stop the forty-minute commute from home out in the country to Raleigh. I had some practice at working at home for the first year of covid. That went well because Husband Bob was also there seeing his psychotherapy patients by Zoom. But he’s going back to sessions in person in his office in a couple of weeks. While less driving and no rent are good, the prospect of working alone is not.
So Carrie and I have already made plans to meet with laptops in hand at the Panera in Apex halfway between our homes, for lunch and work-somewhat-as-usual. It’s possible to stretch out a Green Goddess Cobb Salad for quite a while.
My new official workplace is going to be the sofa at home in our combo kitchen-den, with my business stuff crammed into the room that is also the guest room and ironing board/sewing/crafts/repairs/storage room. Getting everything I need into that space looms as possibly impossible.
Right now I am happy with nostalgia and a grain of excitement at change. And I’m putting my trust in the Panera solution, at least until whenever Carrie absconds to hang out with far-flung grandchildren. After all, we were close friends before we had an office together. This enterprise at 410 Morson Street has been for me a matter of luck and timing. I know I’m supposed to be grateful for having had this era, but it’s hard to see a good thing go.
With Ice Cream on Top
The bitter pill of losing the place has been made easier as Carrie and I have been celebrating these 16 years with special lunches for a couple of weeks now. No take-out sacks of fast food or heated-up cans of soup. Instead seafood! pizza! chicken salad! And one day, my lunch was one of Hayes Barton Cafe’s famously huge desserts–salted caramel chocolate three-layer cake with ice cream. A good way to give a good office a deserved send-off.
Intermittent Sadness, Buried Agitation
My sadness about it has mostly been underground, but began to surface about a week ago. In characteristic fashion, I got depressed in my leisure weekend time (I keep a conventional five-day workweek schedule) and felt fine again when I came back to work. If history is any indicator, that’ll probably go on for a while because this is a big loss. But then it will end.
I am also at the moment quite addled without feeling it. This big move is not the only thing going on. But I feel quite calm and yet in recent days I have TWICE sent someone the wrong document: one, a book proposal revision to my agent (she got an old draft), and two, a critiqued manuscript of a client’s novel (she instead got my notes for the report. Jeez!) I wonder what I’m going to scramble next.
The Old Saw About New Doors
I’m regularly reminding myself of that old saying that “when one door closes, another opens.” In an effort to distract myself and try out a new “door,” I took a couple of voice lessons, not the sort of thing I usually do. I wanted to try something so foreign to my ordinary travels that I felt I was exploring a new aspect of life. It did work in that way, was quite cheering and energizing. And I’m keeping an eye out for other doors.
A song I’ve been drawn to lately, listening to again and again, feels like a sort of anthem for this move and this time of my life when people are scattering. The song is one of the new ones from ABBA’s new album about the group’s history and relationship as they record again forty years after they broke up. Not all the lyrics fit, but some do, and they capture my mood. I am not going to sing it here. Instead here is ABBA singing “I Still Have Faith in You.”
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and love,
Tags: big loss, buried agitation, Carrie Knowles, different kind of empty nest, Elaine Orr, fun workplace, got depressed, hayes barton cafe, I Still Have Faith in You, Ian Finley, Jodi Barnes, Kat Hall, lively stimulating place, moving my office, not retiring, official workplace, Panera, Rachael Wooten, Rosehips Skincare, Steven Norton, supposed to be grateful, Susan Ketchin, Virginia Ewing, when one door closes, working alone aat home