Estate Sale

My Psyche and Its Five Stages

In the past few weeks, my psyche has been on a roller coaster. I’ve counted five stages that lifted, dropped, and finally steadied me. 

The Euphoric phase began when I prepared to move into my new apartment.  I breezed through my To-Do list: Hire a mover, arrange for a house sale,  unpack boxes with the help of a best friend, submit maintenance request for paintings to be hung,  renew membership at adjacent health club. 

Jubilant text messages and photos flew from my iPhone to friends and family. I gushed of exercise classes, breakfasts with friends, walks downtown. My daughters especially, returned words of happiness for me.
As prepared as I was Euphoria, I failed to brace myself for the next stage, and wound up capsized by Grief. This is what happened: The estate sale of left-behinds was over. I thought it wise to return and check out the house before the buyer’s walkthrough that was to occur on the morning of the real estate closing. 
 “Why are you going back?” a daughter asked. 

“I just have to be sure all is okay for the walkthrough,” I said. 

“Do you think you can handle it?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

I took the Blue LIne from my apartment, then walked the short blocks to my house. I got only halfway there when I could feel myself crumbling.

“Will you go with me?” I said to a neighbor as she was getting into her car. “I’m going to check out the house, and I don’t think I can do it alone.”

“I’m on my way to pick up the kids,” she said, “but I’ll get my husband.”

I stood on the sidewalk, sinking lower each minute, as she raced into the house and returned with her husband. He grabbed my hand.

“I thought I could handle it,” I said, already weeping. 

“No problem,” he said.

When we arrived at my front door, my neighbor handed me off to the owner of the estate sale company who was awaiting a pick-up of my upright piano.

“I’ll take it from here,” she said, and opened her arms for my collapse. 

As I hung on to her, I viewed the empty house, now devoid of furniture, artwork, clothing, pantry or refrigerator goods, and I sobbed.

The emptiness and finality summoned the same anguish as I experienced with my husband’s death

“Get it all out,” she said. 

By the time I left our house for the last time, I recovered. I reversed my route and returned to my apartment.

Two days later a text arrived from my real estate broker, “The walkthrough went fine, no problems.” 

“Thank God!,” I sent back. “I was on pins and needles.” Because I had rolled the dice and moved out before the closing, I was especially grateful to enter this stage, Relief.

A few hours later, a phone call from the same person, “Congratulations,” he led off. “I wanted to be the first to tell you. The closing is over, all went well. You’re no longer a home owner.”

I sent texts to my daughters and friends who were awaiting the outcome of the closing, “‘Tis done!” 

Their responses came immediately: “Congratulations!” “You must be so relieved!” “Yay!” 

But instead of joining the glee chorus, I had an odd feeling of, how shall I say it, anticlimax. Where was the Euphoria I had felt when I moved, pre-closing, to my new apartment? Where was the Relief from the first text of a successful walkthrough? 

I realized then that those positive emotions had been first put into play with Tommy’s death. His absence, the void, the empty house, the finality, would forever tinge these pleasurable feelings.

“You can pick up your check,” came the next electronic message. This, from the paralegal who had worked on the deal. 

As I walked from the lawyer’s office to my financial manager, with the check from the house sale proceeds tucked inside my tote, I felt myself entering yet another stage, Pride. I had done it. I made the decision to put the house on the market. I had successfully, with my broker’s aid, negotiated a price that brought a bounce to my retirement account. I had moved, unpacked, and was already settled in my new home.

My roller coaster ride is easing into the finish line. I’m calling this stage, Tranquillity. Not as heady as Euphoria, much better than Grief, a companion to Relief and Pride, and an emotion that, prayerfully, will keep me company as I move through even more stages of this new life.  

Rolling the Dice

We have a contract for the sale of my house! 

Although the closing doesn’t occur until May 1, I’ve already signed a lease for my new apartment in River North that begins April 15. Then, I’ill use the week of the 15th to slowly move from one residence to another, with my final departure date, April 22.

This early transition -- 16 days before I turn over the keys -- is due to an April 28 sale of all of my belongings that are staying put. The company conducting the sale wants me, and a few furniture pieces, clothing, and personal items that are going with, to scram before a week-long set-up begins. Hence the premature exit.

To many, my plan -- as carefully thought out as a military maneuver -- might seem risky. In fact, it was my lawyer’s paralegal who warned, “You know there are always possibilities that a closing is held up.” I didn’t fault her caution; after all, it’s her firm’s job to protect me throughout the contract process.

“I understand the risks,” I said. “I’m willing to take them. I have to move ahead.”

I’ve often talked of my philosophy of Leap Before You Look. Now, I’m adding another credo, which I will call, Resist Limbo.

It was Chris, my temporary roommate, who originally urged a leap from on-hold to full-speed ahead. “You’re ready to go,” he had said. “This house is too big for you. If this deal doesn’t go through, it will certainly sell in a month.”

Because Chris had been using his time with me to explore my neighborhood, I felt his words had weight. And, since he has had access to all the house has to offer, I believed he knew what he was talking about. “Essentially you’re a stranger,” I said, “and you have faith in this house. Right?”

“No doubt,” he said. “You should go.”

That was all the incentive I needed.

 “I’ll be in tomorrow to sign the lease,” I told the rental building’s agent in an immediate phone call. He had held this particular apartment for me for over a month, and its time limit was growing closer. Because the rent and floor plan were exactly as I wanted, I didn’t want to chance losing the unit.

“The 28th is solid,” was the message in my next phone call. Again, the owner of the estate sale company had been reserving the Sunday date for me, but I knew it was in jeopardy because of the increasing number of her sales coming up in April. 

As I was about to make my third call, to my daughters to tell them of my speed-dialing decision, the paralegal called back. “No problems on the inspection,” she said. “All looks good.” She didn’t bring up the closing risks; perhaps she now understood I couldn’t be dissuaded. So, I took the latest news as a sign I was moving in the right direction.

While I can probably count on one hand a few rolls of the dice that didn’t win me the jackpot; on the whole, my risks have turned out successfully. Let me relate stories of quick, and potentially dangerous decisions:

-After my first date with Tommy, we became a duo. He moved in with me just a month after that dinner at El Tapatio restaurant. We married within two years. We would have celebrated 15 years January 13, 2013, but sadly, my spouse was otherwise engaged. 

As I’ve written many times, it appeared Tommy and I had little in common. Certainly our marriage could be considered a major gamble. From religion to education to family obligations to bank accounts, we were at different ends of the spectrum. But, my guy and I enjoyed the very same lifestyle: a peaceful home with a pet, evenings on the couch with TV, and respect for each other’s hobbies. In short, I didn’t have to golf, and he didn’t have to love computers.

-My career is one of a series of risky bets. In fact, some of my jobs lasted less than a year; others went a tad beyond that timeframe. Here’s the map: Bernard Ury & Associates, Elaine Soloway Public Relations, Public Communications, Inc., Mayor Jane Byrne, CPS Superintendent Ruth Love, Jasculca/Terman, Elaine Soloway Public Relations, Apple Store, and then, drum roll, please, back to my own business.

Did this dicey route stigmatize Elaine Soloway as someone with a short attention span? I prefer seeing myself as a Selective Seizer of Opportunity.

There’s no predicting my latest wager will pay off. Certainly, glitches could arise before, or at the closing. But, once again, I’ll take my chances. Leap Before You Look, Resist Limbo, and now: Trust.