When You Move Back Home

When You Move Back Home

The beginning is usually exciting, but uncomfortable, as you navigate your way through the new environment. Eventually, you settle in, make friends, find your niche, know which places to get coffee, adjust to the weather.
Moving back home is different. The physical landscape changes only slightly – maybe a new Starbucks opened up somewhere or the city built a few roundabouts. There’s comfort in going to the Mexican restaurant you’ve loved since you were 20, the place they still remember your order every time you return home from a big move. You know that every summer, you can listen to Music in the Park. Each fall, you know which pumpkin patches to visit. This stability welcomes you back with open arms, gives you a sense of needed familiarity.  
But each time you unpack your boxes, you know you’ve changed. You carry new places, new experiences, and new people back. Your home holds pieces of all the cities, the countries you’ve lived and visited. It’s disorienting. Each unwrapped item holds a memory and pulls at some part of you, a part that is no longer tangible, no longer part of your daily life.
How do you safely keep those experiences that have changed you? Do you just sever the past and dive into the present? Keep those paintings from Ethiopia in the garage? Which parts of you do you want in your life, if any, now? What fits?
There’s a struggle between letting go and moving on. There’s an in-between space. Do you really have to fully let go? How can you while coming to a place of acceptance that: You Are Not the Same as You Were Before.
And neither are others. While you were gone, they moved on with their lives, too. They’ve also had new experiences, new people, new priorities they keep within them. Sometimes this enriches relationships. Sometimes you just can’t find a place to meet like you used to. That’s hard. It hurts. And when that happens – and it always does – you think wistfully back to where you had just been living, where you had a groove, a rhythm with friends – one that you’re missing now. (Yet, you know, that if you were to go back to there now, they would’ve changed, too.) There’s a sting of loneliness in that.
The high desert where I live, the place I call home, has always been somewhat unsettling for me. It clings to its crags and edges. They keep you alert. In my younger years, I lived in a low valley lush and green with mighty oaks, grass seed farmers and loggers. It’s smooth and long: Both are home. But I still get itchy feet. Especially when I feel unsettled.
Like now. Change of all sorts shakes your roots. The reality is that a big international move, a divorce, death, loss of friendships – have shaken me. I’m figuring it all out.  And I’m trying to remember it’s not all about loss – though there has been a fair share of it in a very short period of time (and it’s OK to be truthful about that).
So, I hang the past on my walls, fill my bookshelves with memories. I dig through the layers and pull out the pieces I want to keep. If it doesn’t feel right, I put it back. I’m learning it’s OK to take my time. To find my own way. To know there are no straight answers here. It’s OK to feel in-betweeny one moment, then in the next, firmly in the present. Even looking forward quite far. All of it speaks its truth.
Life is richer, more intricate for the experiences. It gives a sense of empathy and an ability to look at things upside down and from around the corner. There’s an old strength rising out, too. One that is setting boundaries. One that’s getting clear on what she wants and what she deserves and what she’ll accept. Less compromises. 
There’s some beautiful things sprouting from that. With loss, with decay, there’s always growth, renewal. A different path emerges, one with travelers who walk with you in an interesting way. Unexpected. That’s exciting. Healing. Lovely.
I’m standing on a precipice. Feet right at the edge. It’s the one I’ve landed on from jumping several times before. Each new cliff gives a new view – always dauntingly, mysteriously beautiful. 
I’ll just unpack the rest of my boxes … then … I’ll fly.

What They Don’t Tell You When You’re Getting Divorced

They don’t tell you that you’ll buy crumpets at the grocery store because they were one of your husband’s favorite.
They don’t tell you it’s suddenly strange to have double sinks in your en suite when you’re single. 
(You know that you’ll find a way to make use of the space with all your toiletries … but it’s weird.)
They don’t tell you that sometimes you’ll sleep better alone.
But sometimes you won’t sleep at all.
They don’t tell you that slicing pain will beat through your chest and you’ll doubt everything you are and everything you’ve ever done.
When you place your duvet in its new cover, you’ll think of the day he taught you how to do that. 
They don’t tell you that suddenly he is there – arm deep in cotton – shaking his head at you.
They don’t tell you he becomes part of your new duvet, so hasn’t really left your bed.
You lose all your bearings. You feel floaty, ungrounded, spinny.
They don’t tell you you’ll misplace your mojo … that you will think you’re unattractive, untalented, and not good enough.
They don’t tell you that he is no longer your home. The thought of that will choke you.
You’ll have to bite the inside of you cheek to stop tears when a medical receptionist asks what your marital status is and if your former spouse is still your emergency contact.
Your spine must turn to steel when you answer “no.”  
They don’t tell you there are days you already feel OK and happy.
Your friends will gather around you and hold up your heart so you can see it.
Your family who will remind you of who you are and that you’re loved.
They don’t tell you that your kid will try to be strong but make forts to cry in, alone, because she misses her dad who is on another continent.
They don’t tell you that your daughter will act out, be angry, lash her tongue at you and you’ll feel like you’re the worst mother. Ever.
But your brothers will help your daughter and give her examples of strong men who will be part of her daily life, keeping an eye on her.
Your daughter will later crawl in your lap, cuddle on the cuddle couch, and tell you – when you’re practicing daily gratitude – that you are the thing, the person, she is most grateful for, and that she loves you “beyond one quadzillion” and that she’d have to keep counting until she’s dead, even when she’s dead, to find a number of how much she loves you.
In those moments, you’ll feel like a hero, like superhuman, like you can do it all.
They don’t tell you that you will be OK.
And your daughter will be OK, too … because you’ll make damn sure of it (and so will many others, including her dad).
You will see love and find it in places, with people, with family, with friends who do love you exactly the way you are.
They tell you you’re OK. Not a failure. Not a nothing.
Yet, you’re scared to write, to create, because you’re afraid of what will come out of you and you’re just doing the very best you can right now to keep your head above the water with a smile on your face.
You don’t know if you’re ready for what will come out of you. Yet. 
They don’t tell you a renewed love for your community will emerge.
You notice things you didn’t before – like how the wind comes into the valley and cools off the dry, hot summer nights.
The cul-de-sac will host iconic summer nights: While the full moon rises against the pale blue sky, you watch children – including your beautiful daughter – lay on the cement and get sprayed with water by a neighbor’s father.
They don’t tell you that you can be broken, or feel broken, and feel completely whole and at home. Simultaneously.
They don’t tell you that you are a package of contradictions.
There will be moments of great strength, then moments of great sorrow.
But you get to rediscover parts of yourself.
Your own style can splash all over the house in beautiful throws, pillows, colors of your choice – and 
that can feel liberating. Empowering.
In fact, alone can be empowering, too … like when you put together the TV stand without help.
It will take you awhile to notice when another man flirts with you – you haven’t been flirted with in years.
They don’t tell you that you’ll feel weird – and like there’s something deficient in you – for liking the sniff of your new freedom. Even those flirts … sometimes.
The beautiful people who love you will give you guidance and help you find your own spirit while deep in hurt.
They’ll gently push you back to art, to beauty, to connect with your creative self: to be who you are.
Friends and your family will bring you full circle.
You’ll bring yourself full circle … or at least to a different circle (you don’t want to repeat it all, after all).
You’re not a failure or loser.
Also: there’s nothing wrong with you.
While you pick yourself up off the floor, you’ll see fragments of happiness blowing towards you, around you, below you.
You slowly see that joy swirls around you always. Even when you’re sad. Even when you buy crumpets.
The home in your heart will be rebuilt.
Eventually you’ll be stronger, wiser, better.
You’ll learn you’re never alone. Ever.
And you’ll be sure to tell others they’re also never alone – because they don’t tell you that when you’re getting a divorce.
This is an exercise based on a prompt from Laurie Wagner’s writing course, Telling True Stories

P.S. This is a double post – you can also read it over on Becky in Burma

This Too, Shall Pass – On the Move

This Too, Shall Pass – On the Move

Sometimes we make plans and hang our hopes on an unforeseen future – one we’re committed to. One we’re sure will, well … go to plan.

Life doesn’t usually dole out the expected, though. Or maybe it does, but not when we expect it to or in the exact way we thought it would. Plans that were written down get scratched out, revised, or completely torn-up. Destroyed.

You start again.

We have choices to make when we get a life-sized side swipe. Choices about how we’re going to handle and respond to our dreams not quite unraveling the way we wanted them to. We can choose to stand in the middle of what’s been lost and shrink down or stand-up. Neither is easy and I actually think there’s a time for both.

There have been significant unexpected changes in my family. The changes mean that my daughter and I will no longer live in Myanmar after May when her school finishes.  She and I will move back to the United States without her dad.

Family will get defined in a new way. There will be new labels: single mom; single; divorced/separated. Old labels will dwindle slowly and with difficulty: wife; family; expat. Plans of staying in Myanmar for at least a few more years: scratched out. New plans have to be made. It sometimes feels scary.

There is a grieving that floods you when a hope, a plan, a dream is interrupted. Those feelings are real and they’re OK. 

Sometimes we edge our way to the side, find a little bit of raised ground – hope – to stand on, giving us the protection of a wider view, showing us what’s going on.

If we can find that raised ground – perhaps even a fence – and look on both sides, we’re able to straddle the realities of what is before us and what is to come. We can lovingly, gently, hold our grief in one hand while in the other, bless the future: the gifts of lessons learned, of growth, of moving forward. In silence, in solitude, we can listen to our hearts and hear the message it’s trying to tell us:

It’s going to be OK.
It’s going to be OK.
It’s going to be OK.

Because it will be OK. Maybe not in ten minutes. Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe it will take longer than thought. It doesn’t matter. There’s no time limit, no scale to measure loss of any kind. It’s a personal journey. We’ll have moments of shrinking, then standing up.

I find the safest place on that raised bit of ground where I can look at both sides, with honesty. There’s a reverence that can be offered to what is being grieved. You say thank you (even if it hurts). You see all of it, clearly (as clear as you can now), and bless it. You bless – equally – the hurts and the beauty of your memories … and what you had hoped would become memories. That’s where I find strength.

It’s a time for letting go.

It doesn’t mean I know what’s going to happen on the future side of the fence, as uncomfortable as that is. Yet looking over there, I can see something new. I see solid ground, a sense of calm, and being at peace. It’s on the future side that you give in to some element of faith – a faith within – that you are strong and that you’ll figure it out. Not only will you figure it out, you’ll thrive.

This new journey will lead my daughter and I back to home, to family, to friends. There’s joy in that. Equally, there’s joy in the beautiful friendships we’ve made in Yangon. Lots of to be grateful for. There is sadness, too.

It’s important for me to be honest as we go through this new phase. It’s a transition and life is full of them. I’ll write about that sometimes. I suspect I’ll write about being single-mum writer. Other stuff will come up, too.

Thanks for reading.

Thanks for being part of this hello/good-bye with me.

P.S. I have posted a similar version of this over here on Becky in Burma because I think that while Becky Cavender offers a new beginning, Becky in Burma will still be part of that journey, part of saying good-bye. Writing about the good-bye on Becky in Burma and the new beginning here will help me make some sense of the messiness that goes on with transitions.