There’s a lot of packing going on over here, which is surprising to me because it doesn’t feel like we ever really unpacked. But I guess things have been rummaged through, bought and sold, and besides, Adam has left already so this is the perfect time to rummage through his belongings and “edit” them.
(That’s what it’s called when you throw away your husband’s dearest, grossest possessions without his knowledge and/or permission, right? K, good. Because I am doing a LOT of editing.)
(This post is a test to see if Adam ever reads my blog [he doesn’t]. If he does, I will get a panicked phone call in the next ten minutes.)
ANYWAY. I am packing, and reorganizing, and editing, and ruminating, too. Ruminating on patience and the passage of time, and how it has possibly been a year since we moved here. How much has changed and how we spent our days, and everything that has been said, done, and wished for in that time.
I feel as though I have developed a sense of fatalism in the last year. I don’t know whether it’s because we’ve been rootless for so long that I don’t really believe it will ever end, or indicative of a bigger mental shift. Things are still up in the air and I am less stressed than ever. It just doesn’t really matter, and I know that sounds sort of depressing but it’s actually kind of freeing.
Seven years ago I took a four-month trip to Australia.
We had moved to a small BC town from Calgary, AB and I was having a really hard time adjusting to small town life. It was unnerving that people recognized me at the post office, knew my husband (then-boyfriend) because of the job that he had, and would stop by our table at a restaurant on Valentine’s day to thank him for something, or ask him about an issue that they were having. It was culture shock, and I felt like I needed to run. So I went to the other side of the world with my best friend.
It was an amazing trip in an absolutely gorgeous country. But four months is a long time. By month three we had ended up broke and jobless in Melbourne, staying in a funky little district called St. Kilda’s. On a whim we decided to fly across the continent to Perth. We ended up bartending in a small town called Cottesloe Beach. Our view overlooked over the ocean, and after every shift we drank on the beach, laughing with the other staff as the ocean lapped our feet. I learned to scuba dive, and to surf. I sat and watched some of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen.
And toward the end I remember staring out over this gorgeous landscape, and missing Adam so much it hurt. I felt utterly miserable and I would have given anything to trade this world-class beach – the sun and the sand and the beautiful Australian men with their darling accents – for my boyfriend back in the town where it rained for 32 days straight. I booked my flight home almost a month early.
I realized that I could feel sad anywhere. I could feel angry anywhere. Conversely (and perhaps in a sentiment more befitting of an uplifting blog post) I could also be happy anywhere. It had very little to do with my surroundings, and everything to do with me.
This was enlightening, but also unnerving.
Your location is concrete, identifiable and easy to blame. If you don’t like it you simply take out a map and figure out where you want to go instead.
Moods are more challenging to pin down. They are gauzy, impermanent things that shift and change every time you look at them. It’s hard to see where you are, and sometimes even harder to see where you want to be or even how to get there. I don’t always feel in control of my moods. It’s tough, at times, to see the positive, especially when you are measuring your current situation against your sometimes-unrealistic exacting standards and feeling like you’re coming up short.
This has been a struggle over the past year and I think Adam fared a bit better than I did, but I think that’s also because I am the planner in our little twosome and it was very challenging to not be planning or moving forward.
I wasn’t very good at scuba diving. I was at some of the most incredible reefs in the world, immersed in this a living breathing kaleidoscope of fish and coral, and I couldn’t relax. My dive coach mocked me mercilessly because I swam around with a white-knucked grip on my respirator.
I was a little spooked by sharks, and by having that third dimension (above/below) to keep track of, too. I eventually gave up and snorkeled instead, drifting around the surface, admiring things from a distance as the rest of the crew happy paddled around in the deep. My back was perpetually sunburnt and my neck permanently cricked, but my breathing was slow and regular. No more white knuckles.
At a distance I felt more calm, more able to appreciate the beauty without constantly looking over my shoulder or worrying what was lurking just out of sight.
This is where I am at my best. Looking back, evaluating from a distance. I need time away to form an opinion, to sort through my thoughts and impressions. Nothing makes sense to me in the moment, I feel anxious and like I am swimming in circles, heart racing and out of breath. Just trying to get through.
It feels wrong to admit to our zen-obsessed culture that I can only see the beauty when I reflect. It flies in the face of all of advice to “be present” and “live in the moment”. But I am coming to terms with the fact that I just don’t do my best work in the now. Things in the day-to-day are just a blur of unrelated dots and daubs of paint, haphazard and indistinguishable until I can stand back, look at it from a distance and see the water lilies. The sunrise.
I need to remind myself of this, every now and then. I need this reminder because it’s tempting to blame my mood on my surroundings, and to extrapolate the inverse from that conclusion. I’ll be happy if… I will be content when…
Sometimes I look back and wish I was there again, beaching it up without a husband or a baby. Back where my daily wardrobe always started with a bikini. Where the most pressing question each day was what to eat. When I pierced my nose with two Swedish guys, and it felt like freedom -a small, late-stage rebellion.
I need to remind myself that I sometimes felt miserable on those beaches. I had some of my best moments back home in the rain. Things look clearer in retrospect and I just need to give myself time and distance to make sense of it all.
So. Cardboard boxes and masking tape. Sharpies. Boxes labelled “Kitchen” and “Olive’s Room”. Moving trucks and flights, new jobs, a new city. Everything right now is just this massive mess of dabs and harsh strokes, sometimes it honestly just seems like a total mess. Sometimes I wish I’d picked a more conventional path, sometimes I wish I had a paint-by-numbers instead. Nothing connects and things are uncertain and we leap – again – hoping we’ll land on our feet this time.
Beaches and snowbanks. My past and our future – the present a blur, forming into memories to be sifted over and packed up later.
It will make sense later.