Friday, July 22, 2011

Putting things in drawers has never been my forte

We are all still sleeping together in the same room.

Isla and I normally share the double bed. I am constantly pushing her little body over to her side, all night. She inches, instinctively, back towards me, her little hot water bottle body sticky with sweat. She is a sticky -tree- frog child. In this heat, it's torture.

When I tell people we have moved in, sort of, but are still camping, technically, all in one room, they often ask why. I struggle to explain. I think mainly it's time constraints, trying to work and be a mom and a moving service and home decorator all at once doesn't leave a lot of time for, um, swimming.

But it's more than that. It always is.

Anyway, it feels right for us all to be in the same room right now. I'm not sure if we will ever spread out, span this place. It feels so big. So unruly. Especially after two years of living in more confined spaces in France, where there were no sprawling yards to mow, and  no weekends spent/wasted, however you want to look at it, on home maintenance. It has definitely changed my perspective. My house and yard seemed to have doubled in size while we were away.

Funny, or maybe not, but I am still having my same old reservations about settling here. When people ask me if we are home for good, I always take a breath before uttering the word "yes." I feel like a politician. As if I'm lying, but lying is the only option. Yes is the only answer. But how can anybody confidently say they are doing anything, for good. Forever?

I could always say, "maybe," I guess. But that feels kind of reckless, irresponsible on my tongue. And Esther would jump down my throat if she heard me say it.

Next question: Are you glad to be home?

Of course I'm glad to be home. Except when I'm not. Except when I feel that being home involved a trading in of sorts. Being home signifies the start of something. And the end of something. The end of an adventure. A coming full circle.

And I keep getting these senses of panic, of losing my grip on our experience abroad, as if an experience is something you can hold in your hand, or between your teeth, forever. I find myself groping in my pockets, hoping to pull it out to show people. Hey, look at this. This is our life, a chapter, in France. Did that really happen? Did we really do that?

Of course I'm glad to be home, except when I succumb to fear and imagine I can read the writing on the wall. The writing that says, Welcome back. You've been here before, remember, this place? You were always writing in your journal the last time you lived here about how trapped you felt, how much you craved to experience another environment, urban perhaps, other than your pastoral birthplace. Are you over that yet?

It's clear to me I have I'm not over it and may never be. Surely there have been other cases of  terminal  wanderlust. I always have. Ian's got it too. Perhaps we recognized it in each other? We both have a room, or hallway in our heads, where we keep our mental bags packed, just in case.

Here we are, all this land, this big house, that just screams "homestead me." We discuss the chickens, goats, pigs even. Then we talk ourselves out of it.

Because animals ground you. And the concept of being permanently grounded gives me hives. I half believed that our little French adventure might cure me of this. That I would come home, every last oat neatly sewn, and embrace all things permanent and stable.

Hmm. And here I am with my bags still packed. 

But every time I meet another foreign aid worker, or international school teacher, home for the summer before heading off to another distant land, I still feel the jerking tugs of envy, longing. How ridiculous this feels.

My friends have gone with their two kids to Italy for two weeks. And I'm jealous?

I've heard that reentering one's country takes some adaption. I'm not going to panic about my still feeling conflicted just 10 weeks after returning home. If it's anything like the Elisabeth Kubler Ross' stages of accepting death, I'm in the bargaining stage:

So, what if? What if we just traveled forever? Went again, and again, and again. Could it work?

I say I don’t like  being rootless-- I need a community, connections-- yet I find the older I get, the more fleeting and unpredictable life feels.

There are so many rewards from living in, being part of, a community part of something bigger than you. The support, the safety net, the connections, the warm blanket of family. I've felt the lack of that blanket. And I've shivered.

I've also felt the weight of it, and felt... itchy, stifled. 

So I'll lay here on the floor, next to this hot child on this hot summer night and try to decide: Do I want the blanket, or not?

 Clearer evidence that it I am happy to be home can be found over here on Momformation.


Anonymous said...

Your sleepy pictures remind me how much I love looking at my kids asleep. They are at such rest after all the exhausting moments from the day. And I feel tortured for having yelled at them for not listening and loosing my patience. They are just kids after all...and I guess I am just a parent with the guilts.

-Melissa Joy

Kristi said...

Ahhhh, you seem to conflicted, I'm sorry. What a turning point in your life. You don't want to be here. You hated France. I hope you can figure it out and be happy!

I love your pictures :) And the girls must love snuggling with you all night in the same room.

Betsy said...

Kristy: I may never figure it out. And, if I did figure it out, I might not have anything to write about. :)

For the record. I'm not unhappy. Just vaguely conflicted and of the bad habit of needing to write it all down.

And, I didn't hate France. Not even remotely. I found it, not surprisingly, extremely challenging to live in a foreign culture and foreign language and could never have been satisfied to settle in the exact region where we were, but I did not hate France. If I have led you to believe that, then I'm misrepresenting myself here.

Betsy said...

Sorry, that's Kristi.

Anna said...

yes, 'the more fleeting and unpredictable life feels..'

Emma said...

ouch, Betsy, I feel all itchy after reading this post! I completely empathise with you. Even though I've never lived in a foreign country, I have a few friends who have moved here, to australia, for an extended period of time, and then gone back to their home lands. All of them describe exactly what you do, that sense of rootlessness, that one life is a kind of dream. It does take some time to get through that- I guess in direct proportion to how long you have spent away. I can imagine that returning in the middle of summer, when the kids aren't in school would add to the restlessness, as having a routine does tend to settle you faster. Well, if you do decide to travel to foreign shores again, you are very welcome Down Under! :)

Lauren A. said...

How odd- we have the same wine rack. Not an important detail- just a detail.

You know what I think it is? Home is not an adventure right now for you- find some adventue there and you won't get that panicy "missing out" feeling. Thats what I'm doing. 2 daughters,a very happy marriage, and just bought a house in my hometown even though my 19 year old self swore to never come back here. So my 2 oldest friends and fellow moms are canoeing and camping all 240 miles down the river in our town to the ocean on our own. Life is supposed to be adventuresome, you know? Make it that way again.

Anne said...

Funny, I had the same wine rack too! My husband hated it and during one of our many moves, he somehow managed to get rid of it. I miss it!

Betsy said...

Lauren A.: You are so right. Especially the part about living in your home town, which, technically, I'm not exactly doing, but close enough. Heading down a river to the sea sounds right up my alley.

Mama Badger said...

What's the saying, "Life's an adventure, not a destination"? Easy to say, hard to believe in. Once you settle into the rhythm of life, it's hard to break out and have adventures that are meaningful. It's just enough to get to the end of the day most days. I can imagine how hard it is to start that back up after your year in France.

Megan said...

Beautiful post, as always.

Anonymous said...

Your writing continues to hypnotize me week after week. I don't know how you do it.... but you've got me in trance.

I loved this paragraph in particular: "Of course I'm glad to be home, except when I succumb to fear and imagine I can read the writing on the wall. The writing that says, Welcome back. You've been here before, remember, this place? You were always writing in your journal the last time you lived here about how trapped you felt, how much you craved to experience another environment, urban perhaps, other than your pastoral birthplace. Are you over that yet?"

Great stuff :) Keep talking, we're listening.


lizzy said...

wanderlust is incurable. my husband and i are the same - always talking about chucking it all in and going to live in europe. i know as soon as i get there i'd miss home. when we did live away i eventually got so tired of being an outsider - i just wanted to fit it and have roots. almost as soon as we got home i missed europe and wished i was back there! the best i hope for is to accept that i will always feel this way and to stop fighting it. and i love your blog.

Betsy said...

lizzy: And I love you. :) Honestly, how you describe it is exactly how it is and no matter how ridiculous it sounds, and how clearly silly it seems, especially when you recognize it in yourself, it is sooooo nice to know I'm not the only one. Thanks for reading.