Tuesday, October 29, 2013

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.

19 comments:

  1. Good narrative Becky. And thoughtful subject. Enjoyed this post . xx

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  2. p.s. Loved the photo you included . What is he writing , and where is he going ??

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    1. Thank you, Sandy! <3

      I took that shot in June on the train from Florence to Venice (Italy). I'm not sure what he was writing, but I was intrigued by him. He had an old looking, leather-bound notebook and was seriously scribbling away. Loved him. :)

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  3. Hi Becky,

    I loved your post and it was not so long ago that I made such a move and huge change in my life too. It took about 18 months to feel "normal" again after my divorce and move from Arizona back to Maine, my homeplace. It does get easier, and it does get richer for the past experiences. Cherish it all, move ahead one day at a time, there is no other choice. That is as it should be and it is good. Enjoy the moments when you close your eyes and can still see, smell , hear and feel the home you left, the people you left. I know how real it feels when you do that. It is so recent and so real still. The tears you shed for that time and place need to fall. Let them. Exciting times are ahead. I promise.
    Huggs to you,
    Dawn Rae Conery

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    1. Dawn,
      Thank you for your kind and helpful words. I truly appreciate them. Find hope in them, too. :) I think you're right: I probably need to shed some tears for Myanmar. I haven't done that.

      Interestingly, my daughter, who had quite a tough time living in Myanmar, has been talking more and more of it as well. I can't help but wonder if we're experiencing a similar phase/flux in this moving home deal: Things aren't quite the same for her, either, and there are people, places she misses from Yangon. I realize it's part of the process ... but eek. Sometimes it's tiring! :)

      Thank you again. <3

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  4. Another beautifully written essay, Becky. I'm waiting for the book. :) You're so right about this process. The fitting and re-fitting can be unsettling but ultimately so revealing about the kind of person you were, and are, and how those two 'yous' meet and connect. Every experience is like another layer of this multi-faceted person. And--we often only see things in contrast to other things; the comparison sheds new light on what was common.

    Thank you for writing about this!

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    1. Sara, you're so kind. Thank you! You always encourage me. I love how you said that the process helps you make the two "yous" meet/connect. That is so true! And yes - we are multi-faceted people with many layers to us.

      Thank you! :)

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  5. Thoughtful prose. If you ever come over to Seattle, let me know and we could meet for coffee.

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    1. Thank you, Jean! I'd love to get together for coffee with you! It would be lovely!

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  6. Becky - I started following your blog about a year ago when we found out that we were moving to Myanmar and have been so grateful to find it. You have been able to express the same feelings that I have been experiencing but am not able to put into words. We have been living here in Myanmar for about 2 months and recently my children and I have really been missing "home". I can't wait for the time/day that it all becomes easier. Thanks again for all your wonderful blogs and I wished I could have met you before you left.

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    1. Hi Anonymous -
      Thank you for reaching out. Oh, yes ... missing home. I know how that feels - and readily remember that while living in Yangon. It's tough, isn't it?

      It takes time. I'm not sure where you've moved from, but for my daughter and I, Myanmar was just so completely different from any other place we had lived - there were little (if any) - points that felt familiar, where we could lock into and recognize (whereas, when I lived in Kenya, I found those; Kenya was a previous British colony + I had lived in England, so I found familiar things in many places). Being sort of side-struck by all the unfamiliarity can be shocking.

      Give yourself the time needed to get your bearings; and be aware that it's possible that once you think you have those bearings, that you get knocked up along side the head again and are left wondering if you know much about the place at all! lol It's just part of the process.

      Now being out of Myanmar, there are things I miss. I cherish the memories and the things that are so completely different.

      At the same time, there is a very strong pull, strong lull for home. I so get it. Keep those places firmly in you, find comfort in that. Then just take your time.

      As you meet people in Yangon, your world will open up. And my other piece of advice is to get on over to Chiang Mai or Bangkok for a long weekend if you haven't already. This two-month mark is a great time to just get out of Yangon and go somewhere you can find some western influence (if you're from a western country) to sink your teeth into some of that familiarity - for me - that was Starbucks and Dean + Deluca! :)

      Much love to you. Reach out if the need comes. :)

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  7. How beautifully written with your heart. It's as though I can see those boxes and pieces of art in your garage waiting for you to open them. Life's changes, we all go through them. We adjust, make room, settle in and live again. Sometimes it's harder than we remembered from the last life change. I wish you all the best in this next chapter of your life and thank you for sharing!

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    1. Thank you, sweet Michelle! I really appreciate it. :)

      Lots of love to you.

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  8. Thanks for sharing your heart, Becky! I, too, have returned to a place I lived when I was a teenager and during the early days of my marriage. Seeing family and old friends, walking on well-trodden paths, driving down familiar roads evokes so many memories, some good and some VERY painful. After many years away from here and time spent on the road, it is quite powerful to immerse myself in this place again. I've been practicing seeing it with fresh eyes, however, the layers of memories sometimes make it difficult and I get derailed by a string of flashbacks. All we can really do is be with what is and stay open. I know there is healing happening for me here on so many levels that I'm welcoming what unfolds the best I can. I know I'm not the same person I was, however, there are parts of myself I left behind in this very place that I need to retrieve now. There were also unresolved relationship issues that are in the process of finally healing now. Plus, there are new pathways and connections being made in the space that's being opened up through all the clearing I'm doing! It will get better...yes, there is loss as nothing stays the same, but there is always something beautiful that emerges from the ashes. You're not alone and you are in the midst of transformation...don't forget that. It takes a lot for a caterpillar to become a butterfly! Savor each moment...soon enough, you'll soar!

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    1. Thank you for your words, Victoria.

      I will be thinking of you as you're journeying on this path back home. It does sound like your experience would be extremely powerful - going back to a place as a new/different person - can be unsettling, but healing.

      You're right to say that all we can do is just experience what we're experiencing and not fight it. Accept it. It is what it is. Nothing else. Nothing more. Can't control it...

      The idea of being able to go back and retrieve parts of yourself is very interesting/powerful - and makes perfect sense. There's a validation in that, I think, by being able to accept ALL those pieces of yourself.

      Thanks for the reminder of not being alone. Thank you, Victoria. <3

      Much love!

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  9. Dear Becky, you still share your heart with such nice writting words. Reading your words immerse me in a familiar feeling. As an ex expat I could perfectly understand all that changes you are talking about but I couldn't say them as well as you do. Yes,, you'll soar. Lets fly sister! Valerie

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    1. Thank you, Valerie. :) My fellow expat! <3

      Much, much love to you. Thanks for always being so supportive. <3

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  10. Oh yes, dear Becky...you will definitely fly. Your wings are stronger every day. Thank you for always sharing so bravely and candidly. What a gem you are. xo, janice

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Thank you for the comment love.