When the Moving Dust Settles

When moving to a new state or city, country or provence, the hardest part comes after all the dust settles, and all the fun exploration putters to an end. When then, in the light of a still warm sun, you have to commence real life.

This summer, my young family and I moved to LA from Texas. We left a comfortable home, a thriving social circle, and a lower cost of living, and drove across the American Southwest in our freshly hail-dented Jeep. At no point on the four day journey did I think this transition would be easy, yet never once did I question if it would be right.

When we arrived in LA, the wave of relief that washed over me was almost as powerful as the ocean pulsing only a few miles West. We had survived, and that horrible prick of pain in leaving was felt a little bit less.

Summer passed as it always does when you have school age children: too fast, in a haze of sunlight and swimming, adventure-finding and dreaming. And every one of those days I wondered, will today be the day we break down, realize how hard it really is to leave everything behind for a hope in a future we can barely just taste? Today, will we long for the people we were before we sold off our home and waved goodbye to our family and friends?

But we didn’t. We were having too much fun to notice the pain. Were too busy exploring the city to sense how hard that pain still clung to our heels. Too in love with the hills and the palm trees, too soothed by the smell of the sea, to feel the pieces we’d left behind that were now missing.

And then summer ended.

Fast as the lightning we haven’t seen since May, the last time we were in a storm in Texas, the realness of this move shot through us. School started, and with it came the realization that we were not playing at living here, we were really doing it.

It hit my son hardest of all. This wasn’t his school, with his friends, and his teachers he recognized. This wasn’t his routine with all it’s comforts and predictability. This wasn’t Texas. This wasn’t home.

And it wasn’t easy. Because as his anger settled over him, my guilt ballooned. I was the reason we’d moved, and now here I was forcing him to accept it all over again, and this time he didn’t want to. And for a solid day, I genuinely, earnestly just wanted to run away. Because here pain was now grabbing my ankles, climbing my shins, and here I was with nothing to bat it away.

In these moments, the very best advice I can give is this: feel it all. Allow every itchy, ugly, vulnerable thought to crash over you. Let the violence of loss growl in the depths of your throat. And then get up, make a cup of tea, and find some way to face the rest of your day.

For these past two weeks we have had to do that. Through long hot walks and brutal conversations. Through weeping and yelling and silent treatment. Through feeling embarrassed. Through dumplings and cocktails and ice cream. Through journaling and role playing and gaming. It has not been easy, living in this moment alongside the pain, but, today, it finally started to feel better.

The reality is, we all have to face our fear that the choices we make are not the right ones. If we don’t face it, we leave ourselves vulnerable to doubt, and worry, and the nagging sensation that we are just one wrong move away from utter destruction. Moving states, cities, countries is never easy. Leaving family and friends always sucks. But staying where we are when we know we shouldn’t is worse than the pain of saying goodbye.

Acceptance is a stage of grief. On the other side is Life waiting for you. New adventure. Scary and fun and weird moments you couldn’t have had while wallowing in what was lost. Today, as I watched my son resign himself to walk into his new school without panicking, I knew he was close to that, and moments away from whatever wonderful thing awaited him.

The most important part of moving, is moving on. Not looking over your shoulder for the chance to run back. Not longing for the way it once was. But being thankful, and being willing, and then just simply being right here.

 

 

My Companion

I spent hours dreaming of a different life as a child. My life was rich and engaged, but my heart was a butterfly never satisfied with the flower she rested on. Once, at nine-years-old I ran away. I packed up my pink and purple Caboodles box with stupid shit like hair ties, bubble gum, and lipstick, and set out due west for California on foot. It took my older brother maybe ten minutes to figure out what I’d done and come find me on a busy street neighboring our house. “Where are you going?” He asked me, arms crossed, all domineering-protective-big-brother-like. “California.” I replied, squinting at him defiantly. “Your headed toward McKinney, and in a couple more blocks you’ll be in the only projects in Denton.” My face fell, but I was not easily deterred. I started stomping still for California, even though I was walking east and toward a dangerous part of town. After following me for a block or two, he grew weary and maybe bored, and just picked my skinny pre-adolescent ass up and carried me home over his shoulder. This would not be  the last time I considered running away, though future attempts were far more feather-brained and rage driven, but it was the first time I gave in to the siren call of my longing.

Longing leads us places, and then it forces our eyes to open and see that we can run but not hide, we can hide but not be safe. The idea is one I chew on in my novel, and also one I dance with in my life. I have never been one for absolutes, I need the possibility that maybe offers.

I fidget and flutter around my home, I fly through ideas and scenario like an easy summer read. The longing lingers, and it makes me eternally wonder where the road is taking me. Writing helps because I can let the longing overtake me, in that quiet place where my mind meets my story and possibility is born. I can feel it powerfully directing me on a twisting road. I can handle it with abandon. The only sufferer of my longing then is my own mind and the characters that populate it.