Sunday, December 10, 2017

Courage + 'when are you coming home'?

I love this Anais Nin quote. This quote always makes me think about my life in two parts: before my mom Christine died of cancer when I was 27 and she was 53, and after.

Not only did it lurch me into adulthood in the three short months she was ill - like so many women, I wasn’t so much an adult who made my own decisions as a person who leaned on my mother in every way - but it brought something else into sharp focus. What if I died? What if I only made it to 53?

What if my mom knew she was going to die then? What would she have done differently? I know one of the paths she didn’t take, using her nursing degree to become a flight attendant, was something she thought often about. I know she was great at living in the moment and getting immense enjoyment from silly things, and lifelong learning and growing, and challenging herself, and that she loved being a mom. What else, I won’t know. But life from that moment changed forever for me, and ordinary became impossible.

The idea of expansion is huge for me, because one thing I have pondered since my first, painful few months of adjustment in Abu Dhabi, and continue to think about almost 10 years after leaving Canada is: ‘what would have happened if I didn’t come’? Never mind the dozens of places I’ve been, the priceless shift in perception, the awakening. Just what about the people I’ve known here? The men I’ve loved, the women who’ve held me up, the souls I’ve just brushed by, the stories I've been lucky enough to tell and hear. I’m rich in life from this. I'm rich in travel. No wonder I always say I won the lottery when I got a job here. 

It’s important to remember that everyone has courage within them. People who do courageous things, far more courageous than I ever could, were scared to. They just didn’t let it stop them. I was scared senseless getting off a plane in a country I had never been to, all my belongings in five bags. It got worse after I landed, when I basically felt my personality disintegrate, and I had to put myself back together again. (Not the last time that has happened over here!)

About a year ago my life fell apart, again. (Life falls apart more when you take chances, I think. At least that's what I tell myself) Something happened in my personal life that made me question my own sanity, and almost every thing I had ever thought or known, every framework and belief and comfort and sense of trust I had ever held. (I'll write about it someday, when it's... smaller) As 2016 turned into 2017 things not only got better, they got amazing for a few months. Just downright amazing. And then my life fell apart again, whomp, one-two punch, and things were terrible and horrible. (I'll write about it someday, you know... when it's smaller) I felt like someone pushed me out of a moving car in the middle of the desert. People were lovely and helpful and supportive, and I'm so lucky to have the friends and family I do. But most of the advice I got from people in Canada, most of the advice I still get from people in Canada, as I work through my Humpty Dumpty putting herself back together again routine? "Just come home". Like that would fix everything. Like after almost a decade I don't have a 360 degree, fully dimensional working life here. 

I don't blame anyone at home: they can't see this. They can't see into my heart and soul, they can't feel the depth of experience there; there is no way they can know the volume of change that has happened in me. 

I don't think anyone back home, other than my family and closest friends who get it, could comprehend that going back to Canada now seems scarier than getting on that plane 10 years ago. It's hard for me to imagine how my utterly transformed self could just slip back into a homeland that looks and sounds more foreign than all the dozens I've visited. 

My life expanded immeasurably because I took a big risk. I felt contracted in my lovely little Canadian life, and there was a call. I'm not saying it was a hero's journey (well, maybe it was my hero's journey) but I could have ignored it and saved myself a lot of complication, and fear, and uncertainty. But then, no expansion. That's why it always makes me chuckle, and sometimes it makes me cranky, when all anyone in Canada seems to ask is ‘when are you coming home?’ Like everything I’ve felt and experienced over here, the life I built, the friends I've made, the ways I've grown, mean nothing. 

It does though, to me. It means the world to me.


Anonymous said...

I get what you're saying 100%. We moved to Dubai in 2005 when we had the chance due to early retirement (for which read, you're too old now you're over 50). Seven years later we moved to Muscat where we still live. Life has changed so much for us - including a rather nasty brush with the big, bad C - and those back in the UK still ask why we don't "come home". We don't "go home" simply because what was "home" isn't "home" anymore, despite the family and friends who still live there. We just aren't the same people we were when we left - our experiences have changed us immeasurably and, as you say, only some family members and friends understand that fact.

Ann Marie said...

Thanks Anonymous! I love hearing about people who had a whole life after retirement living abroad. So sorry about your brush with the big, bad C, wishing you health now. Home is wherever we are, I guess!

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