So, lately I have found myself listening to a lot of leaving songs. Not in an existential way, I’m not zenning out to enya while rocking in a corner. More, I seem to naturally gravitate to them, on every radio station. I guess it is all very real now. We have 6 days left until we put him on a plane for two months in the Kingdom. I renewed our newspaper subscription only through December 14. So it seems only fitting that I need to hear the songs of leaving as I prepare to do the same.
And at the same time, in the last few days I have found out wonderful news from two friends and yet, I face the stark reality that I will have to celebrate the culmination of this excitement from afar. It is so hard to comprehend not being close enough to hold hands, give hugs and listen face to face. To know that our beloved N will be two years older and we won’t get to see him everyday. To not be able to share daily life is a requirement of the move but the effects are so much deeper on the psyche than when I left the great state of LA to go to college.
So, it is not a surprise I have retreated into my shell a bit. The world is spinning so fast right now, so many to-do lists, so much emotion, so much leaving and going away. I find being alone with my thoughts (with an occasional meow from the furry one) is cathartic. It gives me a safe place to process all of this and prepare to be the emotional rock my family needs me to be.
I was having a discussion with my husband yesterday about the ongoing transition from working to not. The best way I could describe it is that I feel like I am in a land with no passport. As I am still moonlighting a bit at my old job to aid in the transition, I have a detachment to that identity and that role as I am not “there” and yet I am physically there on occasion and will be through the end of September. It is a weird sensation though, to form a emotionally detached barrier to the projects I have worked so hard on. But, I need clear boundaries so that the transition works. It is not my job anymore and someone else will soon fill that role.
Interestingly enough, my issues during the transition have had nothing to do with leaving the office that I worked in or that I will be replaced quickly, I have struggled more with not having a professional side to myself. There are many reasons why the timing of all of this has been quite fortunate as well, it’s just all very surreal. I had lunch with a friend on Tuesday and she asked if it had sunk in yet. I told her no, I feel like I am just taking a few vacation days. Within a few weeks I am sure this will not be the case but right now I feel like I exist between two lands, not really belonging to either. To add to that I am getting ready to leave one country for another which amplifies my feelings of belonging nowhere solid.
My husband asked if I regretted this choice. I think that is a common concern for husbands who have trailing spouses. It was sweet of him to ask. I know this is hard on him because he cannot fix it. I told him no though. I honestly don’t regret it. We decided this logically as a family. It is just a little more jumbled emotionally than I had planned. And frankly, you can’t plan for this. It just is and you need to know that going into it. I suspect our expat journey will have many of these moments. Mine just started early.
But, I have one heck of a reason to celebrate this new role. I get to make my kids three o’clockers. And the joy on their faces when I pick them up makes all of this emotional confusion go away. So, in the end it is all worth it.
One of the things I think people embarking on this type of journey forget, guys especially, is the physical act of saying goodbye. Too much time is wasted on trivial things like packing and to-do lists. Stuff that at the end of the day is just that, stuff.
Last week I sat down and counted the days until the husband leaves. 52 days. That is a very short time to say goodbye to a lot of incredible people. Folks that he will not see in earnest for two years. So, my focus last week was arranging time to see as many important people as possible so that it isn’t left to chance or one frenzied weekend that we try to see everyone and spend so little time with them that we actually see no one. This past weekend we smoked a piggy with incredible friends while the kids played, and yesterday we spent a lot of time in the car in order to see folks that we would not have seen otherwise. Our weekends are going to be like that until he goes, and the weeknights will be spent with the kids and their dad. Soaking in as much time with him as possible because that separation will be the hardest on everyone.
But, the singular act of focusing on the people we leave behind rather than the things we leave behind I think is paramount to an emotionally healthy journey. Plus, it gives us permission to enjoy the weekends with good friends, food and memories. Memories that we can hold onto in the sandbox. I’ll take those over an artfully packed box any day.
I read a brilliant article posted by one of my friends about being a nurse. The article begins with a professor telling his nursing students to remove the “I’m just a nurse” sentence from their vocabulary. “Just” diminishes their value, simple fact. And yet, I am struggling with the use of “just” right now.
Yesterday was my last full day of work. I am no longer a working mom, just a mom. See, how easy that is? In full disclosure, I did have a bit of breakdown last night. Outside of a brief attempt and failure at being a stay at home mom after the birth of my daughter (PPD takes most of the credit for this) I have always been a working mom. My kids have always be after-schoolers and they have grown from 3 month old babies to kids in the care of their awesome Montessori. I, on the other hand, have gone out and made a career, brought bacon, and maintained an identity outside of mom. In the USA we are so fixated on work that the first question when we meet someone is, “what do you do?” and now my answer is, “I am a mom.” But you know the terrible thing that happens then? Something that we are all guilty of? We silently judge that response as “not enough,” that raising children to be happy, productive and influential members of society is somehow less than clocking 40 hours a week at a job that you rarely enjoy but that is somehow viewed as a more of a valiant pursuit. And yet, my breakdown last night was on just that. How to hang up half of my identity.
Work provides another side of life. You exist in a world in which you are judged on your professional merits and not on the cuteness/quality of snacks you provide on a playdate. My new daily schedule consists of the gym, packing and after school activities with the kids. I am giving them everything I had always dreamed of, and yet, that means hanging up the other half of me for a bit to do so. I agreed to this clearly but in practice I find it more difficult to embrace the sentence, “I am a mom,” rather than, “I am just a mom.” I don’t want to do a disservice to the importance of the role in the least but I find myself, during this transition, thinking more of what I am leaving behind than what I am gaining. I know in time I will love this new role, in having a chance to take a time-out from the rat race. I know it will be a life changing time for the kids as well.
I just hope that when I take the other half of me off the hanger the moths have not done too much damage.
So, those that know me will laugh at this post. Full disclosure, I am neither good at letting go or half-assing things. I just can’t do it. Cleaning takes me a bagillion hours, I take photos of empty carseats, it’s my thing.
So, quitting my job and moving to saudi arabia with an insanely noodley timeline obviously makes me a bit itchy. But that is the rub. In the kingdom of saudi arabia (ksa) they have a saying about things happening on time as “if Allah agrees” roughly speaking, I translate this to louisianian as “if stuff happens it’s lagniappe” Not so easy for a me.
And now, I have to be all in. I give notice tomorrow. And I have to let go of everything I have worked for since I have worked and specifically the last (almost three year). Another truth that should be spoken is that I am broken when it comes to work. I cannot do something less than the best of what I am capable and I expect the same of everyone in my life. It is unfair and yet, it is me. I cannot escape it.
I tell work tomorrow. Letting go is part of the picnic basket. I just didn’t bring the right tools. Also, I happened to pack side dishes of emotions, trepidation, and letting go.
Come tomorrow, I am no longer in charge of financial validity, I have an anciilllary role in the future of honors. It is the ultimate test of letting go.
You know that moment when you decide you finally want to try to have your first child. You spend months or years discussing it, you enjoy planning for it and yet what hits you when you finally see those two lines? Joy followed by abject fear. A primal fear that no one warns you about. You have now made a decision that will alter life as you know it and in ways you have no idea. Yeah, moving to Saudi Arabia is kinda like that.
I give notice at the end of this week. Hans leaves in 9 weeks. Meaning things just got very real, very fast. This is no longer theoretical, but acutely factual. I chickened out telling one of my best friends (and co-worker/carpooler) Friday, not because she will be surprised but because I was terrified of the reality of it all. As of today, I have 15 work days left before I am all in this move. Sobering.
Lets do this thing! (Hand me a beer)
Fear. I has lots of it. But, lets face it I’m a parent so I wander around life a ball of fear and stress, punctuated by moments of awesome.
When H approached me about the opportunity of moving to Saudi I had the rational knee jerk reaction of hell no. Why would I move my family into one of the most volitale areas of the world? And then Newtown happened, and I raced home from work to hold my own children and mourn those children whom parents couldn’t hug anymore. And at that moment I changed. Everything that we all assume and take for granted vanished in an instant. We only have the perception of safety.
And, that was a paradigm shift in my view of Saudi. If an idyllic city and school can be the scene of such needless horror then where are we safe? If my reasoning for not wanting to move to Saudi rests firmly on my concerns of safety and yet we will live in a compound surrounded by walls and guarded by soldiers and the kids school will be the same, then who am I to claim our existence here is any safer?
I still, as we pack and sell things, wonder if we made the right choice. I will always have that nagging cloud hovering above, judging my choices and feeding my fears. But, my confidence in this choice overwhelms that cloud. Life is full of fear, but my hope is that by embracing this move that my children learn that fear is okay but allowing life to be dictated by it is not. That focusing on a media feed about a place does not dictate the reality of that place. That taking a risk it worth it, and having the family together is imperative. And, above all, that taking the first step off a cliff is the best decision of all.
Early into our marriage the husband and I decided that we wanted to live abroad at some point in our lives. I am also a lister. And, as such, every year on our wedding anniversary I like to get all misty and plan the goals for our future. Our goals have stayed pretty consistent. Live abroad, have x number of dollars in the bank, get my masters, spend more time with the kids, speak multiple languages in the house. Well, the universe listened. I should have been more specific….
When the husband came home 9 months ago and asked me playfully if I wanted to move to Saudi Arabia I laughed, said hell no, and thought that would be the last of the ridiculous idea. But, it was not. See, the husband is working on building a massive plant there. He has been working stateside on this project for 5 years. It has been a baby of his, of sorts, and the project is nearing the on site ‘labor’ phase and he is keen to go. He will be one of the youngest there and it would be an incredible move for him professionally on many levels.
I have juggled the F/T working mom gig for almost 6 years now. Both kids went to Montessori starting at 3 months old and both are F/T instead of School time at school (5PM pick-up instead of 3PM) and are starting to really notice the difference. I also commute about 45 minutes or more total each day. I don’t want my kids to feel sad because I cannot be there to pick them up at 3PM. I know I will return to work when I get back from Saudi but for two years I can make sure they are 3 o’clockers. I wanted a chance to reset the clock. I just didn’t realize that the reset would come in the form of a move to Saudi Arabia.