Empty

Other than a few thrift-store-bound coffee mugs we saved to use until we leave and the appliances with UK plugs we can’t take with us, my house is empty.  Our things have all been packed away, wrapped up and boxed up and, as I write this, they are being loaded on a truck bound for a ship bound for America. 

My house looks like it did the day we arrived: a blank slate waiting to be filled up.

I know this house was never really mine, never really ours, but for three years we made it so and we loved it like it was.  It has seen us through one of the biggest transitions our family will likely ever know: becoming expats, finding our new selves in a new culture, creating this life in England and all the changes it wrought in all of us. 

Places become part of you, part of your story, and this wonky old farmhouse with crooked walls and wavy window glass and an 800-year old church next door is as much a character in this chapter of our lives as the people we met and came to love.

All I can think of as I look around the rooms stripped bare is the overwhelming anticipation and fear and hope I felt during our first days here.  The empty rooms were waiting then to see what story we’d write here, I was waiting to see what our life would be here, we were all waiting to see what would happen here.  And now, we’ve reached the end and the rooms stand empty once again.

We’ll stay in this empty house for the next few days, sleeping on air mattresses and eating off paper plates like we did when we first arrived, and I will say goodbye to all the things I love most about it: the light-filled hallway outside our bedrooms, the view of the sunrise from my window, the kitchen island where we have breakfast every morning and snacks every afternoon, the gorgeous fairy tale garden surrounded by the moss-covered stone wall. 

For the life we built in this place: grateful doesn’t cover it, fortunate doesn’t cover it.  Moving to England was, hands down, the best choice we ever made for our family. 

My heart is full.

Families Belong Together

I’ve spent the last few days arguing with assorted people on various social media platforms that children should not be separated from their parents and kept in cages.  That this is a thing people might support is grotesque.  That anyone I know, anyone I’ve ever known, could defend this policy is mind-boggling to me. 

For just thirty seconds, put yourself in the position of those parents fleeing violence and poverty.  What would you NOT do to keep your babies safe?  What law would you not ignore if it meant there was even a small chance that your children’s lives would be safe instead of threatened by violence or extreme poverty?  WHAT WOULD I NOT DO TO KEEP MY BABIES SAFE?  I can think of nothing.

Imagine YOUR child or grandchild in the position of those children currently living in cages in tent cities and abandoned box stores.  IMAGINE YOUR CHILD THERE.  Do it, I’ll wait.

Imagine that they don’t know where they are, they don’t know where YOU are, they don’t know how long you’ll be gone, they don’t know any of the people “caring” for them.  Imagine how scared they would be.  Imagine how you would feel in those moments and hours and days and weeks knowing your baby was somewhere, scared and alone, and you could not get to them and you could not help them.  I cannot honestly comprehend it.  It would break me.

Yesterday, Bridget asked me what would happen if they split our family up when we move back to the U.S. next month.  Gratefully, I was able to assure her that because we’re already citizens, we are safe.  But the fact that she even had to worry about that – that the thought crossed her mind and gave her an instant of fear – fills me with rage.

Find your empathy and compassion. Find your humanity.  Find your freaking soul.  Dig deep, it’s in there somewhere.

When the existing law was enacted is irrelevant. 

Whether this has been happening for 20 years or six weeks is not the point.

Whether the parents of these caged children broke a law by entering the U.S. is not important.  What’s happening right now, because of the “zero-tolerance” policy enacted by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April of this year, is child abuse, cruel and unusual punishment, psychological warfare.  It is inhumane. 

If you defend it, I don’t know what to say to you other than you have lost your humanity.

People are people.  They deserve to be treated humanely, regardless of where they’re from and what they’ve done.

Children, most of all, deserve care and love. They deserve to be free of fear.

Here are some articles that explain some U.S. immigration laws and what’s happening right now if you feel like you need more information:

Are undocumented immigrants committing a crime? Not necessarily (CNN)

The facts about Trump’s policy of separating families at the border  (Washington Post)

Youngest migrants held in ‘tender age’ shelters (AP)

Here is a link to a petition you can sign demanding that the families split apart by the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy be kept together, and a link to where you can donate to help these families:

Keep them together! Stop separating children from their families at the U.S. border.  (change.org)

Families Belong Together: Help Fight the Separation of Children and Parents (crooked.com)

I feel like screaming and raging and crying with every additional thing I read on this, but that won’t help.  What can help is calling your senators and representatives (especially if you are represented by a Republican) and expressing to them that you want this policy stopped and that they are in a position to stop it.

Call this number – it’s the U.S. Capitol switchboard – and ask to speak to your representative or senator: (202) 224-3121

Don’t know who that is? Go here to find out:

House of Representatives

Senate

It doesn’t matter if you “don’t care” about politics.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve never gotten involved with this sort of thing before.  Do it now, for the children and parents whose lives are being destroyed by an inhumane policy enacted by the U.S. government.

Do it because if it were you in that position, you’d hope someone would try to help you.

One Month

One month from today we will be sitting on an airplane, getting ready to head back to America.

The grand adventure will be over.

My emotions these days swing like a pendulum, one minute devastated to be leaving and the next ecstatic to be going home.  Nothing I can do but let those emotions be what they are; there’s no changing them and both sides of the swing represent honest feelings.

The kids are still mostly excited, although last week Gabe quietly told me he’s now feeling 50/50 about leaving (and actually more sad than happy, he whispered).  I know, bud.  Right there with you.

The last week or two of school will be hard as they all realize that they really do have to say goodbye. 

But man, what an adventure we’ve had.  Thirteen countries visited, several of them multiple times, and one more trip to Greece before we leave to make the total fourteen.  We’re bigger in thought and feeling and knowledge and experience and that will stay with us all forever.

We’ve made friends here that we’ll hold on to and who give us a reason to come back, and friends that are moving on to other places all over the world who will give us a reason to visit new places and see and learn and do even more.

I would change nothing about this adventure.  How abundantly, ridiculously lucky we are to have had it.  An embarrassment of riches. 

The ending, too, is our chance to really see how it’s changed us: what have we learned that we can carry forward, what have we done that will make our future experiences more interesting, what can we do to hold on to the best parts of our life here as we create our new one there

Thus, the adventure continues.

Acceptance

Maybe I will just get up a little early, I said to Matt, and walk a few miles each morning before I take the kids to school.  Each day I go for a walk I feel better and happier and more in control of my life and my emotions.  And in England in May, the sun rises at 5AM.  May as well make use of all that daylight.

He nodded, and said that sounded like a good idea.

At 7:10 this morning, my alarm went off and I turned off the sound, rolled back over, and closed my eyes for another five minutes, wondering as always if I reallllly needed to get up yet.

And I realized I am never, ever getting up early to go for a walk.  Or a run.  Or to go to the gym.  Or to do anything really that I don’t HAVE to do.

Unless I have no choice – I have an early morning flight or an appointment or have to drive somewhere far away – I am never getting up earlier than I have to.  Never.  Ever.  It’s not happening.

As I stumbled my way out of bed, I leaned against Matt, my eyes still closed, him already up and dressed for work.

I’m never getting up early to go for a walk, I said.

I know, he laughed. 

He knew when I first said it, but he’s smart enough to also know that some things I have to figure out on my own.

Somehow those people who get up at 5AM and get things done seem so much more in control of their lives than people like me, who scrape themselves out from between the blankets at the last minute possible to get done what they must get done and who do not merrily engage in conversation until at least one cup of coffee has been consumed.  I have this idea in my head that if I just became a morning person, I’d get everything I need to do done so much more efficiently.

The truth is if I woke up at 5AM I would be crankier than normal in the morning and probably for the whole day.  I would not begin my day with a good attitude or a positive outlook, I would begin my day with anger and annoyance.  The walks I have come to love and rely on to balance me out would become burdensome.  And I would need a nap at noon and by 6PM I would be a very bad mother.

I just need to make peace with it.  I’m not a morning person.  That’s OKAY.

I’m letting go of the guilt I make myself feel over it.  I am not a morning person.  That is okay.

The flip side is that I am a very good night owl.  I can be productive late in the day, I can get things done at 10PM, and the fact that the sun is no longer in the sky doesn’t mean my productivity is somehow worth less than if I’d done all my stuff early in the morning.  It doesn’t mean I’ve procrastinated either.  It just means that that’s my time of day, far more than 5AM will ever be.

I’ve decided not to try to squish myself into the mold of who I think I should be and just accept who I am.  Maybe use my natural strengths and rhythms a little more thoughtfully though – make that 10PM hour really work for me instead of using it to play Candy Crush while Matt sleeps on the sofa (he IS a morning person, so sleeping on the sofa at 9PM is pretty much his jam). 

Maybe in my old age I’ve finally gained some wisdom.  Maybe I’ve just learned that acceptance can be grace.  Whatever the reason, I’ll be happier not trying to make myself something I’m not.

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