Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Out of the Darkness

I haven't written much lately.  To me, that says a lot about my state of mind.  Writing is cathartic for me. It's been an outlet these last 5 years to not only keep everyone up to date on what we are doing, but also a way for me to work through my feelings and emotions about living life abroad.  But lately, I just haven't been feeling it.  I've been in a dark place and thought, for a little bit, that I didn't want to write again.  I was actually planning to end this blog - if I can't write any positive things, then why continue to write.

Thankfully, this week has been much better and this morning, I was struck with the urge to write.  I take that as a good sign that, hopefully, for this moment at least, things are on an upswing.  The goal now is to keep things on that upward trajectory.  Easier said than done.

I can't explain the darkness that has taken over my life.  This last year was rough.  No question about it. But now that Josh is walking again, the kids are settled in school and making some friends and we are getting settled into our "new" lives, I should be feeling pretty good.  But I don't.  I should be feeling blessed that we get to live this amazing life, exploring the world and learning that there is more to life than what we had thought all along.  But I don't.  In fact, I've been craving my old life again.  And yet at that same time, as I crave my old life, I think to myself - "But I've learned so much about myself in these last 5 years... how can I regret any of it after learning so much?" and "This has been an amazing experience for the kids - would they be the same people they are today if they hadn't had this experience?  Likely not."

And these back and forth conversations with myself make me feel that I'm damaged.  I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't.  I'm not happy at home.  I'm not happy where I am.  And I'm not sure how to get to that happy place again or if it even exists for me.

I'm fearful to move home for a variety of reasons including:  schools being attacked by crazed gunmen, obesity and the lack of control by the government to ensure truth in advertising when it comes to food products, a constant fear that something will happen to my kids - a fear that has grown in my generation for some odd reason, but a fear that is there nonetheless.  Oh and the snow... the 7 feet of snow.  I don't think I want that again!!

But I'm also not happy where I am.  I'm tired.  Emotionally and physically tired of the battles that come with living abroad.  I'm tired of not understanding the language around me.  I study and I'm learning, but I'm tired.  What I wouldn't give to just be in an English speaking country for a while.  I'm tried of having to google translate every form that I look at and then figure out how I'm going to handle it.  I'm tired of living in small, cramped spaces with no storage.  I'm tired of not having a dryer - yes, total first world problem, but you hang your clothes out to dry every day and tell me what a good time it is.  I'm tired of us not fitting in, especially the kids.  And most of all, I'm tired of being lonely.

I said I don't have regrets about this journey but I have to wonder, would I be this damaged if we had just stayed put or was this me all along, just hidden under the layers of a routine life?  And so the darkness settles in.  I feel damaged and broken.  I don't belong here, I don't belong there.  Home is where my family is, but this isn't my home.  I'm tired of living the rental life.  I want to put up pictures and paint walls.  I don't want to worry about damaging things.  I have kids and I want to feel settled with them.  Neither here nor there feel like home any more.

We're missing out on things at home.  My brother, who doesn't speak to me because we moved abroad, had his first baby last month, our first niece.  I'm missing out on her and having to get to know her via pictures my mom sends.  It breaks my heart.  My cousins are also having babies.  And the little ones that are older (the oldest being 5 and born weeks before we moved to Spain), I'm missing out on time with them and time to build those relationships - I'm a stranger to them that shows up a few days each summer.  And let's not forget our immediate family - parents and siblings.  Would my relationship with my brother be better if we hadn't left?  Our families, overall, have been so incredibly supportive of our choices, but that doesn't mean they don't miss us and us, them.  Our kids are missing out on knowing their family too which is painful to me.  It gives me the greatest pleasure to see that Aidan has been whatsapp'ing with my mom these days - that they are finding ways to reach out to each other since he's not a fan of skype or the phone.  I didn't want him to have his own cell phone but for that alone, it was worth it.

And I guess that's what we have to do - find creative ways to stay in touch.  My relationships at home have changed.  Some for the better, some for the worse.  After 5 years away, I know who my real friends are and who are the fair weather ones.  And that should feel good.  Except I was happy with my friends the way they were and being blinded by rose colored glasses into thinking those were solid friendships.

So then I look at our lives here.  The life that I say I'm not happy with.  The one I say I'm just purely exhausted from.  And I see that there have been so many positives that have come with the challenges that we've faced.  It has not been easy for me living in a foreign country but I'm a stronger person for it. And so are the kids.  And Josh... well Josh acclimates easily and seems unfazed by the changes - this is incredibly good because someone needs to keep the rest of us balanced.  Not to mention, his ability to acclimate to different cultures easily is important in his job.  I wish I could be like that.  Our kids are third culture kids and that is amazing.  And so incredibly lucky.  We're heading to Barcelona next week to visit our friends there.  How often do you get to say, "We're going to Barcelona just to visit some friends for a few days."  And we say that often.  We visit our cousins in England and friends in other countries as well.  How many kids can say they have friends from so many places in the world?

Then why am I unhappy?  And so begets this cycle, this vicious cycle, of light and dark.  Of wanting to appreciate the hand that has been dealt to us and on the other hand, missing my old life so much (except for the snow).  And it's put me into this place that is dark.  It's darker than I remember it being in Barcelona during this transition time.  Maybe that's because I had Liam with me those first 9 months and so even if I was sad, he was an excuse for us to get outside and walk and be in the sunshine and a great distraction for me. Here, it's just me.  Alone.  And lonely.  So incredibly lonely.  It's not like Barcelona was.

Maybe that's because we don't live in the city like we did in Barcelona.  Maybe it's because it's cold, dark and wet here all winter and so like, home, people are hibernating (and yet everyone is still out on their bicycles riding to and from places - insanity!!!).  I hated winter at home.  I hate winter here too. And in Barcelona, you could be outside 300 days per year and the weather was beautiful - it was motivation to get things done and to get outside and walk.

But it's also the social aspect.  There is none here, not like the network I had in Barcelona.  Just when I thought my social circle was starting to disappear there and was feeling down about it - I wish I had the foresight to know what was ahead and what it really means to be alone.  And so deeper into the darkness I go.  And then it rains.  And the kids argue.  And the kids struggle.  And their struggles become my struggles because in reality, I'm struggling with the same issues they do, on a slightly different level.

And I go deeper into the darkness.  It's not pretty.  I've spent a chunk of the last 2 weekends in the fetal position on my bed just wanting all of it to go away.  To find an escape from the darkness that surrounds me.  To add insult to injury, I've put on weight which makes me feel even worse.  This dark place scares me and I don't want to be there but I don't know how to escape it either.  I'm trapped.

I recognize that this is not the place I want to be in. This dark place.  I don't like it.  I don't like how it makes me feel.  I don't like the constant waves of sadness that come over me out of the blue or triggered by completely random things.  I hate the helpless looks on my childrens' faces when I push them away because mommy needs to be alone in her sorrows.  I don't want to bring them down with me.

And so while this dark place has become part of a cycle these last few months, I see the light.  It's not necessarily at the end of the tunnel.  I think I have some serious self exploration to do before I can get to the end of the tunnel - but I think there are some holes poking thru that tunnel letting in some light - giving me hope that things will, in fact, get better.  I know in my heart that they will and I guess that's a good first step.  Second is therapy.  I'm not ashamed to say it - therapy is a good thing.  And if it helps me to get to the root of these issues, then to therapy I will go, starting with my first appointment in a few weeks.  And spring.  It will come.  Hopefully sooner versus later.  Thank god I'm not home in Boston right now because it looks like spring may never arrive there.  But here, while it's still below freezing when I get up, the afternoons are starting to warm up and my flowers are starting to bud which give me hope - things are starting to come back to life after a long winter, myself included.

It's not much but it's a start...


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