I stood in the pantry and stared at the overcrowded shelves. Spilling with the detritus of the last two years, my eyes moved over the shelf that’s sort-of designated for wrapping paper and the one that’s sort-of designated for holiday decorations before scanning the “emergency presents” shelf and then the one full of vases and planters. Feeling panic rise in my throat, I got out the ladder so I could begin combing through this one closet. By the time I’d ascended the few short steps, my body froze. Paralyzed, I tried taking deep breaths to allow my nervous thoughts to rush through me. But instead I fixed on one line: We’ve got six weeks left in Iceland and it’s time to move, again.
I climbed down from the ladder, shut the door to the closet, and decided to start packing another time.
Truth is, I’m dreading the move. While I know life back in the US is going to be great– we just bought an unbelievable new house, I love America, I think DC and California are the best places in the world, it’s home, etc, etc. I also know that to get THERE, we have to leave HERE. And right now, I don’t want to open a drawer, sort through even one of our thousands of pounds worth of stuff, or go through ANOTHER set of goodbyes and farewells to all the people and places that are so familiar, so lovely, so home-to-me-right now. So, wonderfully and amazingly right HERE.
The problem is, that for me to exist in this nomadic life, I have to learn to love where we are. Certainly there are people who spend most of their overseas tours complaining about a post or the people around them. But for me to survive, I have to find the good things about each city and make my life with within it. And, in Iceland, I fell hard. I have a super-crush on Reykjavik. I slipped into a little amazing life here. I found fulfilling work with a client list that grows each month, time to exercise and work on my own creative and physical self-improvement, great schools for the kids, a good amount of family time, gorgeous nature, interesting, smart, and fun friends. It’s pretty much everything I could have wanted in a post.
And now that I’ve fallen in love, I have to break up with it. Again. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt so much if we didn’t have to do this so often. One thing the Mr. and I agree on is that three overseas tours in a row is too many. We’ve been abroad for seven consecutive years now. I still can’t believe that my 7-year-old child has never actually lived in the US. It’s too many times to fall in love with people and places and then leave it. It’s too many times in a row to be away from the uber-familiar, the mothership, our families. Moving back to Washington, despite it having once been a home, will really be a lot of starting over. Do my friends still live there? Will I find new freelance clients or try for a full-time job, where will I shop, how will the school be for the kids, where will we go to the doctor, what do I do when I need a handyman? You know, all the same-old-things I ask each and every time we move. Which is 5 times in 12 years for those of you counting. Wouldn’t it just be easier to stay put?
As you can imagine, this blog post, like all the other moving-related things, I started and stopped and started too many times, closing the computer because I didn’t want to face anything related to our move. Another week or so has passed since I stood in that closet, frozen at the prospect of the work ahead of me. Since then, I’ve done a lot of grumbling. I found myself angry at the whole foreign service institution and lifestyle, annoyed with everything from car seat laws HERE compared with THERE, frustrated at the reams of paperwork we need to process, pissed at the cleanliness level of our car, or the kitchen, or something trivial the embassy hasn’t fixed (there’s still a big hole in our front yard! Two years here and no one fixed it!) You name it, I’m happy to bitch about it. . . . I think they call this the angry phase. Isn’t it one of the seven steps of bereavement?
Despite my totally pissed-off temperament, the OCD in me did manage to crawl out from under my f-bombs and mommy-time-outs. Somehow, I began to prep for the move. A few days after my first thwarted attempt and a grown-up temper tantrum, the lovely Mr. Green went with me back into that closet and together we sorted through Just. One. Closet. That was a start. Thank you Thích Nhất Hạnh for that whole journey of a 1000 miles starts with one step thing—I’m sure you had that closet in my pantry in mind when you said that. Since that second day with the closet, I’ve actually “thinned out” nearly all the rooms. But no, I haven’t touched the two most cluttered places—the playroom and garage.
I’m sure in another few days or weeks, I’ll sort through those rooms and I’ll move onto the “crying phase” or the “can’t get out of here fast-enough phase” or whatever it is I have to do before I reach transcendence or, I guess the word is: Acceptance. For now, I’m wallowing in my grumbling, angry, sulking stage. I’m digging in my heels. I’m ignoring the fact that there’s much work to do. I’m planning all-nighters with the girls, I’m wearing my most-funky Icelandic clothes at every opportunity, I’m continuing on with work and our household as if nothing will change. And, while maybe this wouldn’t be a great way to teach the kids about how to best handle transition or be a great moment for US public diplomacy, I like daydreaming about what it would look like if I went to the airport kicking and screaming.