my friend Deborah dubbed me master of the cliff hanger today after yesterday’s post and I hate cliff hangers (does anyone not?) so I figured I would not leave you hanging longer than absolutely necessary. What’s one more afternoon of wrinkled laundry in the hamper right?
The other night I could not sleep. This is unusual for me since oils came into my life. For the first time in living memory I am no longer a chronic insomniac and it is so so special to me to be able to say that, but the other night was a notable exception. I was having a devil of a time staying asleep. Now if you’re a parent or you know much about kids you probably know that babies and toddlers often have sleep disturbances right before they make a major developmental breakthrough and apparently I am still mentally and emotionally an infant because after this weird restless night I finally popped awake for the day and out of the blue as my eyes opened blearily I had an epiphany. “We should leave in December!”
I had not been wrestling with this at all consciously. As far as I was concerned we would be leaving the moment we had passport and visas in hand so it was very odd, because apparently my sub-conscious had been trying to work through the logistics of it all while I remained blissfully unaware. But it made sense.
Here’s the thing. The Great Passport Debacle Continues.
OMG as an aside…I just wanted to say that the minute I get this one I am going to start applying for the next one in 10 years because THAT IS HOW LONG IT SEEMS TO TAKE. Anyway. Currently? We are all just sitting around completely unable to proceed. Here’s the thing. My passport was “dispatched” (according to the South African home affairs office) on August 4th. Yes, a month ago today. There is as yet, no sign of said passport. Chicago consulate always unhelpful and curt are becoming increasingly surly with regards to our daily inquiries. NO! THEY certainly haven’t seen it and cannot possibly be prevailed upon to hazard a guess as to when it might show up. *INSERT ALL THE SWEAR WORDS HERE*** You guys! Governments SUCK. Whenever I have to deal with consulates I fall more deeply into love with the idea of Anarchy.
The most frustrating part is this. Without my passport we can’t apply for visas (and who knows how long THOSE bleepitybleepers will take? Also A. can’t get a special skills work visa which will make him infinitely more marketable in the job search. Buggidy bug!!!!
Since we have missed the boat on a natural stopping/starting point now that the kids are in school, I figured it made more sense to let the kids get this semester of school and the soccer/cross-country season under their belts. This would also allow Aaron to join us in South Africa for a holiday in December and settle us in..(rather than making our way there alone).
Additionally since we have resolved to be separated as a family for no more than 3 months (assuming Aaron can’t get a job before we leave), I figured it made a lot more sense for that period to fall over the Great White Northern Winter. Because if Aaron can’t find suitable employment in time and we have to abort mission and come home, I can’t think of anything more depressing than having to do it just as Winter is hitting its stride. Autumn in Ohio is pretty much my favourite thing about Ohio and so it is a pretty great consolation that we will be here for that, and get to experience one more (hopefully) Thanksgiving (which is my favourite thing about America I think).
On the downside, the kids won’t have a low stress intro into South African schools. Since school there is year around they will be hopping in with both feet when it starts in January but Aaron has pointed out that they will have the advantage of being ahead here by a semester so hopefully that helps. They are bright and diligent kids so we are fairly confident they will be ok but I was really hoping to make it as easy on them as possible since I predict that the culture shock is going to be pretty intense.
The downsides aside, I had been doing a really great job of focusing on all the advantages not least of which is knowing that this gives us a reprieve from the horrid inevitability of saying goodbyes to our wonderful friends. Staying longer has also allowed Ella to have the amazing joy of going to school with Muss Cindi as her older siblings before her did. And these things have kept me from going mental over this ridiculous delay and I have genuinely been rather cheerful about it all.
But then yesterday I read a newsletter from the sweet little preschool Ella is registered for in South Africa (thanks to my insanely helpful and together childhood friend Heather…nobody should attempt a move such as this without an insanely helpful and together friend like Heather, God bless her every day) and oh my…I got so intensely homesick. The things they are doing are the things I did as a child. They are celebrating Spring Day and they are making Spring bonnets for a Spring bonnet parade just like I used to with my friend Viki…..and it just made me sort ache with such profound longing. It really was visceral.
I realized that in addition to missing my family so much all these years I have missed my past, my own personal culture. My children’s childhoods look so completely different from mine. And that’s ok. They have had quite lovely childhoods I think. But I have always felt like I was on a movie set raising them. It has always felt like pretend. Because their childhoods resemble the ones I saw play out on American TV (which we got on a year or two delay in South Africa) rather than anything I experienced in reality. So I know the parts and I play them pretty well but I don’t have any sense of personal connection. I was never there. I never went to kindergarten, I went to nursery school (and yes I know it is called kinder there now but you know what I mean..). I wore a uniform to school and we had break, not recess and it was outside on the lawn, not in a lunch room…and just a million tiny things like these. I don’t think anyone who hasn’t experienced it can truly understand but…I try to explain anyway.
I have often said that when I get on a plane to South Africa I feel like I am exhaling and I didn’t even know I was holding my breath. Maybe everyone feels like that when they go home. I wonder if I will spend all my time in South Africa feeling homesick for America. I am certain there will be a good deal of that. I know I will miss our friends terribly.
And honestly, I think daily how much easier it would be to just let this plan go. Just fly to South Africa and have a lovely holiday with my family at Christmas time and come home to my warm comfortable easy life here. It would make a lot more sense. Everything here is so settled. Yesterday we bought a van. It’s very nice. (And yes, the timing is ridiculous no doubt but was that or pay for rental fees for the next 3-6 months and we figured that since we don’t know for sure that this move will pan out permanently since the job search is not going very well it made a lot more sense to invest in a van before we sunk anymore money into a rental. I really don’t have great timing for totaling cars do I?)
Anyway, the van. Much as I despair that we had to buy one I have to admit…it’s lovely. I like it a lot. Mostly because it has push button start which means I get about 30% of my life back not having to rummage through my bag for my keys whilst saying bad words. It’s the little things, kids. Anyway the new van is pretty much a metaphor for life here in Ohio. You just push a button and there you go. Easy. I very much doubt that this is going to be the reality for my transportation or life in South Africa. Not to mention driving in South Africa is already giving me heart palpitations. When I sum up how I see things in my mind in the most simplistic of ways lately it’s this. Everything here is easy. Everything there is…real. And real is scary. (And in reality, real in South Africa is legitimately more scary than in a lot of other places we could be moving to).
But today as I sat in the nice new (used) car, waiting for Benj at the orthodontist, a song from my youth came onto the radio. I used to listen to it every day during a period of my life when everything was on the horizon. I didn’t know where I would go in life and who I would do it with and what it would be like. But it was sure to be wonderful and exciting and magical. Ah…the late teens..the most exciting of times. ANYWAY so I was transported back to this state of mind when this line from the divine Miss Mariah Carey’s (with profuse apologies to the divine Miss Midler) “Hero” jumped out at me. And I know this is very 16 of me but here they are:
Dreams are hard to follow
But don’t let anyone
Tear them away
There will be tomorrow
You’ll find the way
Ok hardly earth shatteringly profound, I know, I know… but in that moment I was slapped with the reminder that dammit this is my dream. It always has been. And I owe it to my 16 year old self who trusted that I was going to make everything I dreamed of happen for myself to see how it plays out. Maybe I will see that it is not all it is cracked up to be but I just cannot live with not knowing.
Sweet pre-diva Mariah offered additional encouragement as I glumly wondered if we would ever get all the pieces together to make this work, as I worried about all the money we would be spending and all the lives we would be disrupting…she wailed….
And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive..
That’s when I was reminded with wry smile of how totally LAME I was being to even allow the thought of chickening out to cross my mind. People. A move like this does not take heroic effort, people do more brave things every minute of every day and it is ridiculous of me to allow fear of unknown and the love of ease to lull me into letting my dreams go and living a life half asleep. If it’s not going to work out for the right reasons that is one thing but because I’m scared of the unknown and a little discomfort? No. Unacceptable.
And so it’s a go. It’s still a go friends. It’s a delayed go. But it’s a go.
And then…we shall see.
Speaking of heroes. Are you following the Humans of New York blog/ facebook/instagram feed? Every update takes my breath away. It’s humbling, powerful stuff man. These people have more courage, grace and determination in their pinky finger nail than I do on my bravest most digging deep, all-in, day. Inspiring, heartbreaking and if you’re living to really wake up and live your life… instructive. If you’re not following, do yourself a favour.
What’s your dream? Are you living it? If not when will you be going for it?