Monday, August 24, 2015

Sorting it All Out

It feels like the dust is beginning to settle for the first time since we left our happy, comfortable lives in Zurich. I really miss it. This photo is from one of the countless days Coco and I spent walking around our neighborhood the winter after she learned to walk. She toddled happily from planter to tree, lamp post to gate, locked up bicycle to shop window, focused intently on exploring and examining every detail. It was relaxing and quiet. Sometimes it was a little lonely or boring. But mostly I loved watching her take in the world at her own pace and discover things. I love this photo for the way the cool winter light is reflecting from the building across the street onto the soft blue of the shutters. It was quiet. It was calm. This photo captures that. It seems impossible to me that I won't find myself wandering that same neighborhood again some day. I'm not convinced we are finished with Zurich. I wonder if we might go back.

Of course, that is a big consideration and one that I don't take lightly. Last year was a complete throw away year, but now we are in a place with real potential. My mom and both of my sisters live here in Spokane, Washington. Having family around is huge. 

Still, I do miss Zurich.

I miss the social life we had there. We had tons of friends in Zurich and hosted or attended dinner parties every fortnight at least. 

I miss the work-life balance. People lived balanced lives, something I fear Americans have lost sight of all together. 

I miss our neighborhood, the parks, the lakeside, the trains and trams.

I miss my mommy group

I miss the affordable, world-class healthcare and feeling safe.

I also miss things that are a little less tangible, a little harder to separate by location. For example, I miss feeling organized, like our ducks were in a row. When Theo was born, our shipment from Zurich hadn't even arrived. That meant I had no changing table, no crib or bassinet, no breastfeeding pillows, no swaddle blankets, no clothes. Nothing. I had nothing. I ordered some emergency supplies to get us through until the shipment came, but knowing everything I needed was all in the shipment and how much the move had already cost us, I couldn't justify buying much. So we started out unprepared. When you start out with a baby unprepared, you never catch up. When you add other crazy, stressful demands to that, it's a living nightmare. Would Theo's arrival have blindsided us in the same way if we had stayed? Probably not, but I'll never know for sure.

I feel the need for some sort of closure. When we left our apartment the morning Coco and I flew to the States (ahead of Joel because I was so pregnant), I just ran out the door like any other time. Joel handled the handover of the apartment a week later, so it wasn't empty, it didn't really feel like we were leaving for good. I didn't pause, look back or say goodbye. I just went out as if I were popping down to the post office or grocery store and would be right back. The following night, after we had arrived at my friend Heidi's house in Minneapolis, Coco woke up at 4 am with jet lag, confused and disoriented. "Where's Daddy?" she asked me in the dark. "He's at home," I replied, and then choking on my words, "I mean, he's in Zurich" and my heart sank and it hit me and, being 34 weeks pregnant and brimming with hormones, I sobbed quietly. 

I need to go say goodbye to that apartment, to that life. I need to be in Zurich again and see if it erases any of the illusions I'm holding onto. If we are going to move forward, one way or another, I need to let all of that go. So I'm working on a plan to do just that. Have you been in a similar situation? What helped you to move on?

12 comments:

  1. These are big thoughts. I can't answer your question...its been 4 years and I haven't been back once to the last city we moved from. I think its always really hard to separate out the "season" of life from the location in which it takes place. It sounds like Zurich is both place and season for you all in one.

    Different topic: I would love to hear your perspective on work-life balance (if you have shared it already and I missed it, I apologize!). I know that Europeans often work fewer hours than Americans, but I really don't think that explains it all. I suspect there's more about attitude, or approach to work etc that cultivates that balance. What's your take?

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    1. I think you're right. It's not just the hours, it's the whole approach and personal identity, too. I'll write a post about it! Thanks for the idea. And I love the idea of separating the season and the place. It was definitely both of those things.

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  2. I completely identify with what you are going through. I did the same thing, rushed off in the car with the kids and off to the airport ahead of my husband who drove out with my dad and my dog. They got to do the final pack up and drive out so I feel he had the opportunity for more closure. I feel the same way you do about walking around the old neighborhood which we did so much with my first child and our comfortable little life all within a few miles of the house, close to a university and restaurants and shops. Now I'm living in the middle of suburbia with chain stores and restaurants all around. I dream of going back all the time. I feel like a regular visit back is important, keeping in touch with my friends via facebook, phone and email. I imagine making a scrapbook or photo book and sharing that with my kids so we can both remember and relive it and so they know it when they go back. It was such a huge part of my life and theirs but they won't remember! I want them to feel like they know it when they see it. My time there almost feels like a dream or a vacation, even though I was there for almost seven years, so a scrapbook would help remind me, I think, of the time I spent there and all the friends I made. I guess I took it too lightly, saying good-bye to a place where so many big things happened to me. I also think having a baby somewhere adds an extra layer of dreaminess because that time is already so all-encompassing. And there are people there that feel attached to me and my children because they shared in that time in my life. I have definitely found myself decorating my house with many things related to my old city and that helps too. I'm sure I'm building it up in my mind because we left for good reasons and even if I went back it wouldn't be the same and wouldn't fulfill the idea of it in my head. But still, I miss it. Thank you for the question, it was helpful for me to think about this and realize how much it might be affecting me today. I've been in my new city for over a year and yet I don't feel attached. I thought moving closer to family would be helpful but it turns out everyone is living their life and busy. I almost feel like I had more time with them before when I would have one big visit once a year! Now to start going through pictures to remember and remind us all.

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    1. It's so nice to discover there are other people in my same boat! Thank you so much for you comment. I understand everything you're saying and it totally makes my day to read your thoughts. xoxoxoxo

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  3. So it might be helpful for you to know that, despite living in the same beautiful place, the birth of my second child has completely thrown me, and I absolutely mourn for the life I had before with just my eldest, the way that you describe -- stopping every step to inspect a caterpillar, a stone, watching diggers at work for twenty minutes, feeding the ducks on the way home, etc. My friend circle has changed, things that were a vital part of my life before (netball, barbecue evenings, card nights with friends) are simply impossible for me now, I am unable to be the mother that I want to be to either of my children, unable to be the wife I want to be to my husband, unable to be the writer I want to be, the fit healthy woman I want to be. Of course Harvey is an angel, such a joy and brings to much light and laughter into our house, but it has meant saying goodbye to a past life of mine. The fact that you had that wonderful life in a different place makes me think that perhaps it is not necessarily the place itself that you miss so desperately, but all that it signified. Maybe that is too simplistic, yes. But it wouldn't surprise me if it is a big part of it. I just know that it certainly would be for me. Sounds pretty bloody tough, love. x

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  4. Yes, yes, yes. I've considered that, too. In fact, there was already a really rough adjustment we'd made in Zurich when almost all of our friends moved out of the city in search of more space after becoming parents. We felt all alone and a great sense of loss when that happened. Plus, many lived in out of the way villages we couldn't reasonably get to without a car. :( Having the first child is infinitely easier than going from one to two. If the U.S. economy were better, if there weren't so much horrific and avoidable gun violence, if there were more work/life balance, I might feel more inclined to make it work. But right now I'm feeling what Mindy described. Our family is busy and living their own lives. They love us and they are helpful, of course, but I don't feel the incredible life changing support I expected. Plus I miss the autonomy I had in Switzerland. Sigh.

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  5. If the U.S. economy were better, if there weren't so much horrific and avoidable gun violence, if there were more work/life balance...

    This - exactly. I feel so much better for having read this post & the other comments. My husband and I have been living in Sydney, and for various reasons are pretty settled on moving back to California with our 1yr old to be closer to my family. Is it a mistake? Or was this the mistake? I guess it's not really binary like that. We've not had the family support we'd hoped for here... his family is busy etc. and it's been quite lonely. My family hangs out more, is more relaxed, closer, we fit in better....hopefully they want to hang out with us as much as we do them! There's no great answer, is there?

    I love your comment about having a throw-away year! We've had those too - and probably another one coming up when we move ;)

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    1. The best advice is the hardest to follow: Just go with your gut. Don't think it through or make logical choices. We did that and it all went against my gut feeling. My favorite quote I ever got off of a Celestial Seasonings tea box said, "It is better to sleep on things beforehand than to lie awake afterward." I regret not going back to Zurich and thinking it over for two weeks as we had planned to do. I spent lots of nights lying awake last year. Sigh. :( Good luck with your decision. Don't overthink it! xo

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  6. I totally get what you went through. I went through this at least once and this 2nd time what I'm trying to do is having the same curiosity towards things, although Zurich is not my o\home town. It also helped not thinking too much about the past, but trying to look froward and not mingle in the past like it happened to me a lot more often a few years back. Focus on the future, on your plans, on the next achievements, on a new project, on what are the good things of the place you're living in. For example family, I'm sure when you were living abroad you were feeling at times either lonely, bored or homesick, even it was just once in a while, but that still happened. We tend to remember only the good things from the past, which can be positive, but when you need to move and not cling onto the past, it might be harder. It's not rocket science, everybody is different and with his/her own way to cope with things, but these are my thoughts based on your new experience. I just bumped into your blog, so you might have already moved on and I hope so! :) And also you can always go back and visit. It might give you a different perspective. Maybe it's the thing you need to completely move on, to say properly goodbye to the city and the people, at least for a while. All the best! http://lavaleandherworld.wordpress.com

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    1. I hear everything you're saying. It's so important to try to remain present - and so challenging! But luckily we have a sweet, chubby baby to keep us in the moment. :) xo

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  7. I don't even really know how I found my way to this blog and this post, but you have me in tears. A few months ago, my husband, my one year-old and I left our beloved city for a new one 3000 miles away. We left behind family and a wonderful circle of friends that we had "collected" over the course of many years. Back home, we biked everywhere and shared a neighborhood with many of our dearest friends. We would bump into friends and acquaintances all over the city, especially in our neighborhood spots. Backyard cookouts, pot lucks, last-minute get-togethers, walking to everything or easily taking public transportation...we left that all behind and moved to a new suburban landscape that still feels so foreign. We flew away on the day after my daughter's first birthday. She actually had her 12 month pediatric appointment on the morning of our departure, so everything was a rush. But as we walked through our neighborhood to her clinic, my eyes stung and my face felt bloated with tears that I had to will myself not to cry. Everything there was so beautiful, and it was "ours". Sometimes I still can't believe that we willingly left. But here we are, in a new place. We are together, and we have created a lovely little home. But sometimes I feel like it's missing the warmth of all those bodies coming in and out the door. Even seeing birthday parties in the park makes me sad because I think of how lucky these people are to have a group of friends. But I have to remind myself that we're trying something out, starting from scratch, taking stock of what new places have to offer. We were living in a little bubble before, but that wouldn't have lasted forever, even if we hadn't moved. Life is dynamic and always changing, and we must learn to adapt. Surround yourself with your little family and you will always be at home. Many hugs to you from a kindred spirit.

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    1. Oh my goodness. Reading your comment made my heart ache. I hear everything you're saying here! Thank you so much for reaching out, and keep coming back. This is something I'm going to be writing about until I feel better about it! ;) Huge hugs to you, too! xoxoxoxox

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