Taking stock

25 Feb

Although this post would be an ideal place for it, I do mean taking stock, not making stock. ~Waving goodbye to anyone who dropped in looking for food.~

We’ve been here five months.  I’ve been told it takes about six months to feel adjusted to a new country — or, really, anywhere from six to eighteen months.  Before we moved, in my massive arrogance and naïveté, I thought: “It won’t take me that long.”  Like the soon-to-be new parent who thinks she’s figured out this mothering gig before she’s even felt a contraction, I knew it all.  And like that same new mother, life is teaching me — hard, fast, and with no mercy whatsoever — that I am a complete idiot.

I’ve moved before — often, almost.  Moving to a new country is not like that at all.  Everything is different, from small things like how to make coffee, to big things like the position of the sun.  There is no moment when you can throw your head back and say ‘ah, everything is different but at least this one thing is familiar, and having found this one place I can relax here and renew myself for the future.’

Maybe that place does exist, but I haven’t found it yet.  And seriously people, I have been around.

Hm, this post is getting off track.  I’m feeling positive overall.  Six months is enough time to build up some routines.  I could drive the kids to school in my sleep.  I know where to buy milk.  I am madly in love with English bacon.  I have food in the fridge and my very own kitchen to cook it in — or if we want to go out, I know where we can go with the kids, or where to go for a nice dinner out with my guy.   I can drive through town without the satnav (tho’ not anywhere else).  I can ride the bus, ride the train, call a taxi, get gas, get on my feet, get around.  I’ve found some other ex-pats who like to explore.   I’ve met the neighbors — we have a ladies lunch, which is so charming I want to bust, even though I feel young and silly next to everyone else.  I have this blog, which has been rewarding in completely unexpected ways.  Some days I look up over the Cotswolds and just can’t breathe for beauty.

But … but.  It’s not home.  Right now it doesn’t feel like it ever will be home.  I miss honeysuckle and barefoot walks by the Chesapeake Bay and my picnic tables and iced tea and American friendliness.  It’s not just that I miss summer and sunshine — which of course, I do — it’s not just that I miss feeling competent and self-assured — which of course, I do — but I miss the me that I was at home, and haven’t yet discovered the me I am here.

Sigh.  That’s sufficiently tortured for one day, I think.  Since a post without a photo is like England without rain, here’s one from our recent trip to Puzzlewood — magical, mysterious, enticing yet forbidding — and lacking any clear path — just as I feel about our life in the UK right now.

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18 Responses to “Taking stock”

  1. Zazzy February 25, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    Beautiful photo! I noticed that thing about the sun just moving from Missouri to Wyoming. And the clouds! The clouds were so close! I imagine it was a much bigger adjustment for you. I don’t know how it’s been for you in your previous moves, but a place has never felt like home until I went away for a week or so and came home again. At that moment, it became more than just the place my things were stored. Still, although it’s been the better part of 30 years, if someone asks me where I’m from I think Kansas City, not wherever I’m living at the time.

    • Monique February 27, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

      I feel that I can somehow turn your wise and supportive comments in to a trip to France — “see, honey, England will feel like home once we’ve been to Paris!” I can completely relate to that feeling that where you grew up is home, not anywhere else. But KC MO or KC KS — this is crucial!! 😉

      • Zazzy March 6, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

        KCMO, of course. Gladstone, actually. And I completely agree with your idea for a trip to France. Any sacrifice is acceptable when trying to make your house a home.

  2. Jeanne February 25, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    Everyone in the U.S. misses summer and sunshine too, so it’s not like you’re missing anything right now. I think not knowing where the path is can be much more fun in retrospect, because you can see that you were on a path and just didn’t recognize the landmarks yet.

    • Monique February 25, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

      Reality doesn’t need to have much to do with amor patriae =) And yes, it will be nice to get to the other side and look back and marvel at the path I found. Not there yet, though.

  3. unncle Jack February 25, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

    I sense a little homesickness and it’s about time for it. I faithfully follow your blog as it’ so nice to revisit places I’ve seen before and yearn to see again. This blog’s photo is one of my favorite. You have a wonderful sense of composition.

    • Monique February 25, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

      Oh I’m glad you are enjoying coming along with us on the journey! You’re welcome to come join us in person, too. 😉 A brothers’ trip to the UK, perhaps??

  4. Tanya February 25, 2012 at 5:39 pm #

    Thank you for writing exactly what I feel so often here as an expat. We have been here 7 months. Things are getting easier, but it’s still not home. I love how you said “I haven’t yet discovered the me that I am here.” So true

    • Monique February 25, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

      This is what I love about our expat blogging community! Mutual support and mutual understanding! (I think I will embroider that as a motto on a tea cosy or something … )

  5. Sarah February 25, 2012 at 9:29 pm #

    I’m not sure I’ve found the “me” anywhere, which I guess is why I like it here so much. I could go into how lonely I feel here, but honestly it is making me find the me I’ve never been – I really should start my own blog for this therapy session, so I’ll leave it at that. I feel young and silly around most people over the age of 25, and compared to what you’ve done since you’ve lived here I feel like a slug (but I’m going to try to accomplish everything in our last year, so hopefully I’ll be the hare and the tortoise in reverse, in comparison only to myself, if that makes any sense whatsoever). I haven’t done the ladies lunches, but I did a few dinners until the son of one of the major players and my son had a falling out and I was (apparently) quickly an EX-diner. Oh well I say.

    I think if I felt how you felt (and I do a little – sort of), I would tell myself that it’s all okay, and this is not permanent. It really is like a 3 year vacation (as a friend commented on another page), and just keep doing what you’re doing. You don’t have to find you here – you just need to enjoy it and appreciate it and revel in it as much as you can. The bacon helps. I know you are doing all that already – but it will be over in the blink of an eye – not unlike your metaphors to new parents – this will be over so fast your head will spin, so suck it up, every drop, all you can, and don’t worry so much about the stuff that you don’t get right.

    As for renewing yourself – start in the kitchen or in a warm hug from your children.

    Hang in there.

    • Monique February 27, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

      “The bacon helps” — another motto to embroider on my tea cosy. I don’t know what I think of the three-year-vacation perspective. I’ve never been on vacation that long (lol) and it seems like I’d run out of purpose too quickly. I hope you do write about this on your blog, too, not necessarily a therapy session but maybe it helps to work out in words the various experiences we are going through, and hear from others doing the same. ❤

  6. Tesni February 27, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

    I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be living in an entirely different country, far from what you know and from friends and family, but I do know that honeysuckle grows here too! So that’s something familiar even if it’s not in the same setting.

    • Monique February 28, 2012 at 9:12 am #

      When I get a whiff of local honeysuckle, I might break down and cry, but I will look forward to it anyway. Honeysuckle is magic.

  7. Living Life as an Expat Parent February 27, 2012 at 9:21 pm #

    I really, really appreciated the honesty of your post. I have been in that place emotionally many times. I don’t know that there is a definite end to finding who you are when it’s not in the country you have known your whole life. I don’t mean that in a pessimistic way, but I lived in American for 22 years, I have only been here 8. I am still figuring it out. Sometimes here feels like home, sometimes I am reminded that home is far away. Each day is different, but it honestly seems you are making the most of your life here, exploring, building relationships, diving into the culture. I think that is the best chance you have of settling. It will come. And even when it does it’s also giving yourself permission to feel unsettled from time to time, because that’s okay, too.

    • Monique February 28, 2012 at 9:20 am #

      I am very much on board with giving oneself permission to feel unsettled … there’s too much stress otherwise. Or giving oneself permission to make therapeutic cupcakes and drink therapeutic hot chocolate. =) You’ve been here a good chunk of your life! It is good — and maybe a little scary — to hear that you are still feeling those moments of figuring-it-out, even now.

  8. Living Life as an Expat Parent February 28, 2012 at 9:50 am #

    I call them “Move to America” days. The (British) Husband always knows I’ve been having them because he’ll catch me looking at American real estate. Haha. Perhaps when you have a Move to America day you should bake patriotic cupcakes. 🙂

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