The trade off

I feel like I’m living two separate lives.

In the evenings and on the weekends, I’m sightseeing around Europe, eating in lovely restaurants and enjoying more leisure time than I was used to at home.  We are intentionally not spending as much of our “free” time cleaning/organizing/doing chores/running errands as we did at home — we’re trying to relax and enjoy as much of this experience as possible, so we’re giving ourselves a break on the minutiae of life in favor of getting out and experiencing Vienna.  This part of my life is fabulous — exactly what you would imagine an extended European vacation to be.

But during the day, during the week, my life is pretty much exactly the same as it was at home, except harder.  Dan’s hours are longer here, and I don’t have anyone to help me (my mom used to come over at least one afternoon each week so I could get a break).  I also have a lot less social interaction than I’m used to.  The day to day tasks are the same:  diapers, meals, laundry, cleaning, doctor’s appointments, errands, just with a different location, a language I don’t speak and less support.

I feel like I’m having mood swings:  relaxed euphoria on the weekends and exhausted isolation during the weeks.  The weekends are amazing, and I’m getting to add experiences to our lives that we absolutely would not have had any other way.  The trade off is the amount of work I have to do during the week.

I think it’s worth it.  (Although there are moments, in the middle of the week, when the memories and plans of the weekends seem far away and it’s hard to remember that.)  Soon, too, we’ll start taking some time off of work and travelling in Europe — and that’s pretty much all upside.  The work is temporary and the memories and new perspectives will be forever.  (But it’s Tuesday evening now, so I’d better keep reminding myself of that.)

Absence makes the heart grow . . . sadder

I miss my family.  It was not completely unusual for me to go 4 or 6 or (on occasion) even 8 weeks without seeing some members of my immediate family (parents, brothers and sisters).  But, it rarely went beyond that.  I’d get to a point where I’d realize I hadn’t seen them in nearly 2 months, and pick up the phone . . . or a birthday or holiday would roll around and we’d all get together.  (I never went this long without seeing everyone at this time of year, though:  Easter, Mother’s Day, my brother Peter’s birthday have all passed since I’ve been here.)  We hit the 2 month mark today, and I’ve really noticed over the past few days that my longing for home (most particularly being with my family) has been growing.  I may be very fortunate, and get to see my mother very soon, but it will be months (or more) before I see the others.  I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around that.

I don’t wish for anything monumental, I just want to see everyone.  I want to talk and hang out and maybe have a meal.  Catch up on what’s been going on and joke about old stuff.  Just talk and be relaxed, and have everyone be amazed at how wonderful my kids are.  (Skype is a great invention, and I am really grateful for it, but it’s hard to carry on a decent conversation while wrangling both children, which is how most of my Skypes to home end up going.)

I guess it’s one of those things — you don’t really appreciate how good you have things until they change.  I can’t believe that I ever went 4 or 6 or 8 weeks at home without seeing my family.  They live 45 minutes from where I was living!  Why did we allow that?  Why did I live in Virginia when I could just as easily have lived in Maryland and been close to everyone?  (I know why, but the reasons don’t stand up to scrutiny right now.)

I don’t know how things will be when I move home.  Who knows where everyone will be?  But, I can say, I will make different choices.  I miss them all more than I thought I would after 2 short months.  It’s not just the amount of time that has passed, but the knowledge that I can’t do anything about it right now that is so frustrating.  I am so grateful that I’ve had my family so close to me (geographically and otherwise) my entire life up until now, and I’m disappointed at the way I have taken it for granted without even realizing it.

I’m not taking it for granted right now.  I love you guys, and I wish you were here (or I were there).  (Lesson learned.)

Mother’s Day

018I love being a mom.  It is the single best decision I have ever made.  I am so thrilled, amazed and overjoyed with my boys — I am grateful every day for having them in my life.  I am humbled to be entrusted as the guardian of their kind hearts, open minds and sweet spirits.  I love them more than I knew was possible.

I love my Mom.  She is loving and generous and thoughtful.  She gave me magic in my childhood (and still does now).  She is fierce and determined when it comes to her family.  She is strong and resourceful beyond my understanding.  She is such a source of comfort and support for me and it brings me so much happiness to see the love she and my children have for each other.

034I love my step-mother.  I cannot imagine the challenge she took on in coming into our family (which at the time had four teenagers).  She is warm and funny and confident.

I miss my grandmother.  She was tough and mysterious and particular.  She told great stories.  She would have loved my kids.

I love and miss all of my family very much today.  I am really feeling the distance.

Five Senses

This morning, I was looking through my luggage for a necklace that I swear I brought with me, and I opened a duffel bag that my mom lent to me for our trip here — it smelled just like her house.  It was great.  I miss home.  It’s not a bad feeling, but a wistful one.  I’m still enjoying my time here (even though there have been some challenges) but I wish I could be experiencing what I’m experiencing while surrounded by my family and friends from home.

The sights, sounds and even smells that remind me of home are lovely and sometimes surprising.  The sound of someone speaking American English on the street is pleasantly startling.  Seeing something (a sign, a menu, even graffiti) written in English in a place I don’t expect it makes me smile.  The taste of a McDonald’s cheeseburger, a Starbucks chai or “American Ginger Ale” are all unadulterated flashes of home.  The scent of my mom’s duffel bag or a piece of as yet unworn clothing from home that still smells of Dreft or Tide or Downy are familiar and comforting.

Giving my boys a hug or a snuggle feels like, home, too, but in a different way — they’re with me on my journey here, so they are less a reminder of home, and more a reminder that, for now, this IS home.