Several people have asked me lately why I don’t write more about moving to Europe, about the process itself. Good question! It is really a good story, if I do say so myself...
We’ve been here almost nine years now, and it feels so much like home that sometimes our life in DC feels like a dream. So I’ve started going back through my emails and journals from that time to re-capture the whole process.
You know what? It’s been surprisingly hard. We left a full life, with friends and family and (too much) work. We left an enormous house that we had to empty, re-paint and get ready for renters--THAT took some time! When we first came, we planned to stay for two years and then go back to our old lives. The logistics of that were daunting. You can’t just slap your knee and move to Europe. Nobody can. It takes a lot of work, and I’d forgotten just how hard it was. Before I go any further, I also want to say that I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
However, that’s not what makes it hard now--that part is just a good story. And I promise to tell that part in subsequent posts. This one will be devoted to the really hard part of moving to Europe for us. I’m going to include some things that I wrote at that time. They’ll be in blue italics.
This story is hard in two ways. It was hard to do at the time and part of it is hard to look at now. The thing that made it hardest to do wasn’t the logistics, the movers, the paperwork. It was the fear--the fear of leaving the known and going to the unknown.
Even if it’s fulfilling a dream, even if it’s only for two years, it’s scary. As with any major transition, there’s a long time when you’re in the middle of what you’re leaving, and not yet where you’re going. It’s a very difficult time, because you only know what you WON’T have anymore; you don’t yet know what you WILL have. It’s a time of doubt and questioning that can defeat any of us. We just have to believe and to keep going.
It was during this time that I began to have a recurring dream that I was driving my car off a high place--sometimes a cliff, sometimes a bridge, sometimes an embankment. LOL, you don’t need a Ph.D. in psychology to understand THAT...
WHAT ARE WE DOING??? I woke up in the middle of the night thinking that we are crazy. Sometimes the fear of leaving just makes me break out in a sweat.
Sometimes I feel like we’re two kids, off somewhere, hand in hand. Adventures await. But first we need to let go of this life here. We’re grasping with two hands at a dozen handfuls of life—we have to let go to get more.
I sometimes forget that we can build a comfortable life anywhere. The ingredients are simple: people, meaningful work, and TIME. It’s not even about money, although that’s the first thing I often think about—what if? Can we afford it? And I reassure myself with numbers because right now that’s the only thing I see. We’re not where we’re going yet, we’re in transit. So we don’t yet know the people, the meaningful work, the environment we’ll be in. We only know what we’re leaving, and the sweetness of this life makes the grief at leaving it stunning. I’m not sure I’d have the strength to do it by myself. The constant for me, the part that makes this passage bearable (even fun) is Dan. He’ll be with me no matter where we go. I don’t have to leave him behind too.
The second thing that makes it hard--hard to look at now--is Sept 11. We moved here in February of 2001, before Sept 11, before the world changed. I can’t write about moving here and living here in the beginning without thinking about that. Those events were so much a part of our first year here. When I read what I wrote before we moved, I’m struck by the fact that some of it was almost prescient. I wrote this about a month before we moved:
We are leaving our comfortable life, thinking that we can just slip back in two years as if we’ve been on vacation. But we know that no matter what we say, what we want, what we WILL to happen, the world we come back to will not be the world we leave. It can’t be. That’s terrifying to me.
I knew it would be different, but I had no idea. No idea.
It’s not my intention to write about Sept 11. We all have our stories, our memories. But it’s my story, my memories that have made it difficult for me to go back and write about that time period.
Now I promise that I will.
To be continued...click here for part 4