25 January 2010

FLASHBACK: The Best Laid Plans... (part 3)

Note: This is a continuing story. Part 1 can be found here and part 2 is here.

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 here for part 4


Pam said...

I can't wait to hear all about it. My big move was St. Louis to Soddy Daisy, TN. Not much to write about!

My Carolina Kitchen said...

We went through a similar experience when we moved to the Bahamas in 1995. My husband came home one day (he was old 53) and said he had quit his job and we were "retiring" to the Bahamas. He gave me 30 days to sell everything that would not fit in the house there. That's a tall order with a house full of antiques and all of my beloved stuff.

As you know I'm writing a book about following a dream and moving to a remote island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. You're right. It isn't easy but I continue to work on it. Maybe someday soon I'll finish.

In the meantime I look forward to hearing more about your move. The thoughts and fears you had are very similar to mine.

I can't wait for the next post.

Maggie B said...

We moved away from our busy lives in the UK to a new adventure in Bavaria for "a couple of years"! After almost 14 years we left there for the French adventure and we've been here for the same length of I'm ready to go HOME! But just where is that now?
Looking forward very much to hearing the rest of your story.

lostpastremembered said...

I look forward to the rest of the story... why Belgium?
You tell the story of the joy and the panic so well. The two conflicts do create an enormous energy, do they not?
I do remember 9/11 too well... I watched it happen from my terrace in Park Slope. I remember the horrible smoke and the wail of a neighbor who lost her husband... everything changed after that. You must have felt that pull to be here to share the time when, for a moment, we in America were all so closely bound.

zurin said...

Thats so interesting...moving is hard...when u leave people u love behind....but if you move with someone u love it makes it a little easier m sure...look 4ward to ur next story. :)

La Table De Nana said...

Ahh..I look forward to the rest also..You are can make a life elsewhere when you are with family..
:)Geesh..we just plan a trip to France and I am sleepless:)

You write beautifully Kate..what a gift!

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

What a wonderful story, Kate. Everything you say is so true but I don't know if I could do it myself. I will so enjoy reading the rest of the story.

Linda said...

I can not wait to hear the rest...
I lived in Germany for six years but I was young and had no ties, met my husband to be there...worked and traveled and had a was easy in the mid 70' was easier...we could make do with very little.

I can not even imagine being able to do it now...but we would love to...
maybe someday after the kids finish college...after we finish paying for it...maybe there will still be some time left for another adventure...:)

Wonderful post Kate...can not wait for more!

Hungry Dog said...

Kate, I am very excited to read more about your move to Europe! It always seems so glamorous and exciting to me, but as you say, of course it was difficult to leave a life behind. Can't wait for the next installment...

Barbara said...

I loved reading about your move, Kate.
My daughter moved to Paris in the 80's for 6 years. Alone. Although she spoke French well, she didn't consider herself fluent. I remember all the problems- once she was hit by a motorcycle- but she came to love Paris and so did I, as I visited her for a month every year. She came home frequently too.
She moved back here in the 90's and was in NYC for 9/11, in fact saw the planes go in. She lived 4 blocks from the World Trade Center and couldn't live in her apt. for 4 months. She's still there.

Mowie @ Mowielicious said...

I can't wait to read more - I love the way you write. Moving is always tough, let alone uprooting yourself, which is what I plan to do soon, by moving to Australia - scary stuff!

2 Stews said...

I have picked up "lock, stock and barrel" many times. I used to never think twice about I know better, but that can get in the way. I've been thinking about a move again, but it is so much more complicated.

I'm looking forward to future posts...maybe your words will offer some clarity.


Jill @ Jillicious Discoveries said...

Hi Kate,
First I need to say thank you for checking in and asking where I've been--I really appreciated it.

Secondly, thanks for sharing your experiences in this post--it really spoke to me and where I am in my own life (I feel some changes coming on). Now I need to finishing reading and catching up on your past few posts, which are fabulous as usual. :)

Junglefrog said...

Having lived in Europe my whole life and never having moved in such a drastic way that you have I can only imagine how difficult it must be. We do talk about it sometimes; moving away to a country far away, but as you're saying; you leave everything behind and don't know where you're going. I love reading your story Kate!! Can't wait to hear how you managed to settle in and get used to the different way of things here in Europe!

Kitchen Butterfly said...

Kate, all at once I feel the same fear....and then hope. If we're all together as a family, then we can move anywhere, can't we? I think about the money if I won the lottery, I would move......but till then, I'll live through your words. ♥♥♥

Kate said...

Great post. I have never had the experience of picking up and moving. I have always thought I would like to do it but somehow the thought of leaving and the unknown...well, I am here...guess risk taking isn't me, at the moment. I have dreams of moving when I retire. Would it be easier, probably not but it is a dream.

I love forward to your next installment!

Lizzy said...

Oh man, the paragraph with the quote, "...there’s a long time when you’re in the middle of what you’re leaving, and not yet where you’re going." is a perfect description of what it's like to move away. I loved this post and can't wait to read more! Thanks Kate!

The Gypsy Chef said...

I am so glad you decided to write about your move. I'm fascinated by your life and your decision.
When I read the words"you only know what you WON’T have anymore; you don’t yet know what you WILL have" it rang true for me and I imagine everyone else. I believe that is what freezes us into staying put and not making any changes in our lives. We are frightened of the unknown.
Sometimes you have to make yourself do things that take you out of your comfort zone in order to have a full and rich life.

9/11 changed all our lives. I remember speaking at a seminary in Saigon and the Priest began asking me questions about that day. I couldn't stop the my tears. They didn't understand all my words, but they did understand the pain.

I look forward to future installments.

Kate at Serendipity said...

Thank you for all your comments. Moving to a different country can be one of the most wonderful adventures that life offers, and I always love to read the books by and about people who have done it. I'm a little surprised (and I admit a little disappointed), though, that they rarely talk about the hard parts of the process.

It's something I'd do again--in fact, it's probably the most wonderful adventure I've had yet. But it was not without its difficulties. I promise not to dwell on them, but I also promise not to to skip over them.

However, I don't think you have to move to another country to know the fear that comes from leaving everything you know. It can also come from just moving to another city for school or for work or for a new love (or an old one). It can also come from leaving one job for another. Or one school for another. It's the same separation process, I think. That's what makes the experience universal, and the reason I'm surprised that more people don't include it in their stories of moving overseas.

Sam, I look forward to your book. Let me know if you need a proofreader, ok?

Maggie, I KNOW you understand this. I know what you mean about home. For me, though, home is where Dan is. But I can also tell you that when I get homesick, it's for Belgium.

Lizzy and Oz, you too.

I think we all recognize this fear.

Thanks for reading an commenting. Your comments mean a lot to me.

Pei-Lin @ Dodol and Mochi said...

Dear Kate,

Your story was exactly how I felt when I flew across the Pacific all by myself to the American Midwest: leaving behind to the known and anticipating the unknown! However, I didn't know that I was going to be changed forever by my three-year stay in the States, especially to my state of mind. It was eye-opening, truly. I learned a lot from you guys! =)

The problem with us Malaysians is a big one, it involves ethnic, religious issues. Not easy. My dilemma is that I love Her, but She doesn't love me. The weaknesses of this country make me miss the good sides of America a lot. My family is considering immigrating to another country in search of refuge and humanity. (That's not to say we're economically in trouble however.) We're just waiting for the right time to come and to abandon the sickening life here. Something has gone wrong with the mentality/mindset of the people here. There's nothing wrong with its cultural heritage--in fact, we love it! It's just saddening for us to leave it for good eventually.

I'm not also going to blame myself for being part of the Brain Drain later on. As an angry citizen, I think the government deserves it for how it's been treating the people.

Oh, well! I guess no one can understand this dilemma. We're banned from saying or criticizing the rulers, which is making me miss America even more!

I love your writing & stories. Please keep it up! I hope to visit Europe someday. It looks like a beautiful place to be as well! =D


Jane said...

Wow Kate! I am so glad you are writing about all of this. Like so many other people who read your blog, I have wondered time and again what drove your decision, how you managed it, how you feel/felt about it, and so on. This is fascinating stuff, and you are generous-hearted to share it this way. Like everyone else, I too greatly look forward to reading more of your tale.


A Canadian Foodie said...

Yes, I do recall telling you about my painting and realizing we had so much in common. How I have missed your posts. This paragraph was profound for me:
"... 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."
And the foundation of your relationship that was cemented with a steel grid through the formidable year of your husband's accident would have provided incredible support at this time.