One of my newest blogosphere friends, Uju over at Through Mirrored Lens, presented me with the freestyle writing challenge. As summer has kicked into gear over here and I’ve gotten busy with a teen underfoot wanting food all the time, sports physicals, driver’s test questions, carting said teen back and forth to his new job, etc., I initially turned her down saying I didn’t have time. However, finding myself with a few free minutes to myself this weekend, I picked it up and gave it a go. My challenge prompt was:
Tell us about something OUT OF CHARACTER.
Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know some of my more recent background. However, my brain still seems to be trying to process it all because it came out again in this writing.
Imagine for a moment that someone picked you up, took you out of your usual surroundings, removed you from your family and friends, took away most of your material possessions, and set you down in a new place in direct contrast to how you always believed you would live. This is what happened to me two years ago.
Everything was going my way and I was finally living how I wanted to live and loving it. I could see the road ahead stretching brightly before me. I had so many plans for the future! Just a few days after our trip to Europe that year, we made the abrupt decision to move for my husband to take a new job. Abrupt is not our norm. I am not one who does well without A LOT of planning. Alas, LIFE had other plans for me. Within the course of 4 weeks, my husband was to begin a new job in a new state. He was to go for training for a couple of weeks and then we would follow.
My husband needed this. My son wanted/needed this. My mother kept saying it was the chance of a lifetime. I tried to embrace this as an adventure. Instead, I just felt crazed. Crazed with the need to get our son enrolled in school in a new place and get records transferred in the middle of summer, crazed trying to find a rental home in a place that doesn’t have a lot of homes for year-long rental, crazed trying to get my husband’s paperwork filled out, insurance forms submitted, and our house on the market.
And then we were there. School started. My husband’s job started. I was alone. I was living in a tourist destination in the off-season. I was now in a hotter-than-hot climate with a husband doing a daily 4-hour commute (due to a situation that developed right after we arrived and had signed a lease) and a child happily ensconced in a new school so small he had the girls in a tizzy. They treated him like a rock star – following him around, calling him at all hours, and clamoring for his attention. But I was alone. Alone in a place where I knew no one. My son was busy being the new rock star. The school was so small there weren’t many young families close by so no meeting new people that way for me. My husband was busy learning a new job and, with the 4-hour commute each day, basically showed up to eat and sleep. I was alone in someone else’s house with the bare minimum of furnishings we had brought. The nearest shopping was an hour away. There was no mother there to grab a quick lunch with.
It was months of being alone. And then I met Mary……my 80-year-old neighbor (a.k.a. saviour) who picked me up, carried me through the loneliness, gave me reasons to explore, helped me discover, grow, and continue. And through Mary came Agnes, yet another person who made the difference and helped me re-find myself in the midst of the devastating mental landscape where I had been dwelling. And so many others along with them….they became my whole life there.
Out of character is something I avoid. I have spent a lifetime being me and by now I’m pretty good at it. I’ve always been quite proud that of my parents’ three children, I’ve always been the “stable” one, the responsible one, the one that can be counted on. You know what you’re getting with me because it almost never changes. But this “out of character” experience, it changed me. It shook me to the core, took away everything I thought I knew about me and about my world, shook it up, and when the dust finally settled and I made it back to my home state, I found that the me I’ve always been had been greatly altered.
Some of it was good – I’m calmer. I’m less attached to THINGS. I’m more certain of what I need to survive (my family!). I notice the small things. I have a much slower pace after a year in a community of senior citizens and basically living the life of a retiree. I don’t know many people here, but I was quicker to approach the neighbours here and make myself known to them. After all, a neighbour made the difference for me before. And I know now, I can survive change. It may not be the most comfortable thing but I can actually do it and it can be good in ways. I know now to keep my eyes peeled for people who make me a better me by giving me a place to contribute and matter. And how strange it is to have a child who, in our old life, was trying hard to slide between the cracks and stay under the radar, is now on the ski team, the swim team, the tennis team, and a newly-certified lifeguard with a job at 15!
But there are drawbacks. I’m more disconnected now, even still. That kind of rattling that hits you all the way through isn’t easily gotten over. I know I’m not as trusting in LIFE as I was before. I’ve lost a lot of the naiveté that comes when you believe that things will always follow the path you have mapped out in your head. Maybe that’s a plus, not a minus. Who knows? I’m in a new home. Some might say a better home. But it’s not the home where we raised our boys. Our things are all mixed up now, new with old, combinations of tables and chairs and knickknacks in different rooms than they were before to accommodate the new house. It all feels so strange sometimes. I also find that I’m not interested in plastering the walls here with pictures of the life we had before. I want to take and hang new pictures for this new life whatever that will be. I still don’t know what to make of it all.
But if I could, would I go back and skip this part of my life? Would I refuse to move? Would I change the past? No, I wouldn’t. My son has thrived through all this. He’s come into his own in such a huge way that he’d never have done without this. My husband has a job that he loves. It challenges him. It makes him feel vital and gives him growth. He, too, is thriving. For myself, it’ll probably be the very hardest thing I ever did, but deep inside, I think I needed it to happen too. I needed some of the changes it brought. I was too rigid. I needed to slow down and see a lot of the things that I did there – things I wouldn’t have noticed before. I needed the new friends I made there – they each brought something important to me in their own special way. It was actually hard to leave because of them.
I also needed to learn what I did about me, about my husband, about my parents, about my son. It’s all part of my story now. Not a chapter I ever thought I’d write, but one I think makes the difference because I did.
I went over the stated time on the challenge. Always my issue……having too much to say and trying to figure out stuff through writing! Therefore, I can’t really call this part of the challenge but I’m posting it anyway because I tried. I went back after I wrote and added a few pix because a blog post of just black text on a white screen isn’t a very exciting visual…….I also took time to add the links to the post and to write the intro and last few facts. Finally, since I basically screwed up the whole challenge anyway, I did go back and do a few edits once I was done. I blame it all on that whole “firstborn, perfectionist” thing! Anyway, challenge completed in my own inimitable style!