Thursday, July 25, 2013

Where is Home?

It has been a while, and there have been many changes since my last entry.  At the time of my last post, I knew that the changes were coming. I knew in April that we wouldn't have a third year in Sweden.  So, ironically my grief induced musings of 'where home is' upon our return to the states were more timely than I realized.  Here I am.  Back in the States.  Repatriation.

We are in an unusual situation, the job in Pennsylvania no longer holds us there. Even though we still own a house there, we are considering a change. A fresh start in a new place to ease the feeling of being foreigners somewhere that should feel familiar.  Great affection still exists, but because we, and our neighborhood have changed in the two years we have been gone, there is uncertainty of how, and indeed if we will feel at home there again.  

We have departed from our life in Sweden.  A life that had a rocky start, but grew to be one that we loved.  Leaving Sweden was emotionally equivalent to ending a passionate, adolescent love affair.  During much of my time there, I wandered around like a giddy school girl who had the good fortune to be seated next to her very popular, handsome, and muscularly developed beyond his years, middle school crush.  Maybe that crush would never notice me over the pretty blond cheerleader types, but his beauty was intoxicatingly undeniable. Each day I could sit in his presence, close enough to breath in his exotic scents, entranced with my inner musings of the day he would affectionately acknowledge my existence.

"How mysterious it is to be in love. For you can be in  love with one who knows nothing of you. Perhaps our greatest happiness springs from such longings -being in love with someone who is oblivious to you."       Joyce Carol Oates~Little Birds of Heaven

That is how Sweden was for me.

Even now absently sit at my computer  clicking through the images I captured there, trying to recreate the emotions that have been lost.  It has been 4 weeks since we have been back in the states.  We have 2-3 more before our furniture and belongings arrive by boat to the port in Norfolk Virginia, 5-6 weeks before the school year starts.  Those are the deadlines that loom.  The time that we have to recreate our American life.  Find our new home, establish a residence, register for schools, and begin again.  We have spent the last weeks based out of a hotel room, and a minivan scouting potential locations in cities that are geographically closer to family.

Everything is going according to the plan we laid out while still living on Swedish soil.  Taking time to visit places to see where we feet most at home.  A place with positive energy, and possibilities.  We didn't however anticipate, how out of whack our bearings would be upon reentry.  Repatriating, much like moving abroad is disorienting.  My brain is taking in all the subtle details that have changed, the landscape, the wildlife, the language, the taste of the food, the cars and how they are driven, the humidity in the air, the strangers speaking to me and my children like friends, the sheer saturation of color.  It is in my face. It bombards my senses. The familiar that is now foreign. Just like when we arrived in Sweden, staying centered and grounded is consuming a large percentage of energy. 

In our searches we have found no ideal situations.  We are hitting the rental markets late in the season, and the available options all require a fair amount of compromise.  Nothing is a slam dunk, and the start of the school year keeps creeping forward. The easiest option would be to return to our previous home, Surely Manor. It is a great house, in a great neighborhood, but when I think about going back to it I feel an unpleasant weight settle on my chest.  There is great community, exceptional schools, but little room to breath in the congested suburbs of Philadelphia.

Here's the thing, we just need to make a decision, but our logical and emotional compasses that usually guide us are spinning, and it isn't clear how long it will be till they realign.  So we try to take some weight off the decision, we can start school late, we can sign a short term lease, we can leave our domestic possessions in storage for another year and just live with what we had in Sweden.  All reasonable and doable, but these options conflict with out desire to be settled.  For me America has become the land of too many choices, and I am missing the simplicity of Sweden.

It is important to remind myself that we are incredibly lucky.  Lucky to have lived abroad.  Lucky to have a choice of where we live.  While life in a hotel suite, and uncertainty of our next step has put a strain on our family relations,  we are lucky most of all to be facing our future together.  Experience has proven that no matter where we reside we have the ability to create our home. 

Here is an author who much more eloquently tackles the topic of global living, and the impact on sense of self, and home. Pico Iyer in a 2013 TED Talk.  

1 comment:

  1. Having not yet repatriated (but fearing it) I think your thoughts on it being harder or at least just as hard as moving away are spot on. 1-2 years from now we could move to Shanghai or back to Seattle. Somehow Seattle seems more scary. Here's to hoping everything falls into place in the next few months. I'm sure it will!