So much has happened since we crossed the border two months ago that I’m not even going to try to recount the details sequentially. Though I’ve paid in crowded thoughts and congested perspectives, stepping away (virtually) for a minute was exactly what I needed and about the only way I could manage the (primarily emotional and secondarily physical) load of this move. When The Here and Now demands my presence that loudly, I’m learning to pay attention and let it lead.
We’re home now!! and though I hardly know what that means anymore, these mountains ARE home for me. I can feel it. Our boxes broken down and the neighborhood full of kids, today is the first day in months that processing has taken priority over packing, unpacking, soaking in our friends and family or staring blankly in disbelief and sensory overload. (Remember the mess last summer made of my mind? Yeah, that had nothing on this season.)
The most common question asked of us is, “So, what’s it like to be back?”
In the same category as “How’s the fam?” or “Tell me about the girls!” this question requires that I…
And though I’m capable of the generally-expected reaction of, “Everyone’s great, thanks for asking!” it’s never easy for me, as it cues each family member to parade through my heart and remind me how complicated the truth really is.
So, because a simple, “Our move has been…great!” is not necessary here (yet the whole thing still feels like a giant fuster cluck), I’ll just throw out thoughts at random, pair them with pertinent photos and trust that you understand my kind of crazy.
Feels good to be back. I’ve sorely missed writing you.
Reverse culture shock is even more intense. Though moving abroad was big, returning to the U.S. feels a good deal more shocking. While this could easily be attributed to the pace alone, I think it has even more to do with having re-sensitized. After four years of living with minimal possessions, consuming less than ever and with little (and laughable) exposure to advertising, I no longer have many filters in place with which to handle the overstimulation inherent to stateside living. Even the most seemingly-benign activities (such as grocery shopping) feel overwhelming and likely will until I relearn how and what to ignore again (or lose my mind). I wonder if this is true of anyone who returns to their native soil, or if it’s a phenomenon unique to hyper-stimulating cultures such as our own. Thing is, I don’t particularly want a new set of filters just to function. Is desensitization really necessary? Or could it be, given a fresh perspective on what’s essential, non-essential and worthy of my attention, that discernment might prove sufficient to keep me sane? We shall see!
There are seasons for adventuring, and seasons for rooting. Many have asked why we decided to move back, as much as we loved living in Mexico. The answer has less to do with which culture we prefer than it does what best suits our family during this season. Our girls — now street smart, bilingual and savvy travelers — also deserve the gifts of constancy, rhythm and friends they won’t soon be leaving. The heartbreak of that; of repeatedly saying goodbye to places and people we adore, was wearing on us all. Our need for community suddenly trumped any wanderlust whims.
Fortunately (and apparently), prior inhabitance is not always a prerequisite for feeling at home. My roots are eager to grow here, and conditions seem quite conducive.
I think about my appearance more in the states. Most everywhere I go here (though less in Asheville than in Austin), I’m reminded of what I “should” look like, want and be striving for (as a woman, mother and “privileged” human). There are also more mirrors, more images created to elicit certain feelings and WAY more people clearly invested in what’s trending. And while I’m pretty secure in my minimal making-ready routines (throwing on secondhand standbys and tying my hair in a knot, for example), it does occur to me that without makeup, hair dye or any clue (or care) about fashion “rules,” I’m often the least put-together person in the bunch. This doesn’t bother me so much as it intrigues me. How fascinating to feel more self conscious here at home than as a gringa among latinos.
Smartphones are crazy cool and kind of concerning. Between the distraction, potential for instant connection, easy access to information and sense of obligation to respond immediately, I’m both infatuated with and a little sketched out by my new iPhone. The fact that I’ve been totally bummed a couple of times when I accidentally left it somewhere and then “needed” it (when I’ve never before enjoyed the luxury in my life) really speaks to its addictiveness. On the other hand, I rather love the accessibility of my people, camera, music and…meditation chimes (oh, the irony). But then again, am I obligated to respond every time the darn thing dings? I suppose it’s like anything else and once the newness wears off, I’ll settle into a reasonable balance. Gosh, but will our teens? How do we guide them through a world they know more about than we do?
It’s always better to rent a bigger moving truck than seems necessary. You might be surprised by how much stuff you actually have, and mattresses generally win in wrestling matches.
There are definite dos and don’ts when it comes to leaving the country for extended stretches. For example: DO store your things somewhere you don’t have to pay, such as the corner of your garage in the house you rent out…
Also, DO rent your house to awesome people with common interests, if at all possible…
DON’T, on the other hand, store your things in outbuildings prone to rodent invasion…
I was happier without my stuff, but that doesn’t mean stuff necessarily hinders happiness. This one has been a really big deal for me since we’ve been back. As we began rounding up our things and I realized how many more of them we had than I’d remembered, I began to panic a little. WAIT! But I don’t even remember what’s IN all those boxes! Do we HAVE to open them?! I’m not sure I want ANY of it!! By the time we’d packed it all in the moving truck, driven it across the country and unloaded it into our (rather small) house, I was in a bit of a funk. Fearfully equating things with our pre-adventure stress level, it took a good deal of thought checking, deep breathing and letting go of stories to realize that though minimalism suits me, the change that matters most happened within. Now that I’ve lived without my things, I no longer feel an attachment to them. Now that I realize how much happier I am without many attachments, I’m less likely to accumulate needlessly. AND, now that the boxes are all unpacked and their contents proving more useful than scary, I’m actually quite pleased about the reunion. All that STUFF represents not a life of stress and hoarding, but years and years of good finds, careful craftsmanship, thoughtful gifts and artists supported. The lesson I was meant to learn? Possessions can’t cause us stress nor free us from it. Our thoughts about our possessions determine our reactions to them.
The real riches are in the process, not the end product. I’m learning that noticing the beauty in moments such as THESE is much easier when I first slow down and then zoom in or out. By zooming in, I’m able to focus on one thing at a time, appreciating its unique role within my story. Zooming OUT allows me to see chaos as natural, necessary and relative, and peace as an INNER state of being. I can’t claim that I held true to these perspectives throughout the whole move, but I DID notice a heck of a lot of beauty amidst the madness.
The coupling of pre and post-Mexico adornments and housewares feels quite symbolic. The best part about unpacking our things (for me) has been the melding of our two seemingly distinct lives. It’s served as a reminder that I am not the woman I once was but neither am I exclusively the woman I’ve become. Loving and honoring myself means loving and honoring every stage of my story and celebrating the continuum; the compilation.
I set up the girls’ toys for myself as much as I did for them. They’re all a little old for their kitchen, play stands and many of the toys we’ve made and collected through the years, but I kinda needed to set them up anyway. Judging from the fun being had, they kind of needed it, too.
My kid needs pop culture. I never thought I’d say it, but plugging into “what all the other kids are doing” seems to be exactly what Eli needs right now. Starry-eyed over all she’s been “missing,” she’s beside herself over the chance to develop friendships in English within a culture she identifies with. My hope is that she’ll also soon realize that Mexico was a gift, not a four-year punishment. Oh, the irony. One of our kids swears she’ll never leave the U.S. again.
It is possible to adventure while rooting. Given the fact that we’re both now self-employed (doing things neither of us have ever attempted), our adventure has really only just begun. (What’s that? You sense fear and trembling? Nah, must be the chilly mountain air.)
I don’t have to miss and yearn for Mexico in order to fully appreciate our time there. It’s easy to get lost in sadness. It’s easy to let it convince us of life’s injustice, pain’s relentlessness and the fleeting nature of joy. But when rooted in a mindset of sufficiency, it seems, sadness has a greater purpose: it points us toward the abundance we’re overlooking. This summer it also occurred to me (much to my relief) that either way — whether steeped in scarcity or in-tune with abundance — life is still heavy. The difference is that we either fear or love the loads we shoulder.
Having all my girls together, no matter how complex and chaotic, will never again be a gift I take for granted. There’s a satisfaction I feel when this happens that rivals no other sensation I’ve known. And anytime I’m looking to practice my new sadness-within-the-context-of-sufficiency theory, I’ve always got my girls for skill refinement.
Living in the flow is simply slower going. Putting my book (and blog) on the back burner this summer has not been easy, but in my experience, resisting reality never yields a better outcome (and kids don’t really allow it anyway). That said, school starts in less than two weeks!!!!!! which means more rhythm, writing and serenity soon to come.
For this and so much more, I’m immensely grateful.
May late summer bring you joy and a nap in a shaded hammock,
More soon! and more often,
Make a commitment to follow the path of no resistance. This is the path through which nature’s intelligence unfolds spontaneously, without friction or effort. When you remain open to all points of view — not rigidly attached to only one — your dreams and desires will flow with nature’s desires. Then you can release your intentions, without attachment, and just wait for the appropriate season for your desires to blossom into reality. You can be sure that when the season is right, your desires will manifest.