It’s ok to be sad. I don’t want this blog to be depressing, but I am sad. We came home to Michigan, got settled, left for Virginia for two weeks, came back to Michigan, then left for Shanghai. I am sad. And it is ok. Living a life of transition is hard. No one said it would be easy. Your heart resides in two locations. Just when you get settled in one, it is time to travel back to the other.
I have seen Hunter now for four months straight. Every day. Now I am leaving and will not see him again for another four months. Yes, I know he would be leaving for college anyway, but right now, I am wallowing in the fact that I HAVE LEFT HIM. Not to mention Autumn, who may or may not need me in the months to come. Who knows what could happen? Regardless, I will not have the opportunity to be there if she does need me since I am on a plane traveling exactly 7,136.6 miles away.
Today was the day we were scheduled to travel back to Shanghai. It began with a lovely, slow wake-up in my feather-like bed. I will admit, I did not want to get up knowing it would be the last time for many months I would have the privilege of enjoying the luxurious heaven-like softness of our bed in Michigan. Chinese beds are rock-hard; a cultural norm I will never understand. However, I knew I had a million things to do before our plane took off, so I had better get up and get busy. With a bit of mourning over my bed, I got up, made the coffee, did the dishes from the night before (I don’t know what kind of party goes on after I go to bed each night, but whatever happens sure leaves a lot of dishes), and proceeded with the morning preparations to get us out the door. Little did I know what would be in store, or I may have stayed in bed a bit longer. Once Brett got up, I asked him to help me check the basement to make sure everything was in order. As we were down there organizing and putting things away, he discovered one of the basement drains had been leaking..for some time. A slow leak that no one would notice unless looking for it. Having been through this type of drain back up before, I knew it was clogged and would require a professional plumber with a snake to clear. Let me digress a bit and tell you that basement water issues are my nemesis. If it is going to happen, it will..to me. I have lived through multiple sump pump back ups, and basement floodings. As a result, water of any form found in the basement has become an instant source of massive stress for me. Anyway, I digress. After yesterday’s stress of packing, and my sorrow over leaving two children behind, I had very little emotion left. Although I was on the edge of total meltdown, I managed to remain surprisingly calm. I called a plumber. He came out within 30 minutes (God was definitely watching out for us on that one. I have never had a repair man come out in such a short amount of time), cleared the drain, and it all worked out.
After that, I took one look at Hunter and burst into tears. See, I was on the edge. One Xanax later, I was able to get through the morning and proceed with our itinerary until we got to the airport. “We can check-in with the sky cap, like I did in May”, I told everyone. Wrong! Apparently policy has changed and we would have to verify our visas by checking in inside. That would be fine except for the 10 bags we carried with us that were 50 (I hoped not more) pounds each. So, Brett went inside to check us in while the rest of us waited with the massive amount of bags outside at the curbside check-in. Come to find out, the extra bag we thought we were allowed was not actually permitted so we had to carry it on. Ok, we would roll with it, no problem, until we passed through security. I forgot the extra bag was the one we put extra sharp replacement bike parts in..oops. Security debated about letting it through, but finally allowed it to pass, surprisingly deeming it safe enough for air travel. Thank God.
But back to the bigger issue in the forefront of my mind. Once again, I had become settled. Settled in Michigan. With my own bed, the view of my children’s pictures to wake up to in the morning, the peaceful backyard that I have created digging and planting year after year, and the memories we have made for the past 11 years. It is easy to jump back into, but difficult to leave. Do you know what I mean? How can my heart be divided into two places? I feel like Michigan is home, and Shanghai is a different type of home. Michigan is where I physically work hard. All day, every day. Shanghai has become the home where I have time to figure out who I am. Away from the kids. Just who I am as an individual. When you are a mom so long, you get lost in your kids. Then they get older, begin to move on, and you are left picking up the pieces of the life you have invested fully in raising them. Who am I? What do I like? It is really challenging to look inward and attempt to answer these questions. In some ways I am thankful our move to Shanghai has afforded me the opportunity to think about these things. In other ways, it is so unfamiliar it scares me.
Brett and I were married in college. I got pregnant freshman year, at 19. Honestly, I did not like him very much. He was annoying and the opposite of the tan, blond, hairless man I thought I would end up with. But he was loyal, and sometimes God knows what is best for us despite our opposition. So, we got married. I thought I would give it a try, for the sake of our daughter. If it didn’t work out, at least I could say I tried. 22 years later I can see God’s plan is bigger than my own. He knew I needed someone like Brett to ground me, and vice versa. We truly complete each other, and he has become my best friend. I know he is exactly what I needed. Three more children and a few moves later, we are in Shanghai, China of all places..the one place I vowed I would never move. Overall, the move has been really good. Our family dynamics are stronger, our marriage is stronger, and I am learning to rely on God to take care of those that are away. As if I really had any control anyway. Somehow close proximity gives us the false sense that we are in control of keeping our children safe. So, my entire adult life has been spent married and filled with children and moves. It has been a life I would never trade, but one that did not allow an opportunity early on to figure out who I was as an independent adult.
So, home in Michigan and home in Shanghai. Both very different. Both afford completely different lifestyles, challenges, and rewards. I am learning, like having more than one child, my love can broaden. When you have only one child, you wonder how it would be possible to feel the same amount of love for another, but when the second, third, or fourth come, you find your heart get a bit bigger and your love broaden to encompass them all. I can spread myself between two homes and appreciate each individually. The key is who I am becoming in each place. In Michigan I work sunup to sundown running our household. In Shanghai, I focus more on my children’s schooling, organizing the house, etc., but still have time to fellowship with other expats. Both busy, and both rewarding for different reasons. It is strange to be living two lives per say, but we are all learning to figure out how to live them both to the fullest and appreciate all that each one has to offer.
So, it’s ok to be sad. Once I return to Shanghai, I will shift my focus back to that lifestyle and I will be fine. Constant adjusting, learning, and growing. I pray that the two lives we are living will lead us all down a path of strength and faith building which we would not have been able to find merely staying comfortably at home in Michigan. I heard once that happiness depends on happenings, but joy is something you can choose despite your circumstances. Although I may be sad, I continue to hold joy in my heart that will carry me through my transition home.