While in Charleston, I had a lot of time to think about our life out here. From my perspective it is still "new," but being home for me drove home-- pounded it in, actually-- that this life, this "new" experience is the totality of my children's existence. Being without our own space, our own belongings and our own routines was exhilarating for G and I; we truly vacationed. The boys were less enthusiastic about it, but were good sports and had a great time.
When I made time with my old friends, reconnecting on an individual basis, many of us commented on the sense we all had that between us, it was as if no time had passed. As adults, we get sucked into our rhythm and begin to measure time by holidays and years. The children however, both mine and the ones we left behind, shattered that complacency. Time had passed, and in droves. It has been three and a half years since we had seen anyone in quality fashion. Staying with Uncle Monkey, who had just visited us the month before, was a stroke of grace. The children love him to distraction and Aunt Swoosie was a gentle, quiet presence, so they had a place where they felt they knew someone. N-man had story-memories, and he did his best, but he felt a little fuzzy when it came to all these people. D-meister, bless his heart, didn't know anyone but Monkey, but everyone he met seemed to have a claim on him. Our true Party Boy, he just rolled with it!
As is usual for me, I experience that split, that familiar anguish stemming from desperately wanting to live two lives at once. More like, wanting to exist in two places at once. The friends who have remained connected with us while we moved out here still mean so much to me. These are relationships which are simply irreplaceable. Now, we have those close-knit dynamics both in Washington and Carolina. The quality of life in both places is very high, in terms of abundant natural beauty and personal expression. Even in Charleston, they are becoming more progressive, with new CSAs opening, dairies selling raw milk as fast as its bottled, and new birth centers coming available to women. That didn't exist even a scant two years ago, there. Society, culture, art, food and community are important in both regions. Despite their apparent similarities, the highlights that make a place livable take wildly different shapes in both my homes, and it becomes very simple for me to see objectively where I should be. With the economy the way it is, we couldn't sell and move anyway, even if I were feeling a desperate longing to return there, which I am not. What amazed me, what stunned and relieved me, was that for the kids, there is no such split. Washington is home. THIS is what they know and what they want.
So what is it? What is it that makes me come home here and has me feeling uncomfortable, as displaced as when I first arrived? Sometimes, I feel it is because I am identifying too strong with someone who is experiencing that move for the first time. Her experiences remind me so much of what we went through. At other times, I think maybe I am in a rut. Anyone could point at the climate here and say "Wake up! It's been 45 degrees and blue for 6 months. Who wouldn't feel a little down?" Perhaps it would be wise to say that my feelings of angst could result from a little of all of it. I think more to the point is something even more simple: we haven't feathered our nest. We move things around, we plant trees and roses, we install shelves and hang a few pictures here and there, but we have yet to actually decorate, to make it our home. This is high priority in a Charleston home, and it is just something I have not done here. Watching my friend move in at all, much less efficiently and carefully, certainly highlights for me that I have yet to really move in, from a Charlestonian perspective. I have done this for the kids, but not for the house at large.
I realize this may sound vapid, but in an economy where gas has surpassed 4.00 a gallon and in a climate where indoor living is the default, feeling at home in your own home has to be more important than I have been treating it. I've gotten "neat" but I haven't hung our art, painted or anything. For some reason I just left that aspect of myself behind and I don't understand why. In my haste to explore the totality of myself, I think I have forgotten to include parts of me that I actually like. My trip was a reminder of that, and of boundaries that I need to tighten, straps I need to pull. Do we all have to learn, relearn and learn again? Is all human growth two steps forward one step back? It's tiring. It feels like I waste self-time just living life.
Here's hoping I take action on these ideas and get us comfy in our own space, all of us.