Thursday, June 14, 2007

Leaps of faith

Some time next week, on a date that I can't quite recall and therefore can't officially mark, we will hit the one-year mark on this London adventure of ours. Those of you frantically flipping your mental calendars back in confusion right now are correct that the dates don't sound quite right; we've actually been living here for just over nine months now. But it was a year ago next week that Paul first called from work to tentatively float a crazy idea by me. By the time we hung up the phone, I was pretty sure that our lives had just changed forever.

For weeks afterwards, we played at deliberation, trying to pretend that we would make this decision with careful analysis and painstaking consideration. In truth, it was a gut decision, the kind that’s made in a split second as a surge of emotion lurches deep within your belly. Before I had even named the feeling, it had consumed me. “What would you think about moving to London for a year or two?” I didn’t know what I thought of the idea, could hardly process the question even as I foresaw the answer. But I knew that we would be going.

I’d like to think that I pulled off a decent show of evaluating options in the weeks that followed. In truth, I was already in full planning mode, researching communities and housing and schools…. which digital television service would best meet our needs and where to find decent sushi and how to locate soy milk. Before Paul’s package was even fully negotiated, I had memorized rental listings and lined up a playgroup for Evan. Before we had even begun to tell friends we were moving, I had picked a synagogue and found a book group. Somehow, in the name of research, the theoretical had become tangible.

Signing the contract was anti climactic. I had been on the phone with the UK for days by then, sorting out the intricacies of sea shipments and discussing Julia's academic needs with an educational consultant. The actual contract was just one more thing on Paul’s to-do list; paperwork was “his,” the logistics of shutting down a suburban American life and ramping up an urban British existence “mine.” We lost sight of the enormity of what we were doing as we lost ourselves in the minutiae of getting it done. There were dozens of goodbyes, countless appointments, errand lists a mile long. And then… nothing. An empty house. An empty calendar. A blank slate. Just our little family of four, strapped into our seats as the plane hurtled toward our new life.

There were many times in the heady, hectic days leading up to our departure for London that I felt we’d officially taken the leap into our new life. But only once we arrived did I realize that I hadn’t even begun to jump. It had been easy to envision life in London within the framework of my suburban New Jersey experience. The reality of adjusting to a foreign life in what was in truth a foreign city would turn out to be my true hurdle.

Nine months later, I’m still taking daily leaps of faith as I struggle to perfect that adjustment. How much of me can I retain? How much of the person who I was before this experience do I need to set aside? What can I learn from living here? What can the people I encounter here learn from me? Am I a cultural liaison, a world traveler or simply a stay-at-home mother based in a new locale? How do I reconcile my need to make the most of these years with my instinct to provide stability and a consistent home life for my kids? How do I do this right?

A year into the game, time has given me the gift of familiarity with my new life, but it hasn't been nearly as helpful in providing all the answers I seek. I still find myself questioning things on a daily basis: my values, my beliefs, my sense of what's right and what's wrong and what simply doesn't matter much in the grand scheme of things. It’s often the smaller stumbling blocks – finding a substitute for Mr. Clean Magic Erasers or accepting that my 5 year old’s curriculum includes French and spelling -- that trip me up the most, but somehow I keep jumping through the hoops. I have finally decided that I don't have to know where I'm headed in order to get there successfully. Again and again here, I close my eyes and jump. Even as the micromanager in me screams out in protest, I let go and wait to see what happens next.

A year ago today, the continuation of my life in New Jersey was a fait accompli. Julia would go to PreK with her friends and Evan would start preschool and I would do some volunteer work and some freelancing and a heck of a lot of chauffeuring. A year ago next week, I tossed all of that aside and started anew. Making this move felt like the biggest leap we'd ever taken, and I spent much of last summer dreaming of the day that the stress and uncertainty surrounding our relocation would all be behind us. But looking back, I know that the stress and uncertainty we felt then only foreshadowed what was yet to come. Getting here? That was the easy part. Making this experience as impactful as it felt in that first gut clenching instant it was proposed to me? I won’t know for sure that I’ve truly made that leap until my feet finally touch the ground.


Blogger Gretchen said...

Actually, Rebecca, you've been given a wonderful opportunity most families with kids lack: you have been given the opportunity to step back from your life and examine it from the outside, as it were. Without a jolt like that London move, I think most of us just go along with routine and maintain the status quo -- and stability is good, but any opportunity to grow, an opportunity to shake up your life perhaps, is very rare.

Ride it like a wave, dear friend. You are on a tremendous adventure.

1:29 AM  
Blogger Lindyloo said...

Isn't it grand??!!

12:11 PM  

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