WAVES OF EMOTIONS
Funny how time works. How, when you give yourself time, you can shift your focus and move beyond things that might make you sad. Moving abroad was a bit of a tough transition for everyone, as I have written before. A change that we, well, at least Erik and I knew, would be a healthy and enriching change. But it took everyone awhile to genuinely feel that. And I can sit here at 9 months into this year-long journey, with tears in my eyes, and say that this journey has been the most incredible of our lives.
And when I say that, if you know me at all, then you know that includes all of the imperfect parts too. Those little imperfect things in the beginning from, not being able to get internet or understanding how to weigh our produce at the grocery store, to not truly understanding how Corte Ingles (shopping mall) works or realizing everything we did would take us at least 5 attempts before we would get it right. Even the imperfect moments of getting things really wrong have led to some of our funniest stories. Like me saying to our friend Abel, “Tengo mierda,” instead of, “Tengo meido.” I knew it didn’t sound right and the kids sure knew it was wrong. For those of you not translating, I wanted to say “I am scared” but instead I said, “I have shit.” But some things were really imperfect like Spider’s broken leg. We had one friend say, “I thought you were coming home, for sure, after that happened.” No, we never thought of coming home but if I had the power I would erase that moment (of course), only because he has experienced so many of these extreme waves of emotions, too many at times for an 11 year old boy who is living abroad. But I can’t, and as we have said so many times, in both English and Spanish, “Life Happens”, and that moment, the broken leg moment, was LIFE, in caps.
We had pangs of serious emotion in the beginning, of missing friends, missing pets and missing comforts of our lives, as we know it. I remember lying in bed at night wondering if we did the right thing. And then I also remember lying in bed at night thinking how brave our kids were to come along on this awesome ride with us. Those pangs stuck around for about 3 weeks. I don’t remember what would bring them on but I do know that when I would look at pictures of home, my heart would sink a bit. That was when those photos were quite close to the top of my iPhone camera roll. Now, I have to scroll down through thousands of photos, beautiful memories, to see those moments.
That I kept seeing in my camera roll that would remind me of home and bring on pangs of missing.
We then began to explore and really establish our unit, our core and strength. And that was our family. In the beginning, we talked a lot about the journey and recognized the pangs of missing and the tears as being valid and real emotions. We also used these moments to reassure everyone in our core that we were in this together and that all of these natural feelings were good. Missing and loving people and animals are both normal and wonderful. Also, knowing they will be there when we return is comforting. So over the first month we traveled a bit, had many surfing conversations on the water and began to settle into our new normal.
The wave then turned from pangs of missing and a few tears to finding our groove. Finding our groove came at about month 3. The kids had settled into school. Spider came home one day and said, “If I am going to make it on the playground, I need to get a soccer ball.” And so for the next 5 months, that is all he did, practice his skills and dribbling in the house. He made friends and his Spanish began to truly blossom. “Los chicos de quinto”, as I call them are pretty special. They stick together and take care of one another, and for Spider, that social aspect is ridiculously important.
Skye was never nervous about school. She was always excited and although, in the beginning, when I showed her a picture of her horse and her doggies, she would cry, I know she comprehended the big picture of this year and was thrilled to experience the journey. She went into her 7th grade year (Primero año de ESO) wanting to meet people and learn the middle school culture in Spain. And she has done just that. Yes, there have been very normal middle school emotional moments but in the end, she has found her group of friends and every day when I see her, she has a smile on her face when I ask her how her day went. Not because her day was perfect but because she was soaking it all in.
I believe it was during our trip to Austria, after Christmas, that Erik and I knew the kids were getting it. We were snuggled up watching the snowstorm outside the window of the restaurant when Spider said, “Can we keep traveling as a family.” That was it. That was the moment. We had broken through and he got it. And Skye was in on it too. Where can we go next? What part of the world do we want to see? But also, it was just a conversation about dreaming and their future. Skye wants a ranch with horses and may want to stay in Utah with all of her animals. Spider has Nepal very high on his list of his next major adventure.
And so now, as we are well into our groove of living in Spain, our thoughts naturally are turning towards a bit of panic as we near the end. Why do we do that to ourselves? We have said it out loud to each other about a 1,000 times, “Live in the Present!!!!” But it is difficult when you know you will have to say goodbye soon to the adventure of a lifetime. Just yesterday as we were driving in the car to get Skye from school I said to Erik, “I feel like I am just now running!” My Spanish is coming along so well and I go to the grocery store and have conversations with the women at the check out. Nine months and we are now running with things over here.
This was from the first month
And now we are ready to run with life over here…
The biggest sense of both relief and need for more time here is Spider’s leg. He is just out of his cast and walking with a major limp. He works on it everyday and we ALL know it is a process, a long process. His goal is to get back on that playground, at least one more time, during lunch to work on his fútbol skills. And, of course, to get back on the waves in the sea! It will happen, as we trust the process of healing, but if we only had a couple more months, he would then get to sort of “recoup” some of the time when he was hampered with the cast.
If someone were to ask me about living abroad and how to do it, I would say going to one location is the absolute best. Put down roots and get comfortable in that one place so that you can feel the change for real; the change from being a bit scared and uncomfortable to feeling right at home. We have 2 more months in Spain and then we return our car in Madrid, fly to Amsterdam and then go south and finally, east, to get home. We will complete the sphere around the world.
How lucky, right?! We know it and we feel it. We have no more tears about missing home, but a few pangs about leaving Spain. These waves of emotions have been quite healthy. We went from feelings of “Oh my God, I can’t believe we pulled this off!” To, “Wow, we are almost at the finish line. I am not ready.” But the greatest part of this entire experience is that we have that core in tact, the 4 of us, forever there for each other. Of course, every family feels that but this journey has amplified that closeness in a very real way. And that, is the wave we hope to keep riding, forever.