I am happy to inform you that we are still alive and still living here in London, despite my lack of communication.
I find that I am learning a lot about myself through this adventure. For example, when we first arrived, everything was new and exciting and and I wanted to share all of this with you! Interesting signs, funny stories about navigating a new culture and of course pictures. I had the adrenaline rush of just arriving, of everything being new!
Then things got a hard when days in temporary housing turned into weeks, when the kids and I were fatigued from another day of tube travel and “foreign” food, when finding housing became daunting. And I still wanted to share, because it helped me to process all that was happening.
Then, we moved. We moved for the second time in 3 months, first out of our house in Seattle, then out of our temporary housing in London. And I realized that when things are really stressful and hard, instead of sharing, I prefer isolation, burrowing, and true to form for any such creature, a nocturnal schedule. When things are hard, I don’t really get tired, I get quiet and full of restlessness. On a side note, the nocturnal schedule also means I get caught-up on a lot of TV episodes 😉
Not that these are all great qualities, but this may explain my lack of communication with the world for the last 2 months.
After 8 years of parenting, I know that some natural tendencies are good, and others need to be tempered for our own well-being. On this note, I am writing again.
Where to begin?
We moved to Richmond. Here is a map!
The blue squiggly line is the Thames, the city of London is in the middle and we are in the southwest corner.
|Image borrowed from: http://www.guidetorichmond.co.uk/london-borough/|
Much of London is very urban, but Richmond is a nice departure from this in that it is more green and sub-urban. The streets are less busy, night time is quiet and there is abundant wildlife. I love it here, it reminds me of Seattle.
In Richmond we live about .3 miles from the train station on a passage called Albany Passage. In an area that is already much quieter than most of London, we are tucked away even more- on a long, narrow sidewalk lined with very old houses.
When we arrived in London, I was confused about where to live. London is such a big and amazing city. I admit that I felt a bit wrong after deciding to live in a quieter suburb of such an cool city. But after being here for 2 months, I am so very glad that we can live in this quiet area. The city is good for visiting, and for us, the suburb is good for living.
So 2 months ago, we walked up this very peaceful passage to our very cute house in Richmond. I was so relieved to finally have a place to call home.
But home on paper and home in practice are two very different things. Home on paper is an address, a place where you receive mail, pay bills, etc. Home in practice is a place where you sleep, rest, cook meals and raise your family.
The great divide between the two is what has consumed all of our time and energy over the last two months.
In the first few weeks, we accomplished a lot. We received and “unpacked” our shipment of goods from Seattle. We made a few trips to IKEA to get necessities like beds for the kids. We purchased many new appliances (US appliances are not compatible with UK wiring). We enrolled Mac and Eva in school and hurried to gather all of the required uniform components for their first day. Here are some pictures of Mac and Eva in their school gear:
I’m sure that each of you has moved at least once and knows how unsettling this can be. Even though we had accomplished a lot by this time, things were still really unsettled. We were still eating dinner at a small folding table, still trying to all fit on a two seat couch to relax, still dealing with piles of books, sheets, clothes, etc waiting to be sorted and still adjusting to a new place and new schedule. By the end of the first few weeks, I was feeling the weight of all this chaos and desperately wanting just one room of our house to be settled. I thought, “if I could just walk into one room and have it sorted, everything would be OK.”
The room closest to completion was our living room. All that was lacking was a couch. We ordered one from IKEA the first week we moved but had to wait few weeks for it’s arrival.
Finally, it was delivery day! I received our 6! boxes of couch, asked (bribed) the delivery men to take away our small couch from the States … and a few hours later the police arrived….
Let me explain 🙂
Things are pretty neat and tidy here in London. No matter where you go, the citizens of London have homes and yards that are well tended. The city also does a good job of keeping streets clean and orderly- everything is quite proper. The images of London seen in pictures and postcards are not upset by actually being here. It really is THAT beautiful.
Moving is not pretty or neat or tidy. Nor is a couch from IKEA that comes in 6 different boxes and arrives at a house that has just been moved into.
On the day our couch arrived, I collected the kids from school, brought everyone home, and began to assemble. The reward of having a place to sit and a completed room overcame any common sense that would have said to wait until the kids were in bed to undertake such a feat.
So at 3:30pm I began assembly and the kids began to get creative with the ample cardboard that accompanied our couch. Mac was a real help. When the girls were hungry, he made them sandwiches and brought them water. Alone in the living room I was making excellent progress toward completion of our couch, and I continued to work away as I listened to the kids having a terrific time with the boxes in our entryway/front yard.
I didn’t really know anything was off until Luke arrived home at 6 pm. He walked in and asked if everything was OK (in the way someone would if you had just inexplicably dumped a bowl of soup on your head). I gave him a thumbs-up as I lay curled-up on our new assembled couch. Without a word, he turned and got our camera.
Here are some pictures of what was going on outside of the living room:
It turns out that things had gotten a bit…messy?
Then I heard a commotion outside. Conversation, then laughing.
Then Luke came in and said, “Someone called the police because they thought someone broke into our house…so I took a picture!”
So here are the friendly Richmond police, called by our neighbors, who saw the untidiness of our home and thought it had been broken into.
They came by, asked if we were OK (like you would if someone had just inexplicably dumped a bowl of soup on their head) and then smiled nervously and left as Luke snapped a picture.
It’s enough to make you want to burrow in a cozy little corner till things are settled, yes?
This whole experience has got me thinking about the word “settled” and how briefly it actually applies to anything. Some words, like cold, or wet or young last awhile once applied. The Arctic is cold and has been and will be for a long time. The oceans are wet. My kids are young. They won’t be young as long as the Arctic is cold or the oceans are wet, but longer than anything in our lives is actually settled. It’s so funny to think of all the work and anxiety on my part that’s gone in to getting this one word to finally apply to our lives here. Or how paralyzing it has felt to not have things settled. It’s strange to think how one word, one state of order, can feel so good. And it only lasts moments. You finally move. Your new place to live is settled, but now you need to unpack. You finally unpack, but now you need places to put things. You finally have places to put things, then you get more things.
In our adventure of “(not) knowing where you’re going” I thought that as time progressed, I would be able to chronicle increasing order in our lives. And this isn’t completely wrong. We went from temporary housing to having a home, the kids are enrolled in school, I am sitting on a couch 😉 I am grateful for all of this. But each moment of relief has been met with a new area to get “settled.” It’s hard to enjoy what is good when a new issue to resolve sits on the horizon.
So from now on, I hope to adopt a different point of view. It’s not of my own creating, I forget who first mentioned it to me, but thank you whoever you are!
Recently, I am striving not for settled, but for better. I am trying mentally to move the “mark” from perfection to just a bit better than before. Because the truth is, everything is a bit chaotic. Even the neat and tidy gardens of England. And believing that anything I can do will truly get things to a state of being settled is silly. But I can do little things each day. The table may not be clean, but I can make it cleaner. We may not have all the furniture we’d like for our house, but we’re closer.
Settled is such a mean word, I suggest that we move to referring to things as settled-er. And here, things are moving in that direction 🙂