This has been a week of losses, actual losses and realisations of what i have lost or let go of in order to be here. I am still in a phase (i hope its a phase) of feeling very displaced. I left London my home of 49 years, to settle in a not-so-far-away land of The Netherlands. After 2 years of regular weekend trips and a few weeks here and there, I felt I was familiar enough with this new land to settle in quite well. As with all perceived situations, you can plan for a lot of things, but there are some experiences that you only realise will occur after the event. There is no preparing for EVERY eventuality.
With every action there is a reaction with every choice there is a consequence. Thats scientific, its one of those unwritten ‘truths’ we learn in life. I am learning now to appreciate what i have gained and the things I have lost due to this move, that I can now – on reflection – be grateful for and really appreciate.
I miss my family and friends around me in easy reach. To hear the front for bang, or their chatter and laughter, a problem that needs solving or feel the frustration because someone’s finished the bread and not replaced it. Mostly I miss their energy and their spirit. I have been parenting for 25 years, most of that as a single parent, so my children of all people knew i needed to make this break and have supported me. I do so value my solo time in my apartment, existing on my terms and doing my own thing, getting to know myself in a way i have never done. ever. Listening to my inner voice. hearing my body speak and respond to what I feed it and how i care for it. I have discovered what a sensitive soul i am. Something I have buried because i believed from childhood that it was a sign of weakness and an inconvenience.
I miss my work in education. Hearing of the loss of an ex student I knew this week, aged 18, brought that home to me starkly. He was always smiling, joking and friendly with an infectious cheeky grin. As i reflected on my memories of him, I came to realise the immense gratitude I had for each child i taught. For they each one brought me something unique in our relationship. I began a few weeks ago to share a list of gratitudes in a gratitude project. It was due to building an ‘attitude of gratitude’ that enabled me to turn this sad, sad news and find some peaceful reflection through my memories. With the children i raised and those I taught i have spent most of my adult life surrounded by youth. I guess it has rubbed off in keeping me youthful in spirit and attitude. I now do not have that in my life. I would like to return to working in education while I am here in NL, but it will take time – learning the language fluently enough for one thing!
Some things in life we take for granted. Like our sense of ‘placement’ our sense of belonging, our rooted-ness (is that a word?!). I have always since childhood felt ‘out-of-place’ with my family, many of my peers and also with a lot of colleagues and other adults as i grew up. I guess i felt a bit like an outlaw. Not confirming to the norm, or the mainstream. I was always attracted to things, experiences and people who are different. As a result i have always felt on the outside of many things.
Yet sitting here in my apartment in Amsterdam, fighting with my sense of loss and displacement in order to go out and buy a draught excluder for my studio door, I have come to realise that the ‘rug’ that has been pulled out from under my feet that makes such a simple task seem so difficult is the sense of belonging to an environment. Even though i may not have related much to a lot of the people that populate the city of London, I belonged there. i knew my way around, I was street-wise, I knew how to and how not to interact with strangers, shop assistants, bus drivers etc. I didn’t have to think when travelling on the tube/train/bus/crossing the roads because I understood the ‘flow’ and the ‘pace’ of things. I could slip-stream into my environment and get things done, go where i wanted etc. without a second thought.
Here, two months in to my move, it takes me hours to pluck up the courage to leave my apartment and go up to the DIY store. I have pass that difficult road crossing where the trams seem to come out of nowhere. Do I try to tackle it again today on my bicycle or do i just walk? Will the friendly young assistant who speaks English and helped me last time in the shop be there again, or should i be prepared with a translation for ‘draught excluder’? Will I remember the pin code for my Dutch bank card and not type in my UK one like last time? Oh and I need to take a bag as the shops don’t give out bags here. Will i remember to lock my bike carefully on the crowded post and not lock it onto another bike like before? Small, insignificant things that have now become huge obstacles to me. Living most of my time alone means I do not have someone around to be that voice of encouragement, or just a presence that i can use as motivation to push myself forward.
I have slowed down considerably as a result of this displacement, this feeling of living on wobbly ground, being unsure of myself and whats going on around me. Not having a job to go out to; no routine I HAVE to follow apart from my weekly Dutch lessons and chanting; also with a limited budget hampers this process as it means i am spending a lot of time alone. At times enjoying the solitude. At times feeling lonely.
I have spent years feeling lonely but distracted in a house full of children, their friends, a busy job full of colleagues, distractions everywhere. This is different. This week I feel there is no wind at all in my sails. Nothing. last week i was energetically preparing for a job interview which went very well as far as i knew. I was told I would be informed of the outcome on tuesday, two days ago. Its thursday evening and still nothing. No wind. Stillness. Unkowning. I am not used to not having anything to ‘drive’ me. If its not the needs of one of my children, its my job, or my supporting role in my local Buddhist group, or a project i’m working on, or a social event. There was always something to keep me moving, thinking, planning, preparing. Now I have time to do…well nothing.
It took me 3 whole days to pluck up the courage to spend a few hours in bed during an afternoon. Talk about breaking an old habit! Also changing a mind-set. For me, to stay in bed most of the day is lazy, hopeless, neglectful, irresponsible! I am now learning that if there is no need for me to be up and off doing something that needs urgent attention, no one is going to starve or suffer if i do nothing for a whole day, then it is ok! 🙂 I am very nervous writing about this and sharing it publicly! What if a future employer reads it, or one of my children. Argh! Folami is a grown woman who spends all day in bed. Shame on her. Booo! Hiss! 🙂 Some habits are so ingrained!
Taking time out to enjoy stillness, to be at peace with myself is one of my goals in making this move. Yes I have plans to work and set up my creative business. Yes I know exactly what i want to do and where I want to be. Yet today, this week, my energy and it seems the universe is calling for a different pace. Roll down the sails, pull up the oars and just float along on the still waters.
I have no idea where this phase of stillness will take me. I continue my daily Buddhist chanting and study to maintain strong faith that i am still on course to achieve my goals. In the meantime i will relax in the moment, use this time to write and reflect and get to know myself.