Reflections on change
In the strangest time of all, we move on. We do. We move on. Sometimes things get so strange that that is the only thing you CAN do: move on. Not away from it. Not in denial of it. But through it, with it, in acceptance of it and with a determination to find your way. Not back, but onwards. In THIS reality.
The reality is that Corona has changed our lives. And that it has done so in many ways. For some devastatingly. For others perhaps to the better, with the stir of the normal ways leading to the discovery of better ones. For many probably a mix of both. And still, the effect of this whole experience is something that we can only slowly begin to grasp. It ain’t over yet.
For us, Corona has transformed our expat experience considerably. 1.5 year into our US adventure, Corona arrived and immediately began shifting our lives. At first we saw big and very tangible changes: no visits from Denmark (we had a whole range planned), no May trip to New York, no summer in Denmark, no Florida summer cruising with good friends. And also, of course, hello to the obligatory home schooling, working from home, shopping online, wearing masks, sanitising and all of that.
We adapted. We always do. Dealt gently with the feelings of loss and bitterness which were, after all, based more on annoyance than true pain. Pain which so many people felt and still feel. We could not in fairness sing the tunes of that grieving song. We listened to it, though, and tried to have deep conversations with the kids about how and why this pandemic hits in such a hard and such an unfair way. Socio-historical, political, and cultural differences became very apparent to us. I felt that Corona, and along with it in an almost synchronistic movement also Black Lives Matter, were forcing us to open our eyes. It seems about time.
We decided not to gamble by going to Denmark in the summer and risk not being able to get back into the US. Our calendar was suddenly empty. No plans whatsoever. We cocooned, and I found myself several times crying silent tears in my closet. Why? Sometimes, I truly think that I did feel the pain of the world. At other times, I just couldn’t find myself in the narrow pocket of survival that our everyday life had suddenly been reduced to.
But I also saw myself discovering new ways of being with my family. Less time constraints. More room for just doing whatever around here. Cooking and baking became our creative outlet. Both our beloved grandmas joined in on the baking through Zoom. We laughed. Good television series that we would never have found time to watch together before became our daily wind down-sit close-relax together-time. Small trips to parks and fishing lakes in the neighbourhood became the climax of the day. I figured out how to write and work with my kids around me. Something I have never been able to manage before.
I realised that it did us good to have all the layers of entertainment peeled off. To be completely on our own. Time was the gift we received. And when you have time you tend to feel more.
With that sensitivity open inside, the more subtle changes started to surface. We realised that we couldn’t go on cocooning, only seeing a handful of (wonderful) people, and mostly scared that something might harm us if we peeked outside. The way of fear is frightening in itself. We had to define another way. One which wasn’t just paved with blind and naive trust that we could pretend that all was well and act as if nothing had ever happened. But also one which allowed us to live with the risk, instead of slowly withering away trying to avoid it.
A southern state RV-trip became our balanced solution, and the FREEDOM that it allowed us to feel again was healing. We had incredible experiences in nature, and right there, in the crystal clear ocean and in the green mountains, we felt that we would be alright. That the world would be alright. That it would actually be better, if only we are willing to make it so.
Back in Katy, I started feeling chased by time again, but in a new way. Not by the lack of it, but rather by the uncertainty about when this will ever end. When will we be able to see our Danish family and friends again? When will we be able to go home? When will we be able to explore freely? When will it be possible to just let go a little bit of all the self-imposed restraints?
My mind and my heart conspired and started playing me gentle tricks. I began dreaming about our Danish countryside home. I began longing for its views, its space, my people. New pictures of our house were taken because it is time to find new tenants. Those pictures cracked me open. I began watching Danish television series, feeding my nostalgia. I was forced to honestly question our expat decision for the first time - is the price too high? Can we ask this of our kids? Can we stay whole, sane, well? And can we expect our family to understand and accept when their health is not all good? When you can tell that they are convinced that they know what would be best? When they most of all wish for us to come back home and just stay there? When you love?
These questions are hard to have lingering in your system. The responsibility you carry is huge. The pressure intense. I have crumbled several times but also realised that it is probably both unavoidable and necessary. Accepting that I DON’T KNOW has been difficult for me. Of course, I have never known, I have just felt more in control. Not so now. I am starting to sense that this is what surrender actually looks like.
Paradoxically (or so it seems), the acceptance, the allowing myself to really feel the uncertainty (and to write about it) has also opened up another space within me. One of dreams and visions and creativity. ‘Create - heal - serve’ has become my mantra. I work more and in deeper ways now, and flow finds me and keeps me blissfully focused. I cannot explain how this has happened without accessing a language characterised less by dichotomies and more by belief in the wonder of profound processes. Perhaps giving in opens up? Perhaps when you feel most alone and admit it to yourself, you realise that you are not? Perhaps when you finally dare to ask yourself if it is all over, it begins?
Perhaps it is just never either-or, but always both-and? And beyond?
And so we survive and live and make plans and dream and accept that so much is out of our hands.
We do our part on the basis of what feels right. Which is of course rarely the same as what seems to be the easiest. The heart does not look for short cuts.
We have several small, safe Texan nature trips planned during the fall of 2020. We are working on celebrating Christmas in Denmark. We stick to our new ways of checking in with each other every day, intent on taking that time still. We are paving the way as we walk it, we insist on the adventurous route, and we do have time. More than anything, Corona has taught me and my family that.