The flipping of time, part II
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the election. The American people (a lot of them at least) voted for a brighter future. Never have I followed an election so closely and been so thrilled about the result. And this is in a country that isn’t even mine. I am just a visitor, a guest, an observer. But how I wished that I could have made my voice count on election day too. And how I take part in the widespread feelings of hope and relief now.
In fact, it is hard to even imagine how I would have felt, if the (former) president had been allowed to continue. Devastated. Disillusioned. Dangling in a very thin US line that would be close to breaking.
Our Scottish friends, who have lived here for more than 30 years, told us the day before the election that if the Democrats didn’t win, they would most likely move back to Scotland. Leave their son and grandchildren and move back. Because they had had enough. That says a lot, I find. And I could easily relate. I too have felt embarrassment with the leadership and hopelessness in the ways corona, black lives matter, the climate crisis, and many more incredibly important issues were being (un)handled.
As such, there is no doubt that this whole election process has contributed to the flipping of time within me (this blog post is part II, read The flipping of time, part I here).
Does this then mean that the positive outcome of the election has bought us more time? I don’t know yet. Too early to say. But it means more than I have been aware of earlier to feel that you can actually have trust in the government of the country in which you live. One thing is not agreeing with the decisions of the government, another thing is finding it utterly untrustworthy. The new administration will have a lot to restore. And hopefully, they will not only restore, but actively create new ways. This country needs new ways.
Yet, there is much more to the flipping of time than this election.
I want to first describe the large, intangible, very bouncing question mark that comes along with you as soon as your expat feet walk through the expat door to your expat house for the first time. It is with you on the first day of school. On the first drive to the airport to send loved ones back to your homecountry. In times of sadness and in times of joy. In times of insecurity and in times of certainty too, paradoxically enough.
Should we stay (longer or forever) or should we go (when the three years have passed or sooner)?
This question is with you all along. Sometimes at the very back of your mind. Sometimes almost crawling visibly out of your mouth. The mere fact that we are here on an expat contract with a beginning and an end is what feeds that question on a continuous basis. It is like you have an ongoing ‘on a scale of 1 - 5 how would you rate your expat experience today?’ questionnaire in your mind:
5. Is it great?
4. Is it good?
3. Is it good enough?
2. Is it bad?
1. Is it wrong?
This weighing is like a subtle stream that keeps finding its way, even at times when it makes no sense at all. There is no way, for instance, that you will be able to know within the first month of your expat experience if you would want to stay forever. Or prolong your stay. Or cut it short. How could you know? But that doesn’t stop the bouncing question mark from entering the stage.
This might sound intolerable and really annoying, and sometimes it sure is, but in reality it quickly becomes such an innate part of the experience that you don’t even notice how much energy you put into it.
I believe that somehow you probably have to. After all, you have decided to uproot your family and move them to an entirely different part of the world, and you can’t do something like that being blindfolded or naive. So this internal mind system of checks and balances arises and offers its help ALL the time.
The question it runs is chameleon-like.
Some days it may sound more like:
How are we ever going to be able to live away from this big luxury house, the pool, the climate, the ease?
Or, on the contrary:
Can the easy living here make it up for this fast-paced concrete culture where many buildings are built to look old, but have no real authenticity to them?
Other days the version could be:
If we don’t get home in time, Ellen (and perhaps the boys too) will be more American than Danish, and how will she be able to manage that back in Denmark?
What if we leave to go home and only too late realise that home, even to the kids, is not to be found where we thought it would be.
Despite the dedication of the teachers and despite how well the kids are managing, is it really healthy for them with all those tests and the omnipresent focus on grades here?
Will the kids loose their good school manners when they re-enter the Danish school system?
Will we ever be able to create this amount of freedom again?
Don’t we miss the outdoor work and the many projects that come along with having a countryside home?
Are we loosing too much precious time with our friends and family, especially the children’s grandparents?
Or (before corona):
Isn’t there something very special about the grandparents moving in with us for longer stretches of time and taking part in our adventure here?
If living is so easy here, why are so many people so busy and hard-working and almost caged, making it through on fast-food and too much booze? Is that what we want our children to model?
With the move to Denmark, will we grow small, and busy and tired and closed, and then more busy? Is that what we want our children to model?
Or, or, or.
The truth is that the weighing changes all the time. I believe we have been on all levels, from 1 to 5 during our two years here. At times I have felt almost certain that we would never return to Denmark. At other times I have seriously, but also dreamily asked myself where we could and should go next. And at still other times I have missed everyone and everything in Denmark. So what we have realised most of all is that the response to this question, in all its variety, alters just as often as the question itself.
Apart from through the expat contract, this checks and balances system is also fed by other people here and there. Some people are lovingly afraid that we will end up deciding to stay forever, and other people fear that we will go back before the contract expires because of the state of this country. Or because of corona. Some naturally decide to share their concerns with us because they CARE. It doesn’t exactly make it easier, but it IS endearing.
So, this is the name of the game.
And just as we began to realise this, corona came along and somehow gave us an entirely new game board. Or so it feels.
What I am trying to say is simply, that I reflect A LOT on these things. I don’t think I was evaluating our everyday life back in Denmark to this extent, and I do try not to let it flood me, but for the most part I really think that this ongoing weighing is good because it is the gateway to another state: it makes me SENSE - sense myself, my family, the energies that are flowing, our reactions to where we are and what happens etc., and all that sensing somehow increases my presence in the world. It is like, if I haven’t exactly grown new roots here, I have grown a new, more present, open, conscious me, and I tend to find that more important than geographical roots.
Let me turn to why I don’t feel that I have grown geographical roots here. At least not very deep ones. Again, this relates to the whole expat concept. ‘Things can and will change’ is sort of the mantra in this business. Yet, we know of people who started out as expats here, but who then fell so in love with all of it that they decided to move here for good. In our attempt to stay as open as possible, we have tried to keep that possibility as part of the future options too. But…
For me, the process has been like a roller coaster ride. In the beginning, it was all so very overwhelming. Then, as we settled more, it became exciting and amazing. Everything was so new. Then more and more everyday life kicked in, and even though we kept the adventure going with our many trips, my eyes began to also notice the things around here that I do not admire so much: the concrete everywhere; the lack of history and atmosphere; the pace in the school system and in life in general; the many, many people who are lost in a society built on ‘the American dream’; the scheduled living that so many families live here, in which even ‘family dinner’ is a scheduled thing, not happening very often. I suppose I experienced a clash with my values. And I feel that deep within. Alongside with everything that I love about living here.
It is hard to grow roots in concrete.
But it is not hard to decide to focus on the good stuff as long as we are here. And in that way stay open.
The only thing we haven’t really kept open is: ‘should we cut it short?’ As I have written before, we have not operated with a plan B at any point. We wanted this to be not only possible, but to be a success. That determination leaves very little room for second guessing, and as I wrote in part I, it was not until corona arrived that I for the first time allowed myself to question our continuous stay here (= approaching options 1 and 2 above). But stay for the three years, we will. We just needed to resurface that decision and find our own voice in all the outer and inner chaos created by corona.
I truly believe that the many months of more solitary living has strengthened that voice. Now, we know for sure that this is not forever, but that it is for now. We know that there is so much that we value about living here, but that our longing for less pacing, more authenticity, more depth and connection has to be listened to in the long run. We also know that we are in no way scared to go live other places, on the contrary, and so we might very well head out from Denmark again one day and fulfil that longing elsewhere.
Living here has given us the gift of seeing the world through a whole new lens. And not just the world, but us, our family, too. And we believe that there is more for os to explore, of the world and of this family. We will continue to do so here, in Denmark, elsewhere. As such, the future looks bright.
For now, even with the flipping of time, we have set the intention on enjoying life, growing as persons and thriving as a family right here, assisted by the friends we have made, the many nature spots that we still have on our bucket list, the sunny climate, the fresh food, the many phone calls with Denmark and the ongoing support, our dedication to work and school, to life itself.
We are grateful beyond words for what this experience is bringing us. I feel that there is so much we have learned and so much still to learn. There is so much we have been given, and so much we are realising that we have to give. We have gained much more clarity of the kind of family we are and what we want our next chapters in life to look like. And we will keep refining and dreaming and following those brave hearts of ours.
After all, that is what it all comes down to: trusting your heart, your inner knowing, enough to follow it. Even when it whispers about the less obvious, the less travelled route. Or about the flipping of time. I believe that the essential function of the heart (apart from keeping you physically alive) is to keep calling you home (and thereby keeping you emotionally, mentally and spiritually alive too). Not necessarily home to some geographical place, but to that state within where you meet You.
The inner knowing might urge you to move, to apply for a new job, to begin a new education, to have a child, to write a book, to reach out to a family member that you haven’t spoken to for years, or to leave an unhealthy relationship. It might urge you to stay and stay strong. Or to fly and fly high. It might suggest that you focus less on what you ought to be doing (such as eating more healthy food) and more on what you would love to be doing (such as being creative… and thereby call in so much new energy that healthy eating simply becomes a natural and good byproduct).
Its voice exists on frequencies which we might not be able to hear with our ears, but we can feel them in our bodies. Like streams of beautiful energy. All it takes is a little solitude, a little stillness, a good deal of willingness and a lot of loving. We can all find that.
The best part is that when you have passed the gateway and moved from the mind’s reflecting, thinking, figuring out to SENSING, everything becomes more quiet inside, and you realise that all of those questions and scenarios are just the mind’s attempt to take charge. And from your own vastness you can hug that big question mark and blend trust and love into all its little fears.
And then, you are home.