My Favo(u)rite Things

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“What does relax mean?” The Kid asked me, the latest in a series of questions about words: sad, hungry, angry. He wasn’t feeling well and I told him we should take it easy. Relax. Naturally, he wanted a description. I faltered, trying to find new words to describe old ones. Or was it old ones to describe new?

He’s asking so many questions, and talking about feelings, and these are two areas targeted by therapy that used to be weaknesses. Now, they are part of the daily dialogue.

The next day we were forced to rest. To relax. After a Saturday full of Peppa Pig and popcorn, cinema and mall, indoor playground and outdoor running, TK woke up in the middle of the night and ran to our room, then promptly vomited all over the bed, the second child to do so in a week. I went to the dry cleaner to pick up the duvet (doona here) that Little Brother had soiled last week and traded it for TK’s barf job. We skipped church. We lay around on couches and beds and watched videos. We wandered into town and ate brunch. Well, the rest of us did. We ambled over to the library, where I heard, “JAMES!” and turned to see one of TK’s classmates speeding toward us as he usually does Monday through Friday. Today, out of his uniform and with his family, he recommended books he thought TK would like. TK and LB fawned over his baby brother as they do during the week. The Husband and I talked to their parents about New Zealand. It wasn’t a typical Sunday–I missed the stained glass and the people, the singing and prayers, the ferry and restaurant–but it was a good one; I got laziness and the library, other people and different restaurants, and family.

I am always so quick–I believe the technical term is immediate–to fight against a change in plans, an adjustment to the routine. Whereas here in Sydney, our move has left us constantly doing just that: accepting the new in place of the old. Instead of fighting it, I have to accept it. Not only accept it, but call it home before I’m ready, before it feels like that. When the truth is that we are between homes, hovering constantly within the tension of missing one home and adjusting to another; traveling the nonlinear paths of depression and anxiety and home-making, where one day I can’t imagine being anywhere else and the next, I don’t know where I am exactly, or where I belong.

This past weekend, we were forced to rest. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve changed sheets and folded laundry, how much diarrhoea (it has an O here! How appropriate!) I’ve scrubbed from carpets and mopped from floors. What I can tell you, honestly, is that I’m not getting any happier about it. I’m not smiling beatifically up at the heavens as my hands touch live shit. What I’m doing, what I’m quite good at, is, in these mopping moments, engaging in a tournament of The Resentment Games, which is like The Hunger Games but more violent. I’m groaning against the role that my X chromosomes seem to shuttle me into: the default janitor and errand-runner and laundress and caretaker. I’m straining against what so often feel like shackles, then battling the guilt that comes with such feelings. Such ingratitude.

Spoiler alert: it’s not going to change. Not completely, at least. Not enough. Because there’s this thing called the flesh, and it pits itself against higher things like the spirit, and I’m told we only exchange the former for the latter in totality once we’re on the other side of eternity. And besides all that, allow me to say it again and again: I will never enjoy mopping up liquid shit.

I don’t think this makes me a monster. I’m pretty sure it makes me normal.

When we arrived at speech therapy last week, after a fecally-charged twenty-minute drive because TK seems to (like a man) hold his poo until he’s at home these days (home being…well, me most of the time), I had just huffed him down to the bathroom at the end of the hall, cleaned him up, and fought with him about it on all fronts. And this was a normal poo, pre-gastric explosions. We walked back up the hall together and into the waiting room, where his home therapist was waiting. I told her what had happened, and she gave me a look that said she had been there, then some words that assured me she had. “It’s funny what they’ll save for mum, isn’t it?” she asked. “What moments being a mum makes you available to–the good and the bad–because they’ll only do some things for you.” I sent him down the hall with her and waited, thinking about what she had said over the next hour. Thinking about all the things, good and bad, that this extra X chromosome makes me available for.

I feel like Carrie in Paris so much of the time, falling in literal and metaphorical ways, literal and metaphorical shit. Life is hard on a good day; throw in a large-scale relocation soaked currently in diarrhoea and it feels nearly impossible. But there is the rest that we are given, and sometimes forced into. There is the cafe where I take turns getting muffins with TK and LB. There is the fact that we have a dry cleaner now, and that I know where all the good bathrooms around town are. We have a library and a toy store. We know the village well enough to wander together, as a family. We have Netflix, and that has two of my favourite recent shows, and I have Missing Richard Simmons, and this all bring me joy.

I have every other Tuesday reading with TK and the kids and his class, and while it is tedious as hell, there are the moments: when Z, the one who brings toys he knows TK will like, imitated me reading “bird” for him with an American accent. Or when H, TK’s friend from the library, spotted a turkey in the school yard and chased it for five minutes, screaming “CHICKEN!” Or when E, TK’s friend who came for a playdate last week, giggled at a picture of a car and said, “James should get this book. He LOVES cars.” He is known here. We are all becoming known here.

There is the old being replaced by the new, and the new becoming old until its newness pops up in fragments rather than sheaths, and while even fragments can upend me, I am not torn apart. There are reasonable pours of wine and there are runs along the beach and there are the other, countless, gifts of grace, in which what is taken away is never stolen but is creating a space for more. More, an old thing that always feels new.

Climb Every Mountain (Except All of Them)

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I know, honey, and you’re so good at trying.

I am a goal-oriented person. This is, of course, a #humblebrag, because who doesn’t want to sound like they have plans and achieve them? But what I’m saying is that I’m a goal-oriented person to my detriment. As in, take a harmless or even positive thing and twist it into a nightmare. Because here’s a funny story: I’m a goal-oriented person, then I had kids and they shat all over the goals I had for them and myself. They just showed up, pooped everywhere (literally and figuratively), and shredded my carefully-curated lists with their tiny hands, then did a dance of triumph during which they knocked over the remainder of my plans and dreams, and left the room laughing.

That may not have actually happened. But sometimes it feels like it did. Like it does. And it is one of the most awful and wonderful things to ever happen to me.

Left to my own devices (which I am NOT, #grace), I treat life as a project. And I include “people” in “life.” I treat my family as a project. I treat an across-the-world move as a project. I treat making dinner as a project. I treat my children as a project. I had so many plans for them, y’all. And none of them included a spectrum diagnosis, or potty-training at age five, or being hit in the face by the little one because he thinks it’s funny. My children, before I had them, were the most well-behaved little angels (robots) you’d ever seen, and didn’t complicate my life a bit! In fact, they put away all the dishes after dinner! They certainly never attacked each other in the shopping cart at the IKEA checkout until I nearly had a panic attack/aneurysm.

I’m rolling with the punches, though, you know? When life knocks me down, I get back up. When the going gets tough, I get going.

Except…not. I’m tired. I’m living in a foreign country ten thousand miles from everything we know. I battle anxiety and depression. My older son faces his own challenges, and my younger son…is two. Often terribly so. Some days, the goals I used to have feel more like the punchline to a mean joke and the only realistic goal is to make it to bed without drop-kicking anyone. So they’re changing, those goals. And so am I. And not, I repeat, NOT, by trying harder.

I’ve been trying to get The Kid off his sippy cup for years. He is even less a fan of change than I am, so all my efforts were to no avail: letting him shop with me for a new cup (I want that one! SO I CAN NEVER USE IT), picking out cups with his favourite characters splashed all over them, hiding his sippy. Then, a week ago Sunday, he dropped his cup on the ground by Mosman Bay. In slow motion, I saw it bounce on the sidewalk then arc through the air and land in the water. I turned to The Husband, panic in my eyes. “His cup!” I yelled. “HIS CUP!”

TH kind of shrugged, threw his hands up. I mean, the cup was ten feet below us and bobbing away. Nothing could be done–which is exactly when most important things happen (and maybe should be the name of my memoirs). By that evening, TK was drinking out of a grown-up water bottle, and not due for a second to all my efforts. Later that week, he informed me one morning that he did not want to wear a pull-up to school. He hasn’t worn one during the day since. Has he pissed his pants since then? You betcha. Has he shat them? Um, does a bear do so in the woods? But much like Pat and Tiffany in the closing moments of Silver Linings Playbook, I will take what everyone else (including my pre-kid self) calls a “5” and look at it as a 10, because This Is Us/Progress, and it is a triumph. Just like the forty-five minutes of Moana that we made it through at the theatre a couple of weekends ago. Or the moment last week, when TK and Little Brother and I were walking down Spit Road to TK’s school and his classmate’s mom slowed their car down so we could greet each other, then outside his classroom she told me about how her son spends time in the mornings picking out toys to bring to school, turning them over in his hand and murmuring, “I bet James would like this one.” There’s the girl at his table who spontaneously hugged him goodbye yesterday. There’s the boy in the other kindergarten class who also has a shadow therapist and whose mom I ran into the other day, and we shared their nearly identical histories with each other. There is the self-labeled “Team James” group of therapists who really see him, who love him.

There are the moments when LB hits me and I want to scream, to hide under the bed, to engage in a vengeful game of “Why are you hitting yourself?” with him, then I realise that I have enough air in my lungs to take a breath, and enough sanity left in the tank to see what’s going on, and I give him the attention he so desperately aches for, and we are both changed by it.

It’s not every time, but it’s getting to be more of them. And none of it is what I had planned. That’s what makes it a gift: I didn’t earn it.

I’ve been drinking too much lately. I cut myself some slack after we moved because I needed to. There were little wars on all fronts and survival was the endgame. But now we’re all calming down and, you know, air in my lungs and sanity in my tank and all, and I can finally look around and really see: see the answered prayers, the grace on all fronts that’s actually fighting the wars, that is bigger than they are. And I can see how I’ve allowed wine to go from a gift to a form of replacement therapy. My glasses were getting bigger and more frequent, and the bottles were taking fewer nights to disappear. My problem isn’t a physical dependence; it’s an unwillingness to stop overindulging. We went out on Saturday night and before we left, I was already dreading my Sunday hangover as if it was something unavoidable. I haven’t been enjoying wine, I’ve been using it. And I don’t want to turn it from a gift into oxygen; I don’t want to twist something meant to be beautiful into something ugly; I don’t want it to become an object of resentment for me or my kids. I don’t want it to “get me through the day” any more than I want caffeine to be the only reason I stay awake, or Likes on Facebook to be my touchstone of self-worth.

Grace does not demand that I make arbitrary, sweeping changes that don’t hold true to how I’m made; it shows up in my life less as the humanly-skewed ideas behind accountability partners and altar calls and more as someone sitting beside me, saying “Me too.” Its kindness is what changes me rather than my own self-will could, or a demand for publicly-advertised Service for the Kingdom ever would. Grace is quiet. It doesn’t lead to me smashing all my good (average) wine into the rubbish bin in some misdirected and loud attempt to earn my way back into its…well, good graces. Here is what grace does: it provides reasons to mourn and celebrate together, with or without wine. It shatters my old goals and gives me a new reality. When it denies, it does so to make room for greater gifts. And it fills the space that, until recently, I was demanding wine fill, and softens the edges that I was trying to get wine to soften, and it pours me a smaller glass than the night before so that I can really taste it this time. Then it leads me to the couch on our deck while TH chases TK and LB, their shrieks no longer keeping me from a bottle but now showing up as bigger and more beautiful than it, while the sun sets here and rises ten thousand miles away, and both places are home. Cups always overflowing.

Fix Me?

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“How else but through a broken heart…”

We have a new rug.

This shouldn’t be as momentous as it feels. After all, a rug was not ever the root of my problems. A rug doesn’t cause or cure depression. But a smelly rug that haunts every entrance into your home, that mocks you every time you sit on the couch, that grows stronger through every storm and bout of stifling humidity…well, that’s not nothing. And it’s not pretty. And I have always been funny about smells. So, finally, I texted The Husband last week: “WE HAVE TO GET RID OF THIS STANK RUG.” He agreed, if only because he was sick of hearing about it. So on Saturday, we got a new rug and immediately brought it to its new home, where it sits now, not smelling a bit. My rose-scented diffusers finally have their time to shine, and all feels right with the world.

I mean…ish. Because this was an example of a problem with a solution. Something that could be fixed.

But things have been going better, generally. The cupcake and wine spending has slightly dipped, and that’s always a highly-correlated indicator of well-being around here. (Chocolate spending has gone up, but that’s because Easter candy is on display and who can just walk right by that?! I DON’T HAVE A HEART OF STONE, PEOPLE.) The Kid and Little Brother are thriving in their respective school environments: LB dominates the playground and morning tea when it’s anything bread-based, and TK…I mean, that guy. A brief pause for that.

We got a standard report from the school on his progress, and dude is killing it. Once again, points for the Australian school system, which works with parents and welcomes collaboration in the form of shadow therapists so that TK and kids like him have the chance to learn alongside their mainstreamed peers, because that guy? Is smart. So we’ve got some plumbing issues; sue him. The last time I shat my own pants wasn’t too long ago, truth be told. But he churns out his worksheets all, “Duh. Which words start with D? I can do this in my sleep.” He brings his reading books home and flies through them, grin on his face. He plays “shop” at recess alongside the other kids and hands out “change.” He’s finding his place, is the thing. And the report, it told us that he’s mastering fluency of language, which just over a year ago would have propelled me to the moon and back. Now it’s part of our daily lives, these words spilling from him, Aussie ones sprinkled unexpectedly in, like last week when he told me, “Mum. MUM! You’re just giving me a little cuddle.”

It doesn’t cure depression. Apparently, that’s not how brain chemistry works? But it ain’t nothing.

I sat at an outdoor cafe a couple of weeks ago with a new friend, someone who has two sons as well, one of whom is similar to TK. And we commiserated over the guilt, the constant questions we ask ourselves, the medical histories and the doctors and diagnoses. We talked about their weaknesses and strengths, and how hard it was sometimes to tell the difference. How some of the things we may be trying to “fix”–the very fact that we’re geared to target and correct–may need to remain. May make them who they are, who they’re meant to be.

I don’t know what the answers are. What I do know is that so many of the things that make TK different are the same things that draw others to him, make them embrace him, make him feel safe to them. The other mums in his class have told their kids to look out for him–I suspected this before and now know it as fact–using words like shy. The kindness here is quiet yet present, subtle and not asking to be noticed or given anything in return. It has been a gift, a fresh breeze blowing through each day, each morning drop-off where we are met with smiles and welcomes, and it’s enough to make this introvert show up a few minutes early to enjoy it all.

Something real is happening here.

It’s the expectations that kill us. Our vision of how it should be, and our subsequent efforts to twist and squeeze everything into that always-smaller vision than what is actually planned–ordained. I went to a counsellor last week (THAT’S HOW YOU SPELL IT HERE, GET OFF MY BACK, MY COMPUTER IS AUSTRALIAN NOW) and after I told her my story she remarked that I looked pretty held-together for someone with my reported struggles. Maybe it was a compliment? It felt like she was asking to be slapped. I’ll give it another try next week, maybe show up with shitty pants and raccoon eyes and no bra. But really…what is a depressed person supposed to look like? What is a smart kid supposed to look like? What is learning and socialising and becoming supposed to look like?

I suspect some of my depression, in addition to the brain chemistry, is fuelled by my own expectations: the thought that I should feel further along at this point, that things should seem more like home. When, wonderfully, home is happening all around us, even when someone honks at my driving skills or I have to pay for parking because I forgot my receipt and really THE SIGNS SHOULD BE BIGGER THAT TELL YOU THAT.

Maybe we should give each other and ourselves a fucking break, man.

I was reading this old story the other day, and to be honest it left me a little pissed off that Thomas was thereafter described as Doubting. All the other guys got a nearly immediate appearance; he had to wait eight days. Eight days. But in those eight days, despite doubts, he stayed. He stayed, despite the doubts and brokenness and uncertainty. And when the moment came, it wasn’t with a curse. It was with grace. With a different and deeper experience than all the rest had. He not only saw, he felt. And all because of the thing we regard negatively. It ended up being the gateway to the gift.

Little Brother is spilling out words too, so conversant that it boggles my mind to keep up with him, chirping away in the backseat. He has his own place at TK’s school, standing on the steps of the classroom and performing a rendition of the ABC song that contains more than a few mispronunciations. The books say you should re-pronounce the words for them correctly. Okay, sure, maybe. But sometimes I just laugh while everyone else applauds and he grins, and later when we’re alone I’ll say them with him, the words “wrong” for now but somehow even more wonderfully…right.

Alone Until I’m with You

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There has been some…concern. Which I expected; you can’t write a whole post about how depressed you are without the people who care, and about whom you care, checking up in one way or another.

But there have also been improvements. And, maybe more importantly, there has been communication. Identification. Messages sent along invisible wires, appearing as voices and words, saying–as CS Lewis knew they would–“What! You too?” Which is the whole point, isn’t it? Our seeing each other, finally. Finding our way home together, even as we are led there with each step.

Let’s just be honest: the heat hasn’t fucking helped. You want to get down to brass tacks and that’s where you start. I mean, who wouldn’t be down, at least a bit, walking around in drenched underwear? Showing up with a perpetual sheen on the upper lip? These are not good looks on the best of days. But this is life in the bottom hemisphere in February…so I am told. (I am also told that this has been one of the hottest summers on record. BETTER BE.) But there’s been a lifting of that lately, in between rain storms, and the effect is palpable. For me, weather is a trigger, I suppose. Most focus on the dull grey of winter and its biting cold, and yeah–that can suck. But summer, in its sneaky, sunny way, can be just as painful for a contrarian like myself. And I have never found an anti-perspirant that lives up to its name. So there’s the practical side of it.

There are also the cloudier, murkier, more complicated and insidious territories of hormones, emotion, post-pregnancy and post-relocation life. Of…well, life, period. Which always seems to be changing, whether your address is or not. You would think that this would make me press in, voluntarily and desperately, into what never changes. Which is actually a Who. Into the unfailing grace offered there. But I forget. I always, always forget.

Grace doesn’t. It never leaves, even when I do.

There are some, by the way–and I don’t know, maybe you’re one of them? If so, welcome, and hope you don’t mind the profanity; it’s a permanent part of the decor–who are politely frightened by such extremes of emotion. Who would rather avoid that drama altogether. And there are days when I would, too. Those days would best be filed under the heading “Denial,” because on those days I try to pretend I have it all together and things are easier or better than they are. But here’s the thing, which I can say as I’m now seeing glimmers of light around and ahead: I kind of like being this way. (Remind me of this the next time things go pear-shaped. So…tomorrow. Depression and anxiety are so annoyingly non-linear.) I don’t know how well I would wear evenness anyway. I like that I see bruises in sunsets, that the colour spectrum is vivid and piercing for me. I like that I feel things deeply, even when they hurt. I like that walking around with open wounds is making me more aware of others’, and making me a safe space for them to talk about it. I like the particular brand of community that is built among those who used to feel alone. I like living with my whole heart.

But damn, is it hard. And I have to say “I’m sorry” a lot, which I hate.

I like that my weaknesses are also my strengths, like two sides of a coin that is never enough on its own, but always sends me back to grace. That presses me into it. Which is what I and one of mine were talking about over email, I think, recently: how I feel like I’m being pressed uncomfortably down into that never-changing love that won’t let me escape it, no matter how many hatches I try to locate. I first felt it on the track of my old gym back in Atlanta: a nearly-physical sense of pressure upon me, and the recognition of it matching that pressure I feel on my hands every week when I open them to receive the blessing, after the bread and wine. And now, she wrote about how our children teach us about grace, and how this season is making way for another one. I thought about that, and about what I’d told her about feeling pressed into love, and how depression–that word–it sounds like the opposite of press. About how it all, though, is delivering me deeper into the pressed love that never lets up.

I don’t know. I’m still working on that one.

Anyway, there’s this: we already know The Kid could read, but now he’s showing other people, at school, and every night he demands to read the bedtime story, so that Goodnight Moon is now recited to us, TH and I looking at each other over two smaller heads and it is always a balm, no matter the day. There is the way Little Brother tries to read now too, how he’s recognising some words, how he wants to be like his brother. There’s the way TK loves babies, how it connects us to people everywhere, from his schoolyard and his classmates’ little siblings to the strangers on the ferry, and our playdate this week is with a girl in the class whose two-year-old little sister asks after him.

There’s the haircut and colour I got on Friday that, not for nothing, helped me feel lighter in more ways than one. There is grace in salons–don’t you ever doubt it. There are the cooler evenings on the beach with picnic dinners not on the sand with the birds (WE’RE LEARNING!) but on the grass in the shade of a tree, and the walks along the water after. There is the chair from IKEA, a piece of redemption from an awful afternoon of tantrums and humiliation, and now that TH put it together it sits in our bedroom and whenever I plop down on it, two little bodies always end up beside me. There are the little things that help sew you back up after the little things that started to undo you.

There was the moment at the salon when a motorcade full of sirens drove by, helicopters overhead, and they said Netanyahu was in town, and I thought about how one of the hardest things about being here is the feeling of disconnection. And here history is happening outside the window–I LOVE HISTORY!–heads all turned right, and I realise: I am not disconnected. I am just connected differently.

Here’s the Difference

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If this is the end of me, at least I have a friend with me.

God only knows what I’d be without you.

Last week we received our final delivery from the corporate furniture rental company. Aren’t those words sad-sounding? Corporate furniture rental company. So stark and barren. So lacking in warmth.

I was excited about this delivery because (a) it would mark the last time these strangers would show up at my door; and (b) a rug for our living area was arriving with them, and I was planning on it really tying the room together. The piece de resistance, if you will.

What I’m saying is that there was a lot riding on this rug.

The deliverymen left the rug, as I asked, rolled up and leaning against the wall. I admired the pattern and grew more giddy. I vacuumed and mopped the floor. I pushed the furniture aside, bad back and all, and slowly unfurled this thing of corporate furniture rental glory. I pulled the furniture back into place and stepped back to admire the effect.

The rug stinks.

I mean that literally: the rug smells bad. Not like shit–I know what that smells like. Not like a dead animal or B.O. or anything specific. Just…musty. Like an old warehouse. Which is probably exactly where it came from. And I don’t know if Febreze can solve this scent. As I wrinkled my nose in growing distaste, I noticed more. Like…that the rug could be bigger? And could lie down flatter? And could just STOP SUCKING SO MUCH?

Here is the difference between a bad day and depression: on a bad day, a bad rug makes things worse. On a depressed one, it ruins EVERYTHING FOREVER.

The walls have been closing in on me more. It reminds me of the time TH and I went to Niagara Falls and ventured into a haunted house and one of the final features was a pitch-black room that, we came to realize, had no exit. This was scarier than any ghost or minimum-wage worker in a hockey mask. This was terrifying. Claustrophobia-inducing. Panic attack-birthing. Then, I screamed. They let us out, and I ran the hell away from that den of horrors (and to the nearest bar, I imagine).

These days, the solution isn’t so simple.

The depression that reared its head in the form of anxiety back home is different in our new one. In Atlanta, I would wake up wired, running on adrenaline and cortisol, going through the motions like a well-oiled machine in a familiar environment. Here, I’ve been tired. So tired. As previously mentioned, I don’t even need Xanax to wind down at night–I fall asleep almost as soon as I hit the pillow. I feel weariness lapping at me like the waves on the nearby beach, which I visit at least by car daily and you’d think that would help. But it doesn’t keep me from falling asleep over Dr Seuss, Little Brother tapping my face and yelling “Mom-MEEEE!”, my alarm clock through the fog.

Here, depression looks like anger. It looks like an even shorter temper with the boys, and don’t get me started on TH not replacing the toilet seat the way I asked. It sounds like a raised voice and resembles a flat affect. A lot of “I don’t care” and “whatever you want.”

It looks like rebellion: thoughts of jumping on a bus (I’ve never taken the bus; wouldn’t even know the first thing about how; and yes, this pisses me off too) or hopping into a cab and heading for the airport. Except I’m so tired. And I can’t find my passport. Or TK’s water bottle that I left at his school, the thought of which wakes me up in the middle of the night. My 3 am anxiety alarm clock. And is that a possum scratching on our roof?

It looks like Valentine flowers arriving a day late and tossed, in their box, upside down by our front gate, and my inability to see their beauty because how could anyone just toss my flowers around like that and I don’t even have a vase here.

It looks like feeling stupid all the time, but especially when I drive a block on the right (wrong) side of the road this morning and the car behind me honks then passes me on the two-lane street.

It looks like everything feeling like too much and being too difficult.

But.

The other morning I walked the boys to TK’s school and, as we waited for the morning bell and line-up, I saw another mom of a kid in his class walking down the steps. My mind immediately went to an ugly place–those pants aren’t doing her figure any favors–and I looked around, wondering if anyone else noticed. I looked for camaraderie in the worst way possible, which is what a lonely person does. What an insecure person does. What a depressed person does. A minute later, she was sitting near me and a couple of the moms struck up a conversation about all the information we’ve been given and the expectations laid on us and our kids and this mom, she looked at me and said, “I mean, damn. I don’t know what the hell is going on most days!”

I wanted to kiss her. I immediately loved her. We were the same. Who cares about pants?!

So there is this: the kinship born of being in the same boat, confused and uncertain even when this has been your home for years. There is the flurry of morning activity over text and email and Voxer and Signal even as it fades away into quiet later, because that morning activity is my connection to so many who know me, who get me, who love me. Even if I wore bad pants the first time we met, they hung on. And they will hang on. They hear me and respond and there is no falseness, only deep and true connection, and if they came from somewhere then there are more like them, even here.

And there are more like them: there is the instant and forever friend, giver of the wine and “grace” bracelet, and there is sitting barefoot on a couch drinking wine and sharing life. There is the Friday night in a house full of kids and their parents, friends from another continent and life and now ten years later we are picking back up, deeper than before.

There aren’t solutions, but there are people. There is grace. There are prayers felt and understanding given and forgiveness offered. There is a counselor recommended and the possibility of increased dosage and a hair appointment made. There are runs outside and a new pool for laps. There is this messy new adventure we’ve been called into and the ensuing low tide I’ve been navigating and there is this: the moment I step outside on our balcony and think first how ungrateful I am because who could be “sad” with all this, and then I remember that depression is not the same as ingratitude. It is so much more, so much harder, so much more complicated. And grace knows this. So I look up, and the sunset is so beautiful: gold, pink, orange, and purple, and only because of the clouds are all these colors showing up. It’s like a bruise, I think. Which, when you think of it, may be something only a depressed person could see. And it’s beautiful.

Will Write for Attention

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Few things are certain in this world, but there is this: however critics feel about a movie, I will almost certainly disagree. There have been rare exceptions; the triteness of He’s Just Not That Into You, for example, pissed a lot of us off. Usually, however, I can be counted on as a contrarian. Such was the case with Passengers, which my husband and I saw in a theater with reclining leather chairs and a bar — hard to go wrong between those amenities and a Chris Pratt/Jennifer Lawrence pairing. I was delighted not to be the only one who enjoyed the flick and took note of its redeeming qualities.

A few weeks later, my husband and I returned to the theater, though now it was called the cinema, and we were shifted ten thousand miles from the leather-recliner situation, having moved to Sydney. It was our first adults-only getaway since we moved, so again: hard to take a stance other than Just Happy To Be Here. We saw the Will Smith vehicle Collateral Beauty upon recommendation from our older son’s therapist, whom we had flown over from the U.S. to help my son get acclimated to his new team, and who was also babysitting for us (so, you know, obligations). A couple of hours later, I had tears streaming down my face and a Screw you, critics attitude in my heart as I reasoned to my husband that saccharine overload has cinematic precedent: by all accounts, It’s a Wonderful Life opened to mixed reviews and only later became a classic.

Read the rest over at Mockingbird!

Once More, with Feeling(s)

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Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

We are now entering the portion of a monumental life change wherein everything is going well but I’m spinning out anyway.

I’m feeling the way I did a few months ago, back before I decided to finally take the plunge into low-dosage antidepressants instead of daily anxiety pills (I switched those to bedtime, tks). There was a moment–I remember it; I was sitting in the sunroom of our Atlanta home while the boys played around me and I was pondering all the shit that was going on in our lives and had been over the past few years and presently: breast cancer scare, miscarriage, 2 surgical childbirths, multiple surgeries on The Kid, one minor one for Little Brother, postpartum emotional and hormonal swings, and oh, AN IMPENDING MOVE ACROSS THE EFFING WORLD; I sat there and looked at my children and wondered why the hell I was waiting to get a little assistance if not only would it help me, but them in the process; and that is the story of my call to the doctor).

At that time, there were plenty of entries under the list labeled Difficult. SEE ABOVE. My nerves were frayed and someone always seemed to be sitting on the last one I had left. I felt perpetually at the end of my rope where, yes, I know God’s office resides, but even he at that point was all, “Sweetheart, GET THE DRUGS. They’re a gift, see.” (Sometimes my God talks like a gangster from the 40s, sue me). There was not a day that didn’t leave me feeling overwhelmed and fretful. And we were leaving our home for another one across an ocean.

So I got the drugs. And they helped. And they didn’t take away my ability to cry, which was a big concern for me (I love crying, as previously mentioned). And all was good. I mean, as good as it can be when you’re saying goodbye to everyone you love while crying a lot, right?

And then we moved.

Our first month here was a whirlwind of newness: new house, new accents, new words, new doctor, new church, new neighborhood, new car, new therapists, new babysitters, new people. I theorize that I was running off adrenaline and balancing it with wine and that this and grace got me through those days. Ahead loomed the transition I feared most: new school. Particularly, for TK, since LB just cruises around new locales in search of his next snack. But TK…I mean, nothing has been easy for him, you know? Every step is a big one and, in the process, a triumph. But to get to the triumph…

And we did. We are now to the part where his teacher knows him and his therapist loves him and, yesterday, we ran into two of his classmates on the way to school. The first, walking beside us, said “Hi, James!” with her red curls bouncing as she reminded me of The Niece, the silver bracelet on her wrist glinting in the sun. Seconds later, a voice issued from a nearby car: “HIYA, JAMES!” TK took these greetings in stride, grinning as I prompted him to return them, and he bounced ahead of me, knowing the way as I pushed LB in the stroller. He can’t wait to go to school every day. “I want to go to BEAUTY POINT PUBLIC SCHOOL!” he announces every morning, beaming as I help him slip into his uniform. We pass teachers and staff members who greet him by name. Another mom told me she visited the class yesterday and saw what a great reader he is. There is kindness all around us. On Monday, I sat in a monthly meeting of Team James, his cadre of therapists from the center we frequent twice a week, and what initially felt like an echo of tense disciplinary sessions from my Two Worst Years Ever, AKA my residency, became a conversation populated by people who really see TK, who know him in ways big and small after a month. I realized once again how much I interpret as threat what is meant as gift. I’ve finally met some other moms (mums) from his class at school and we’ve walked the blocks home after drop-off together, pushing our second-borns and commiserating over homework and all the other shared experiences that I wasn’t sure I’d get to partake of, even as I know that our path is different–but somehow still the same. Last night we met our neighbor and he mentioned getting together for wine. We really like our church, and I have, like, three friends! I don’t take pills to get to sleep (yet). I see the Pacific Ocean daily and I even have a local lap pool. I’m writing this from the deck of our home, overlooking our pool and a harbo(u)r. Everything appears to be going…swimmingly.

So why am I having such a hard time? Once again with nerves frayed, at the end of my rope, so easily overwhelmed?

This is Life 2.0: everything replicated in a different place. I suppose there are people who land in a new existence like this and look around at the sun and beach and say, “GREAT! Let’s get started!” These are probably the same people whose kids eat only healthy foods, who craft adorable homemade Valentines for each child in the God-forsaken school, and whose marriages are perfect. To them I say, from a distance and across a chasm, “Enjoy that.” I don’t do “new” well. I don’t replicate easily. I don’t LIKE it when it’s sunny all the time. (And it’s not here. Contrary to popular belief, this is not Southern California. So there’s that, I guess.) I see shadows and cracks. I overthink. I am shit at making crafts. Also, I hate making crafts. When the wonderfully kind mums from TK’s class bid me farewell after our perfectly pleasant conversation at our respective turning points, I breathe a huge sigh of relief (but not before inviting them to come over with their kids and play in our pool, because I am COMPLICATED).

There is a part of me that resents the ways this place is becoming our home, even as I am grateful for them: the places and the people that are gaining familiarity and are embracing us as we embrace back. There is a grief coupled with the gratitude. There is loss with the gain, because it is COMPLICATED.

I went through a similar depression a few months after arriving in New York. I thought it was purely a seasonal thing at the time, but maybe it too was a bit of delayed grief, even a form of guilt: I’m doing okay in this new place, and what does that mean? Back then it was less complicated: no stroller to push around, no tiny bodies to bathe each night, no emotional underpinning times infinity to everything I did. Here, I feel the weight not just of my adjustments, but theirs. We are doing life, all the parts of life that were big steps and little, difficult and easy, struggle and triumph, all over again. How would that not take a toll?

Every time new life comes, there is a death along with it. (God, that sounds depressing.) But it’s true–don’t make me quote Semisonic again. Some people have gentler grips than I do; they let things pass through their hands more easily. I’m still learning how to let go and hold on and when to know the difference. But I’m seeing the grace in the second time around: how when LB speaks, it’s so much sweeter because of how long we had to wait for TK to. And how, when they speak to and with each other, it’s like a damn symphony (notice I said speak, not whine). How TK’s propensity to make people cheer for him only gets sweeter with repetition. How flowers delivered in Australia look just as beautiful, if not more so, in a food container than a non-existent-in-our-new-home vase. How every sunset, while different, is the same sun. How grace takes no notice of time difference or distance as it carries us through grief and joy, always to the same place: home.

Already There

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It’s been a hell of a week.

Hell being the operative word. As in, hot as hell. Warmer than Satan’s armpit. More uncomfortable than a whore in church. Sweatier than Ryan Lochte at a spelling bee. And hot and I, we don’t mix. Yes, I grew up in the South. Yes, I was told that summer in Sydney is hot and humid. And I believed it…but also, I didn’t? Because what could really compare with August in Atlanta?

Sydney in February, that’s what. And it is not doing me, or my hair, any favors.

I’m on the edge. Not of glory, but of losing my shit. Every. Single. Day. But it’s not fair to blame just the heat. There’s also…me. And a little across-the-world move. And two boys who know just how to push each other’s buttons, and mine in the process. Also, a few spiders have been involved. And maybe a bit of lingering postnatal depression, some anxiety, and PTSD? I don’t know. I’M HOT. I’m hot, short-tempered, irritable, and glistening.

Let’s begin, shall we?

I made some notes. I make notes in my phone, because if I don’t then I forget everything: everything that’s happened, everything I want to write about, everything I need to buy at the grocery store. And as I look at my notes, I’m abashed by all the good things I listed, all the sweet moments and joyful memories. So I’ll work backward, from this morning, which was a Monday morning, which is the worst time of the week, can I get an amen? It was approaching 40 Celsius here (convert it to Fahrenheit yourself, I just can’t with it all right now) and I decided to drive The Kid and Little Brother to TK’s school, a ten-minute walk but it was 8:30 and I was already over this day. I parked along the street at a surprisingly close and open spot, which is a bit like seeing a nearly empty subway car in NYC and thinking “Score!” and being the chump that walks onto it then realizes too late, as the doors are closing, that the lone occupant of the car is likely homeless and definitely soaked in urine, and now you have not just the scent to contend with, but your nausea and also guilt over walking away at the next stop. Which you do, but still–ambivalently. Anyway, I parked the car and heaved the kids out of it and walked them (=herding cats, and YOU KNOW HOW I FEEL ABOUT CATS) to TK’s classroom. TK was dealing with Monday-morning anxiety and his therapist wasn’t there yet and he had lots of questions and LB had lots of energy and I had no Xanax (on me) and there was, as ever, my current, erstwhile, and oft-returning companion, Sense of Awkwardness. Also goes by Always the Outsider, Hey Look at Me–I’m a Weirdo!, and I Might Need a Bathroom Soon. I was trying to hold it together so TK didn’t lose it (aren’t we a cute pair) even as I was navigating this foreign land and might-as-well-be-another language. And bonus excuse-the-f%ck-out-of-me moment, but there are assemblies every Monday morning! And everyone else but me knows this! And the teachers were hustling their classes out onto the schoolyard, AKA Satan’s butthole of heat, to listen to the principal discuss being kind to and looking out for each other as I dragged LB behind me like a suitcase and TK was growing increasingly anxious over where his therapist might be and just exactly what the HELL was going on.

It crossed my mind that this is WHY we have a shadow therapist for him–one of the reasons–because were I not here, he would have been lost in the shuffle and who KNOWS where he would have ended up and WHERE THE EFF IS HIS THERAPIST and by this point, even the t-shirt and gym shorts I was wearing were like “Oh HELL no, you reek and we’re out of here.” The assembly ended THANK GOD and the kids dispersed to their classrooms and I told TK’s teacher that OF COURSE I left my phone in the car and I didn’t know where the therapist was but I’d go to the school gate and see if he was there and if not, grab my phone. I explained this to TK and he consented for me to leave but not without a look of uncertainty that broke my heart (not for the first time), and I heaved LB up on my hip like a sack of groceries as he squealed and protested: “IT’S HOT OUTSIDE! I HOT! I HOT!” and I made it to my car just in time to see the traffic cop taking a picture of the company-sponsored RAV4 (what does Equifax think we rap for?!), which was OF COURSE parked in a bus zone.

I played the ignorant American card (she’s seen our President and felt sorry for me and canceled the ticket), and TK’s therapist arrived talking of traffic, and we were all on our way. And that was my morning.

Now I’m in the waiting room at TK’s therapy center. There is light air-conditioning, I have snacks and cold water, I have time to weigh whether to increase my dosage of Lexapro, and I can breathe again. And as I do, I return to my notes. To my thoughts, from this week of new adjustments: of school starting for both boys, primarily. And there is this:

There were the two mornings last week when TK and his therapist did in-home sessions to pair with each other (a term which reminded me of Twilight and imprinting, but turns out, not the same thing), and I actually got to shower without an audience and walk out onto the balcony (dressed) and hear them downstairs, playing cars (did I mention his therapist is a dude? It’s wonderful. He actually has energy, #whatsthat) while TK laughed and laughed.

There is the comfort that both boys feel at church now, to the point that I was actually able to leave them in their kids’ class and hear a sermon and cry a bit, which is one of my favorite things to do.

There was the afternoon last week when we took LB to his preschool and TK and I got to spend some one-on-one time together, rare these days, and we walked around town and passed an elderly gentleman relying on a cane to walk. TK walked beside him and grinned up at him, and I was reminded of how much he sees that other people miss–how his heart is shaped uniquely to feel others’ “weaknesses” and “burdens” and recognize–rename–them as “special.” This boy, he sees everything, to the point that I have to slow down for him (you can imagine how well I take that at times)–he slows me down. He makes me see. It is so inconvenient, and so life-giving.

The heat, it is wearing me down. And now that the initial shock and adrenaline of moving have worn off, there is room for anxiety to enter in, space for frustration and lostness to show up and threaten to undo me. And I am so easily undone. The people here have friend sets and lunchbox intel and different foods and words for those foods and even my phone is new and doesn’t understand what I want to type (#firstworldproblems). I feel so out of place sometimes. It hurts, and I realize I have to let it–I have to take that time in the car after a near-ticket and a rough morning and let the tears flow, let the grief wash over me, because it’s not really about being in a new place, it’s about being in the old one–the one where I’m afraid I’m never going to fit in, never going to be really known.

There’s a print hanging on our wall here that reads, “I once was lost but now am found.” I found it online before we left Atlanta and had it shipped here, and it greets me when we walk in the door, and no matter the day I’ve had, I choose to believe it. Some days make that choice so hard. Others make it easy. Most days are a combination of both. But I watch it happening: the ways we are being seen, and known, slowly over time and through heat. How more faces and places are becoming familiar. How people are embracing my children, and how the way they say my name–“Mommy”–can change in an instant from needy to awe-filled, and I know it: that grace was here before we were, making this a home, and grace isn’t finished yet. I listened to it this morning, the reminder of the woman who knew the voice when it said her name–and I believe that that same voice calls things into being that aren’t there yet, even as I ache for them. I believe, but also…I don’t? Which is okay, because I know, and more than that, I am known.

You See Me (Home)

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There’s a line in the critically acclaimed classic film Crocodile Dundee in which the main character responds to a threat by declaring, “That’s not a knife. THIS is a knife,” then unsheathes a weapon that causes everyone around him to stand down in awe. The clip was played on the TV at my gym over the weekend and when I saw it, I knew: that’s what grace has been doing for us since before we arrived here in Sydney, at every turn. It’s been taking my fears–fears that were converted to prayers but keep wanting to switch back–and making each of them stand down, one after the other. Because grace, if you didn’t know, speaks softly but carries a big knife.

See also–babysitters.

Grace, much like soylent green, has been turning up as people, popping up all over the place. Some of them we knew before; some we are just laying eyes on. It turns out they’re laying eyes on us too, really seeing us, and it’s funny, this post I was reminded of recently when it popped up on my newsfeed–how it brings back in a rush of recognition my lifelong desire to remain invisible, under the radar, and how life has been found in the moments of being seen. And how many of them would never had occurred were it not for all the things we never would have chosen.

A couple of weeks ago, we welcomed our first houseguest: The Kid’s therapist from back home. We were two weeks into this move, newcomers ourselves, and when her taxi pulled to a stop in front of our house and I beheld TK’s grin at this piece of home, I was reminded of the early days with her, nearly two years ago, when almost every time she left our house I would doubt and wonder and consider calling for a replacement because I did NOT feel like we were connecting. But she and TK were. And I considered that the fact she had started out–with her matter-of-factness and directness and demands–on my bad side might not be truly fair since that side actually covers more than fifty percent of me; it’s almost the whole thing–my unspoken policy seems to be that all new people are guilty until proven innocent. So I waited, and watched, and there were many standoffs and confrontations (in my head) and now, she was standing in our new driveway ten thousand miles away from the old one, and TK looked happier than he had since we arrived. For the next week, she became part of our family, getting TK (and me) back on track and reminding me of what he is capable of–and what I am, too. When she left after days of deep conversations and more of a relationship than I ever would have imagined possible two years ago, I was urging her to come back soon and stifling tears.

This is how grace appears: not in the people we expected or the things we asked for. It’s so sneaky like that.

It shows up in the lady at the cosmetics store, who introduced me to her coworker who had lived in Atlanta, and who seemed to find me hilarious and asked me to come back soon, even if it was “just for a chat.” I am DELIGHTFUL in Australia, I thought, emerging into the furnace of heat outside with a bounce in my step just as an elderly woman yelled at me for stepping in front of her. It shows up in the doctor whose office we called for a same-day appointment to sort out the boys’ immunizations/immunisations, and when he asked if we needed anything else I told him I’d be back to get a prescription for myself filled–a little drug called Lexapro that has been talking me off ledges recently–and he pulled out his pad. “And is that for…depression?” he gently prodded. “Postnatal depression?” I nodded at the latter even though it’s two years out, because all of life for me is now postnatal (HELLO PTSD AFTER HAVING YOUR INSIDES AND IDENTITY REARRANGED), and he handed me the slip of paper and looked at me seriously as he asked it: “How are you doing?” I wanted to cry but feared it would not match my sincere answer, that some of this has been hard but I’m actually doing pretty well, but the question–it made me feel seen. It made me realize I am being seen, grace showing up in kind queries and in the moment the other morning when the sidewalk ended without warning due to construction and I was left with two boys in a stroller in the scalding heat, profanities lacing each labored breath, and no fewer than four people stopped and offered help, their arms and mine lifting my children across the ripped concrete and sand and onto solid ground again.

Then I went to the gym and a bird, for no apparent reason, flew right through the room and over my head and scared the shit out of me. But I don’t have the metaphor for that one yet, so stay tuned.

Grace shows up fully armed in the removed-by-multiple-degrees-but-still-feel-like-relatives-friends who showed up on Australia Day and met us in the harbo(u)r, and since I’ve only met them twice and briefly, I worried I wouldn’t recognize them or they, us. But through the crowd I saw their faces and knew, and so did they–because you always see the people you know. We spent the next few hours talking and laughing and watching boats and hearing the national anthem and standing together for it along with everyone around us, a part of something bigger than ourselves, always. A piece of home here.

It’s uncanny–but not really, is it?–that the woman I barely met on the plane is now my son’s emergency contact and my drinking/gym/life buddy; that after meeting with him for just a few minutes, TK’s new teacher told me, “He’s just so kind, isn’t he?” and I breathed again, knowing she can see him; that one of my dearest back home said it too–how a debacle at a restaurant recently brought out the people Mr. Rogers liked to call “helpers,” who followed her to the bathroom and asked her the same thing asked of me: “How are you doing?” How another of my dearest back home wrote about it, her son who faces so many of the same challenges as TK does revealing the kindness of strangers too. They’ve been called guardian angels by some, but I don’t know; I like to think of them as grace putting on skin and packing heat.

This American Life did an episode last week on what happens when one person spots something no one else can see; Modern Love blew me away with a father’s description of his life with his son on the spectrum. And I write about it here because I have to–this documentation of all that grace has let me in on, all that it allows me to see that I would have missed otherwise: TK and his wonky and beautiful way of looking at the world; divine faithfulness stretching across thousands of miles; forgiveness being the glue that holds marriage and family and life together in the midst of failure and depression and anxiety and general wretched brokenness that keeps turning into hope. I can’t not tell you about it, because you’re my people too, and if you are…then that means you can see it too now, right?

A Different Sunset Every Day

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I finally cried in church this week. That hasn’t happened in a while; specifically, since we were back in Atlanta in our home church on Christmas day. I’ve missed the tears that come with heartfelt experience, that attend a weekly re-membering, the stark awareness of a grace that transcends my daily worries. The tears were welcome; they reminded me of home. They made me feel like we are getting to be at home here.

True to my nature, I’ve taken to adopting several routines here in Sydney: the repetition helps me adapt and relax and gives structure to my days. To the boys’ days. Most of the routines are centered around cupcakes and wine, but there are a few others. Some are carry-overs from back home in Atlanta: my nightly epsom-salt-filled bath, the morning and evening liturgy that mercifully remains the same across oceans and continents, God himself unchanging in the face of everything else feeling so different.

But is it that different?

The end of the day is, in so many ways, and that’s one of my favorite new rituals: after putting The Kid to bed, while The Husband remains with his allotted child, Little Brother, I head out to the balcony off our bedroom (I KNOW, but someone’s gotta do it) and take a look at the setting sun, since this is the season–summer–for it to set around 8 pm every night, the days long and often hot, the evenings splashed by the western glow of fading light. That light is more scattered and glorious when clouds are paired with it, filtering the beams and painting them purple and pink and orange, leaving me wonderstruck at the artistry of it all. Then I turn to the harbor(u)r on my right, the boats bobbing in the blue-gray water. I feel my blood pressure lower, and often TH appears beside me, taking it in too even though he’s had longer to get used to it over the visits he paid before we all moved, and he tells me about those weeks when he watched alone–how there was a different sunset every day.

So yeah, that’s not quite the same as the occasional day-enders I’d catch from the window back home, when I’d pull the boys out the front door and onto the porch to witness the setting sun through the trees of our neighborhood. We have a different view now.

But so much is similar. There was the moment in a local (and now favorite) pasta takeaway shop, after I’d heaved the stroller through the doorway and placed my order and waited in a rare moment of quiet with the boys then heard a familiar crying sound and saw that it wasn’t my #preciouschildren but those of the woman who had just entered with her stroller, out of which had clambered a boy who was now throwing himself onto the floor in a fit of passion. She sighed deeply, the same sigh I emit several hundred times a day, and glanced at me with exhaustion in her eyes. “That sounds just like my two,” I told her, and she smiled ruefully, pausing to think. “I mean…” she began, and I waited. “I mean, it’s hardly worth it sometimes, is it?” I think she was referring to leaving the house with small people, though she could have meant more and gotten away with it in the moment, sweat running down her face as it was mine, goodwill evaporating with the day itself. She said it, and I felt less alone and told her so: “I know exactly what you mean.” The language of kinship, of CS Lewis’ “What, you too?”

And there’s church. The place that, outside of our actual house in Atlanta, felt most like home there, surrounded as we were by so many who know our story and embrace us because of and independent of and in spite of it, who prayed us all the way here and haven’t left just because we did, whose messages light up my phone alongside other friends’ and family members’ and carry with them an awareness of those moments that define us, that solidify our existence. You can’t replicate that; it will not bear re-creation. But maybe it can be echoed, transformed, so that it is both similar and different, its own thing here yet not without familiarity.

This week before the Sunday service the boys bounded into the old building with its arched ceilings and stained glass windows, and they ran to the front where the musicians were practicing. They bobbed up and down in their rhythmless white-boy dancing, then chased each other through the rows and around the pews, and the pastor–new to them and yet known from long ago to me–laughed as he approached. He mentioned gin and tonics, getting together, and it was like the pieces of life that I had felt were disappearing were suddenly just being rearranged, falling into their new places. The “for now” part of “home for now” falling away…for now? Or for good, for no matter where we are, this new place will always be a part of us too. A part of our story the same way New York is, never to be unfamiliar again. What a gift, to be scattered around in so many directions like the setting sun.

And when the music played later, the kids in children’s church with TH because it was his week, I heard an old song in a new arrangement, and it was the same but different, and I felt new yet familiar tears fill my eyes in a kind of baptism into this new yet forever the same life. Later, before the sunset, our house made its sounds and instead of frightening TK, they felt familiar: “That’s just the fan turning on,” he told me. As he drifted off to sleep beside me, more peaceful this night than the last and still more peace to cover ahead of us, I thought about how it’s the different sunsets, the different colors, the different places and people and experiences that tell the whole story and make us part of something bigger than ourselves. That mercifully take me out of myself and the tiny world I’d inhabit if given the chance–that choice denied me by a love that won’t let life be so small. The next day, the boys and I turned in our new car onto our new street, and as I grabbed for the new garage door opener that feels strangely similar to our old one, TK spoke to me from the backseat: “Mommy! We’re home.”