This morning, I had to admit to Hal that my homesickness has ratcheted up a notch lately. A big notch. So much so that, in my mind, I unconsciously find myself adding "when we go back" to the end of my thoughts. Unconsciously, until this morning when I heard my thoughts loud and clear. It stopped me in my tracks. Why was my mind going there? Why am I so homesick all of a sudden?
Consciously, I don’t want to go back. Our lives are good here. We are comfortable, we know people, we get around, we love the country, the adventure. The language is even manageable. We are certainly as comfortable as anyone could be after such a short time in a new country, learning a new language, having left behind "x" number of years of familiarity. TTTT.*
Two years is the common turnaround time for expats who go back and we are fast
approaching two years. No comments from the peanut gallery, Mr. Jones. But is there some catharsis that does or doesn’t happen at the two year mark?
Sandford, my Key West mentor for 18 years, taught me a couple of things. Like the notion of displacement of effective stress: like yelling at the boys when I’m upset over a work situation or really mad at Hal. Like, it is darkest before the dawn. Confusing situations are most confusing just before clarity. Discomfort is most intense just before the seas calm. I’ve noticed that if I just hang in there long enough without quitting or running away, the answer comes. I’m going to assume this intense homesickness a) is not what it seems and b) will resolve. There is a light at the end of this tunnel. Maybe it’s lighting up a path back to the states… I have to be open to that possibility. But I can’t run back because I’m homesick. That would just be too embarrassing. Too weak. Heck, I’m no quitter.
But I’m looking for resolution. I can feel this anxiety in my body. That can’t be good.
I had a dream a few nights ago. We had moved back to Key West and had done it very quickly. Sort of like how we moved here. I don’t remember what precipitated the move, but we were in an empty rented house in Key West. It was really HOT and we were sweating. The house was your basic ranch style 1100sf three bedroom 1 bath center hallway CBS** with older yellow carpeting.
As I walked around this house in my dream, there was no strong emotion, just a pleasant familiarity, relief from the anxiety of "new" which I guess I still feel here more than I care to admit. My dream house was perfectly livable, but definitely the Key West house we would now be able to afford instead of the spacious, newly renovated Key West house with a pool we’d left behind.
As I walked, those nice feelings of familiarity evolved into feeling disoriented, then an overwhelming homesickness for this house, our Costa Rica home: the light, the view, the space. The feelings of accomplishment and security I have when I’m here. Of relief because we escaped to a friendlier place. I thought, "Oh my God, what have we done?" Probably the thought most of our friends had when we left Key West… In my dream, I was so confused, very sad, so much that I started crying which woke me up.
Ok, so I’m a little conflicted. Emotions are messy, illogical and unpredictable. There’s a saying: feelings are not facts. Good thing. Feelings are just clues so you know to look for the effective stress hiding underneath. As far as actually going back…
Politically, we can’t imagine going back unless Ron Paul were to win, which, as Pollyanna as I can be, just seems unlikely. Until last week, I was pretty certain it was gonna be Hillary which will make Mom happy, but I’m in the ABH camp. A Clinton in the White House will be more expensive and destructive for our economy than even we can imagine. Sadly, I don’t believe Obama or Giuliani will be any better. Happily, there’s still a year of promises to go before Decision 2008. What fun.
Financially, going back to Key West right now is out of the question. Cost of living is just too high. We’d be flat broke in six months with the same money that will give us almost two more years here.
Earning a living there that will allow us an equivalent
quality of the life to the one we enjoy here seems unlikely, even in
Key West where I still have a business and contacts. My small property
management business there is good, expanding, even with me here. But
the real estate sales business is costly to be in and sales are way,
way down. Key West is out, for now.
Then there’s the weather. I don’t know if we could live in Florida heat again. Especially when we enjoy perfect weather here: no ac, no heat, with our choice of cold mountain or sweltering beach within two hours’ drive.
So if we moved back to the states, we’d have to move to a new city, probably in central Florida. No language barrier, but we’d be going through the whole New Surroundings thing, culture shock of a different ilk, all over again. We just got through this one!!! Plus starting a business in a completely new place… oy vey. We are doing that here… what advantage is there to moving to yet another new locale?
Besides, it’s my friends and familiarity I miss, not the U.S. So moving anywhere but Key West still leaves me homesick. Logically, there’s no comfort to be found going back. So… what’s the effective stress???
Leave it to Hal, my accidental therapist. When I told him all about my homesickness, wondering if he felt the same, he laughed out loud. He said, "You just say that because we don’t have an income. Let’s keep working on the income. Then the question we’ll be asking is, ‘Where do we go next?’"
Whoa. There it is. I’ve been asking the wrong question. See why I married him? You know, I always go back to safe. Hal never does. The "where do we go next" question completely eluded me. If the answer turns out to be "back to the U.S.," I can live with that. I’d just like to be driven forward by hope and possibility rather than driven back by anxiety and fear. If Hal can do it, I can learn to. There’s something useful to teach the boys!
*TTTT = Chat room talk for "these things take time."
**CBS = Concrete Block Structure