The clock is ticking and in just under 10 days we will start the process of moving countries. Exciting, scary, overwhelming and sad all feature at the moment. The logistical aspect of it makes it very hard to even tune in to what is happening. But we have started our goodbyes. It is really happening. We are leaving.
For many years, we talked about ‘moving back’. With that language, no wonder the prospect was not appealing. It always reminded us of the fact that it was backwards. It almost added a bitter failure to it, a need to compromise. Ok, we won’t have our jobs but at least we will move back and have the beach. Valise en carton style.
Not surprisingly, that has not happened while we maintained this language. I mean why would it? No matter how much you love your home country, back is not something you easily choose. So the language had to change.
A few years ago I started focusing more on the prospect of reallocating or just moving. Not back, just moving. It was about the physical location and all the implied. We had the house, we had the family, we had the friends. But what was missing then? When you are not moving back exclusively for emotional reasons and you think of a fully blown reallocation of your life, that is when things get real.
That is when you can make a plan and think about all the implications. What does it mean to live there? How will the logistics be? What will we do for a living? What are the benefits that we want to have? How can life change? What can you gain? And what will you loose along the way?
Which takes me to my last language of moving…
Moving somewhere else also means you leave something behind. Leaving was really why none of the above was quick to come to fruition. London has given us an amazing life, in fact it has given us life as we know it. After 17 years away and approaching 40 years old, I actually don’t know any other grown up life other than the one I am leaving behind. Yes, I am keeping a fair amount of the London life, especially on the work front, and arguably a few friends as I will keep commuting into London.
However, life as I know it today, the weekends in Chelsea, the brunches, the steak nights, the walking kids to school, the theatres we never went often enough, the Halloween in the Boltons, the playdates I always procrastinated on booking, the dinners with friends or the outings to the local cemetery park during lockdown. The independent life of our family unit of 4. That part comes to an end. Arguably, that is what life was about.
Catia says I have to do less connecting with boxes and more connecting with the loss. And call it by its name. So I have been doing so. I don’t replace feelings of sadness with all the good that there is to come. There is indeed a lot of good that will come.
But right now, there is a lot of loss that needs to be embraced and lived. I hug people goodbye rather than just throwing in a Covid-awkward wave. I allow tears to come as they are finding ways into my life more often these days. I empathise with the ones telling me they will miss me – ‘I will miss you too’, and ‘you are very special’ takes place of ‘don’t worry, we will meet again’.
Maybe we will. And I know we will for the people that gained special places in our lives and we were privileged to encounter. But it will never be the same as it is today. The casual encounter, the next door drink, the spontaneous chatter. Yes, it may be just as special in the future, but the past is no longer repeatable, and that’s ok.
The other side
I told Little Girl C she does not have to always be excited about this. From her little 8-year-old self she judges already plenty what she should and should not feel. So I leave the door open for her to be mad or sad. And I tell her I am sad too, no matter how much I think I will love living in Portugal.
As to the other side and all the good (and not so good) stuff that awaits, I am sure I will be writing about that too. But for now, it is time to look around and de-clutter. Find out what stays behind and is gone for good, and what stays behind but still belongs in your next life. Because leaving is loss, no matter the gain.