If you’ve never noticed before, the tagline of my blog is “moving on and settling down…all at once.” However many years it’s been since I came up with that, I still find it appropriate. The “moving on” part is about not getting stuck in a rut, letting go of things that don’t fit my life anymore, and always evolving. The “settling down” part is about putting down roots, building deep relationships, and generally becoming a grownup. I don’t think I’ll ever stop doing either of these things, but right now, they are both really difficult.
I still haven’t gone back to work. I thought about it last week, and every time I did, I had a mini-panic attack. We decided that was probably a pretty good indication that I wasn’t ready yet. This week, I decided to dip the tiny tip of my pinky toe in the water and visit my classroom…while it was empty. Some copies I’d requested had arrived, and I thought if I was considering going back to work next week, I should probably pick them up and do some planning. I didn’t want to see anyone, though (red flag), so I chose to swing by after everyone had left for the day. I got my copies and sat in my classroom for a few minutes feeling utterly uncomfortable and out of place. I tried to imagine a group of students sitting in there. Then I tried to envision myself giving a vocabulary lesson, and I just couldn’t do it. It felt so foreign to me. It honestly felt like I wasn’t even the same person as before, like a really intense experience of reverse culture shock – where you go away for a while and when you come back to your home culture, you find that you don’t fit the same way (or at all) anymore.
I keep saying that it would be so much easier if I could just start a brand new job – an office gig where I could just go, do my work, and keep to myself (maybe listen to music and podcasts all day while I do my thing). And while I’m still pretty sure that’s true, I would definitely get bored with that kind of job later on. It’s just that right now, teaching still requires more from me than I have to give socially, and the thought of going back to “normal” makes me very sad.I guess my problem right now is that I don’t know where to move on and where to settle down. I don’t know what to let go of and what to dig into.
“Normal” doesn’t mean the same thing it did a month ago. A month ago, we had just started to wrap our brains around the idea that our lives were changing completely. A month ago, our to-do list included rearranging everything in our condo so we could turn our guest room into a nursery. A month ago, getting fatter was a thing of pride for me, and being out of breath was just how things were. A month ago, I had gotten used to accepting congratulations and answering questions about baby things. A month ago, I had just started to feel little flutters of movement in my belly, and although it was weird, it was expected. It was normal.
Along with all of that, a month ago, going to work every morning and teaching was normal, but now that my whole world has been dumped on its head, I can’t just go back to business as usual. It seems wrong that the world is still turning, that billions of people are carrying on as though nothing terrible has happened. Losing Ella felt like being thrown off of a moving carnival ride, and going back to work feels like trying to jump back on while it’s still in motion, knowing that once I get back on, it won’t be as fun anymore.
I suppose that’s what it’s like when you lose anyone. Even if you can get back on the ride, one of your ride buddies won’t be there. It would be easier to hop on a different ride – one that is just starting up, one where all your memories are yet to be made, one where there are only seats to be filled, not seats left empty by those who are gone too soon.
Moving on seems easier, but I’ve done too much settling down to just leave it all behind. Moving on seems like it would bring the instant relief I want right now from the pain of going back to a past that doesn’t look like my future. But settling down offers the long-term comfort and support of those who’ve loved me all along and will continue to do so.
When it comes to work, I’m tempted to move on, but I think settling down is the better choice. When it comes to my daughter, however, I’m not ready to move on, but I can’t settle down either. Not the way I was planning to anyway. I feel like a shift in perspective would help a lot, like “it’s not that I’m moving on from my daughter, but…” or “I can’t settle down into motherhood, but…”
I just don’t know what that new perspective will be or how to get there. Suggestions welcome.