I have a confession to make. Despite being back in The Hague for two and a half years now, despite this being a familiar place, despite living in a house we actually own, we are still not feeling settled.
Notice how I said ‘we’? Ian feels the same. All this time and yet we are still not really ‘engaged’ with this beautiful city. We still feel in limbo. Unsettled. Uneasy. Part of me admits I don’t really want to belong. I want to be somewhere else. I don’t know where, even. I go back to my home town to visit my mother and see old friends, gaze at the beauty of England’s finest stone town and I want to live there. I go to Devon to spend time in an isolated hamlet deep in a secret valley with dear friends and pick gooseberries and beetroot and I want to live there. We visit Josh who is now living on the Costa Blanca and eat calamari a la planchaand want to live there. I have felt as if I want to live anywhere but here. And yet. And yet, the truth is – The Hague is a wonderful place to live. It is beautiful, with wide streets and elegant houses, wild green spaces and safe and plentiful cycle lanes. Things work here. People speak English, happily. We have friends. We can be on the beach watching a sunset in less than half an hour. We have cinema passes and go watch independent and foreign films every week. So why is it so hard to give in and accept we are here and it’s fabulous and we are lucky
I have been thinking about this a lot lately and wonder whether this feeling of perpetual discombobulation is the price we have paid for living 32 years on the move. So used to moving on that, like when you finally step on land after a few days at sea, your body is still lurching forward?
We feel ungrateful. Wicked, even. And we have found a few valid reasons, or excuses, for this unjustified disgruntlement: our boys were home for a long time, so we had a full house and distraction; I don’t belong to any networks anymore; my father was ill and I spent half the time in England last year; I’ve been grieving; we’re getting older and thinking this may be it is scary; moving is our normal.
And so, for the last few weeks Ian and I have made a real effort to name and notice the good things we have here. We are making sure we indulge in weekly trips to the cinema, the live music on offer, the woods at the end of our street, the raw herring. I think of the wisdom of Ruth Van Reken who says that we can only integrate in a community if we go out and explore it – so we are putting more trips out in the diary. But mostly, I am just making an effort to be mindful and to mentally appreciate things. I mean, how many people can be at an international airport within an hour of their own front door on public transport? How many people can live without owning a car? How many people live a 20-minute walk from the city centre and walk past horse chestnut trees and waterways on their way to the Apple store?
Is it working? Ask me in a month.
Does this post resonate with you? I’m curious to know whether it’s just me.