My dear Terry Anne
This conversation needs to continue. I must say that I was blown away by the number of responses to that musing of mine two weeks ago. To know that I am not alone, that ‘we’ are not alone, is a great comfort. I know I drive myself mad with my own inability to make my mind up. It’s good to know it’s not just me.
“But you can’t manifest your dream house, Jo, if you don’t know exactly what it is,” said Jacqui, a coach and healer friend of mine recently. Not only do I change my mind regularly about whatkind of house I want, I don’t even know whereI want it or wheneither!
I love reading the novels of Lisa See. They are all about Chinese people in transition, often to the US, and I am endlessly fascinated by the diverse themes she chooses for her books. Two days ago I finished The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, which had two themes – pu’er tea and international adoption. Anyone who has visited me in my home will know that I love tea and have a whole ‘tea drawer’ to choose from as well as a shelf in the cupboard. And yes, of course I pu’er was already in there. That the subject of the novel was close to my heart may be no surprise, but adoption fascinates me too. I have an adopted niece and nephew and several friends who adopted babies from Asia and the transition and progress of these young people captivates me. So why am I telling you this? I’m telling you because the American organization featured in the book that supported families who adopted babies from China had a phrase for how these children felt to have been taken from orphanages in their birth countries, to never know their birth parents, to live a great life in the States but where they always feel like an outsider. That phrase is grateful-but-angry.
I’ve had a look online and it seems the phrase is little-known outside the world See writes about, but it spoke to me. It really spoke to me. I’m grateful for the charmed, blessed, exciting, rich and varied life that our mobile life has given us. But yes, part of me is angry too. I’m angry that this wonderful life has changed me forever in such a fundamental way that home has become an elusive concept. Actually, as I mused on the word ‘angry’ between writing and posting this I realized that this may be too strong a way to describe the emotion I feel. I’m more ‘cross’ than ‘angry’, so I shall rewrite the phrase as grateful-but-cross.
This morning I fetched Mariam Ottimofiorefrom Den Haag Centraal Station so she will be my houseguest while she conducts her whirlwind of a book tour for This Messy Mobile Life. As we sat in my first floor sitting room surrounded by treasures from our years abroad – the peacock blue Chinese cupboards, the terracotta Persian carpets, the Norwegian candlesticks and the Arabic sandalwood chest – she mentioned that Monday Morning Musing.
“You said how much you love it here in Holland,” she began, “and I can see why. Your street is amazing. You have a lovely place here. It’s been home for longer than any other of your postings, right? It must feel like home.”
“Hmm,” I began, my face contorted with confusion because you know, I do really like it here but no, I don’t love it, though maybe I should and I know what Jacqui and all the other coaches out there have to say about using the word should.
It was Mariam who spoke first. “I can see why it must be hard to go back to England.”
“It’s not that I don’t want to go back to England,” I began, faltering, as I found the right words to subtitle my thoughts. “I think that so many places have become home from home for us over the years that my home country has become less like home. And while nowhere abroad could ever be 100% home, now home can’t be 100% home either.”
And so, I’m cross because it’s all of our own doing. All our fault. Ian and I chose to lead this peripatetic mobile life and now the wheel is slowing down and it’s almost time to get off, we don’t know where to go because, well, maybe, nowhere can ever be everything. Not anymore. This makes me grateful-but-cross.
Then you, Terry Anne, wrote your musing last week, continuing this same theme and I replied with a comment that suggested that it was so much easier to go where the company told us to go than it can ever be now to make a choice for ourselves. And this too, makes me grateful-but-cross. I’m happy-but-sad. I’m excited-but-scared. But despite the constant ambivalence I am also comforted to know that it’s not just me.