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Stoicism is not one of my stronger suits. If I love something or someone, I express it readily, wholeheartedly, and enthusiastically. If I’m upset, I’m quick to pinpoint the issue and talk about it (maybe more than my loved ones may like sometimes) and work through it. Even though I can embrace confusion, uncertainty, and others’ mysticisms, I quickly sort my own impressions about life into black or white.
Moving across the country has changed that for me.
Sure, I have the same me-isms. But in the interest of self-preservation, my natural approach certainly isn’t the same. It started when moving was first put on the table. We were in a position where something needed to change in our lives fast. The opportunity to move was a lucrative one. Furthermore, this prospect would finally utilize my husband’s full potential after he had moved away from a great career to be with me. Despite the promise this opportunity held, I suddenly found myself, a person who had always used a robust vocabulary to introspect and assess, unable to say anything more than I absolutely had to on the subject. My parents would broach moving and get single word answers. I knew I needed to get my best friends up to speed. I didn’t want to just spring it on them, if and when it happened. But I could barely muster up what to say via text, let alone in person.
Then word came, we were moving.
It didn’t deflate me like bad news had before, and it didn’t thrill me like new opportunities always had either. There I was, the person who wasn’t ambivalent about the slightest thing in life, and I was just okay. Nothing more, nothing less. I moved out of our home of two years apathetically. I moved into my parents’ for the interim focused on the present. Was I in denial? I couldn’t tell.
When we left the west coast for our new city, I was ready to be with my husband again and to see our new place. That was all. I was leaving most of the people I love and the city I was completely in love with. Yet, I felt not much of anything. Just occasionally these pangs of sadness in the depths of my stomach would hit me. They were pangs I didn’t want to dive into and fully identify for fear that my new found stoicism would quickly dissipate and all that would be left would be upset.
We got settled in and I started to find some real assets in where we moved. The most obvious being we had moved from an over-priced 1100 sq. ft. apartment to a much larger, less expensive home. Our area is so family-friendly. Though I loved the multilinguistic nature of my previous neighbourhood, it is so nice to go to the park and strike up a conversation with anyone. But the pangs remain if anything they’ve gotten stronger. At first, it was simply memories from home. Now, they’ve graduated to other associations. I like daydreaming about whatever a given season or time of year may bring. Warm memories yield aspirations to do something similar, to re-explore. Right now, the smells of summer illicit evocative thoughts of sand beneath toes, the tide out, salt air dancing on our tongues, and the caress of a light breeze around me and the kids. I long to squat by tide pools, surveying the plethora of life at our feet as I did throughout each summer of my childhood and as I did with my toddlers last year. Though these recollections remain fond, they also make the pangs of sadness more acute.
I have soldiered on.
Since the move, I have kept the introspective part of my personality securely boxed. This core trait of my personality may as well be under the basement stairs, like our Christmas decorations or nicknacks I’m not sure we ever had or ever will have a proper place for (but can’t face throwing out).
This changed somewhat when we took our kids’ to their first movie. When it comes to entertainment, I can’t think of anything I love more than Pixar or Disney. Inside Out has all of the intricacies of predecessors like the Toy Story franchise or Monsters prequel and movie. Pretty quickly into it, the film’s depth both set itself apart from others in its cohort and had me captivated. (***Spoiler Alert***) The movie centres around four characters that reside inside the mind of an eleven-year-old girl, Riley. Though all five characters control Riley’s emotions, Joy is the executive. She plays the predominant role in the day-to-day, tries to keep Sadness at bay and is the integral emotion in all of the girl’s core memories – the memories that define who she is. Riley’s father’s job takes their family from Minnesota to San Francisco. Shortly after the move, Joy finds Sadness unable to keep her hands off of the core memories. Golden memories integral to who Riley was bit by bit become clouded blue. The movie proceeds. And the lesson is that major change may cloud or vastly alter core characteristics, but true beauty and substances emerge from sadness.
I sat beside my little girl in her booster seat, her eyes filled with wonder, mine a waterfall of tears. I wondered if being moved by the movie to the point of uncontrollable tears might undo my resolve to see what I have and not what I left behind. Instead, the veracious imagery of the memories from home turning blue has given me a way to frame the pangs I feel from time to time. Maybe they won’t go away until I’m back on my west coast once more, but until then, I can understand them, acknowledge them, and be a whole lot more than okay.