Living Two Lives
Life is one big transition.
If it seems like I've hopped through a lot of countries lately, it's because I have. I currently find myself somewhat settled for a week back in England, celebrating my darling Grandma's 90th (and getting my troublesome coccyx seen to, but that's another story and a whole lot less exciting than an nonagenarian grandmother).
I'm thrilled to be back, I truly am. Last Sunday saw me spending time with three cousins, their spouses and adorable offspring and getting all soppy as Grandma was handed helium balloons by her great-grandchildren. I'm getting to be with family and, since I haven't done it a whole lot in recent years, these precious moments are unendingly special to me.
This coming after a fantastic three weeks of fiction writing back in Abu Dhabi, with that jaunt to Sri Lanka in between, and the combination puts me in a place of privilege that seems downright ridiculous.
But – could you hear the but coming? – it's bloody tough to move between them. I love both my lives, I positively adore them, but they exist separately. Admittedly each set of people know the others and ask about them and I speak freely about both homes wherever I am, but they feel separate nonetheless. When I am in Cheltenham, Abu Dhabi feels as mythical as the Middle East that's presented in Aladdin, because I can't quite comprehend that life I lead out there when I'm in the childhood home I have known all 23 years of my life. But when I'm in Abu Dhabi, it's every bit as much home, even if the time I have resided there has been shorter.
It's taken me years to figure out why I feel so out of sorts a few days either side of leaving each time. I feel like my head exists completely differently, even though I'm just as authentically me in both places. It's incredibly hard to comprehend, much less describe, which is, of course, why I'm writing about it. I don't know how I feel until I start typing furiously.
A good friend, am American currently studying in the UK, described it as apparating between lives and when I saw her words I knew she got it. I knew that she knew how hard it was to transition between, no matter how happy or excited you are to be in which ever place you've just rocked up to. I don't think this is an exclusively international thing, I'm sure it's every bit as tough to flit between separate experiences within the same country, but I've only come to know it through the 3,500 mile gap that marks the space between my homes. Coming home is akin to jumping in a furiously fast flowing river and trying to swim. I am pulled along in the stream that life here dictates, but the sudden exposure leaves me feeling like I am drowning until I suddenly find my footing.
Knowing this is how I feel makes it easier, another reason why I'm writing this. I'm curious to see if others have experienced it, if others know of my dilemma. Sometimes it feels like I only just settle in to somewhere before I am wrenched back out, forced to readjust once again. With just eight short days I fear that will be the case this time.
For those at home, please know it doesn't hamper my enjoyment of you all. I am thrilled to be with you and around you. But forgive me if I am a little grumpier, or harder to understand. I don't quite understand myself in this stage, I have just come to observe it break after break and recognise it for what it is. A sort of anti-homesickness. It's not even that I'm desperate to be back wherever I have just flown from; my heart may well be here at home with you, but for whatever reason my head is not and it's a tiring and confusing state of affairs for a while.
I can already feel myself relaxing back into being home (well, not relaxing that hard because I have a million and one things to do, but you know what I mean). Soon I will face no such problem, as I bid Abu Dhabi goodbye for ever. But in the meantime I just want to put it out there, see who else can relate. Share your experiences with me, as I have come to do with you, for I find so much comfort in the shared experience of others. Living between two lives: it's not easy, but I must remember how lucky I am to have both.