21 Feb Leaving
So we have a full day to go and we are almost packed – so much so that Jim is painting again and I am writing this. What’s left is a day tomorrow when we might have time to walk one of our favourite walks once more.
The mood changed about 3 days ago. For some reason, we start the countdown to leaving long before we need to. Unable to settle to anything; ready to go but it’s not yet time to leave. The physical packing will take us a day: sorting, filling bags and boxes, washing, cleaning, putting the things we’ve moved back into their proper places, trips to the recycling bins, doing the other things I can’t recall just now. Inevitably, we start this day-long process at least 3 days too early.
You see, the mental packing takes longer. I know to start it when the restlessness creeps in. That happens all of a sudden. It seems that, unconsciously, my gaze gets turned towards home, preparing for the journey first then for the resumption of the other life. It does feel like another life. We are the same people but we live and breathe very differently here. It’s as if the air acts differently in our lungs, as if we are animated by a different spirit for a while.
It strikes me as odd but perhaps it’s normal that you can attach to new routines, adapt to a ‘foreign’ environment and feel at home in it, and make that shift so quickly even though it’s for such a short time. We arrive here on the threshold of 7 weeks that stretch into the distance full of possibility. We bring expectations of all the things we can achieve: paintings to be painted; words to be read and written; blogs to be blogged; walks walked; meals cooked; places explored; new acquaintances formed. We have privileged glimpses into other people’s lives; they can’t really see into ours so there is no possibility to reciprocate. If we wanted to, we could pretend to be almost anything, come to think of it. Felon, fugitive, fashionista – no, no, I do realise there are limits! We enter into it all, probably I do more than Jim, and it’s congenial for the duration. I don’t mean that to sound like I find it tiresome, though I might were the duration to be enduring. The odd thing is how easy it is to habituate for a while, to blend in a little, to gain a kind of easy familiarity. And the prospect of returning for the third time next year makes you feel like you belong a little.
As the 7 weeks becomes time in the rearview mirror, we start to count out the expectations that we saw from the threshold, to work out how many of them we’ve done, maybe rue the ones we haven’t and contemplate the unexpected ones. Those are the more interesting, the things you didn’t notice lurking up ahead as you stood on that threshold. There’s the sense of wellbeing that comes from a lot of time in the open air, exercise, good food, good books and good sleep. Of course, there’s no reason not to have that same combination at home but mostly you don’t; it’s good to confront that conundrum. Then there’s the challenge of structuring time when the usual structures, props, diversions and excuses that are normally to hand are not there. There has just been you and all this time in front of a blank canvas or a fresh sheet of paper to use or not use. There are the demands of being with someone solidly without the occasional respite of events, of arrangements with others. My Pilates classes for an hour 3 times a week is the extent of our reprieve from each other. The intensity of that time together can be taxing, the capacity to be comfortable with silences, to accept moods that move subtly and inexplicably and not feel they are somehow always attributable to something we said or did or, indeed, to anything at all except being human.
So this interlude, this exile of sorts is a time for thinking in ways that you don’t seem to be able to think at home, at least not very much. I’m not saying it gives you the answers, but just having the questions is quite a thing.