I am haunted:
There’s a landscape behind my eyes.
It’s the backdrop to everything I see.
A longing, emotional landscape...
While looking out at inner city squalor, bleak buildings, traffic and cement...
I am also looking inward, at mountains, forest walks, beaches of whitest sand.
One, my current neighbourhood in Sydney, Australia - the present.
The other, one of the most beautiful corners of the world, the Western Cape in South Africa.
Aside from missing friends and family in the beautiful country of my birth, I always knew I would miss the spectacular beauty of the place we called home for over 3 years.
But other priorities, other considerations, of which I have written in many of my previous blog posts, caused us to make this move – back to Australia, where we have citizenship and lived for many years before too.
We have good reasons to be here. And we won’t always live in this inner city suburb. Sydney, and Australia, has many beautiful places too...
We are still just finding our feet.
But knowing all that doesn’t make it any easier...
Anyone who has moved countries will know there is a period of adjustment to the new place and culture, which can sometimes even result in periods of doubting the reasons one had for moving in the first place.
Even, perhaps especially, when you have lived there before, the adjustment and ‘letting go’ of what had become familiar and comfortable, while rediscovering what one had once experienced as ‘home’...is surprisingly unsettling at times.
I have now done this in both countries. And both times the feelings of strangeness – of being disconnected and ‘alien’...have surprised me.
Of course not everyone thinks about it ‘too much’. I am an analytical sort, and my studies and research have often revolved around the concepts of ‘culture’, ‘belonging’ and ‘identity’. Probably because I have moved so so so so so much in my life! So being in the midst of this journey (again), I can’t help watching it all from an intellectual distance at the same time.
On a much deeper level though, as the South American saying goes: ‘the heart has its reasons the mind knows nothing of’ – and my heart simply will not explain or justify its longing for a country I was really quite eager to leave.
And then there is the feeling of ‘limbo’ – I am still floating somewhere between ‘there’ and ‘here’:
Disconnected from friends ‘there’ – now so far away they may as well be on a different planet: different time zones, different news, different daily concerns...
Not quite reconnected with our many friends here - reconnecting is a slow and surprisingly difficult process, and having a small child means much less freedom or social energy of course...
Even when we have managed a dinner here and there with friends, I end up in a bedroom somewhere trying to settle the bubs, or only half able to join conversations because I am trying to stop her from dismantling the place, or toppling down stairs...
On the way home, beloved husband says: ‘wasn’t that a lovely evening’, and I say ‘hmmm...’ - wondering how he didn’t notice I wasn’t really fully there... and my heart sinks a bit, realising that sometimes even our closeness cannot bridge the
Hopefully at least my friends (the women) will understand.
Of course being a new mum (and intentionally staying home to raise her myself) can be very isolating sometimes, and adds to the difficulties of adjustment, reconnection and generally finding one’ s feet in a ‘new’ place.
It’s hard to explain, but even though I love this child more than life itself, and the joy of this season is greater than any other I have experienced in life so far, it’s still mostly a very lonely time for me.
While husband goes to work and interacts with myriads of people on the way there and back too, I can go for days without any adult interaction aside from our (now fractured) conversations in the evenings.
Another example of our different (gendered) experiences of life after having a baby: while husband was flying to Canada to speak at a week-long conference on Sunday; I was at home with bubs, still in my pyjamas (no, I don’t usually stay in them!) and watching Sesame street.
I knew the week ahead held almost no external interaction for me – even if I went to the shops or tried to meet friends at a cafe – it felt like such a bleak prospect, in this place where I haven’t yet fully reconnected... (hence the pyjamas – but don’t worry it was only a one day ‘slump’)
People I know and love spending time with are actually all around me now – unlike in Cape Town where I had many acquaintances but few very good friends. Yet it’s like there is this invisible force field surrounding me, keeping me at home and still
in my own little ‘bubble’.
Some reading this may fear I have some form of delayed-onset postnatal depression... It has certainly been a concern of mine at times. But no, I think it’s just tiredness -lack of sleep, and the aftermath of (two) big moves.
I am sure, given a bit more time, that things will start to fall into place again. Like the photos on my phone when I flick between them too quickly, my new world and life ahead needs a bit of time to come into focus.
At the moment it’s all a bit blurred, and my eyes are straining - almost to the point of nausea - to see what I am looking at.
Meanwhile, there it is, behind my eyes still –
as I wake;
as I feed bubs in our dark terrace;
as I walk around the semi-industrial neighbourhood;
as I play with the dogs in the (pretty) park across the road;
as I gaze up into my beloved fig trees all around (my one consolation);
as I clean the house or read the paper while bubs sleeps;
as I search online for houses (we are hoping to buy soon);
as I go to bed (waking many times to feed bubs still);
and in my (snatched) dreams...
...the landscape that captured my heart and soul in ways I cannot fully explain (or mentally/intellectually undo);
the backdrop to my days;
the background music of my heart:
Mountains, long white beaches, big African skies...