Last year this time, we were just settling into have another baby. Only a few weeks to go before we’d expand to a family of five. It was the month of June. My favorite. The best of life for me. The beginning of summer, the longest day of the year, birthdays galore, gardens, late nights with friends, bare feet and for three of the past six years, the birth of my babies. I always feel alive, connected to family and inspired.
For all I knew, life would stay the same and I could count on more and more inspired summers.
Except for this one little wild-hair-crazy-idea of A’s. An overseas job in New Caledonia! What?!
This was the extent of the early conversations:
“Babe.” Followed by a long pause and a stern look. “I’m about to have a baby. There is no way you can talk to me about this,” I would say. I remember an incredible surge of anger and emotion in response to a) the idea in general and b) the timing of the idea.
“But you should just look at the pictures,” A would try to sneak in.
“Listen, this hypothetical inquiry is a waste of my time. You can just keep this silly idea to yourself. Because, in this moment, my answer is HELL NO. I’m not moving anywhere. Why mess with a good thing? Now i’m going to make dinner and put the kids to bed and clean out the babies room for the birth pool. If you ever get a job offer, you can ask me about it then.”
A has lots of overseas ideas. This was really nothing new. I was banking on the fact that he would either lose interest or he would never get a final job offer. I couldn’t bear the idea of leaving my cocoon at this time in our lives. It would be too painful and a logistical nightmare.
But here we are. In New Caledonia, our family of five. This is when I realize that so much can happen in a short period of time. A change can come out of nowhere and suddenly redirect your trajectory despite your best laid plans.
Somewhere between mid July and late September of last year, A had a few interviews, got a job offer, went thru rigorous negotiations (with his employer, then me). After a long period of silence (and anger), I went right through the biggest ball of fear I’ve ever faced and said YES. YES, lets pack up our great life and move to the other side of the world on an adventure. YES, lets take an unknown risk. I blame this quote that found its way into my hands during this time.
“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.” Joseph Campbell
And now we are six months in and the dust is just beginning to settle.
Our house is now a home. We recently spent a weekend hanging 47 pictures. It brought a warmth to the 100% white walls and tile floors that was long overdue. Faces of family and friends are all around us and our guest room is slowly opening up for our first visitors. I indulge in a little ‘decorating’ and DQ design when I need a little pick me up or distraction. Box by box and room by room, we are moving in. Its my way of slowly and slowly accepting reality.
A has the best work/life balance he has had in a decade, which he deserves. Commuting on route 270 from Frederick to Washington DC is known as one of the worst commutes in the country and he did it for way too long. Nowadays, he kicks on his converse sneakers, billabong jeans, island button up and makes the long 5 minute commute to his office, which is in a prime beach front location. On his 1 hour lunch break, he grabs Phillipe and Sio, his windsurfing coworkers, and heads out for a 30 minute session. Windsurfing is like snowboarding in that you just totally SUCK at it, until you just GET it. But A is one persistent dude. Now, given decent wind conditions, he can hop on the board/sail contraption and ride to a small island just off the coast in a matter of minutes. Plenty of time left to get back to work by 1pm. Island life suits him well.
If I had a lunch break, I’d do the same. Minus the windsurfing. Just the quick trip the beach part. Just me, my sunnies and a towel and you can stick a fork in me. I’m done.
But the novelty of the water has worn off for the kids. Its so hard getting picked up in a land rover, being served a fresh assortment of delicious snacks in the back seat, slipping your shoes off to walk onto the beautiful empty beach, all within 5 minutes of leaving school. “I don’t WANT to go to the beaaaaaaaaaaaaachhhhhhh,” they say. Transitions are hard. I get it. Good thing I’m not asking them to go home and do homework. After food settles into belly the resistance subsides and before you know it everyone is happily splashing in the water. And then, of course, noone wants to go home.
Fortunely, one of them has not learned how to ‘backtalk.’ She’s just taking a few small steps and blurting out caveman sounding words. She can be scooped up from just about anywhere and conveniently carried to the next adventure. Despite her regular night wakings and stealth ability to scratch my cornea and cause me more pain that her own labor and delivery, Paloma Rudisill continues to be delightful, charming and all things considered, easy. The little dove reminds me how quickly life moves. Inside of the six months we have been here she has sat up on her own, grown a complete head of hair, learned to crawl, say her first words and now walk. Whenever I need attitude adjustment or reminder to be present to the moment, I look from Paloma to Jonah and see how quickly this time passes.
Jonah is exiting the innocent childhood phase of life and becoming a boy. Navigating playing with other kids without his best skillset – his language, is interesting to observe. He is without complaint, on point at school and adjusting well overall. He has several friends but only one of them speaks English (and French and Russian). Jonah thinks Vasilina is a boy. And indeed, Vasilina wants to be a boy and looks like a boy. But Vasilina’s mother says she is a girl. Apparently she used to have long, pretty hair but really wanted a boys haircut and clothes. She is tall, in charge, has exceptional language skills and is probably in spy school already. Jonah is undeterred by his/her gender confusion and calls him his ‘best friend.’ He is also experiencing some serious infatuation. Our neighbor Sophie is ‘hard to get,’ and keeps Jonah guessing if she likes him or not. So, he loves her. When pushed on the subject, he articulates that he doesn’t really like to play with her, but he likes it when she likes him. Whew. And so, with all the ups and downs of becoming a boy, his main outside of school activity is jujitsu. Three years of practice now and he’s gaining skills and confidence every week.
Ivy is the best, most beautiful strong willed child I could ask for. The french is seeping in through her skin and coming out at unexpected a surprising times. She corrects my English words for the French ones and can be caught singing French tunes throughout the day. As long as her little love tank is topped off and she is getting plenty of attention, she is fantastic in every way. But if we slip up and have other children to tend to, or she is hungry or tired, you might as well just put on earplugs and settle in for some screaming. And she doesn’t really care if you punish her. Go ahead. Make my day. She comes around when she is damn ready. I might speed that come around up if I go into character or pretend to be someone else. “Mom, you be the girl and i’ll be the mom,” she’ll say. Always imagining and pretending, that little Ivy Lu.
As a duo, Ivy and Jonah have re-discovered each other since the neighbors went off to New Zealand for holiday. They are a good play team and really love each other. Paloma is starting to get their attention and they include her in their forts and ships and lego-a-thons more and more. Jonah will spend long periods of time being silly with her and they both talk about how cute she is. Cute on top of cute, what can top that?
As for me, the winter has hit me hard. I’m wrapped in my sleeveless sweater and have my 1 pair of socks on most of the time. I drag myself to the beach on the days it is barely 80 degrees at high noon for a 20 minute vitiman D pick-me-up and make plenty of warm soups when it dips below 70 degrees. I am contemplating asking Claire to send my North Face jacket for my camping expeditions. God forbid I feel uncomfortable or cold. That was not part of the deal A sold me. He said South Pacific. And I heard – HOT. TAN. ALL. THE. TIME. I feel slighted.
JUST kidding. Winter is pretty sweet here. I do feel a bit disoriented though. Its about to be the shortest, not the longest, day of the year on June 21st. It gets dark at 530pm and the kids are mid semester in school. The thermometer still reflects early summer temps, but it actually feels cold by comparison to the sweltering heat when we arrived in New Caledonia on January 4th. My body is expecting a more distinct seasonal shift.
Yoga-ing is still happening daily but now that Paloma is about a year old, I’m VERY slowly kicking it up a notch. I started a 21 day challenge with a group of women here – just to walk or run for 20 minutes every day until the winter solstice. So far, so good. Everywhere you go it is BEAUT-I-FULL and just a short walk or run around the neighborhood is filled with steep climbs and sweeping views. As my community expands, I’ve discovered a few Ayurveda junkies and took an Organic chocolate making workshop with a bunch of hippies. And I woke up the other day thinking I am ready to start teaching a (yoga) class here. I think all my walking/running has opening up a wellspring of enthusiasm that has been drained out by sleepless nights. But my days of good energy get me into trouble. Perhaps a wiser decision would be to sit in a rocking chair and finish some books I’ve started, or do my 2013 taxes that still await me. The truth is, there is no extra time – not for sleep, not for teaching yoga, not for reading books.
No time, because I still work. I still have a ‘job,’ aside from all this house-wifey, mommy stuff. Working remotely for Sol Yoga has been a great anchor for me and source of comfort since we have arrived. Keeping me connected to my other baby, my passion and group of intimate friends and family. It has not been without challenge though. Waking up to resignation letters and the limitations of one dimensional communication from a far away time zone is both exhilerating (I love a challenge) and a test of patience (If only I could just pop over to the studio this would be soooooooooo much easier). Nonetheless, the studio thrives on and I feel validated in my endeavors.
So, this June, from my unexpected perch in the south pacific, I can appreciate the beauty of my life 1 year ago and a new life here. I feel alive and so connected to my nuclear family of five, fueled and supported from afar by lifetime long relationships that withstand the test of distance and time, stabilized by my regular yoga practice and inspired more than ever to live the life that is right beneath my nose. This will likely be the most beautiful place I ever live and the only time my children truly want to snuggle me constantly. La vie est belle!
(disclaimer – I wrote this post a week ago on a glorious few hours I had ALONE. Today, as I finally post it, I am on the other end of the spectrum. It is indeed a beautiful day outside and sure, life is beautiful, but I’ve been puked on, peed on and had to clean some other kids poop off my floor. After 2 weeks of school vacation, I’m ready to lose it. I think this is why I write. I have MOMENTS of great clarity and perspective that must be etched in time because the rest of the time I’m in the trenches and can’t find any wipes.)