How I ended up on the other side of the world

It’s been exactly a year since I wrote my last post. A year ago today I was settling in to my new home in Maine; my husband and I were trying to design a new life and meaningful work. We were establishing a new office downtown while literally re-working the land around our house; planting gardens and making this place our home. So how did I end up living on the other side of the planet?

We had often talked about some day moving part-time to New Zealand, where two of our children had settled and were establishing families. How we could do that was a mystery, and didn’t seem practical or even possible. We both have dear family and friends in the States, and I love my new spot on the coast of Maine. But on the other hand, I hate the cold winters. So I would jokingly say that some day, who knows when, we would live in NZ in the winter and in Maine in the summer.

Then we had a month in which everything we knew went through radical shape shifting, as if our lives had been thrown in a blender and the switch was turned on high. My husband’s beloved mother was in her final days, close to death. I was struggling with a new diagnosis of an autoimmune disease, feeling lost in a swirl of confusion and fear about treatment. My elderly father announced he was marrying a much younger woman we barely knew. In the midst of this life storm, a conversation started about a short-term winter work stint for my husband in NZ. It was almost a joke, a wild card. Maybe it started as an escape. First it was just some fun talk, then casual inquiries through connections. Within a day or two there were real job possibilities, letters sent, phone calls. An application was filled out; new options emerged.  Soon he had a Skype interview with a committee, an official invitation for a full-time job. Could we really even do this? It all happened in barely a two-week period. As the season shifted from autumn into early winter, our lives turned inside out. In a blur of paperwork, red tape and preparing for relocation, we had almost no time to let it all sink in.

When most people would be making moves toward cutting back on work and retiring, my husband jumped back into the fray. It would bring him closer to his young grandchildren, and release him from a long-tired relationship with the US medical system. We knew that this opportunity might not come again as we became ”older”. I admired him for this. I was overcome with a desire to escape the encroaching dark New England winter; the cold season is increasingly difficult for me to deal with. The sublime beauty of New Zealand always entranced me. But I wondered, could I live so far away from loved ones?

Just a few weeks earlier we had hosted an open house at our new office in Maine, which we had spent months establishing with great effort. The reality was like a huge U-turn: it was as if life was saying No! Not that way, try this way! But what if we were wrong? What about all the love and effort poured into our last year of setting up our new life? What was happening?tsunami sign

Sometimes in the middle of such radical re-alignment it is hard to know if one is finally striking out on the path that is the “true, right path”– or is it an escape route? Is it an effort to run away?

But I also have a sense of the passage of time and opportunities; and the way things happen that force decisions, no matter how “wise” and in control we think we are. And it was yet another example of the power of speaking something enough and having it become real.

For years we had spoken of our desire to try taking this leap, and then the cliff appeared on our path. The jump was difficult and maybe we both got a bit disoriented by the rocks and eddies. I returned to Maine for the summer and have spent time re-orienting to my new reality: now I feel ready to return to my new home abroad. My spirit needed to catch up with the drastic change. My husband will soon be “home” on vacation in Maine, where we will celebrate with a large family gathering. Then we will return to our new life on the other island on the other side of the world, just when the New Zealand spring is about to blossom.

I look forward to writing about the adventure that this has become: the amazement and wonder I feel at the way life can change, the setting up of a new home and finding work in a foreign country, and the desire to find my place in this new landscape. I still need to find out what “home” really means for me right now. But at the heart is my growing need to be in relation and communication with the ever-widening circle of people in my life, and how that can happen from anywhere on the planet.

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