Are you settled in now, then?
That’s the question I think I am most often asked these days, and the one I am finding most difficult to answer.
As such, I’ve decided that the question probably needs rephrasing! For example…
Does the house you are currently residing in feel like your home, now?
Do you know what… I think it does! I’ve just returned from a four day trip to see my parents, and not once did I auto-pilot back down the road to Durham whenever the kids mentioned ‘home’! (I mean, I also intentionally avoided the entire city for fear of an hormonal, nostalgic meltdown, but that is not the point!)
Do you feel like you belong in the neighbourhood, now?
Well, I’ll never have the accent, but I’m proud to say I’ve learned quite a few shortcuts from our house, and found that strangely liberating! What’s more, thanks to either accosting or ignoring the postman (top tip!), I’ve also managed to have some substantial parcel-swapping conversations with a few of our Pleasantville neighbours, including one invitation to tea. Winner!
Have you got your feet under the pew yet?
Ironically, since deciding to pick a church and stick to it, Husband has experienced a flaw in his timetable and found himself serving at the other- St Loo-less!- every Sunday since. Whereas before this kind of separation would have filled me with dread, I have to say that it’s actually helped me to feel a lot more like an individual, instead.
This week, for example, marked a kind of turning point. Husband was in a hurry in the morning, and the weather wasn’t particularly pleasant; so I insisted he took the car. He eyed me suspiciously, and with good reason; I’d be tempted not to go. But, I assured him, we would walk; and walk we did, because… well, I know some shortcuts! But also, because I actually wanted to.
Unfortunately, however, I misjudged the temperature and the distance; arriving late, cold, and, quite frankly, a little too dizzy to stand. After the service, (and a fair amount of juice and biscuits), the children ran off to play “bread and wine” at the front, (typical Clergy kids!), while I gathered up our things at the back. I walked down, collected them, and started to put them in the pram. They ran back down the aisle. This happened twice more, and, after carrying them both simultaneously for the third time, I swear I was ready to cry. (It’s a pretty long aisle!) However, just as I was about to half-waddle -(24 weeks, but already exhausted!)- down the length of the church for a fourth time, someone asked if I was alright?
And do you know what?
I said, “no.”
I actually dropped the act, told the truth and I let them help me.
Small things, right?!
(I mean, the fact that an onlooker then asked how on earth I was going to cope with three, is beside the point. Blocking that unhelpful comment out, it was a pretty progressive exchange, in my book!)
So… does all of this mean we are ‘settled’, then?
Well, not really, no.
I think my problem with the phrasing of this question, to be honest, is that it feels like an oxymoron.
See, for the last four months, I’ve been looking forward to establishing some kind of normal; settling in to our new version of life. However, this wasn’t possible in month one or two, because it was the summer and nothing seemed to be happening as it ordinarily would. Month three was amazing, in some ways, as we took some much-needed time out to holiday as a family… only realising afterwards that booking in something different for every week of the month probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do, (talk about over-stimulated toddlers!) So, I had high hopes for this past, fourth month; aiming to re-settle the children, establish a routine and work out what normal might look like. In reality, however, a succession of special events, visits, and a tendancy to over-compensate by saying yes to too many things, has meant that it never really happened this month, either.
November- as I told a friend earlier this week- is the month for going nowhere, doing nothing special, and establishing a normal routine. November is absolutely, definitely, the month in which we will finally be able to say, with confidence, that we are settled in.
That was my genuine belief.
Until, of course, I realised that Husband is away on two three-day residential trips this coming month and will, for one of them, be taking the car!
Until, that is, my parents quizzed me on our plans for Christmas, and I realised I still haven’t a clue what Husband is committed to do, from one week to the next.
Until, of course, I happened to mention to our neighbour that we will be moving again in another three years, and her jaw dropped to the floor.
Until, that is, I explained this requirement again, to another friend, who said incredulously, “but won’t the kids be in school?!”
Until, of course, it dawned on me that what I am desperately trying to “settle” into, is, characteristically, an unsettled way of life. It is, in its very nature, busy; irregular; temporary; transient; unsettling.
It wasn’t until we went away and spent some time to ourselves, that I realised just how exhausting these past four months have been; and how much we have been asking of our (thankfully!) confident and resilient children. It wasn’t until we were invited to a church event in a different parish, and a toddler’s birthday outing- alongside 65 other people!- that I realised just how far over the limit of small talk I have gone, and how unwilling I am to volunteer for any more! Pregnancy aside; moving, relocating, reestablishing old friendships and attempting to build new relationships at every turn has actually, surprisingly, been quite a lot to contend with!
And the thing is, though three years is a fairly reasonable amount of time, you can’t help being aware, at the back of your mind… that we will have to do this all over again.
And very probably, again.
I’m not sure that I will ever feel settled, because I am beginning to realise that settling isn’t at all what we signed up for.
Nor, I realise with even more trepidation, is it something I can ever guarantee for my kids.
So, while November may not be about settling, after all; it is about cutting ourselves- and most significantly, myself- some slack. To attempt to curb this desperation to see lots of people, do lots of things and achieve tangible goals. To stop beating myself up about not saving the world; and to concentrate on preparing my kids to face it.
That is, to face every last inch of it they have to follow us to…
With confidence, faith, hope and humour,
To discover their own place in it too.
(Now, if I can “settle” us all into that… what more could a mother do?!)