Upon returning from a visit back home to Chicago for the holidays, I was left with a severe case of woulda, shoulda, coulda. I enjoyed a full week of daily visits with old and new friends, family, and all of my favorite Chicago pizzerias and hot dog joints. To say that leaving again was difficult is quite the understatement. At the end of this particular visit, in addition to feeling sad to say goodbye, I also experienced an incredible case of the what-ifs.
What if I had not moved away? Would things be different in my life? Could I have found a happiness that I have yet to experience in my new surroundings in Arizona? Would my relationships be different? Better?
The first few days back in sunny Arizona proved to be exactly the way I felt the last time I came back after a visit home… It was a bumpy re-entry! Homesickness, loneliness, and self-pity set in. Yes, I’m almost embarrassed to admit those feelings because I honestly do love my new home, the weather, and my chance to get back in the classroom teaching. I have also made so many new friends out here, found new hobbies that I love (West Coast Swing Dancing and hiking!), and have settled in quite nicely.
None of those things seemed to matter, however, when homesickness and loneliness began to take over. I found myself wondering what could have been. I slipped back into that pattern of wishing for things I did not have, instead of appreciating the wonderful things I DO have.
When I take even the smallest step back, and open my eyes wide, I can clearly see that I can’t stress the could haves, because if it should have, it would have. It is as simple as that.
So for today, I choose to have faith that whatever is meant to be, will be – and that brings me peace.
For me, the holidays have, in recent years, been filled with a bit of trepidation and anxiety. All of the pressure involved for me includes trying to feel the spirit of the season while trying to get everything done that is necessary.
During the last few years of my mother’s life, she expressed this same feeling of holiday anxiety. She complained about putting up decorations, and getting all of her shopping done. So, one year I bought her a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree, and told her that it really can be simple if only you want it that way. We put so much pressure on ourselves (YES, we do that – no one does it to us)!
However, I have not followed those words of advice until recently. This year, I decided to keep it simple. I put up a few special decorations to make my home feel festive, but did not drag the tree out of storage (mainly because my kitten would probably pull it down:)). I figured that I will be leaving to visit Chicago on Christmas Day, so why bother.
Simplifying the holidays has really lightened my load. I chose to find ways to spend time with friends and family instead of buying gifts while money is tight. I am praying, and am fairly certain, they will understand. This eliminates the financial pressure, but I am also finding that it is way more enjoyable to spend a day with a friend versus the few moments of joy in opening costly gifts. The joy I will experience while spending the holidays in Chicago visiting everyone far surpasses any joy from gift giving/receiving.
My students laughed at first when they saw the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree that I displayed on my classroom desk. However, when I told them the story behind it and showed them the Charlie Brown Christmas video, they understood. Simple can be SO much better, so much more meaningful, and bring so much more joy.
Without the struggles I have endured, I would not be able to appreciate the strength I have gained. For that, today I am grateful. I could look at my life and focus on the negatives: Working two jobs to make ends meet… Living across the country from family and friends… Falling into bed at night from pure exhaustion. But if I did that, I would be living my life miserably.
I have to wake up each day in gratitude. When life gets tough, it is SO easy to have a pity party. Those struggles I’ve endured have led me to where I am today. I kinda like who I have become. I appreciate every little minute detail in my life, because I have been through some very challenging times. On some days, I have to remember the hard times of struggle, and realize that today, I am living in the solution.
Today, my life is FAR from struggle-free. However, I choose each day to get into, and remain in, gratitude! It’s a pretty damn good place to be!
Connections, true and real connections, are what life is all about. Those times in my life when I felt I was at my lowest, were the times in which I was feeling disconnected from the world… spiritually, physically, and emotionally. I believe we have as much of a need to feel connected as we need air to breathe and water to sustain.
In relationships, people talk about the presence or absence of chemistry. I believe what we feel for another person is more of a soul connection rather than some physical phenomenon such as the existence of pheromones and chemistry. Once that true connection is made, it is unbreakable. There is no argument, no distance, and no situation that can tear that connection apart.
What I’ve learned about relationships is that it is not real until both people truly feel that sense of wanting forever. I have had my share of relationships that felt so right at the time, but in looking back, I realize I never felt a true sense of forever with that person. Sure, I wanted to be with them. Sure, we enjoyed each other’s company – otherwise we wouldn’t have been together. However, when I looked down the road five, ten, even twenty years, I did not have a clear vision of life with that person.
Then, one day you find that your soul has been deeply touched by another person, and you can actually close your eyes and see life with that person, side by side, for years to come. Distance may have pulled you apart physically. Circumstances may have gotten in the way of being with that person. Nevertheless, you find that within a piece of your heart exists a piece of their heart. When circumstances change, and you find yourselves brought together once again, you are drawn together like two magnets with a force that cannot be broken. True connection is, quite simply, a most magnificent thing.
I have now been in Arizona for 15 months, and soon will be heading back to Chicago to visit for the first time since I moved. You know the saying… “Home is where the heart is.” I believe this to be true today more than ever. Although my mailing address is in Arizona, a HUGE part of my heart will always be with those I love back in Chicago. Luckily, I have made so many new friends in my new location which has given me even more reasons to love my life surrounded by the desert mountains.
Those who have not moved around may not completely understand the quote above. I have been given the opportunity to experience the “richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place”. How lucky am I? 🙂
The only drawback to moving across the country is not truly being able to identify where “home” really is. I love my life in Arizona, but at this particular time, my adult children, family, and many friends are back in Chicago. It is as if I live in the midst of two separate, yet deeply connected worlds. It has recently occurred to me that when I think of a place called home, it really does not exist.
So, I suppose home really is where the heart is. It exists wherever those I love exist. It is really not a physical place, but a feeling. In two weeks, I will go back home to Chicago to visit. Then, when the visit is over, I will return home to Arizona. Isn’t it a beautiful thing?
Today is my 48th birthday! I celebrate it with a small circle of friends, and sadly, long distance with my family. Birthdays tend to be a time of reflection for me. I look back at all of the things I wish I would have done, things I did that I regret, but more importantly, things for which I am grateful.
I am sure that some would look at my life and see the chaotic twists and turns, the decisions I have made, and also the mistakes. I experience moments when I wonder how I got here… how my life has brought me to where I am today. I have made so many changes in my life over the years, with the biggest probably being the move I made across country to Arizona last year.
I have made choices based on my gut… decisions which to others may appear to be impulsive. But in reality, I have been following a dream that no one can see except me. One important lesson I have learned is that I no longer have to explain myself to anyone. I know what I want… I know in my heart the peace that I seek. Others may question my dreams… they may even call me silly… and that is okay. I have risked quite a bit to get where I am, and I have made so many mistakes along the way. However, I will never apologize or try to explain searching for a dream of which only I know.
I would rather search aimlessly attempting to fulfill a dream, than to spend the rest of my life without a dream for which to search at all!