Living Abroad. 3 months in.

As I was drying a dish, hurrying to get the kitchen cleaned and the kids to bed, Sage asked, “Mom, what’s your dream?” Her question, while appreciated, made me think, WHYYYY do they always ask big questions when I’m trying to end the day?

I attempted to say something thoughtful and less ridiculous than, “Honey, my dream is to be on Broadway.” But my attempts were futile. I had nothing. 

Then it dawned on me…

THIS. 

“Sage, This  is my dream.”

For years I have been wanting to live in an old farmhouse surrounded by land. My requests on repeat, “I want to look out our windows and see trees. Not other houses. I want chickens and animals, I want to homeschool our children. Pretty much, I want a farm.” Keep in mind, with the exception of what I read in Charlotte’s Web, I know nothing about farms. 

We also wanted another chance to live abroad. The Middle East was not where Peter and I wanted to call home but our 7 months living there enriched our lives in such a profound way, we decided to do it again.

In my mind, these dreams were separate and linear. We would move abroad, travel, experience an international life, THEN return to the U.S. find a home with land, get the animals, and homeschool. 

While life chugged on, my dreams held on. 

 I visited them in the slow moments..in the quiet space before falling asleep. I woke them through conversations with my husband and how we designed our life. Our home in Bend wasn’t the home of our dreams but we planted trees, we planned where the chickens would live, the kids ran wild. I read homeschool blogs, talked to people who were living abroad, listened and asked questions… Through my meditations I visualized the life we would lead and simultaneously felt so much gratitude for the life we were living. 

Slowly the dream gained traction. In the early hours before dawn, Peter was chipping away at our plan. Making contacts, sending emails, researching opportunities…and after months of effort he was offered an international position.  It was so close to what we wanted but the puzzle piece didn’t quite fit. We turned it down. A rough winter followed and then another international offer. This one looked like the piece we needed. Then COVID arrived and it was anyone’s guess as to whether the move would happen. In the meantime, looking for homes in England became a late night pastime. 

In mid-summer, a friend tagged me on an available home in Cambridgeshire.  The home was beautiful but I almost let it go. We didn’t have our visas and had no confirmation as to when we would move. I almost clicked past it but an internal nudge inspired me to send an email. 

We were one of many enquiries for White House Farm and given that we were out of the country and complete strangers to the landlords, I wasn’t holding my breath. But luck was on our side that weekend and they offered us the home. The house was perfect and we wanted it but we were running a tight risk. With no visas and no move date we were afraid of misleading the landlords but despite our hesitations, we told them, “All good! We will be arriving in late August.” 

A few days later, as if a lucky bolt of lightening hit the west coast, the visa centers announced they were opening in San Francisco. We raced to the computer and booked our processing slots. Unfortunately there weren’t enough appointments so our family was spread out over two days. When we arrived, we were told that due to a rise in coronavirus cases,  the centers were closing again, the following day, with no plans of reopening. Only half of our family would be processed. We begged (I cried) for them to process all our applications together and after a painful wait in the lobby while supervisors were consulted… they agreed. We ALL got our visas processed. It was a bureaucratic miracle.

We drove back to Oregon, packed, purged, rented our home, the movers came, we drove to Southern California, said our goodbyes, flew to England, quarantined, and slept on the floor of White House Farm for 3 weeks. We used our camping cookware, plastic utensils, and camping chairs while we waited. Eventually our furniture arrived, homeschooling began and since then we’ve embarked on the never-ending process of “settling in”. 

The funny part is, amidst all this work, I failed to notice that both of my dreams came true .

Not surprising given that this dream is shrouded in adjustment. It’s there when I hug the radiator to soothe my chilled body,  it’s under piles of laundry, between pictures yet to be hung, in the tears cried in overwhelm, while burning things in the AGA, in the gravel bits I use to scrape sheep poop off my boots, it’s unglamorous and anticlimactic.

The dream is also shadowed by my longing for Bend. I miss the familiar. I miss my friends. I miss our support network. I miss the excitement of picking my mom up from the airport. I miss our house. Even though I didn’t particularly like our house, I miss the thermostat. I miss the garbage disposal, I miss knowing where the scissors are, I miss sidewalks and trail runs and the unparalleled beauty of the Oregon forest. I miss ordering The Big Salad from Active Culture and picking it up 10 mins later. I miss our washer and dryer, I miss outside lighting and covered decks… I miss our porch swing, sitting outside with a cup of coffee and knowing I won’t get wet. I miss the trees.

I’m homesick.

But what I don’t miss is the longing for our dream. 

It isn’t always obvious that grief exists with blessings. So many of our experiences have carried a heavy bag of emotions. The positive and the negative, the losing and the gaining, the joy and the pain, all holding ground simultaneously. Polarity…it’s a recurring theme and I don’t always make room for it. 

Well, this time I’m makin’ lots of room. I’m exploring the possibility that while the happies and excitings are the obvious rewards to life abroad, maybe the hards and sads, confusings and lonelies… the homesickness..

Maybe these are the unsung rewards of change. 

So here I am, in the beautiful mess of achievement noticing the both/ands. Trusting that the one part kismet and one part elbow grease that got us here was for a bountiful reason that will make all the hardship worthwhile.

If I have learned anything from our big changes (and we’ve had many), I’ve learned that being patient, sitting in discomfort, and holding challenge with grace and gratitude offers more meaningful rewards than the cozies and superficiality ever could. 

It takes bravery to make your dreams come true. You have to ask for what you want and put your visions into practice. You have to find freedom from fear and let go of control. Sometimes you lose bits of what you had and it hurts. Life becomes uncomfortable, almost itchy in its’ unfamiliarity. But discomfort doesn’t need to be a bad thing. Discomfort is information. Discomfort is evidence of growth and growth is good.

Stay curious about discomfort for it has the power to move you forward. 

2 thoughts on “Living Abroad. 3 months in.

  1. You are a beautiful writer! I love your honesty, and your love for adventure! Life is a challenge, but there is always hope in each new day! I look forward to reading your next entry! Love to you and your family!💕

  2. Oh Lizzy so so beautifully said. I love you and I’m so happy you are writing here again and that this dream has become a reality. The good, the hard, the sad and the magic all in one and that you’re holding space for all of it. Love you!

Leave a Reply to Lindsay Goldman Cancel reply