I’ve been away.
Two and a bit weeks ago Mr C decided I needed a break. He had snagged himself a job (oh the relief!), and we had a little of the redundancy money left, so he decided to send me back to the UK to where my dad lives. Just between you and me, I think Mr C needed some quiet time before he started his new job and that was perfectly fine with me.
Initially, I said no. I had way too much to do. As chairperson of our Owners Corporation and with the relaunch of our Club so close, I had way too much to do I argued. Plus I didn’t want to leave Master J who had just left school, and was embarking a new adventure in a few weeks’ time.
Mr C didn’t take no for an answer. He booked tickets for both Master J and I and within two days we were on the plane. And so here I am, two and a bit weeks later, now back home with a heap of new memories and stories to tell.
It’s poignant that I say home. Because I do now call Australia home. For now.
You see, I have lived in Australia for over 10 years now, yet, for various reasons, I have never settled. Almost as soon as I had landed, I wanted to get onto the plane and return back to the land of my birth, the place I had always called home.
On the flight over here, Master J and I talked excitedly about our home country, and how we were really English, and could never be Australian, despite having citizenship. We talked about how we were finally coming home.
Such was my fervour for going to the UK, Mr C made me promise that I would get on the plane to return to Australia, and to him.
Almost immediately after landing, I knew. I knew that England, Blighty, the old country of my birth, no longer was my home.
Things had changed. I had changed.
There was a familiar unfamiliarity about the place.
After the passing of my mom six years ago, my dad found a lovely new partner. The home that once was my mom and dad’s was no longer. This is natural, and I bear no resentment towards this development, but the home that my dad still resides in with his new partner did not feel like the family home I once knew and loved. Our memories, woven into the niknaks that were once dotted around the place, were safely tucked up in the loft, ready for us once more when the inevitable happens. As I looked around the lounge room, as lovely as it is, it all felt so different.
Six years previously, almost to the day, my mom had laid in a bed in the middle of the main room and drawn her last breath. Yet, as I sat in the room that was familiar yet unfamiliar, I realised I hadn’t really said goodbye. I closed my eyes, I imagined my mom laying there, I held her hand, and stroked her face, and, with tears rolling down my cheeks, I let her go.
And as I did so, I also let go of the UK.
I want to say that the UK will always be home. But it won’t. Neither will Australia always be my home. I know now that I am a bit of a gypsy, you see. I suspect I am destined to never let the moss gather too long under my feet. If I stay too long in one place, I get restless, and I feel stagnant. I always thought this was because I was running away – from myself, from life. I don’t think that now. I simply think that, like those men who used to do the Great Tour of Europe, I need to experience different things and meet different people and immerse myself in different ways of living.
In truth, my home is wherever Mr C will go with me.
I have always seemed to be searching for a sense of belonging somewhere.
My parents took us children to South Africa when I was 8. I had a funny accent, I was told, and because of that I never felt like I fit in. My accent changed, now South African, and still that sense of belonging never found me. I had no history here I would tell myself. I am English. My family all live in the UK. Even after marrying a South African, giving birth to a child in South Africa, did that sense of belonging never find me.
Upon returning to the UK, my new South African accent now a firm part of me, I sounded foreign. It appeared I didn’t belong there either. Nor in Australia when we moved there too. My accent, now a hybrid of South African and English, was soft, but noticeably different. Accents seemed to define one’s sense of belonging, or at least mine. It seemed I belonged nowhere.
It is with these thoughts swirling in my head, I arrived in the UK, resolving to find my place. Only to realise that PLACE is relative.
I have returned with a firm sense of place. Only I no longer require it to be tied to a particular country.
I’ve been angry for a long time. Grief does that to a person. And family feuds – but that is another story that perhaps one day I will tell in this space.
Whilst I have been away, I have logged in periodically to see how the preparations for the Relaunch are going. As I read over my responses this morning, I wondered how I had become so angry. My emails were curt and blunt, and demanding, and almost unkind. I did not recognise myself in those emails at all. I want to apologise to all, to say this really isn’t me.
Mr C would often say to me that when he first met me, I was a gentle kind soul, who was incredibly relaxed and carefree. He still believes me to be that person, only I no longer feel that inside.
Being in the UK gave me space. Space to really evaluate the person I have become, the person that has emerged out of the deep ashes of grief. And I have to be honest, I am not overly happy with what I see. Especially the anger. I am quick to snap, bite back, show impatience. I seem to have lost the ability to let go.
I seek it, I need it, I want it. For by trying to control my world and those around me, I seek to protect myself from harm, from pain, the very pain that tore a wound so deep my soul, I know it will never truly heal.
But it is exhausting. And the darkness is only fuelled, not relieved, by this need to control. As people around me do not do what I want them to do, need them to do, I become twisted inside, angrier, more frustrated. I feel the charred embers inside me burn deeper and I seem to sink further into the quicksand that is slowly choking me.
Space. It sets a person free.
Being here in this space enabled me to think, to breathe, to say goodbye.
Goodbye to my mom, to the sense of belonging I needed for so long, to the place of my birth, and finally to my anger.
I don’t want to be angry any more.
I am tired.
I am packing to come home. I am looking out onto the garden where my mom shaved her head for charity, where she lay on the garden swing enjoying her last days in the sun, where we held her funeral, and I am okay. I am saying goodbye. I am returning less sad and less angry.
The grief will never leave me, I know this. But I no longer wear it as a shackle, weighing me down. I wear it as a necessary scar that we all must bear in life, and I feel lighter because of it.
This holiday has been wonderful. I got to do so many things with Master J, and I got to reconnect with wonderful friends. But I have come home a different person than the one that left.
18 short days. That’s all it took. 18 days, after 6 very long, dark, angry years, to finally let go.
I am home, I am finally truly home.
Until next time,