“I have a lot of confidence in our marriage, because we both have a really high tolerance for crap.” —Gabriel.
Gabriel and I have honed the skill of surviving together through painful life seasons. We are good at it. We can talk fairly openly about our pain. And we can comfort one another well. We have developed some successful, albeit slightly unhealthy, coping mechanisms. What we are not so good at, is thriving. We have learned how to tread water when the boat collapses, but we haven’t quite figured out how to make it back to shore. Gabriel is angry. I am sad. We both feel cheated, stuck. I fear the impending threat of bitterness if we don’t figure out how to move forward.
We’ve recently been given the opportunity to move back to Chicago. A dear friend has a connection to a beautiful apartment in a decent area of the city and the rent is cheap. We’ve stuttered about pros and cons for weeks. We’ve prayed, talked to family and journaled our hearts out, trying to decide if our family should move back to the city we once loved. My anxiety about this decision has slowly grown, and my nightmares are returning. I’ve started to feel unsafe in my own home again, battling with unfounded and unreasonable fear. One night when Gabriel was working late and Theo was already asleep, I locked myself in our bedroom and prayed that Theo would stay asleep because I was afraid to walk down the hallway alone. I do not handle major decision making well.
The more we talk and pray the more I realize how very little difference Chicago would make in our lives. Yes—a move is a big deal—especially this move, but the way we live is isolated and controlled.
My one deep and real connection here is with my sister, Becca. She is seven months pregnant and about to take six weeks off work to be home with her sweet baby. She lives a mere three minute walk from our house. For the first time in our lives, Becca and I will be in the same place, doing the same thing, with ample time for one another. When will this beautiful and unique opportunity present itself again?
But we have lived in Columbus for seven months and we haven’t invested in our neighbors or our church. We haven’t established any Columbus centered habits. We have no favorite hangout spots or friends we regularly meet for coffee. We could pick up and move our little family of three to an entirely new city and our daily lives would hardly change.
I don’t want to live that way.
I want to feel connected. I want to have roots. I want to be invested in the lives of others and know people who know me. I want to have a relationship with the city I live in—places I know and places that know me. Am I ready for that in Chicago—the city with so many ghosts, temptations, opportunities and demons? I don’t know. How could I be if I haven’t fully embraced Columbus yet? Our hearts are still in protection mode. It’s time to fully move into our life—hearts and minds—and commit. We’ve lived in Chicago, Nashville and now Columbus and committing to our surroundings is something we’ve never tried.
I feel vulnerable and silly trying to move outside the safety of our small circle of family relationships. I have spent over a year intentionally cutting myself off because I couldn’t bear the responsibility of other people’s lives. My own life was overwhelming enough. Now when I find myself in social situations, I freeze. I’m not up-to-date on any current affairs. It’s not cool to overshare depressing details about your life with casual acquaintances. My sister’s have always teased me saying, “You never had an awkward stage, you lucky duck!” Well, now is my awkward stage. My roommate had friends over for dinner and I mentioned my blog.
“Oh cool! What do you blog about?”
“Oh, just life after being raped.”
A good friend from high school and I were catching up over lunch.
“The documentary was about that big cruise ship sinking in Italy.”
“What?! When did that happen?!”
“Um. Nearly a year ago. You’re pretty behind, girl.”
This is my awkward stage. All I do is hang out in yoga pants with my baby, or eat string cheese and watch Parks and Rec with my husband. Occasionally we go to the mall and walk around. Occasionally. How can I feel confident in my decision about where to live, when I’ve lived here for seven months and never took the necessary steps to feel at home? In an effort to feel more connected to our physical space, Gabriel and I—in a fit of inspiration—rearranged our entire first floor. We made the sitting area cozier, the dining area more intentional and we put a couch in the kitchen—we’ll see how that works out.
Gabriel and I have decided that even though we are experts at putting up with the crappiness of life, we don’t want to do that anymore. We want to enjoy the richness of life and be grateful. I want to stop yearning for me carefree college days and fully embrace the beauty and mess of being a mom. I want to be brave enough to invite a new friend over for coffee, even when I have nothing but my awkward self to offer her. I want my son to grow up with parents who know how to care and invest in the community around them. I’m still not sure how to connect while I’m trying to wrap my arms around this new identity, but I have to try. I can’t confidently decide where to live until I’m able to fully live where I am. Sink or swim, it’s time to commit. Seven months later, and we’re finally moving in.