It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since our whole family was in the house together for more than a couple of days.
Last year on Christmas Eve Day, we learned Mark had an offer to join the Foreign Service. Zoe was still home from college for a week or so after that, then she left. Mark left a week or so later for training.
For the next several months, we all lived in our separate bubbles, Jack and me in Louisville, Mark in Washington and Zoe in Chapel Hill.
The adjustment was challenging for each of us, and in different ways. We tried to bridge the physical gaps with Google Chat sessions and plane trips here or there. By the time Labor Day arrived, I was beginning to feel that every drop of resilience had been drained right out of me, along with all the money in our bank account and most of our credit.
Then events began moving fast again. We sold the house, we drove across the country, we got used to a new neighborhood, we learned new ways of driving and working and going to school.
It hasn’t all been easy or fun. Only so much of the turbulence at a time like this is appropriate for a blog or social media.
But I was somewhat shocked to note that the anxiety I was reporting on this blog back in July and August — anxiety that bordered on panic at times — receded and disappeared entirely after Mark, Jack and I were all back together. Even on bad days, I’ve been able to sleep. And there have been many good days where I hardly recognize the worrier I was back in the summer.
I think it has to do with the restoration of family connections and interdependence. I feel safe again, even in a different country.
Of course Zoe is part of all that too, but we have been adjusting to her natural transition to college life. In some ways she has had to speed up the independence process — figuring out her own money issues when things were tight for us, managing one of our pets and his fleas in an house with three other young women, dealing with the care and speeding of a car on campus.
I want to say that I know this is the right thing for her, but as a parent it’s never clear (at least to me) that the difficulty a child is experiencing is “for the best.” It’s just too painful in the moment to feel sure about.
But when I step back and take a look at each of us in our separate bubbles — and then at all of us together — I’m encouraged and proud. And that’s, as they say, the best kind of birthday gift.