This year I returned to Canada. I had been going back once, twice a year, for awhile but once my mother in law became ill, and our daughter here was having problems, we found ourselves landlocked for almost 3 years.
Moving to a new country set off an emotional conflict within. Where is home? I am living here in Australia but am not connected to it or people in the way I was once connected to Canada. Yet, I am no longer in Canada and people move on without me and I have been making my own journey that has led me far from what was once so familiar.
I felt guilt that returning to Canada leaves me with more and more apprehension while returning to Australia feels more and more like a home coming. I felt that on the very first journey here. It was like my soul had come home to a place where it belonged. I had never truly felt “at home” anywhere, but one visit to Australia changed that. It was the feeling, a generalized, non specific feeling not attached to anything, or even logic. It just occupied my heart and nurtured it in a way I had never known before. I felt my soul letting out a long and deep sigh. I settled in, and I never wanted to leave.
Canada is the family I grew up in, the farm I lived on, the familiar of a whole lifetime up until I was 50. It is my children, the husband I buried, the people I know, friends, and people I worked with. It is my work, most of my achievements, and where I am known.
Australia is food for my soul.
Going back to Canada after 3 years absence filled me with the sense of an epic journey that involved much more important aspects, than just the miles that separate it from where I live now. I had grand babies I had not met yet. I had grandchildren who had turned their backs on their families. I had a son who did not want to see me and other children who would be disappointed I could not spend more time.
Part of growing older is the acceptance that other people’s lives are their own and there is nothing you can do to stop them from hurting you with their choices. You realize the challenge is to love them in spite of the pain they cause. It is, as is all life, about your own personal growth and understanding with the tools provided by the actions of others – a lot of those actions not ever wanted.
I also carried with me the understanding that nothing in life is promised and that I could not take for granted that there would be a “next time”or even any time. I went, looking with eyes that might be seeing things and people for the very last time, and I wanted to make the time count. I was not in control of what would happen, I could not force people to see me who did not want to, but I could make the most of what did happen and who I did see. I wanted to say the words my heart felt and I wanted to make sure that in the coming years, when I lay awake at night and thought of them, I would not be haunted with any doubt that I had hugged them hard enough and long enough for them to know that they are loved and that they mean more to me than anything else in my entire life. If I cannot leave my children with that understanding, then I have failed as a mother.
Fighting with the demon of knowing that some of them would not be hugged was something I had to find a way of letting go of, before it ate my whole being, from the inside out.
So we landed in Vancouver and as we wove our way across the Rockies, through Calgary, down to Medicine Hat and across to Michigan and back again, I found myself in front of many places that played significant roles in my life through the years. Without planning or knowing, things like the hospital where my son was born, appeared before my eyes on roads we just “happened” to turn on. My thoughts raced back to each moment, turning them over and over in my mind, feeling both a sweet sadness and a saddened joy.
Time moves so quickly.
Beyond the careful planning we had made for our time, it was as if life conspired to have us confront memories long ago, wrapping us in it’s wiser understanding and placing us in front of locations that occupied long ago, saying “see?” and “remember this?” Everything fired triggers in my memories, from smells to sounds, to the feeling of the wind on my face at “that” time of day.
I held tight to the people who had made time for me. I counted the moments with each person, trying to hold on to every detail. Etching the memories into my heart, willing my spirit to leave as much love in every second we were allowed together, as possible. Perhaps one day they too would make a journey similar to mine and would hold these moments again, reminding themselves that they were here and that it was all worth it.
And I found, as we journeyed, that I was letting go, and saying goodbye to things that had once occupied so much of my heart and time. I found that the familiarity of all things Canadian, had been replaced with the past 11 years in Australia. I had been birthed in Canada but I was given life in Oz. My new home was now the more familiar to me, and guided my instincts, my tastes, my practices.
I was ready to go home.
Going home brought an incredible sense of peace. As I stepped off the plane my head was facing forward, looking to the future, instead of trying to turn and catch a glimpse of the past.
The past no longer held me with any sense of guilt or duty. I was not asking “what if” or needing to fix anything. I was not second guessing. I could not feed my soul on distant memories, I had to eat food that would nourish me . . than meant living today, and holding those who were in my life. I needed to be there with them and not struggling to hold on to others who did not choose me. And I needed to let go with love.
I said my goodbyes to the kids and I had said enough that I could be at peace with whatever life provided in the coming years. If I was never able to see them again, I would not be chasing unspoken words in the shadows of the night, wishing I had said or done more.
Life is what it is, and we can fight it and hate it and do everything we can to try and avoid the tough and the painful bits, or we can live it and accept that nothing is perfect. We cannot control situations or people and even if we could, it would not make us happy. Happiness is about understanding who you are and loving yourself, complete with all your flaws. It is about taking each moment and honouring it with your presence. It is about celebrating what is.
I was there.
Now, I am here.