The Light

I have been wanting to post about the reality of living in our new home. Explain the intricacies and little routines, and different things we do now. But each time I start, the words falter and I simply stop and seem unable to go on.

These are still early days, we have been here for 3 and a half months and the sensation of peering through layers of glass still trips me up.

Summing up the first quarter of our first year living as ex-pats in Asia, I can wholeheartedly confirm that it really is an amazing place to live. On the other side of the glass I am trying to peer through, I can see the family as a whole are happy and settled. That in itself is triumph right there. Any mother would agree with me that if your kids are distressed and sad, that you'd give your right arm to make things okay for them again. I am so blessed that my girls have found the move bearable. Sure, we have motored through many a box of tissues for the homesick sniffles, but we can cope with that. On the whole, they are bright eyed and laughing. Nice firm thank you God on that score.

There is so much more to be grateful for. Our home is large, bright and airy. It is a townhouse on a curving little street in the heart of Singapore's best known shopping area. I can walk to Orchard Road in about 7 minutes, and frequently do, often at night as the shops only close at 10pm. Singapore's exquisite botanical gardens are a 10 minute walk in the other direction - and they have the kind of space that I can breathe in after leaving my beloved Cornwall Park behind in Auckland. Okay, so I am not walking under oak trees in frosty air, and watching pheasants and sheep. But I am strolling under banyan trees in a singlet and sunscreen, watching monkeys, lizards and turtles.

I have new friends and old ones. A church that is welcoming.

My littlest is at a Montessori preschool a little walk away, for five mornings a week. She tells me she is most unwilling each morning to attend, but waves me away with a grin at each drop off.My big girls catch buses to and from their international school, leaving at 7.30am and arriving home at 4pm. It is a long day and they have homework to attend to as soon as they are settled but they do not complain. They have made class friends and bus friends, and daily negotiate the terrors of the Bus Amahs who by all accounts, sound ferocious in their efforts to control the bus-loads of ex-pat brats.

I have access to the most amazing home help, and comprehensive supermarkets that sell most things that we miss. I am getting the gist of driving around this new city, at first a treacherous confusion of guessing which lane I was meant to take, without the help of signs, but now Annie (my GPS) has been relegated to the cubbyhole unless we are going somewhere new, so that's a sure sign I am getting my bearings.

We have gone on a break for a long weekend to white beaches. Greg went to the Formula 1 and we joined a club where we can swim on the weekends. We have been out to the movies, to dinner and explored some fun spots. I have discovered a blond Australian hairdresser who understood me. I have a studio space to paint in, a huge kitchen to cook in, gorgeous rainshowers to open the doors onto and an en suite off every bedroom. We drive a family wagon and I am completely over the sense of shame this brings :) Ikea is a four minute drive away, and so are other stores that are full of eye candy. I am still looking for dining room chairs but we have hunted down outdoor furniture. I have begun to replace my plants left behind with simple palms and collect white candles to burn at night in hurricane lamps along with mosquito coils for when we sit outdoors.

Geckos scurry silently along the ceiling and we sport hefty collections of insect bites, but we have seen no snakes yet, for which I am rather profoundly relieved. The girls nearly stood on one while away in Bintan, but fortunately I was down by the beach and missed the drama, or else I might have had to be coaxed down, dignity in shreds, from the nearest tree. We have squirrels that scamper along the wall between us and the neighbours, who are not our greatest allies at present, as their 4 dachshund dogs yap incessantly during the week and make me mutter.

There are too many wonderful things to adequately capture and if I were to heap all this goodness into a bucket and stand it on the scale of reality - it would overflow.

There is another bucket though, heavy on the other side of the scales. My brain ran and hid in the corner like a naughty child once we were here and unpacked. I have struggled through feeling detached and numb, and have been astonished at this unexpected and persisting phenomenon. I can honestly say that there is nothing at all wrong with anything, except the way my feelings have rearranged themselves into a chronic pattern of unfamiliarity. I have been bewildered at this, and really frustrated by such a surprising and debilitating turn of events. The sensation of having no sensations is incredibly disconcerting. It is like I am on one side of a fish bowl, and everyone and everything is on the other. In fact, the old me is on the other side. The me I have found myself with now is like walking in on a stranger.

Um...hello, do I know you and what the heck are you doing in my house, wearing my hair and pretending to be me?

I stare back at myself, shrug and sit unresponsively. And the stand off continues.

Life swirls on in vibrant eddies around us, and I have half a foot in mechanical responsibility, and the other foot remains quietly still, waiting for feelings to return. Perhaps a part of my brain got too tired to function any more and shorted. I am told that in time, clarity will return and I will not feel like I have been invaded by my emotionally paralysed twin.

It is uncomfortable to be this honest. But it is worse not to be.

Bare truth is a stepping stone towards the light.

Cassandra Frear  – (November 22, 2010 at 4:21 PM)  

Bless you. I wonder if the surgery you had, followed by the move, is responsible for this. It's an awful lot of change in short time. And chemically, your body has to be reeling from it.

I remember feeling like this whenever we've moved, and I always claim it's the way introverts process upheaval: we shut down until we catch up.(I don't know if you are an introvert -- but that's the way I explain myself when it happens to me.)

May God bring you new life.

Liesl  – (November 22, 2010 at 5:40 PM)  

Dear Amy
I wept as I read this. I struggled with my emotions, confused at this new person that I had become since arriving in NZ - someone who turned down invitations from people who just wanted me to feel welcome. And then one day I discovered what it was. Culture shock.
Praying for you as you settle. It takes time. And as I settle, I discover that God has called us back to Africa. Wish it as Singapore. I really loved it there. Have you been to Lucky Plaza?
Love and blessings.

MNM's  – (November 22, 2010 at 7:58 PM)  

As ever Amy, such an amazing and vivid insight into your new world. I really felt as if I was walking in your shoes seeing the things you see in your world, the gardens, the animals, the new sights and sounds.

And even in your discomfort and disquiet of the changes and the strangeness you feel toward yourself, your raw honesty is still beautiful. Pray you will soon be reconciled to the breadth and depth of feelings you're so wishing for.

God Blessx

Deidra  – (November 23, 2010 at 3:39 AM)  

Thank you for sharing this...for letting us see you here. It sounds familiar to me. I've moved a lot and these feelings from behind the glass are true.

I am struck by how aware you are...even of your feelings of detachment. It is funny how the mind protects itself. It knows when all of the buckets are full and gives us time to sort it out.

Sj  – (November 23, 2010 at 10:15 PM)  

love hearing your good stories and the hard. thanks for sharing Ames, even when it was hard. love you my friend xx

Erin  – (November 24, 2010 at 8:21 AM)  

From a bald melancholy to another melancholy... I certainly hope you soon tackle that pretender who's wearing your hair.

With an international move and all, you've surely had a lot of administrative work to focus on, so I would not be surprised if all your brain cells have been funneled into a functioning-and-surviving mode. I'm praying you'll catch up with the real you very soon. And that you'll like the hair style you find. ;)

Gifts of Serendipity  – (November 26, 2010 at 3:31 PM)  

While you are busy discovering the new you in your relocated home, I have been very happy to discover you via Jane's blog Planet Baby.

The line that caught my attention in your comment was that you and your hubby have a lovely vase of cricket balls in your home to remind you of your 'beginnings', this evoked such beautiful images in my mind that I had to write and say thank you.

I look forward to learning about your new corner of the earth through your special lens.

Felicity x

JANE  – (November 26, 2010 at 11:04 PM)  

Oh, Amy! Like Felicity, I am so delighted you commented on my cricket post today. It looks like sweet Felicity and I are your newest followers ☺.

I'll have to read a bit more of your 'back story' to discover how you've ended up in this mental space. As someone who has severe PND and spent a year in Germany when 18, I relate to the sensations you describe on so many levels. Yes, it is culture shock, sure. But hmm, the feelings you describe sound a lot like how I feel at the moment. I hope you have found a good GP to have a chat with, just to keep an eye on you. Us busy mums are often so good at putting our needs last.

Like Felicity, I really look forward to following your experiences as an ex-pat mum, Amy. J x
PS You have exquisite taste to be a cricket fan!

Gail  – (November 29, 2010 at 8:03 AM)  

Hey Ames,
Wow. I have so many mixed feelings reading this.
I'm so pleased the girls have settled well PTL and that you have that GPS girlfriend too.
I pray that stranger with your hair is only temporary. That you will recognize the awesome "you" we know you are VERY soon. Get your hair back girl.
Much love ... and many prayers xx

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