Ten Ways to Leave Your Lover
Our days are numbered. You know this acutely when you’re leaving a place you’ve lived. You prepare for goodbyes, for letting go of the city’s (or country’s) particular beauty; for releasing stuff and summer and the bubble of this-is-where-we-are-in-our-lives-right-now. It’s the hard head work your life has already trained you for, whether you chose the training, or not. You’ve done this before – here’s how to do it again.
1) Take another look
Once you know the plane tickets are bought, or movers arranged or the new job starts on a certain date, everything in where-you-are-now-land looks different. The palm trees that had started to seem ordinary start swooping and swaying again in interesting ways; the Pacific Ocean moves from supporting character to one of the lead roles in your mind’s landscape when you realize that soon, these waters will roll hundreds of miles from your doorstep instead of five minutes’ (or less) walk. Barefooted children in the school yard, the park, even in cafés and supermarkets regain their novelty, especially when you consider the climate you’ll return to – Spokane in will-you-please-arrive-already spring is likely to be cold, wet and even snowy. Stare at your kids until they ask, “Why do you keep looking at me, Mommy?” To memorize your six and eight-year-old faces, noting freckles, auburn hair, blue eyes, thick eyelashes, spindly legs (Fiona), and blackened feet (Finley).
2) Feel again for the first time
Soak in the Southern Hemisphere sun (when it’s not bucketing rain- as it often does. Wear heaps of sunblock – as you always do). Burrow your feet into the sand. Do NOT let a day pass without wiggling your toes on the beach (except maybe during torrential rain days). Pay attention to the wind: Is it a warm gust, blowing from the North? Or a cool breeze cruising in from the South? Give your children big, sloppy kisses despite their protests (“Ugh. It’s too WET!”) Squeeze their cheeks and tiny bottoms. Nuzzle your partner’s neck. Squeeze his cheek and tiny bottom. Get physical as often as time, energy and sleeping children permit. Notice your stomach doing front flips – the same kind it used to perform daily when you first started falling in love.
|Boogie board day at the beach, Mt. Maunganui|
The ocean’s outside your door. You’ve grown so used to it you’ve forgotten it’s there. Stop that. Can you hear waves greeting the shore? They never grow tired of meeting the sand – again and again. Listen to the beating of rain on rooftops at night. Hear how the natives speak: “eev-ah for “ever”; “beet-ah” for “better,” “haht” for “heart.” Let the sounds bounce around your brain like a pinball in a machine to “beet-ah” remember this Kiwi life.
|Mum's homemade sushi|
|Chocolate velvet kid|
Take time to savor quotidian pleasures: the morning’s bowl of porridge; morning coffee; the lunch-time salad; the yogurt you shook to life with water and mix; sushi you rolled for family lunches (which the kids begged you to make). Snack on a cracker with Vegemite and avocado. Crunch a crispy-edged crumpet, fresh from the toaster. Slather it with passion fruit curd. Bring the kids to the gelato counter for an after-school treat. Eat Finley’s chocolate fish and the remainder of Fiona’s chocolate velvet kiddie cone.
5) Take a whiff
5) Take a whiff
Smell everything again for the first time: your partner’s cologne; his scent in the morning; the coffee at your favorite café; the ocean’s salty, fresh aura; the heady aroma of bacon and pancakes at 9 am Saturday; the scent of marinated meat wafting from the barbecue on a Sunday; the grease of fish and chips on a night no one wants to cook.
6) Wear rose-colored glasses
|Trying to forget about 3 days of rain-soaked laundry|
Romanticize the hell out of the place you’re leaving. Forget about the cockroaches; the hours spent hanging and removing laundry from a clothes line; the high cost of living; the damp chill of unheated, uninsulated homes in winter. The beach is warm (most days) and it’s free. Summer’s beauty remains. Embrace her while you can.
You can’t enjoy life when you’re tired. Grab a book and read ‘til you’re eyelids get heavy. Nap for 20 minutes. At night, turn off the TV, get off the computer and GO TO BED. Don’t fill each square in your calendar – the unfilled squares await serendipity (ooh, this last one’s especially difficult for me). Smile when one of those unfilled squares becomes a 2-hour impromptu café chat with a smart, funny migrant mum.
8) Make peace with your to-do list
Realize you won’t visit every place, meet every person, (ahem) finish the book before you leave. Trying to do so will drive you nuttier than a bin of trail mix at Pak ‘N Save. No one greeting you on the other side wants to hang with a crazy person. You’ll return to finish the essential elements and white-out unimportant bits.
9) Write it down
9) Write it down
You’ll forget what your kids said, names of places you visited, what you ate and drank and how it all made you feel. Keep scribbling.
|"Did you see me on the wave? I'm a good surfer!" -Finley|
10) Say it
The advantage of leaving a place while you’re still alive is getting to say goodbye to your friends and allowing them to farewell you, too. It’s like attending your own wake. It’s okay to feel sad to leave, excited to move on and okay to enjoy the spot light for a night or two. Think of the attention you’ll receive at your funeral – pity you’re not around to witness.
One more thing: the umbrella overlaying the entire list is love. One of my favorite pieces of advice came from an Episcopal priest, who said, “The best we can do is love as much as we can love in a day.” How to spend these numbered days? Love – the place you’re in, the people you’re with, the sweet, small moments that comprise our lives, no matter where in the world we bare our souls and our feet.
Haere ra – Farewell, but just for now