Moving abroad, traveling, exploring. While these experiences remain unique to the adventurer himself, undeniably, there is one palpable commonality: outside our comfort zone - far away from the familiar - we all get lost and found at the same time.
Abroad, far from home, we discover another piece of ourselves as we immerse our minds and bodies into a new world of communication, culture, and customs. Abroad, our view of the world broadens as friendships evolve and the idea of 'home' takes on a new meaning. We realize we can be braver, and take on challenges more readily. We grow.
And as we are in the process of getting lost in the unfamiliar, we are finding our true selves.
So this is the sixth - and most significant - discovery on my little list of changes I noticed when moving abroad (see number one to number five here):
6. Moving abroad will forever change how you move through life
Just to be clear: by 'moving through life' I am not referring to the refined skill set one acquires when frequently moving homes (although, hey, at this point ask me anything!) but I am talking about the actual process of 'moving', of proceeding, of propelling and advancing through life in general.
With my eighth and biggest move under my belt, I am taking stock. And as I look back, I am realizing that my surroundings were not the only thing that frequently changed over the years.
Over the course of time, especially within the last year, I feel like I have shapeshifted too, albeit my metamorphosis being more of an internal nature rather than a Kafkaesque one: I find myself being increasingly able to move through life like water.
Oh, yes. I can feel the gentle gaze of those wise souls upon me now, softly nodding their heads in approval, for I am finally realizing something they have long known. Move like water: it took me long get there. To this state of mind. To this state of being. And I cherish this journey for every new move abroad was my patient teacher; every new experience a meaningful lesson; one that repeated itself until I had understood it, had memorized it:
Embrace the new.
Move like water.
This was the mantra I breathed life into when we arrived in CA, a hymn I have recited ever since.
The first time when dropping off my children at their new school in CA while watching them be brave and proceed with heads held up high as I sat in the car crying, worried about being a bad mother for putting them through this big change (I wasn't, they are fine).
I remembered these words when experiencing our first real earthquake (shocking) when I started to write (oh, the fear!) and I held on to these words for dear life when hearing the news that a wonderful friend and later my grandmother had passed (heartbroken).
They became my lifeline during lockdown and homeschooling (so much confusion and frustration) when the riots took place and curfews were imposed (so much sadness and anger). And when finally we found ourselves in the middle of another cross-continental move (emotions depleted - batteries assis).
There were plenty of opportunities to resist EVERYTHING that happened in the last six months. And there were numerous days where frustration and tension were omnipresent, like shadows attempting to inch their darkness into the crevasses of my weakness. On some days, they almost succeeded; on days when I was at the brink of throwing my hands up in the air in defeat: nope, I am no longer doing this. No homeschooling. No move. I am done.
But then I remembered. Move. like. water.
Not only would resistance have been of no use, halting us in our tracks (literally, leaving us with no home at all) but more significantly, it would have obstructed even the smallest rays of sunshine from lighting up our day, illuminating all the things we should be grateful for: family, health, togetherness, safety. If we would have ignored, shunned these rays of sunshine - imagine the outcome?
And so I always reminded myself of my mantra. On some days, it worked well. On another, barely. But I stuck with it, as I realized that living a life unmoved, a static life, is nothing but a hindrance for life will never turn out exactly how we have planned, categorized, and organized it. Unrealistic expectations, subsequent disappointment, and tension is the outcome.
So I tried exactly the opposite. The more I started to envision myself moving through my life like water - in a constant state of fluidity and flexibility - the more I started to embrace (and handle) what was coming my way ...all that was coming my way! Curiously, when you are in that state of fluidity - a state of surrender, really - life becomes much easier. All of it. And it did: We settled in well and quickly in CA, found friends, and discovered a place so beautiful that we could not imagine not having known about it before. We walked at our pace, adjusted our speed when we needed to, and took on each challenge as it came along.
There is enough in life that we are unable to control. Death, sickness, job losses.
But what we are able to control is not to resist these life events but to remain smooth and flexible, flowing freely around all the stones and logs that lie in our riverbed.
And the more we try and practice to live like that, the more we feel more freely. And in that limitless state, we start to see all of life's obstacles for what they are: opportunities.
And isn't that the dream?
Moving, be like water.
Still, be like a mirror.
Respond like an echo.
- Bruce Lee -