Three moves in three years

It’s been awhile since I last blogged, so I thought I would give a quick update while I’m working on some more fully-formed blog posts. I’ve also been “microblogging” on Instagram, at least until I lose interest in it, so follow me there if you like.

We moved back to Alaska at the beginning of the summer, and I was extremely happy about it, as living in Phoenix was completely killing my spirit. I can’t even express how much I hated living there, and I can’t think of a place in the U.S. that I would be more ill-suited for. So I’m glad to be back in Alaska.

It has been a really difficult summer, though. This is the third time we’ve moved to a different state in the past three years, the second time with two kids. Moving with kids is completely awful, in so many ways. It’s hard to believe but there was a time in my life when moving was exciting and enjoyable, pre-kids. There’s another theme of my life right now: many things that were exciting and enjoyable before kids, are now tedious and exhausting.

The past three years of constant moves and instability in many areas of my life have really worn me down. It takes a long time to settle into a new home, physically and mentally. In Arizona it took us about a year to fully unpack, so right about the time we finally got rid of all of our moving boxes, we found out we were moving again. Right now, we’re temporarily living in a sub-optimal apartment while getting ready to build a new house, so it will be a long time before we’re really settled.

It’s even harder to become mentally settled in a new place. I never would have felt at home in Phoenix, no matter how long we lived there. Prior to that, I was just beginning to warm up to Colorado when we found out we had to move to Phoenix. I know I will feel at home here in our new town, but our daily life is a lot more difficult now for many reasons. Meanwhile, I have a lot of thoughts to process and no time or energy for it, and it’s hard to lead my kids through all this change and help them deal with their feelings when I can’t attend to my own.

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What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker

2016 was the worst year of my adult life. It started with moving to a new state while I was still recovering from the birth of my second child. Two days after we arrived in Arizona, my newborn baby got very sick and spent a week in the hospital. Then I suffered through several difficult illnesses of my own, the last of which included a two-month wait to have a tumor biopsied. The bad things kept coming and the year kept going.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is one of the things people say to try to make sense of hardship when they really don’t know how to respond. I’m not sure what it’s actually supposed to mean. Maybe it means that hard times make you realize that you’re stronger than you thought, or that after going through hard times, you develop the skills to survive more hard times in the future. Neither has been true for me.

I’ve gone through plenty of hard times throughout my life, and I feel that each difficult thing I go through makes me weaker, not stronger. It makes me realize that I am not as strong as I thought I was, and it makes me even less tolerant of going through more hard times in the future. 

Many people say they are actually glad to have experienced difficulties because it made them stronger. But that is usually only said in hindsight, after a trial is over and only if they’ve gained something more valuable than what they lost. They may have lost security but gained insight, lost health but gained love and support from others, or lost temporary happiness but gained new knowledge and skills. In my experience though, there may be things gained through suffering, but not nearly enough to make what was lost worth it.

I hoped that once I made it through this crappy year and some of the crappy things that happened, I would have gained some perspective or derived some meaning from it, but I don’t think there is any to be found. I’m sure it would be easier if I believed that everything happens for a reason, but I don’t, and I don’t believe that there is always something to be learned. Sometimes life just sucks.

Hunkering

I am currently in a state of limbo waiting for things to change over which I have no control. I’m in a holding pattern, unable to make progress. I feel like all I’m doing is converting oxygen into carbon dioxide.

This metaphysical hunkering feels similar to the hunkering I did during a three-month NOLS expedition in the Alaska wilderness in 2008. We spent a lot of time hunkering in our tents on that expedition. Sometimes because of weather, like the three soggy days spent camped by the side of a gravel road waiting for the rain to stop and the river to subside so we could wade across. On other occasions we hunkered while waiting for food or rescue.

Our first hunker was spent next to a makeshift runway we had built in a humid valley, waiting for the clouds to lift so a small plane could land with our rations. We had already been without food for two days, having been unable to get to the site where we had planned to meet the plane for our re-ration. Instead we bushwhacked through a dense forest and traversed a raging river to find a spot where a plane might be able to land, and cut down small trees to make a runway.

I hunkered here.
I hunkered here.

Continue reading “Hunkering”

5 things I wish I’d done before having kids

After my list of 10 things I’m glad I did before kids, I could only think of five things for this list, so I think I did pretty well in making the most of my pre-baby life and not having regrets. The only thing on this list that I beat myself up over is #2, because that should have been easy to accomplish, so I really have no excuse for not having done it.

1.    Live in a foreign country

I love the feeling of getting to know a new place and seeing it slowly become home. I’ve always wanted to live somewhere completely different and be immersed in a new language or accent, surroundings, culture, and way of life, to see the foreign become familiar. This is something I wish I had done when I was single, with nothing to keep me from attaching fully to a new place.

2.    Go skinny dipping

My husband and I had this on our To Do list for two years and it never happened. I don’t know why, but skinny dipping symbolized freedom to me. Also, it seemed like something that could only be properly done in Alaska, where beautiful lakes are often secluded. But it turns out that Alaska is a hard place to go skinny dipping, with hypothermia and mosquitos, etc. Now we’re parents and I don’t know when we’ll ever be able to get away by ourselves to a place where it’s possible.

3.    Do a long wilderness expedition with my husband

We’ve done plenty of long trips on our own and short trips together, but never a long trip together. To spend a month or more living and traveling with someone in the wilderness is an accelerated form of intimacy that would beat any honeymoon hands down. And living in the wilderness forces you to confront every personal deficiency and interpersonal conflict in ways that are much better than therapy. It would have been great to do this as a prelude to having kids—but who has the time? Hubby and I have dreams of thru-hiking the CDT someday after we’re retired.

4.    Make lasting friendships

As an INTP, finding people to be friends with and forming fulfilling relationships is probably the hardest thing for me to do. Also, I suck at keeping in touch and maintaining friends, and I really regret not doing more to hold onto the good friendships I’ve made over the years. It’s exponentially harder to make friends as an INTP mom. I’ve met and socialized with a lot of moms, but none yet who I have much more in common with besides being a mom. I’ve never met another INTP mom or even another NT mom. On the other hand, it’s also hard to meet childless friends when I’m always toting around a baby.

5.    Finish graduate school

Because obviously that proved to be impossible after I became a mom.

10 things I’m glad I did before having kids

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The Arctic Ocean is freezing cold, even in July.

1.    Live on my own
Living alone forced me to learn both independence and responsibility. Sometimes I miss the solitude of it, and sometimes it makes me appreciate my family more because I remember how lonely it could be.

2.    Live without TV and internet
I went without TV and internet at home for three years before I moved in with my husband, and I loved it. I read so many books and spent so much time outside. I want my kids to learn how to enjoy life that way and not attached to screens.

3.    Work as a teacher
Working with kids from kindergarten to college was a great primer for parenthood. It allowed me to practice on other people’s kids, and exposed me to all ages and personalities. And it confirmed that I really did want to have kids.

4.    Go on a solo vacation
I went to Hawaii by myself a few years ago and did exactly what I wanted to do every day. I didn’t have to answer to anyone else… which is something that will never happen again.

5.    Take a dip in the Arctic Ocean
The summer before our daughter was born, my husband and I went on a camping road trip to Prudhoe Bay. It was an adventure of the kind that we won’t be able to have for a long time.

6.    Visit Europe
The first time I went there was just a few years ago, and hubby and I also went for our honeymoon. I’m glad we got to experience it together before the cost and hassle of kids made international travel all but impossible.

7.    Have lots of wilderness adventures
Living in Alaska for the past five years has allowed me to do and see so much that other people only dream of. After becoming a mom, wilderness adventures are not only less accessible, they’re less appealing. I’m no longer as willing to accept the risk of getting eaten by a bear or falling into a crevasse.

8.    Live in Washington D.C.
Washington is my favorite city and I love spending time there. However, I would never ever want to live in a big city with a family, and living there confirmed that.

9.    Learn how to live simply
I’ve always been pretty frugal, but my husband is the most fiscally responsible and un-materialistic person I know. He taught me to delight in frugality and simplicity, and to save wisely for the future. And I’m proud that we managed to avoid acquiring tons of unnecessary and expensive baby gear when we had our daughter.

10.   Fall in love and get married
Even though this is kind of a prerequisite to having kids, I think the beginning of our love story was so romantic and the perfect beginning to our family. I strive to always put our marriage first because it’s our children’s foundation.