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  • Writer's pictureMicah M Rodrigues

Pivot.

Leading up to our BIG MOVE to Portugal, with all the unknowns, I did what any anxiety-prone, organizationally obsessed person would do. I prepared.

I researched the kid's school, figured out what clubs they would like best, what time we would have to leave the house, and which was the closest beach for after school (the school serves hot lunch, so I didn’t have to do that).


I designed, organized, and re-designed the house. Grounding myself in what the dining room would look like, the kitchen, the family room, and their rooms. Seeing the spaces we would live and build this new life in. The morning coffees on the patio, the evening sunsets over dinner. The doors our one-day teenagers would slam.


I found places where we could skate when we wanted to (the mall), where we could buy Christmas/Halloween decorations (Continente), what new skincare line I could use (Olay), where the closest coffee shop is to the house (down the road), and where I could buy English books (Julie’s bookshop).


I began to prepare this house. Eyeing the sweaters, hats, mittens, and boots that we would donate. Slowly purging the things we couldn’t bring, buying small things that I knew would be perfect for the new house, the new look, the new life (like a rattan pumpkin). Embracing the creaks in the floor, the dings in the wall, each a memory or a moment of a life built within. Memorizing it all while slowly letting it go.


I reveled in our neighborhood, Fall, and yes, even the snow (while warmly ensconced inside). Soaking up the smells, sounds, and sights of what we called home for all our lives.

I celebrated the lasts of things, the last birthday, the last Halloween, the last Christmases.

Prepared and prepared and prepared.


What I didn’t prepare for, what I didn’t see coming, was that we wouldn’t go.


That it was actually pivot and pivot and pivot.


That 6 months before we were set to leave, after years of planning and preparation, consulate lines, physical and mental holding on and letting go, that numbers would - for complicated and uncomplicated reasons - change. That the house we bought mere months before would need to be sold. That this sandcastle of a dream would sift through our fingers, tiny grains of hope dashed, mixing with the salt tears, a beach of my own making, like the one we would no longer live near.


To be honest, I am not exactly sure how I would have prepared. How can you work to build a new life while simultaneously preparing for what would happen if it didn’t, well, happen? As a person with anxiety, I actually had to work (hard) to ensure that is not how I moved through the last two years. When Sam coughs or Isla sniffles, I settle in for days of thinking worst-case scenarios and sleepless nights monitoring their breathing. When I leave a social gathering I revisit the things I’ve said, wondering who didn’t like me, who I inadvertently insulted. But leaving our lives behind, our friends, our families, was too important, the stakes too high for such thoughts. Ironically, while such thoughts are not usually helpful - the kids get over their colds, no one at the party is mad at me (as far as I know), in this stakes too high instance, they would have helped. At least I wouldn’t have been blindsided.

I imagine many of you are experiencing a moment of shock even reading this. Imagine that multiplied by a tsunami. A moment with little to no warning that obliterates everything in its path.


Woosh.


It’s been about 2 weeks now. The waters are receding, and we are left reevaluating what we still have, and what was lost. Like all waterlogged things, everything feels heavy, even with the bits of lightness that I know are there. The moments when I realize we get to keep our loved ones close. That I will see another fire blazing Fall. That the hell of the last three months is over and now I just have to sift through the debris, discarding the life I thought I was building and picking up the remaining pieces. Of me. Of him. Of the life, I was supposed to be leaving.


It’s funny, it's like the universe pulled an Uno Reverse card on us. The things that made us happy before - Portugal, the new house, now fill us with sadness. The things that made us sad - leaving friends, family, community, and familiarity, now fill us with happiness. Maybe not so funny.


We are fine, of course. Still lucky. Still have a wonderful life. And a home. And there are so many others so much worse off. We are fine, but we are not okay. Stuck in limbo, trying to go back, be our old selves - we can’t - and trying to find out who we are now - can’t seem to do that either.


Maimed. Fortunate. Devastated. Grateful. Anger. Acceptance.


And maybe one day I will see all of this, not as an Icarus’ level mistake, but rather as the courage behind wanting to fly.

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