Adventures, Wellbeing

Long Distance Life Lessons

April 17, 2017
Underground tube station

Many of my blog posts start as a garbled sentence in my phone’s notes section. Not particularly romantic or considered, but those fleeting thoughts that you need to catch before they slip away don’t work to a particular schedule, and most often come when you should be concentrating on something else.

Sometimes the words will pour out furiously, faster than I can keep up with, in one 20 minute commute. Other times I will sit on the sentence, let it fall in and out of my brain, safe in the knowledge that I’ve caught it and made it exist.

About six months ago, I scribbled one such sentence. ‘Thoughts on building yourself back together.’ I was in a meeting and it had occurred to me, as I sat there of a very ordinary week day offering my professional opinion to people who were actually listening to what I had to say, that I felt really, really content in my life. At peace. Happy. Valued. Of course still regularly intersected with moments of concern and uncertainty – such is the ride of life. But on the whole I felt pretty damn good. Which is not something to disregard.

The job I’d taken in Manchester a year previously to give myself a new challenge and a change of pace had been exactly what I’d hoped. Not without its logistical obstacles, but I felt fulfilled and supported, and as such four months had become 12. But it was a plan that was never made to be a long term one. I had started to feel like it was time for this unique situation to end.

Splitting your life in two has so many benefits. But the antithesis is if you’re only living your ‘real’ life two days a week, you’re always on the back foot with it. Yes I was at peace, yes I was happy, but I was missing out – and then furiously catching up, asking people to explain stories they’d already heard, or relay the details of the low-key Wednesday drinks I’d had to forgo, or just to simply sit in my flat with my partner of a Tuesday evening. I was there for all the big moments – the weekend birthdays, the weddings – it was the nuanced, ‘nothing’ moments I craved. Although sad to miss out, this lifestyle was a choice I’d consciously made, eased with the knowledge it was for a finite amount of time.

As good as the job was, I’d now done what I’d set out to do – changed a situation, looked after myself, done a job really well, and achieved a few things in the process.

It was time to go home.

Just a few weeks after I’d written that germ of an idea on my phone, with heady plans of reflecting on the past year’s lessons, the person who’d been so incredibly supportive of my decision to move away for a while, who had popped me on a train each week with the wonderful knowledge that we were building a life together even though we were currently spending a lot of time apart, threw me into a nightmare.

He chose to hit self-destruct, and in the process, hit detonate on my life too.

I was on the outside looking into my life; detached from it because I wasn’t in one place long enough to feel my feet on the ground.

As a result, these last few months have been a complete blur. While the world kept on turning, I felt like I had been blasted into orbit, unable to navigate a landing. Suspended, frozen and at the same time spinning at a dizzying rate, I tried to cling onto something in order to figure out which way was north. I was on the outside looking into my life; detached from it because I wasn’t in one place long enough to feel my feet on the ground. As much as I’m well aware of the inconsistencies of human nature, the ability of the person who had my heart to be so reckless with it was not something I had factored into the path we were on, or the life we were building.

The urgency with which I had started to feel the need to return home to London was suddenly critical to my sanity and my health. Manchester, and its solitude which had already become trying, tipped into bleak isolation. I was exiled, somehow both numb and in unbearable, searing pain. Every breath felt like a conscious effort; weighed down with the heavy hell of trying to figure out what to do with all the mess.

I focussed all my efforts on doing what I was being paid to do. But I needed my friends, and I needed to sit still. When it came to managing my diabetes, this condition that requires so much mental strength and energy, blood tests were barely registered, let alone any conscious adjustment doses to deal with the stress. I was already exhausted from the travelling, from the logistics of my dual life, and now from the indefatigable pace of my thoughts both asleep and awake. Diabetes had to take a back seat, because there was just no room for it in my head.

Then there was the guilt for daring to feel bad about the situation I was in. I had two flats, in two cities, one I could call home, and a great job. But it doesn’t work like that. If it did, I wouldn’t have needed to go in the first place.

So I saw the contract out, and last week I came home. To the pieces of a relationship that remains precarious and uncertain. But also back to my whole, complete and fantastic life, having learned so much from being away.

As time passes, and the days get lighter, so does the burden. So does my perspective. That’s the thing about life – it can’t be split, not really. It’s all life – all the time, in all the places. In overwhelming joy, and in excruciating pain. In the lessons you were prepared for, and the ones you wish you’d never had to learn.

I am indeed building myself back together. Again.

2 Comments

  • Reply Mat April 17, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    Goodness
    Thank you for sharing your struggles.
    Funny how you start to feel you know something if someone through a blog because these are thoughts that can be seen.
    I will think of you and, as is my wint, pray for you.

    A wise woman once said, “All crises end”
    Trouble is dealing with the pandemonium while said crisis is in full flight.

    Look forward to the soft warm earth on your landing.

  • Reply Bill Sheppard April 18, 2017 at 12:56 am

    Jen, I’m so sorry to hear of the turmoil you’re enduring right now, but I’m certain that this will work out for the best.

    Should you find yourself in the San Francisco area I’d be honored to take you out for a meal or a coffee!

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