Wednesday, 29 July 2015

"Sorry I was late, there was a turtle in my driveway."

What shall we call him?
Okay, so that's not the usual way to start one's work day, but it's totally true! Take a look at this little dude on the right. He was just chilling on the driveway this morning, so I had to herd him on to the flowerbed in order to get my car out of the garage without smooshing him. He was a scuttling little thing, and moved pretty fast, thank goodness! I didn't want him out in the open for too long, especially as it was getting pretty warm already. Not quite the same as being held up by a group of cows crossing the road on Minchinhampton Common, but I enjoyed the parallel nonetheless.

The presence of a turtle on my driveway somehow was the catalyst I needed to remember that I now live in North Carolina. Turtles do not tend to happen across your route to work back in the UK, and this is the first time it's happened to me since I've lived in the States. So funnily enough, it prompted me to consciously think about my expat presence for the first time in a long time.

Unicorns are less common in NC,
but I seem to have found one.
Normal things are happening here, other than random reptiles making house calls, but they're all, inevitably, in the context of being a Brit abroad. I'm making progress at work to the point that I've been asked to apply for internal promotions, and I recently celebrated two years in my current role in the Office of International Programs. It makes me really happy to be forging a formal career in a place so totally new to me, and to be able to be part of a team that promotes and celebrates the importance of an international education and perspective.

Later this year, my beloved Neldie is marrying her Ryan in Jamaica, and Jess and I get to go have a mini-vacation there to celebrate with them! I've never been to Jamaica, so that will be a new adventure as well. A little before that, the ridiculously wonderful man on the left there and I will be celebrating our anniversary, and starting to make plans for next spring when we hope we'll have our own place together, too. This makes me think more about how much change and growth, in practical terms, has happened since I've moved to NC. Making travel arrangements, looking at properties, knowing who to go to to ask questions: all of these things have taken time to learn how to do in terms of doing it from NC rather than England, but it's almost second nature now, and I'm filling in gaps of procedural knowledge, rather than starting from scratch every time.

No, you cannot steal either of them, Steve.
So far this year I've been lucky enough to have several visits from beloved friends back home, with one currently still here (!), and one more just confirmed this morning! Steve has been at The Clamstead for just over a week, and many shenanigans have been had, mostly involving food, friends, the Wine Vault, a visit to Concord and to Salisbury, and the inevitable welcome party (which was rainbow-themed, this time). I'll be very sad to see him go, as we currently seem to only get to catch up every two years or so, in person at least, but we still have a big dinner planned tonight, and there's the likelihood of me being able to visit the UK more as of next year as I'll have more vacation days stored up. Fingers crossed! A dear friend from university messaged me this morning to say she can take a work trip detour en route back to England this coming September, so I will get to see her for the first time in almost three years. I'm so very excited! Having people to stay and, at last, being at liberty to travel more myself, is just wonderful.





And of course, my two fluff monsters, who are now the grand old age of three, are as fantastic as ever. Satine was recently a little poorly with a stomach upset, but because we have the most amazing vets, she is now right as rain and back to her silly self. Bertie is inevitably Queen B, with her rule-making and smarts. I couldn't love those two more!

Finally, my roomie Jess, who may as well be my sister, along with some of the best humans I've ever met, continue to be part of my daily Queen City life, and that is the biggest of blessings. I still cannot believe I am so lucky to have this amazing community of wonderful people in a place that I hadn't even set foot in five years ago.





So, thank you to a certain turtle for making me want to write this lunchtime. And thank you to you, life in NC, for love and loveliness for one lucky Brit.


Sunday, 5 July 2015

Guard your heart, don't build walls around it

It's been almost two months since I last wrote. How did that happen?! It seems to be about my standard blogging pace these days. Initially I slowed down in my writing because I was busy, then because I thought I was getting used to being an expat, then because it was too hard and there was too much to say, then because it was still too hard and I didn't know what to say, and now because... I guess a combination of the first two reasons? I'm busy, and I'm pretty used to being a Charlottean these days. No bad thing!

It's no longer too hard to write. My anxiety issues are still there, but they're incorporated and manageable, rather than the main feature. I can attribute this to my own willingness to heal, the amazing encouragement and unending backup I've had from family and loved ones, and the benefits of medical and therapeutic support. These past few months have been painful and a struggle for different reasons to those with which I have an ongoing wrestling match. The loss of two people I loved, differently and at different times, but loved and didn't get enough time with regardless, has been and continues to be very difficult to process (and that's just my stuff - my heart is truly with those closer to them who have lost a parent, partner, or child). I don't feel right writing about that on here, or at all, as nothing seems appropriate in terms of doing the loss any kind of justice, and I certainly don't want to speak out of turn. Suffice it to say that both were taken too soon, and I wish it could be undone.

Running 3-4 times a week again. :) 

So, what to write, then? Over the past eight weeks or so there has been another shift for me. I guess the lessons of the past few months, or year, or two years are that nothing is certain, that shifts happen all the time, and that perhaps you only become conscious of that when a big one pulls the rug out from under you. This has begun to settle as a revelation, and has become more of a truth I always really knew. There are days when I feel inconsolably lonely, days when I just want to sleep (and usually can't), and days when I think I'm okay and then panic rears its head as though to remind me that I can't be assured of anything. But I'm so very well. My strength has returned. I'm happy and aware and fortunate and me - more so than I ever really thought I'd be again. I might even be so brave as to venture that I'm a better me; a stronger, more resolute, resilient, compassionate, assertive, and more comfortable person. Regardless, I'm not constantly anxious or worried about who I am or how I'm perceived any more. At some point, that fear just left me, and that persistent nagging voice is either absent, or so quiet I can tell it to bugger off because I have better things to listen to. It's such a welcome change.

Perhaps I've stalled in writing because subconsciously I've wanted to write an "I'm all better!" post and then move on from there. My naive, optimistic, overly-hopeful brain likely thought that this would be the case some day, and that I should wait until then. But not only is it not the case, it also shouldn't be. As the wise Doctor (Capaldi, in this case) said:

The Doctor: Are you okay?
Clara: No.
The Doctor: Good. There are some things we should never be okay about.

With that in mind, then, let's move forward knowing that things are different and that I may not write as much (for a plethora of reasons!), but when I do, it's from a place of strength and peace and happiness.

And possibly this lake. :D


I am a water baby, and thus am never happier than when near or on/in water,
I had the loveliest July 4th this year.

This man and this derp. Just love.

My sister. :)

They're so creative.

I choose strong.

Ah! These two! Furry loves of my life.

I've even become brave enough to say hello to famous people I admire!

As ever, my Neldie. :)

Love and laugh.

Love wins.

And a bit of humor.



"Never live your life without love and patience; find your way on board before your train leaves the station."

-- Carolina Story, 'When I Was Just a Boy'