what if it takes more than a year?


and when i look back and add up all the bits by bits, i’m not sure if it will equal home or not. maybe it will. but i have to wonder, maybe it won’t?

what if it takes more than a year to make a place a home?  what if it takes more like two, or three, or...what if it never feels like home?  

when we were preparing to move from pittsburgh to doha, a sweet, dear friend sent me the blog post of another good friend of hers who i'd met once.  i love this post, titled, "it takes a year."  it's perfect and reassuring.  there are ways to round off the sharp corners; ways to settle-in and make the new surroundings knowable.  there is a common rhythm between what she writes about doing and what i'd inadvertently practiced when moving to pittsburgh:  making the newness become etched and stained with memories and friendships, wearing-down the discomfort into a solid heap of beautiful homeness.  --   so i thought it would take a year.  

but year two started back up when we returned to doha from 3 months in the USA. and instead of feeling the gusto of adventure and belonging, i felt betrayed. i questioned what i was doing wrong. it was quite dark, and i was isolated.  why had a year gone by and i still hated life here in doha?  why can't i fully call this place my home?  

and as i sit here, on the verge of packing up for the summer once again, i'm giving myself permission to figure out that why.  pam wrote it all so beautifully, but it doesn't take a year.  for me, it doesn't even take two years.  it takes bit by bit.  and when i look back and add up all the bits by bits, i'm not sure if it will equal home or not.  maybe it will.  but i have to wonder, maybe it won't?  

and the velveteen rabbit asks the skin horse, "what is real?"   the skin horse replies, like as a warm life-birthing breeze gazes upon the weary soul of uncertainty, "it is a thing that happens to you."  here the rabbit wants to know WHEN.  how LONG will it take!?  "does it happen all at once [...] or bit by bit?"  the skin horse replies.  but that answer isn't what i was hoping for.  "it takes a long time."  but once you are {home}, it will last forever.

there is something that makes pittsburgh still come to mind, and is ever present in my heart, as my home.  and i have to think about why.

it is because i became {real}:

most of my history has been known and tied onto little heart posts in the field of friendships there.  there were trusted conversations.  deep needs known.  pain reviled.  flaws seen and uncovered.  makeup unworn.  birthing pains heard.  mistakes.  vulnerability received with love.  anchors.  babes born.  faith deepened after a good shaking.  political views established.  young-oldness granted.

perhaps it's because it didn't all happen bit by bit, but felt like it poured down on me.  on us.  i became {real}.  and so, pittsburgh became {home}.

and i am not known here.  i have not allowed myself or have been invited to become {real} in doha with anyone yet.  i don't quite know who i can be my authentic self with yet.  and while the search is on and i'm trying to build friendships, i also feel the dead cells of my true self flaking off.  when we can't be our true selves in the place we are occupying, can that place take on the inviting form of home?  

i am trying and recognizing that it was quicker in pittsburgh and that just ain't going to be the same here.  sure.  

and then there are the practicalities of why it has been challenging to make doha a home:

1. major cultural differences (believe it or not, america is not all that diverse--or at least the parts i've known)

2.  sicknesses=isolation.  between children taking turns and then passing it on to the parents, this family of 4 stayed pretty secluded those first 7 months. 

3.  children:  both a hinderance and a help.  about 99% of my adult social time was scheduled as playdates that first year.  not a whole lot of good, quality conversation can be had in those settings, and yet it was easy to meet people because of those playdates.  it's also harder to just up and go out to a party or gathering when you need to find a trustworthy person to watch your kid each time.  ugh.


so i look at all of this not to just add padding around my fragile self and then sit inside and bolt the doors until everything goes away or a tornado finally sweeps me back home.  this is me giving myself the permission to say, making doha my home has taken more than a year, and that is okay.  i understand it better.

i'm also saying that i've been trying.  coming up to the end of this second year, i'm filled with a lot more hope and appreciation of doha then i did a year ago:

  • i started an expat wives support group
  • my sweet sophia has successfully completed her reception year (i'd like to think i helped in that some way)
  • i applied to an MFA program and didn't get in, but was so proud of myself for making a CV (and all that other portfolio stuff), and prepared for a high-stakes interview.  and through that i realized some of my passion and some of my heart yearnings
  • i've completed a few online design courses
  • i took a photography community class
  • i tutored a worker from sri lanka
  • i got to hold my little loves when they were sick and home from school
  • i've sewed up quite a few things
  • i hosted my sister
  • i've traveled!!  boy did i travel
  • i've grown deeper in my love for and in my understanding and respect for my husband

undoubtedly, i am all ready excited to return back to doha in august...it's not easy to sleep on air mattresses for 2 months, people.

so, that about wraps up this session for me and i leave with this hope from pam's blog post:  

Every time you leave and return, you discover that there is a different type of contentment in the return because you know more and are known by more. The foundation becomes stronger and a home is built.
— pam the nomad

but this happens bit by bit as that wise skin horse reassured that wondering, timid velveteen rabbit.  because once you are {real}, you are {home}.