What I Can Hope For (Moving to Oman)
Garrett arrives on time with his Cannon wide angle lens, his tripod ready in realtor fashion. We begin in the office, turning on lights, adjusting the Plantation shutters, looking for the best possible angle to showcase the features of our home. He fiddles with the camera settings, and I survey the room I just unpacked 8 months ago…has it really only been 8 months?
I bend down to straighten the fringe on the rug, something I never do, but my home is about to be photographed for strangers to rent and oddly this seems important. Months ago, when I put my art on the walls, stacked my books sideways, vertically, and horizontally on the shelves (according to color), I thought we’d be here longer. But we’re moving to Oman in August and it’s time to pack up again.
I’m not disappointed. I’m not sad. I’m happy, stressed, curious, excited, mildly panicked, all of the above. It’s hard to describe what I feel. I suppose I’m trying to take it all in, like I do every time we move. I’m trying to remember this place, how it feels to be here, remember the people and relationships that have made this our “home.” Has it really been less than a year?
Garett moves to photograph the living room. He sets up his tripod in the hall. I stand behind, watching the camera’s viewfinder as he brings our life into focus. I see the leather couches we bought in California, our first REAL living room set. The pillows and sheepskins we bought in Sweden, the coffee table a friend bought for us in a factory in Jakarta (there’s a story), the animal carvings that were given to us from a dear friend who worked in Africa, the Native American weaving from Cooper’s parents and the drum his brother painted a few years before he died. I see memories. I see history. I see the roots that have grounded us in each of the four countries we’ve lived and more than 20 homes. Home for us is this…our family, our friends, our shared experiences, everything we take, a moveable feast.
Garrett turns toward me, points to the photo now frozen in the frame, “Is this okay?”
There’s something heavy in my chest, I take a breath. “Yes, it’s perfect.”
We move to the kitchen. I notice a distracting crock full of wooden spoons on the gleaming empty counters. I take it off, along with a few other objects, then step back. The kitchen looks spacious, thoughtfully built. I never liked this space and I wonder why now? What was so wrong? I thought it wasn’t working, but as it turns out, it was fine all along.
Garrett flips on the light switches and points to the bulbs not turning on. “Is there another light switch?”
“No,” I tell him, “I guess they’re burned out.” And as I say the words, I know, I know something about myself. I am burned out too. The bulbs are a reminder of “all things neglected” this year, what I’ve let slide. Who am I kidding, straightening the fringe on the rug, this single parenthood stinks. It’s been one of my toughest challenges to date. I’ve had to reprioritize everything. Feeding kids, a priority. Changing lightbulbs, not a priority. As life got complicated, priorities got simple. I’m so ready for this to be done. Is it really almost over?
We walk downstairs. He takes snap shots of the basement then photographs the backyard. Garrett tells me he’ll fly his drone over later to take some aerial shots, trying not to make it sound as cool as it sounds. I recall how I first saw this home, from an aerial view, up on the trail looking down, the “For Sale,” sign in the yard, me thinking, wouldn’t it be cool to live right there, by the trails, next to the red rock.
And then it happened. We bought the home and I knew, I knew, my life of trail hikes and plein air painting was about to begin. I’d be out every day, up on the trails, me and my easel and…and… yeah…no. Not even close. I’ve been far too busy for plein air excursions (oh please!). But I have gone on the trails, many times. In the early days, when I felt so alone, it was to walk and cry up there in the red rocks. In time, I found lovely friends and we’d hike together. (OH, I will miss them!) The red rocks became the backdrop for my life, even the backdrop for my niece’s life when I helped her with her engagement photo shoot. I managed to paint the red rocks, a time or two, indoors, from a photograph, (it still counts).
The dream, got me here, then life did what it had to do, teach me. I’ve learned this year about myself, our family, this place, how to live with disappointment, grace and faith. It’s kind of like that kitchen, as it turns out, what I thought wasn’t working, really was. I just had to take a step back and see it was just fine after all.
Viktor Frankl, holocaust survivor and prisoner in Auschwitz wrote the book “Man Search for Meaning.” He writes, “We had to learn ourselves…that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and mediation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”
Life is always asking questions, making demands of us, taking us where we didn’t think we wanted to go, but later, when we stand back and see it, we’re so glad we did. Life doesn’t go as planned, but in the end, it will go better (I promise). Life is a process of reconciliation—grieving, forgiving, learning how to gather strength then moving on.
I’m intrigued by this next move, by the little known country of Oman, the size of Missouri and Arkansas put together. Nobody seems to know where it is. I had to look it up on a map. But I have no doubt, like all the places I’ve been, Oman has something to teach me. More than anything, I’m excited to be a family again, all together, mom, dad, and kids under the same roof. I’m beginning to imagine what it will be like. It doesn’t matter that I know, I know it won’t be like anything I imagine, nor does it matter that it won’t go as planned, because I trust that it will be exactly as it needs to be and that is what I can hope for.