January 3, 2013

The leap

I’ve been a bad little girl. I’ve been behaving like a drunk, obnoxious tourist on the pristine beach of my own life.
I can’t tell you what delicious naughtiness I’ve indulged in, except to say it is probably not near as shocking as what you have going through your brain. It is closer to the truth to say that I’ve fallen out of character.

The truest version of me is the one that is always polite and kind, always follows the rules and does what is right. How, though, do you maintain that in a world gone crazy? Atrocity is nowhere near my doorstep, but it is all around every one of us in that moment where our breath is caught reading the CNN headlines at night. That intake of breath holds within it a moment of wondering of how people can be pushed so far and every headline holds a little bit of permission to move the line of what you will accept a little further away from your heart. The end of 2012 was brutal in its onslaught of horror-packed news. I too, developed a taste for the dark and thrilled and shuddered at how I could splash a headline across my life, watch it come spinning up to my consciousness like a scene from a 60’s B movie.

The new year finds me calmer, and wondering why. Why have I been playing with the moral code which I have carved out for myself? Don’t misunderstand. My moral code would probably never stand up to any set of church or government rules. It comes closest to the Wiccan rede, “Harm none, and do what ye will.” Love. Be loved. Tell the truth. Don’t judge. Always ask a question before you make a statement. Play within the rules when it is important. Break them when it is essential. Empathize, even when it hurts. Above all, keep the peace. Even When It Hurts.

I haven’t been following my own rules, though. The end of the year saw me fighting, lying and judging, swinging my hard-earned peace around me head like a spiked club, doing damage.I suppose it is easy to blame disillusionment with society, or perhaps just being middle-aged. We are all supposed to rage a bit at this age, aren’t we? No leather pants or motorcycle for me, I’ll stick to my snaked tongue and two faces, thank you. Oh, and pass the tequila.

No, I can’t blame any of these things. I have, however, settled on an excuse…a very special, unique excuse for why I’ve been less of my true self. I’m displaced, dislocated. That is to say, my identity is out of socket.

Being an expat can be glorious in its freedom. You float above both your worlds, and no one ever really gets to own you or define you. You play both cultures when you want or need to and can tune out either when convenient. This has consequences. There is a day when you come to feel like you don’t belong anywhere. When you don’t belong, the rules go spinning away from you, like yesterday’s headlines. A little too free, we expats sometimes find ourselves dropping beneath moments, doing things we would never do at home. Except, we are supposed to be at home, aren’t we?

Maybe, also, this spreads to all of us. Yes, I am a Canadian, a Newfoundlander, an only daughter who built a life on the other side of the world. And you? You may be living in Alberta when your TV starts flashing scenes of war, mass shootings, gang rape into your living room. Are you not then, too, an expatriate…living far away from the landscape you knew growing up? Are you not also dislocated, displaced? Does your heart not move a little left of where you last saw it? Do you not turn off the TV and go lie down in your bed and rearrange what you thought you knew and your rules for living?

I don’t have the answers. But, I’m back to asking questions first. And that begins the process of repatriation that maybe we all need to do. We are all far from home, right now, if you trust the headlines. Here’s hoping the New Year brings us all a train ticket back to the centers of ourselves, the ones that were built before the world got in the way. Here’s hoping you have a window seat and a chatty, interesting companion. And maybe, a shot of tequila.


  1. Love it! It is true; we all let ourselves slip slowly out of our shell that kept us in line. Here’s to crawling back in for 2013 !!!

  2. In my case it has been a long and dusty 50 year trail from the deserts of Colorado to the borea forests of Rocky Harbour and every place in between. I don’t have all the answers either. I am still just an old cowpoke with horseshit on my boots but I have come to learn one thing for sure – Home is where we hang our hats.
    Dear Old Dad.

  3. I like it Shelley. It is certainly something I too have been thinking about – I often find myself shirking at my very words that come out of my mouth because they don’t resemble me but yet they become parcel to how I am identified by others. So for sure, here is to the New Year and getting centered in many, many ways. Again thanks for the small present and let me know when you are free for a chat and tea. Lots of love me.

  4. Finally I began to live a life of expat. Right after coming back to ann arbor(from NYC) I got a severe cold and I am reading this posting on my bed. True, even though I more than miss my hometown, friends and even ex-girl friends, what I am facing here also defines my life and describes the way I live. Today, my fever goes high as I can’t answer where I will be.

  5. I want tp read about a trip to bunny world in a VW van.

  6. Conversely, some of us expats retreat into an altogether different reality: one of insular solitude. My friends are my colleagues, my home is my cave, my bike my getaway vehicle and my computer is everything else. :smiley: :shrug: afk…

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