Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Going Home Again

When we left Lancaster County we experienced a bit of a "good riddance" moment. We had felt trapped where we were for some time. We lived in a place with few amenities. The culture was conservative, which is fine, but it was so conservative that it didn't even seem to allow room for debate, much less conversation. Our family and friends were spread all over the county, and because we were the outliers in that far northern tip, it seemed that we were always the ones making an effort to journey to them. Perhaps I am being unfair in my last statement, but we were always running-- always burning gas in an effort to have social interaction. We also watched tons of Netflix movies during our tenure in Reinholds because we often didn't have the energy to make the hour plus commitment to the round trip commute with kids to do any of the things we wanted to do or see any of the people we wanted to see.

I won't go so far as to say we were miserable during those years in Reinholds. We were in the thick of childrearing and that accounts for some of the battle-weary look in our eyes, but it also accounts for much of the joy. Our kids, and their activities, were a focus in a way that they--mobile, graduated, and semi-self-sufficient--are not here in Arden. If you have been reading this blog, then I think it goes without saying how being in Arden has awakened us in ways we could not imagine. We are thriving here in Utopia.

So, when we have to make that hour-and-a-half drive back to Lancaster County, it sometimes feels as though we are being sucked back through a vortex to black-and-white Kansas after having been to the Emerald City. And we aren't as excited at the prospect of coming home as Dorothy is. The difference is that Dorothy wants to go home; home is her quest. We, on the other hand, get summoned back to the L.C. for events and gatherings that are not our call. Our son is there. Our parents are there. My sister's family. Mark's brother's family. Extended family. We are back for holidays, weddings, rites of passage.  Recently, I have had multiple friends take me to task for not making the effort to visit them and spend the day.  None of my friends seem to overlap. Girls' night out and the proverbial killing two birds with one stone is not really an option. Each friend wants a day to themselves. The problem is not that I don't go to Lancaster County. (I will be there four times this month.) It is that when I go, I have to rotate through all the people I want to see, have to see, and still not see everyone who is important to us.

And then there is the fact that I feel my energy change when I go back. Arden feeds me. Though I don't have the confines of a job, I am effective and I get lots of meaningful work done here.  Sometimes, I feel as though Lancaster County sucks the life right out of me.  We had some tough years there. I had some lonely years there, feeling isolated--socially, spiritually, and artistically. I am making the journey back a lot more often than I would like. I don't get a chance to miss the parts that were good when we were there. I often feel resentful, like someone who is being forced awake in the middle of a wonderful dream for something as mundane as a dentist appointment.  I wrestle with that feeling of dissatisfaction, because I do really want to see the people from our past. The one thing I don't respond well to is guilt, especially in its subtle forms. That shuts me down more completely than a bank on a national holiday. And I don't respond well to those who think I need to make the allowances because mine is the more flexible schedule. Those who think that have not seen my schedule. If I am coming to see you, I am taking a day off of my work, just as you would have to take a day off of your work to come see me.

I know it isn't realistic for friends and family to visit me in Arden all the time. I am happy that my son and my in-laws make the journey down as often as they do. That helps. Other friends have journeyed to see us, too, which gives us an indication of the strength of our bonds. It is very easy to take people off our list of must-see when we are back if they have never made the effort to come see us. If we have had a past association with you--believe me, you are welcome hither to our house in Arden at a moment's notice. We have practically pulled former church acquaintances into our home and forced them to sup when we found out they were coming down for a concert at the Arden Gild Hall.

I ask patience and empathy, and maybe a little forgiveness from our Lancaster County friends and family. We  are still working out the rhythms and politics, the emotions and dog logostics of our visits back to the home country. And Lancaster County for all its contradictions and complexities will always be our home country and our North Star. The place we come when the native tribe calls us back.

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