I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “buy in” and commitment. And about honoring relationships now that most of my most important life relationships are all long-distance.
The emotions and relationship aspects of being an ex-pat are more complicated than they seem. If I say that I “love” something about my new home in Texas, inevitably someone back home will say something dismissive to me like “sounds like you like it better in Texas” or “you probably don’t miss home at this point, right?”. Stop the truck. Seriously?
You don’t grow up for 41 years in a country and province, surrounded by family and friends and pack up and just … discard that. It actually feels more like an amputation, if I am being honest. Ask me how many times a week I close my eyes, and smell my Zia Antonietta’s veal with sweet red peppers? Or my Godmother’s freak-amazing lasagna with baby meatballs? Sometimes when I am homesick, I will sit out with the dogs outside, and I will close my eyes and remember the feel of the hard sand of Wasaga Beach under my feet, the smell of the giant tracker inner tube that we floated on (my cousins and I), or letting my sister piggy back to the next sandbar.
Sure, those memories were a long time ago, but they stick when you are homesick. It’s a historical kind of nostalgia (I haven’t let her piggy back me in years). But yeah, totally forgot all the important people and memories, the visiting and perks and benefits of being able to see them any time I want. For real? No. And it hurts me terribly if I don’t frame it, almost daily, in an appropriate way. One that let’s me remain positive, productive and cheerful.
If I talk about home too much (let’s be honest, Canada is a pretty kick-ass country), I seem ungrateful to my new country. Unpatriotic? Bullshit. I am the most patriotic person you have ever met about the United States, a long time before I knew it would be my forever home. I’m equally patriotic about Canada (naturally). I consider myself to be a North American culturally, since Canadian’s like to comment on my “American” demeanor and since Americans like to comment on my Canadian traits.
There I was Sunday at St. Patrick’s church for the first time. My palms were sweaty (that never happens to me I swear) and I almost thought about not going inside. I was irrationally nervous and had no clue why. Roman Catholic is … Roman Catholic everywhere, right? Were the words going to be the same? The hymns? Was I going to genuflect at the wrong time, and out myself as a Catholic returning to service finally.
I was glad they had a reception line, and the stewards were very friendly. I don’t think I was under dressed, but I will dress up a little more (like I used to) next weekend when I go. I like dressing up for Church out of respect. It’s how I was raised.
It didn’t take me long to find a pew in the back row. Not in the very back, but back-ish. Tucked in a corner where I felt safe. And I prayed (and cried quietly) and prayed (and more Crocodile tears flowed) and in my head (in between praying) I was repeating:
“Stop crying! They are going to think you are a crack-head. Lori Ann … STOP CRYING!”
It didn’t work. So I tried a different approach and I put my palms face up, the way I do to receive strength or guidance when I pray for it. You see, the Gospel was about “waiting” and about committing wholly to marriage, to friendships and to relationships. How putting off going to Church until I was settled was wrong (I should have been going to Church to help me feel settled all along). How waiting for more money in the bank, or certain bills to be paid off before we spent time with other friends or family, expanding our social life a little… wrong. His family doesn’t give two shakes whether we do something that costs a lot of money or no money at all; they just really enjoy being together, which is so refreshing to my heart.
If ever there was a human that gave God a migraine, it is probably me. I chat to Him constantly, asking questions, asking for clarification, asking for … peace?
My quiet dialogue with him while everyone received communion (I abstained until I can go to confession this weekend) was like a child I suppose, who knew she was wrong. My heart was so large in my chest just being there (yes I realize I may sound like a zealot, so deal… I’m a Catholic and proud to be one). The Gospel hit home because it spoke about deferring the most important things in life when you are focused on external goals, which in the cosmic scheme of things, matter so much less than what you are missing out on, while waiting for “perfect circumstance”.
Me: “I know I am feeling this way because I have missed being in Your House Lord. And for all the blessings you have given me, guidance and strength, through so much adversity I should have been here every Sunday. Please forgive me for deferring Mass for when it was convenient to me. You are my home Lord. I’ll do better to make you proud.”
There is always so much to worry about, think about, compare yourself to with regards to your goals, the achievements of others. Wanting to make everyone happy, but not asking yourself what truly makes you happy and whole, and honoring that.
I chose to make a life where my husband lived, because it was Kevin that was my treasure and exceptional blessing. The best husband a woman like me could ask for. I honor the parts of me that love the people that are in Canada, and will visit soon. But I also honor what needs to be done here, for me to feel rooted, and not temporary. And Sunday was an important step for me, and I think I cried from the beauty of the moment when I realized I was home in myself (does that make sense?). Geography doesn’t change who I am or who I love, but this life here in Texas needs me to love it too… and honor it the same way I honored my life in Ontario, by creating new memories and prioritizing things that truly matter.
I think Texas will love me back, if I love her first. I don’t have to completely agree with her on all things, but there is a gratitude and pride in living here that I also need to show in return. After all, she welcomed me with open arms when I fell hopelessly in love with some Tex-Mex with a sexy drawl, didn’t she? And I resolved to do a better job of being “Lori” devoid of geography… and just “Lori” full-stop. The kind of “Lori” I am when I feel I am home.
Because I am home, the minute I allow myself to acknowledge it as ‘home’.