Leaving the safe harbor

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain

It’s time for an adventure. Maybe not an Everest climb or paddle down the Amazon, but for someone like me whose idea of a great Friday night is Indian takeout and a Midsomer Murder on the DVR, it’s kind of a big deal.

In a few weeks, my husband, the kids and I will be moving to Europe. Sweden to be precise. My husband was born and raised there. It’s where we met, a long, long time ago. It’s where we got married and started our life together. After 18 years of living in the US, we’ve decided it’s time for Sweden again.

I’ve made this trans-Atlantic move twice before. Before kids. Before a career. Before owning a home. Before turning 40. Before turning 30 even. It was an adventure those times, too. But this one seems so much more adventure-y, in that terrifying-and-ludicrous way adventures do.

There’s so much more to lose and miss. That’s a good sign; it means that I have much to be grateful for: a wide, rich network of extended family, a few deeply rooted friendships, a blessings of rewarding work and sheltering home, and schools in which my children grow and thrive.

“No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.” -Lewis Carroll

It’s no surprise, given how much I am leaving behind, that people are curious about why we’re going. Frankly, I spent a lot of time being ambivalent about it myself, and that confusion likely telegraphs itself from my heart to the outside world.

I wasn’t even going to try to explain, assuming no one would understand since I didn’t. (And honestly, how do you tell your family that you’re moving to be closer to family? Try it.) But a family member encouraged me to make the effort. So here goes.

No single explanation will really suffice. Instead, there are many. We are leaving family and friends here, yes, to be close to family and friends who we have missed for a long time. There’s the opportunity for the kids to have a day-to-day life spent with cousins and aunts and uncles—and for me to see four of the world’s most perfect sisters- and brothers-in-law more than once a year. My heart smiles when I think of that.

Less certain but also appealing is the possibility that if we play our cards right, we have a chance for a somewhat less crazybusy life. Sweden’s work policies tend to be a bit more compatible with raising a family, and I do look forward to that. I say “less certain” because I’ve long suspected that crazybusy is my default setting. Here’s hoping for a re-boot!

The explanation I’m less comfortable giving to my friends who don’t have kids with special needs (but which my special needs friends seem to get before I get the whole sentence out of my mouth): I’m thinking about the future. It’s hard to explain. Whether it was a brilliant move or a foolish one…I’ll let you know in 20 or 30 years.

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” -John A. Shedd

A woman at a special needs conference two weeks ago overheard me telling a friend that we were moving to Europe. “OMG, you have a special needs kid and you’re moving to a different country?!?” The challenges of figuring out the ins-and-outs of new education, health care, and disability systems, finding new schools, new jobs, new doctors, new insurance, establishing all those new relationships with the school bus dispatcher and the pharmacy assistant, not to mention selling a home and packing—it’s exhausting and overwhelming to think about.

But I am grateful in knowing that I’m ready to try. Two years ago, it would have been out of the question. Today, I’m game for anything. I always dreamed I’d have adventures. Why shouldn’t we now? The wonderful thing about learning new skills like advocacy, collaboration and creative problem solving is that they are global. I’m bringing them with me. Thank you to all my wonderful teachers.

“Travel is not really about leaving our homes, but leaving our habits.” -Pico Iyer

We leave in one month. We’ve decided to take a boat. It’s the Queen Mary 2, and apparently you’re not allowed to call it a cruise, or some butler will come out and dump you in the ocean. It will be a wonderful chance to decompress between a busy period of leaving and a busy period of arriving. Or it will be a disaster, a family of four including one little boy who can’t sit still or drink tea without spilling among 1,700 very English English people. May God protect their shuffle board games. Either way, it’s a mode of transportation in keeping with our keen sense of adventure and desire for the romantic gesture.

In the mean time, there’s the leaving. The packing and the decluttering is so luscious that it deserves its own post. The tossing of the years of stuff. The unsubscribing from catalogs and email newsletters. The decluttering of the beliefs about who I am, what I am capable of, and what life will be life.

“Definition of ‘adventure’: extreme circumstances recalled in tranquility.” -Jules the Kiwi

More news to come on these extreme circumstances, or this adventure, for sure. Until then, it’s time to go pack a few more boxes.

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About Cristin L.

Earthling, pilgrim, peace warrior and special needs parent
This entry was posted in special needs parenting and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Leaving the safe harbor

  1. Randi says:

    Best to you and your family Cristiin. My husband and I experienced similar feelings of adventure and trepidation when we packed up all our possessions – including all the goods for our unborn son with special needs – and moved to London. Friends were aghast that we would consider having our baby in a foreign country. Boarding that airplane with just a suitcase filled with (maternity) clothes was a very liberating feeling (the boxes of crib, baby clothes, stroller all came over later by freight). We had a wonderful adventure and loved our 3+ years there. I know you will too. Enjoy!

  2. Susan Nadworny says:

    There is such dignity in risk – so happy you are embarking on what will be a wonderful adventure. I will look forward to fabulous updates on your sweet life in Sweden!

    • Cristin L. says:

      I knew you’d get it! I’ll miss you though. You were one of the people my shout out was for–so glad I can bring what you taught me with you. And boy, do I need it! The school transition is proving to be quite a little headache.

  3. Jackie Wilson says:

    Cristin, I so admire your senses of self, possibility, and adventure and, as you say, the desire to re-boot. You and your husband must have an extremely special relationship- the mind set such you have is incredible and inspiring. When my husband and I were in our late 20’s and childless we spent a few years in Tanzania- we think of it every day and sometimes I let myself imagine living there again, this time with our kids. It’s something I can only imagine, as all of the reasons why we can’t immediately make themselves heard in my head. I realize that the biggest, most seemingly insurmountable are our mental states of being: we are just not as flexible and adaptable as we once were. The willingness to make this move that both you and your partner share this is amazing. You guys can’t go wrong- you wrote about many good reasons for the move (Isn’t it funny, in a not-so-funny way, when people assume that the US is the best place to be to raise children?)- but when it comes down to it, I think that the spirit that you and your partner share will make for a fulfilling/good/adventurous/blessed life, no matter where you are. I wish you all the smoothest of sailing, transitioning and settling in. I regret that even those we lived in fairly close proximity that we didn’t see each other before your move- maybe someday!

    • Cristin L. says:

      Thank you for your kind words and well wishes! I think you hit the nail on the head–our mental state is everything. What we think we can do, we will do. Not sure I’m totally as flexible as I once was, but I’m also wiser. Tanzania sounds wonderful–hope you get an adventure soon, somewhere!

  4. ecoerin says:

    Its so amazing to read this today. In July, I will be moving to Denmark with my (now) 9 month old son to join my husband (whose Danish). It’s kinda nice to know Im not the only one going through this. And I find it an amazingly lovely coincidence.

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  6. Elana says:

    So exciting, Cristin! A quote I read long ago may seem special to you right now. It always has to me. I’m paraphrasing wildly: “We think of travel as expanding our world, but in reality, it contracts it because you come closer to those you travel with.” Safe journeys and keep writing!

  7. Diane Engelstad says:

    What a brave adventurer you are! I too love adventures (we took the romantic train a couple of years ago) but these days this quote from J.R.R. Tolkien suits me better: “Little by little, one travels far.” We’ll look for your posts from the Queen Mary 2, and Sweden. Don’t leave us!

    • Cristin L. says:

      I won’t leave you! But don’t look for posts from the boat–with wifi starting at $50 for 120 minutes, we’ll be crossing sans Internet. Kind of looking forward to that. Your quote is a good one too. Love Tolkein.

  8. Marsha Wenig says:

    Am always delighted with your inspiration.

  9. Carolyn Thompson says:

    Hi Cristin,

    I found Rilke’s poem with the line about the ship and shoreline that I was thinking about. It’s not so much about sailing but the future so maybe it is appropriate anyway. (Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy. Riverhead Books, New York; 1996. p.119)

    Du bist die Zukunft, grobes Morgenrot

    You are the future,

    the red sky before sunrise

    over the fields of time.

    You are the cock’s crow when night is done,

    you are the dew and the bells of matins,

    maiden, stranger, mother, death.

    You create yourself in ever-changing shapes

    that rise from the stuff of our days —

    unsung, unmourned, undescribed,

    like a forest we never knew.

    You are the deep innerness of all things,

    the last word that can never be spoken.

    To each of us you reveal yourself differently:

    to the ship as coastline, to the shore as ship.

    II, 22

    Blessings on your journey into the future!

    Carolyn

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