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Live Deep: The Last Three Years

LIVE DEEP.
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These two words have returned to me time and again over the past few weeks. They first came to mind as I was writing the post about how our life, as we knew it in the US, was dissolving. A change in my husband’s professional circumstances meant that we had six weeks to leave our home and possibly move back to England due to our visa.
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Moving here was a great adventure but also a struggle. I’m an English girl at heart and although I’ve had a lifelong love affair with New England, I missed home and was apprehensive about our future here as a family. It was also a little disconcerting to be the tag along wife – we were moving for Hugh’s job, which was a new experience for me. I was also fearful that my writing life might not find an audience here.
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But as I packed up my old life and headed across the ocean, this is what I decided: that if this was to be my home, the place where I would form lifelong friendships, where I would put down roots for our little and expanding family – I would live deep.
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What does this mean? Well, I guess it means that I wasn’t prepared for any experience I had to skim to surface; to be shallow. Every person I met; every path I walked down; every lake I swam in; every tree I sat under; every barista who handed me a coffee; every bookseller in town; every checkout assistant in the local grocery store; every parent and teacher and child in my kids’ school; every gorgeous librarian (the angels that make up every community) that handed me and my children a book; every dance teacher; every student here at the boarding school where I lived – all of them, would matter. I saw those people and experiences and situations, those trees and paths, as forever people and places. I wanted to fold my life into the fabric of this place so that I would, over time, become part of it too.
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Of course, an immigrant always, in part, remains a stranger in their new land. But there are small blessings in that too. To belong to more than one place. To have an outsider’s perspective. And to take nothing for granted, as we sometimes do when life is overly familiar. From what I’ve observed, being away from your homeland is good for the writer’s soul too: it sharpens the senses; it teaches you more about the human story.
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I never expected that, three years on, we would be told that we had to go home and leave all that we had built behind. And through the shock and sadness and fear – losing one’s home is a grief, perhaps not as intense but certainly akin to losing a person – I felt a tinge of resentment. I told Hugh: ‘But I’ve invested so very much here; how can it all be taken away in an instant? If only I’d known that we’d be leaving soon, maybe I’d wouldn’t have got so attached…’ I imagine that many an immigrant has asked themselves that question when their new and tender roots have been torn up.
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But then I thought on. And I realised that it was a gift that I didn’t know that this was meant to be a springboard rather than a landing place. I’m grateful because it allowed me to live deep. And to live deep is to live meaningfully. To be present. To make each moment count. Had I known that we’d be moving on so soon, I might have held back a little, and that would have been sad because the experience would have been but a shadow to the full, rich, life-giving experience that we’ve had.
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So this is what I’ve learned from all this. I’m working hard to learn lessons every day as we come to terms with our transition. That living deep shouldn’t be contingent on permanence or impermanence or time-frames. Life, after all, is never certain and is always, in the end, impermanent.
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Living deep takes courage and vulnerability and, perhaps, most of all, love. I have tried, over the past few years, to love this place and its people deeply and it and them have given back to my family a thousand fold. The Concord community, in particular, has rallied around us, showing us that it believes in us as a family and in the commitment we showed to to it from the moment we stepped off the plane. And small miracles have resulted from that; miracles that would never have manifested themselves and we lived in the shallows for the past three years.
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So, at this crossroads in our life as a family, this is my choice. Either I curl back into my shell and build a defence so that I won’t get hurt again. Or I do the opposite: keep stretching my neck out of that shell; keep living deeply in every moment, even though it is exhausting and scary and might hurt terribly when something or someone is lost or if we are rejected.
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And though, in many ways, it would be easier to retract; I choose the latter. Because that is where the human spirit thrives. And because I believe that this is our human calling: to make every moment matter; to put our selves out there in our entirety; to live and love fully. I have come to understand that there is a spirituality in living this way. That when we live deep, we tap into something in the human spirit that is true and beautiful and reciprocal. It is something I hope to teach my children, which is hard, because it is acknowledging that they too will be hurt – something that no mother ever wants for their little ones. But I know that the hurt, which will inevitably come, is a small price to pay for the riches of living deep.
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I took this photograph this afternoon. It’s a symbol of what it means to live deep. In the last few weeks of his life, our dear little Sebastian, sat on this patch of worn grass day and night. And every day, he would be greeted by the students who are here for their summer programme. They came to love him dearly. To sit with him in the early morning and late evening. To stroke his soft, white fur. To feel the laboured breathing under his ribcage and the rapid, arrhythmic beat of his failing heart. They didn’t know, then, how sick he was but they knew that their relationship with him was finite: that in a few weeks they would move back to their lives outside campus and, in all likelihood, never see him again. But that didn’t stop them from loving him. And so, when they learned of his passing, they cried. And ever since, they have come by to leave wild flowers on the spot where he lay and where they got to know him. They lived deep. And I am certain that they will carry Seb’s spirit with them as a result.
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We are entering the final stages of our decision making, a time that has been as excruciating as the initial shock of losing what we had: how do we know that what we choose will be right? That the things we will say no to weren’t the things we were meant to embrace? That we are not misreading the signs that are guiding us to one side of the Atlantic or the other? Well, I imagine we will never have the answers to those questions. But we do have this as a choice: to embrace our new life, whatever shape it takes: to live deep. I hope that, wherever you are in the world, you will join us in the depths.
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