Two States, Three Years

Moving to two different states within three years is rife with challenges. The biggest one for me? Bigger, even, than finding new doctors and supermarkets and navigating school politics and back roads?

Loneliness.

Gus and I sat by ourselves at Sam’s first lacrosse game last week. I wasn’t sure which crowd was ours because I only know one other parent, and I didn’t see her. So, we awkwardly positioned ourselves in the middle of the two teams, and that’s where we stayed. No one talked to us, no one invited us over. It’s weird, this different dynamic. When Sam played in Indiana, I never even saw a game. I was always too busy catching up, talking, visiting with friends.

But I witnessed every single play of Sam’s game last week. And every moment of Gus’s end-of-season bowling party. Mary Claire and I sat alone there, too.

Yes, I could have introduced myself. Yes, I could have initiated conversation. But it’s such a strange new unknown, breaking into those already-established parent groups, those familiar friendships.

I distinctly remember a Mississippi conversation in which a new acquaintance was describing a fun weekend event. I was excited about going until she said flippantly, “I wouldn’t go if I were you. You won’t really enjoy it if you’re not from here.”

Hug/Slap.

I can’t even imagine what all this must be like for my kids.

Perhaps it’s easier because they are forced into togetherness day after day.

Perhaps it’s more challenging because they are forced into togetherness day after day.

It all makes me wonder… did I embrace the new people in town when I was one of the established ones? Or was I too busy chatting with my friends to even notice that someone was on the outskirts, sitting by herself, feeling lost and alone?

Was I so caught up in my own social circles that I forgot to expand them?

Stepping outside of our comfort zone always presents us with new lessons — both about others and about ourselves.

So, here’s what I’m contemplating now: Am I playing small here to keep myself safe? Am I avoiding creating deep, meaningful relationships with people because I know how hard it is to say goodbye? And because I don’t want to do it any more? In my head, I understand that’s no way to live. But my heart, is seems, is all about survival right now.

I’ve had to say goodbye too many times in the past three years. Too many relationships ended, too many miles traversed, too much change to feel steady or safe.

There’s a reason Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home.” Home is where we belong, where we’re known, where our roots stretch downward. When we uproot ourselves, that feeling of security is altered. The winds that inevitably come threaten our ability to stay upright, to continue reaching up and out.

Home takes time.

In many ways, it’s like having a new baby. Friends visit, cards arrive in the mail, meals are brought to your door. And then six months down the road, you’re standing in the living room in your PJs at 2:00 in the afternoon, nipples sore, hair askew, pantry empty, house a disaster. And you wonder, where did everyone go?

When you relocate, neighbors stop by (well, in this particular case, it was one neighbor; and in Mississippi, it was no neighbors), a meal might be delivered, and you’re left to unpack. Once the kids are registered in school and the boxes are all put into storage and your library cards have been activated, you find yourself sitting alone in your sparkling-clean, freshly-painted family room thinking, where is everyone?

And why can’t I catch my breath?

And why does my heart feel like it’s in a vise?

I know happiness is a choice. I know how blessed I am to have my devoted husband and my awesome kids. I know I could change my circumstances by changing my mindset. I know whatever happens in my life is up to me.

But today, I am just lonely. I am tired. I am overwhelmed.

I am human.

Sometimes all the possibilities of a new place feel instead like a shadowy path peppered with prickly bushes and stinging nettles.

Today, it’s raining.

Both inside and out.

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9 thoughts on “Two States, Three Years”

  1. Just yesterday, I was telling my husband how I didn’t feel like making an effort to make new friends. That they wouldn’t be as good as those I left behind, and I would be leaving again in 3 years. Thanks for writing this. I have lived in 3 states in 2.5 years. Last year, my husband was deployed for 6 months, so my son and I went back and stayed with my family in NM. Then we returned to CA and 10 months later we moved to AL. It’s raining here too, and yes, I have felt lonely these last few weeks. I know I will make the effort again but sometimes it’s a tiring thought.

  2. Cynthia @ Flotsam of the Mind

    What you describe sounds so familiar to me. Seven years into our “new” home, and I still struggle with it.

    Although I now have some very dear friends, we struggle with finding couple friends and our kids are not really a part of the community because they do not attend public school here. As I’m sure you know, the only solution is to put yourself out there, which is serious work. I have volunteered, hosted parties and dinners, and done all manner of things I don’t particularly care to do, all in the interest of meeting people and “becoming involved.” If, like me, you need to do it for your significant other as well, it can be exhausting, yet it’s better than the alternative.

    Hang in there.

  3. Look for the helpers, Katrina. Look for the parents wearing the school colors. The good news is that all parents become disconnected when their kids reach middle and high school. Elementary is the tough clique to break into. I remember asking for 2 years before I got a position with the PVE PTO. You are fun, smart and easy to be around so start introducing yourself to Lacrosse parents. And maybe even the bowling parents 🙂 You can do it! I know it’s hard. I felt the same way at Brebeuf initally….I was so entrenched in Zionsville that I didn’t have the energy to start over. Kids/sports/arts events are great ice-breakers and you and I are too talkative to sit alone for very long. Don’t hide your light under a bush.

  4. We may be thousands of miles away from each other right now, but you are not alone in your sadness. My heart is in a vice (wow, love that line) and I just cannot seem to catch my breath. I may be sitting by myself in 2 months when we move and I will remember your words and I will remember I am not the only one. And I will be comforted bc of what you have written here. And when I get to know people, I will look for those on the outskirts. I will be looking for the Katrinas because goodness knows if I found you one day sitting by yourself looking for a friend, i would thank the heavenly stars above. Because that would be my lucky day. I love you.

  5. Katrina I feel like I could have written this today. Our kids are little still so they aren’t so impacted- yet. But we’re a part-time military family and hoping to be full time soon, which means of course more moving. The social climate is so similar here. I was just talking to my husband last night about how lonely I am here and how nice it would be to have real friends, but we’re really hoping to leave after the baby arrives and people are just not into befriending leavers. I thought I’d make some friends when our little guy started pre-school. Nope. It’s like I’m the outcast because we’re just not from here, and my husband’s job I think puts us on the “do not invite” list. Perception? possibly. Our son starts tball soon, so maaaaaaybe I’ll meet a mom or two there? who knows. I really want to find a wonderful Catholic couple we can be friends with, who could be Godparents to our newest little. But, I’m on your side, and I feel ya. Cheers from my coffee cup to yours, we can do this. I have to remember to pray and be open to people. Cuz, God’s got this, I know he does.

  6. Aww this makes me sad! I know exactly how you feel because that’s exactly what I did. Moved to a brand new town and left all my family and friends behind. It was very hard to start anew and it took me a few years before I made any real friends. It was very lonely time. I finally feel like I have roots now and can call this place home. When I thought about moving away last spring, I almost had a panic attack thinking about starting all over again and I decided I just couldn’t do it. I hope you are able to find some wonderful friends and that you won’t have to say goodbye to them anytime soon. Hugs!

  7. I also moved/changed schools a lot as a kid, and as a grown-up, I feel like it takes me three years to acclimate to any new situation (new house, new job, etc.), so moving three times in two years would be quite the whirlwind. I hope the friends here online are a steady comfort to you, and I hope the rain stops soon. Much love.

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