Tuesday, July 6, 2010

on deciding not to lick this shoe

In high school, a friend of mine put together a jokey email he sent out to friends once a week or so. Think The Onion covering high school gossip. I did something - probably something small - to annoy him and I was off the list.

"Please, please, please," I begged, "Put me back on."

"Okay," Ian said, "If you lick my shoe." He stuck out his leg, rolled his ankle, his chunky skate shoe taunting me. "Go ahead. Lick it."

I don't remember if I licked his shoe or not. I probably did. And that only illustrates the grovelling-approval-seeking-wimp part of my personality. A kind of trait most people hope they leave behind with the freeing toss of mortarboards on graduation. (Here is where I admit: I didn't toss mine that high because I didn't want to lose it; at the time, that square cap seemed like something I should hold on to forever). Anyway, no one wants to be a shoe-licker and while I manage to be fairly-confident-pretty-content-mostly-pleased with my life decisions, sometimes I imagine a row of dirty sneakers, scuffed heels, worn flip-flops, and I feel compelled to lick them all.

Exhibit A: The insane urge to contact every person I have intentionally or unintentionally wronged/hurt/angered, with or without their knowing, and apologize. (I had a couple of stellar years during my early twenties when I thought I knew what I was doing). Truth: most of those forty-seven (rough estimate) people would probably ask, "Sarah who? And what did you say you did? Oh. I don't remember that." Lick, lick, lick.

Exhibit B: This whole overthinking living abroad business.

Three years abroad. All my family is grilling out and playing Bananagrams in Wisconsin. I am pregnant with my second child who will not meet grandparents until nine or ten months old. And I was unnerved to realize we really don't know what comes after Kuwait. So all of that together made me want to lick shoes to get back on the list. (The list our parents are keeping, an imagined list titled Good Sons and Daughters Who Do as We Hope, Like Live Next Door*).

Reality: Our departure from Wisconsin, and then from Colombia, did not leave gaping holes in either place. At schools, we were easily replaced by other teachers. In neighborhoods, someone else began paying rent. And after the first year of missing Gurnee weekend with Justin's family or Thanksgiving with mine - well, it became normal. Running partners and  bike buddies still head out on loops and trails. The little normals we were part of seal up, replaced by new little normals. And meanwhile, we are doing the same thing: making our new normals.

It is rather self-important of me to think that our living abroad so greatly affects the friends and family we still miss. I know our families would enjoy weekend visits and our friends would start potluck Wednesday again, but their lives are not incomplete because we live in another time zone. Perhaps most of us (me!) wish our absence will be daily noted, mourned a little. Like: life just isn't the same without Sarah Marslender to keep me company.

Oh, but it probably isn't that much different either.

Realizing that, I don't think I need to lick any shoes about living abroad. Our choice isn't devestating. It isn't a wound. And if not always optimal, living abroad does not need to be a barrier to keeping home relationships.

I'd love to meet Georgia or Stetson for a run; grab a coffee with Kate or Nira; enjoy dinner with Jason and Michelle or Scott and Sonia; have tea with my mom or Rollene. But I can't right now. And that is okay. Right here in Kuwait I have friendships to enjoy and new normals to embrace.

And no shoes to lick.

* I don't think this list really exists. If it does, they should burn it before they die and we have to go through their stuff.


Anonymous said...

*i would never keep my list with my personal belongings...

Sergio en Colombia said...

for the record: i have no new running buddy. that normal has yet to be "sealed up".
also, i love that one of your tags in "thinking too much". if not for these posts, your blog would be so much less entertaining!
miss you guys!

Angela and David Kidd said...

Love the "lick, lick, lick". A great post. And I bet you are leaving behind bigger holes than you are giving yourself credit for.

Anonymous said...

yes, sarah, there are holes. there will always be holes in life as people come and go. it helps to let the holes become part of a lacy pattern (like sunshine filtering through trees on a breezy day), rather than seeing only a rent that must be either quickly filled, clumsily patched, or determinedly ignored. and you should consider yourself loved when others aren't quick to darn you! mom

Joanna Goodman said...

"life just isn't the same without Sarah Marslender to keep me company."

I miss you :) But I don't begrudge you your decision to live abroad, nor will I make you lick MY shoes :) good post, by the way, I so relate!

When I think about it, here I am in the states, but I may as well be living abroad for as much as I can get home, either. Several years you actually spent more time with our family than I got to! You can lick my shoes for THAT! just kidding :) but that's how it goes sometimes... we love to see you when we can :)

Anonymous said...

Oh Sarah,

We also have not replaced you. We often say, "Too bad Justin and Sarah aren't around for dinner." We think of how lucky we were to meet such good friends in Mauston. Michelle and Jason