The UK reached a high of 16 degrees today, which necessitated half the population stripping down to shorts and T-shirts in the gloriously mistaken belief that summer had arrived.

I sighed at the way the British* so wholeheartedly leap into action the moment the thermostat edges into double figures but conceded that it was perhaps time finally to remove one of my thermal layers (just one mind).

It’s been three months to the day since we arrived back and I have been wearing a thermal top, beneath a long-sleeved top, beneath a second thermal top, beneath a wool jumper EVERY SINGLE DAY since them (except on Christmas Day when I made an effort and wore a dress – and positioned myself three inches away from a roaring fire and roasted myself like a marshmallow.) I have also been wearing 100 denier thermal tights beneath my jeans EVERY SINGLE DAY, plus a minimum of two pairs of wool socks over the tights. I know this sounds excessive – it’s the UK afterall, not the arctic, but for me it may as well be the arctic.

I am starting to hate my wardrobe. The endless monotony of my long-sleeved black thermal tops. The annoyance of pulling on my jeans only to discover an uncomfortable bulge behind my right knee and then having to stick my hand down and root around for the balled-up pair of tights I forgot to remove the last time I wore that particular pair of jeans.

Pulling them out is like extracting a two-foot long tape worm from an intestinal tract. It feels weird, but also intensely satisfying.

Yes, that’s how exciting my life is right now. Tapeworm tights are the highlight. The other highlight – when the Amazon delivery guy delivers my packages. Which, now I have the Amazon Prime delivery cart app, is a daily, sometimes twice daily, occurrence.

The truth of the matter is this whole transition back to the UK has been a lot harder than I imagined it would be and the Amazon Prime deliveries are my way of staving off the creeping depression I can feel brushing at the edges, stalking closer.

I miss rolling out of bed to the sound of cockerels and crickets (and tile cutters – never thought I’d say that) and strolling in my knickers to my wardrobe to pull on a pair of shorts and a vest. I miss the sunshine, the warm air, the kaleidoscope colours. I miss being barefoot. I miss the feel of the sun on my face (and on every other part of my body). I miss sleeping with the windows wide open. I miss the howling of the monsoon rain at night. I miss the offerings and incense. I miss the sense of magic. I miss my friends.

… And Kue’s chocolate caramel slice.

Here it takes an enormous amount of effort on my part to throw off the duvet in the gloom of the morning, step into the frigid air and pull on my five layers. Most days after dropping Alula at school I climb right back under that duvet (and switch the electric blanket on to the max).

I watch the show Vikings (in my heated bed) and wonder how on earth the Vikings managed to be so productive with their pillaging. How did they ever get out of bed? They didn’t even have central heating. It’s bewildering.

I am far less productive here (which is bad as I also a crazy amount of work on), far more stressed, far more tired. I had to buy some under-eye concealer as I was starting to scare small children with my Zombie impression and the girls at the Bobbi Brown counter were getting tired of me coming in and asking them to help me look alive.

Transitions are hard. Don’t they say that moving home is one of the biggest stressors you can experience – up there with death and divorce? I can’t say I’ve been through death or divorce but these last few months have not been easy and I definitely underestimated the shock of re-entry.

It’s not just the cold. It’s the sense of not fitting in; of belonging yet not really belonging at all.

It’s little things – forgetting that you don’t need to turn your hazard lights on when crossing a junction, not knowing how on earth to use the touch in touch out system on the tube (technology took this huge leap forward while I wasn’t looking. I now know how my granddad feels when faced with a smartphone).

And it’s the big things too.

Like watching your daughter struggle with anxiety because she doesn’t know about the vikings or the Saxons and feels bereft in this new world without friends or knowledge of British history (‘What is a Pict mummy? I don’t get it! Why did they have blue faces?’ – I have no freaking idea) and where her school has walls and signs telling her to keep off the grass (‘Imagine that at Green School mummy’).

Like missing your own friends so much that you burst into tears at random moments, usually when driving but sometimes in coffee shops or while pumping gas (that’s another thing I miss – someone else pumping my gas… see I can’t even say it right any more… filling up the car with petrol) or even when emptying the washing machine.

I guess what I’m saying is that I didn’t think it would be this difficult.

Someone told me this week that sometimes we need to watch our children struggle, and though we’re desperate to help them and make things easier it’s actually better for them to let them struggle because, like a butterfly coming out of the cocoon, that struggle gives them the strength to be able to take flight and survive in the world. If we were to rip the cocoon and help free them they wouldn’t have the strength they needed to go out into the world and they’d be dead little butterflies.

I was thinking about that with regards to Alula (and wondering if I had any butterfly expert friends to verify this story with because the sceptic in me thinks it sounds a little like something from one of those palm-sized self-help books with swirling fonts and pictures of doves on the front). But I was also thinking about it with regards to me. I was thinking that, butterfly analogies aside, the struggle is necessary. It’s a fundamental part of the journey.

And one day, hopefully soon (because frankly I’m so over the struggling part), we’ll be out of this bloody cocoon and I’ll be a bloody great big butterfly with wings the size of an Albatross and a lifespan a bit longer than just a week.

 

*It’s funny how in Bali, surrounded by people from other cultures, I felt really British, but back in the UK I feel really other.

walkgrass                                                                                                      Keep off the grass.

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4 thoughts on “The Shock of Re-entry

  1. Here’s the truth: during metamorphosis, the entirety of the larva is reduced to slime, encased in a hard shell (I’m not lying— remember I’m a biologist). The only thing that survives this recycling of self is something called the ‘imaginal disc’ which contains the essence of the animal (ok, I’m romanticizing that a bit) and ensures its survival in the incarnation of self. Hold tight to your imaginal disc.

  2. laurentracey2014 says:

    Here’s the truth: during metamorphosis, the entirety of the larva is reduced to slime, encased in a hard shell (I’m not lying— remember I’m a biologist). The only thing that survives this recycling of self is something called the ‘imaginal disc’ which contains the essence of the animal (ok, I’m romanticizing that a bit) and ensures its survival in the incarnation of self. Hold tight to your imaginal disc.

    1. SarahAlderson says:

      Love you. Thanks. I’m holding tight to my imaginal disc.

  3. Hedda says:

    I think the biggest shock of coming ‘home’ is that it’s not always home anymore. I felt very Dutch in London and I still sometimes feel foreign in Holland. Your butterfly moment will come soon I’m sure. Hang in there! xxx

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