I’ve just sat down to do some basic maths. The scribbles on my notebook tell me that during my life so far (31 years), I’ve moved country nine times, and moved house at least 19 times (move number 19 was just last weekend, actually – a very smooth venture after so many years of practice).
I have two passports, but consider myself as belonging to three different countries; the country I have no official citizenship in – New Zealand – was the country I lived in the longest (15 years, split into three stints). Pyschotherapists, make of that what you will.
The explanation for much of this travel, in my early years, was a pair of nomadic parents, particularly a Scottish father who refused to just go on holiday for two weeks, preferring instead to relocate the entire family to the destination of choice for at least six months to get
our money’s worth “a feel for the place”.
All of the other relocations are entirely my own responsibility; a pattern formed early and like most early patterns, one that’s proved difficult to shed.
It all boils down to this, really: for me, in life, it’s been very easy to go, and very difficult to stay.
This has applied not only to moving, but to jobs and even to breakups: I was fairly quick to jettison potential romances when I was younger, and when I was older and seeking commitment, I would conduct myself, with few exceptions, with a stoic, clinical pragmatism, whether I was the dumper or the dumped. Life would move on, I reasoned – we would all move on; and probably to better things.
Regardless of the benefits of any situation, I was always aware of the possibility of leaving – never convinced by any call to stay.
Change was my comfort blanket, and facing the world without it – staying in one place – made me feel raw and exposed. I still struggle with this. I struggle with being in London after five years – although the seven house moves during this time have helped, let’s be honest. I love this place, but sometimes I dream of sunnier beach climates, or green English countryside, or even the dusty red air of my small Australian hometown. I’ve been dreaming of leaving London for a while – almost since I arrived, in fact – but I also love it, and I know that I’m learning something really important right now by staying, so I stay. Plus I married a Londoner, so you know, that helps.
Recently, as I was thinking about these things, I was reminded by someone of the story of Joseph in Matthew 1: 18-24. On hearing the story retold, I realised suddenly that Joseph was a stayer. Despite the threat of shame and ignominy that would follow his decision to stand by Mary, he had the conviction to stay; to surrender his ego and his will in order to serve. I love the humble nobility of that. I think God loves that, too.
So this is what I’m learning at the moment about this whole staying and serving thing:
I’ve learned that I’ll always be someone who pines for the new things, the adventurous things; for a fresh start. But I’ve started to learn to live with these feelings – to be ok with ungratified restlessness, to enjoy familiarity and to be comfortable with routine.
I’m learning to appreciate the small, everyday steps I’m taking in this stage of my life, instead of just the big, adventurous leaps. They’ll come again, I’m sure of it.
Right now though, I’m learning to seek pleasure and beauty in the noble art of staying.