the beauty of contentment
it's been just over a year since we arrived back in austin. from our numerous cross country moves, i have learned that it takes about a year to feel settled in a new place. when we pulled up to our house on the evening of september 20, 2020, it was dark and rainy. we had not set foot in the house until that moment, buying sight unseen. and when we walked in that evening, it felt foreign and dingy. small. the condition of it was not as great as i expected. but it was the layout i wanted in the neighborhood i wanted, the right price at the right time.
one of the first things i noticed was how small the front room was compared to my favorite room in our old house in michigan. i wanted to replicate that room and realized that was just not going to happen. as relieved as i was to leave michigan and the dysfunction of my toxic family behind, i went through a grieving process. it was a loss: the loss of the life we thought we were going to have. the loss of a home we loved in a neighborhood we loved, leaving an entire neighbor crew we had built in our time there. not to mention other friendships.
while leaving was the hardest and scariest thing i have ever done in my life, rebuilding has been quite the tumultuous challenge too. so much change, so much transition. gathering data and adjusting plans. the opportunity for me to return to a department i love arose as we were wrestling with david returning to work and me continuing to stay home. both of us feeling restless and not ready to resume the roles we played in michigan. and so we flipped. david became the at home parent and i became the working one. that adjustment was not an easy one. now that we're about 10 months into it, we are feeling a sense of contentment. not striving for the next thing; not trying to find an escape. of course there are still hard moments and hard days. and we are very happy with our decisions and how far we have come, how hard we have fought to be where we are today.
this house that seemed so foreign a year ago we have made our own, slowly but surely. paint and light fixtures, artwork and family photos, curtains and ceiling fans, arranging and rearranging furniture, bringing new-to-us second hand pieces in. one of our first projects was to replace all of the windows as most had broken seals and were old and rickety. the back patio slider did not even lock properly. the project began as i returned to work in december of 2020 and was quite the process. the company returned four times to fix errors in installation and window style. now that they are all done i am thrilled with the result and the much improved sound insulation.
next we tackled the master bath. it was the only space in the house that rather grossed me out. the water collected in one of the corners of the tiny shower, turning cold by the end of bathing. the room was beige and drab and choppy. it was our first total gut job project complete with a new floor plan and it is now my favorite room in the house. in another couple weeks we are gutting the kitchen and replacing the first floor flooring. we are excited to have the house in materials and colors that we picked out.
i have so much compassion for me one year ago walking into this home for the first time wondering if we made a mistake. we did not. on the contrary, we got a gem for a deal! we absolutely love our home, our neighborhood and trails, the proximity to both mopac and I-35. i drive into campus three days a week now and work 7:30-4:30 those days. it takes me about 25-30 minutes to commute at those times. i love it. on the days that i work remotely i get up and walk the trails with the dogs and catch the sunrise. i am thriving with the two days remote, three days in person combination. and i am finally feeling more and more competent in my job. what a difference a year makes.
in the last several weeks my department has hosted a couple friday events. these gave me pause with the level of covid in austin thanks to the delta variant. we took the precautions we could and held them anyways. i am so glad we did. it was so good to be around people again, celebrating our 2020 graduates and then celebrating the fall semester with our current students. i had given a couple workshops leading up to the fall current student gathering and one student made a point to talk to me to let me know how helpful the one she attended was. and that workshop was the one i was most nervous about. i have had several meetings in the last few weeks where i felt confident answering questions and comfortable in my role. i solved some problems that were causing us trouble. i rolled with some unexpected upheaval. it felt good, and i felt good. i feel good. i have had so many moments of "what did i sign up for i cannot do this job!" over the last 10 months. i thought surely they would realize that hiring me was a mistake. but i am now in a place where i can rest in knowing: actually, i can do this job. and i am doing this job. and i am damn good at it.
we have been wonderfully free from evangelicalism and the church. i believe i would classify myself as an agnostic at this point. i am finding contentment in the reality that we do not and cannot understand everything. i do not believe there is a god or gods. i can respect that others do and that each person seeks to find a framework in which the world makes sense to them. and i also want nothing to do with that framework. at this point in my life i am not interested in ever setting foot in a church again. and i am content with that reality.
this shift has changed so much for me, personally and relationally. there are some relationships that no longer serve me and no longer fit the person i am becoming. and that is okay. again, with so many cross country moves and major life transitions, i am used to building new relationships in new places. whether that is me in a new place physically or me in a new place emotionally, or both. i am learning to be comfortable with who i am and with how i am. i realized that for my whole life i have often looked to others for confirmation that what i think or feel is right (or wrong) and i am finally realizing that i can trust myself. i can have my own thoughts and feelings separate from others. i do not need confirmation or validation from others. i can exist, just me. this has been a liberating realization. i have found contentment within myself.
this past week i finally met with a psychiatrist for medication management. i am not thrilled with the general practitioner i found here and how they have been managing refills. for a long time i have thought about finding a psychiatrist to help me navigate my medication for my mental health. last week i did it. i had a great consultation that was validating and reassuring. in it i learned that i have flashbacks and exhibit avoidance and hyper vigilance towards my dysfunctional and toxic family members. these symptoms are consistent with ptsd. when the psychiatrist asked if i had flashbacks i initially said no. but then i asked if replaying past situations in my head counted. yes. oh. well then. that is new to me. i thought only war vets experienced flashbacks, or those who had endured very serious physical and/or emotional trauma. turns out i am one of those people. and having that said to me made me feel seen and heard and understood. i have been meeting with a therapist weekly since shortly after we arrived in austin. that has been extremely helpful to me. i am excited about the future of my care between my therapist and my psychiatrist. i am hopeful and i feel safe. i am in good hands.
our kids are thriving. they adore each other (and fight a lot too, they are siblings after all). sabina has decided that she does not want to continue riding lessons and will be starting art classes soon. she tried out one on friday morning and will be trying out a couple others before we decide which is the best fit for her. we decided to leave a co-op we had joined that involved hiking, something that bina was just not into. and that is okay. we are planning to join a homeschool group that meets at playgrounds on mondays instead. playgrounds are her jam. she played at her new favorite park three times in one week and was thrilled to go each time. it is so much more pleasant for everyone to be involved in things that the kids look forward to instead of things that are a struggle to get to every time. we are looking forward to austin cooling off a bit as we head into fall and it being even more pleasant to play outdoors.
juniper is the funniest little peanut. still our family comedian. never stops moving. always a chatterbox. she has really exploded in her language development over the last year. i am not ready for her to turn three in february. two is just such an adorable age. toddlers are totally bonkers and i love them. juni is the child i thought might be more amenable to me dressing her for longer. nope. now demands to wear regular clothes for bed. good thing i bought a bunch of adorable pajamas before this phenomenon began. live and learn. she knows what she wants and will settle for nothing less. we love her for it.
one of the most rewarding experiences we have had is when our kids assert themselves and explain why something we said or did bothered them. when david and i were looking into art classes, david found a kids art event happening at the library on monday evening and quickly registered bina. bina let him know that she did not like that he did not ask her first, and requested that he do so in the future. she wants to be part of the planning, especially when it concerns her. of course! i do too. the other week bina said something funny and i laughed, delighting in her. she did not care for me laughing and told me so. she explained an interaction she had with a kid at the park and how it made her feel and told me that me laughing at her made her feel the same way. such an insightful six year old able to identify and explain thoughts and feelings i did not figure out until adulthood. i am so proud of her and proud of me and david for cultivating the kind of parent child relationships in which the child is comfortable confronting the parent, expecting to be heard and respected.
i am looking forward to a quiet thanksgiving at home, with our newly remodeled kitchen and first floor flooring. i am looking forward to spending christmas in arizona with my mom and bonus dad. i have dreaded the holidays for many years and i find myself not dreading them this year. a welcome change! we are starting our own traditions and enjoying the freedom to do so. throwing off the shackles of old traditions and expectations that were not serving us and did not bring us joy. life is too short to settle for that. at least for me.
who knows what this next year in austin will hold for our little family. for the first time in a long time, i feel content. we feel content. and there is beauty in finally being able to enjoy the present and be fully engaged in it. not looking back over my shoulder, not longing for the present to pass, not wanting to fast forward to the future. just enjoying this present moment. my loving and supportive partner who is a fantastic at home parent, our two magical kiddos who drive us bonkers and make our hearts explode with joy every single day. our two goofy dogs. this beautiful home that is becoming more and more a reflection of us. our neighborhood and our gravel trails, parks, and green spaces. my challenging and rewarding job. the community we have built and are building. all the things are messy and beautiful and worth it. i am so glad we are here. i am so glad we got out and decided to build the life we wanted, together. we did it. we are here. we are content and it is so beautiful.