Far away and so close.

The last week has been a whirlwind of crazy, to say the least. A week ago, I was simultaneously battling the end of the flu, chewing my nails over the election, and packing for a week-long business trip to Santiago, Chile. The perfect storm of argh.

You can’t imagine the stress of being told to please shut off your electronic devices at 8:01PM, just as Brian Williams is reporting that the polls have closed in 4 battleground states. And not one update all night from the pilot over the loudspeaker the way we get for really important events, like say a basketball semi-finals game. I had myself convinced that the election wouldn’t be called that night.

I fidgeted restlessly with visions of Nate Silver’s blog posts talking me down, and I tried to distract myself with episodes of Homeland, my new addiction. Yet of course my Wi-Fi at home had taken the liberty of only looking like it had downloaded the entire first season. Which…oh you, have no idea. Instead, I popped on my eye mask and slept best I could.

I woke up soon before landing, and you have never seen a passenger try to switch from airplane mode to OH MY GOD I NEED AN INTERNET CONNECTION so quickly after we were told (or uh, not) that we could turn on our devices.

Then, a ding. A click. A text from Nate–cynical, “turn off the stupid news already” Nate–that read OBAMA WINS! OOOOBBBAAAAAMMMAAAAA WINS!

I looked around on the plane for kindred spirits to celebrate with and…eh. I couldn’t even catch another person’s  sleepy eyes long enough to read if they knew or if they cared.

Some questions were answered while waiting for luggage in the Santiago airport. A TV newscaster announced the election results and the entire room burst out in applause.  But the greatest moment was a few hours later, hearing my girls’ voices on the other end of the phone, shouting “four more years, Mommy!” They knew the more good guy had won. Their own elation was very real.

Still, I felt incomplete. Compared with four years ago when the celebration was so intimate, so profound, last week my celebration was happy but lonely.

I hadn’t realize how important it was for me to hug my family when it was all over. To be able to sit down with my girls and talk to them about what this means, and why it’s not over, and why we need to keep pushing for the things we believe.

The whole week has been a series of strange absences like this. Indeed business trips are generally exciting in that exhausting work-y kind of way, especially with the promise of empañadas and maybe a Pisco Sour at the end of a 14-hour day; plus the majesty of the snow-capped Andes to one side at all times, following you like a spectacular shadow. But even with a few moments of fun between the stress, even with a big hotel room bed to myself, even knowing that Kiss is playing I Was Made for Lovin’ You just a few blocks away at the Monster Tour, it’s not home. Where my family is. Where I could be helping in the Hurricane Sandy fallout. I’m very, very far away from where I felt like I needed to be this week.

I suppose that if I have to be anywhere, this ain’t so bad and I should just shut up and enjoy that big bed and some experiences that I know some people only dream of. And I have to a large degree, best I can. But hey…grass is greener my friends.

flowers in the desert

Santiago sculpture downtown

tres leches

morning delivery

It’s hard to explain, but I have always lived life emotionally. Little moments can be the big things that add up to form the memories that make up my life. I have always detested feeling like I’m missing something, small or big. I was the kid who stressed wildly about choosing one Bat Mitzvah invitation over another on the same day, or skipping the first day of fourth grade because I was on a plane home from a summer family vacation. As my parents always told me, life is a series of choices. Indeed I can not be two places at once, and we all trade one experience for another every second of every day. But still, my Achilles heel is my occasional inability to be fully present, even somewhere amazing, when my head is longing for something else.

(“Something else” often being some ridiculous, perfect world that exists only in my head. I admit it.)

Did I mention this is our big family vacation week in Point Reyes to celebrate my mother’s 70th birthday? Work stole most of the week, and since Friday, I’ve had to be satisfied with a few quick calls with two distracted little girls, and Facebook photo updates from Nate of beach walks and small footprints in the sand that hurt my heart.

It’s so ironic to be staring up at these huge spectacular mountains here in Santiago, and long for something as tiny as the feel of a five year-old’s fingers entangled in mine. Ten years ago you couldn’t have convinced me that I’d ever have said something like that.

Oh, motherhood. How you screw with us.

One more day to get through, then a red-eye tonight to San Francisco through Dallas, and I can wrap my arms around the people I love, pick up where I left off, and feel home, at least in my heart. The celebration will be different. But it will be good.

Also, I’m ready for a TV show that isn’t The Fashion Police, and isn’t in Spanish.


24 thoughts on “Far away and so close.”

  1. You write so well. I have forwarded to Holly who is now a Junior at BU in the School of Communications…………….must have been a more simple time for you too!!!

  2. I’m reading this post in Cleveland, away from my home and family, too. (Not nearly as exotic a transition as you’ve made, but still, it’s not home.) I hate that nagging feeling of missing something as well. As much as it’s pleasant to have a hotel room to myself I can’t help but think about what it would be like with my kids and my husband with me. (At least the TV shows are in my own language!)

    Aren’t the election results a relief? I’m still processing how big it all is.

    Enjoy the rest of your trip!

  3. Don’t worry… “grass is greener” is good excuse to be our best selves – because we are always longing for that “better” (even imaginary) world, and make best choices to get there. By voting, by doing good work, by walking on the beach…
    After all that has happened in your life recently, the “homey” feeling you have is great reminder what is really important in your life.
    Welcome back home!

  4. I know exactly how you feel. I travel for short pieces of time–2 nights or so twice a month and it is so hard to be away from the little people who have become so much a part of who I am.

    Home really is with the people you love. I too have a problem being present. I am always wondering what I might be missing, etc. I have tried to be more present with my husband and children and I have seen some success with it. But it’s a part of what makes us successful in our professional lives.

    I like the idea of choices and we emphasize this with our kids and I try to remember it myself when I am on a work trip or shut in my office working on my dissertation–these are choices I have made for me and for my family.

    1. All of my colleagues here who are parents keep whispering to each other, “wouldn’t it be cool if the kids were here?” And trading stories about the painful sweetness of Skype calls and Facetime.

      1. Skype and Facetime kill me when I am away–and my kids too. It is hard on them to see me and not be able to hug me. I remember the last time we used Skype while I was gone–my daughter threw a fit because she just wanted to hug me. Now I send pictures and we talk using Voxer (a walkie talkie app).

        I am going to Thailand for 10 days in January and that trip terrifies me. It will be so hard on me and even harder on my husband who will be home with the kids who want me at bedtime. And I know I’ll be thinking the whole time–it would be so cool if my family was with me.

        1. The moms with us on the trip were split – half find it too hard to use faceime (mostly they have younger children) and the others couldn’t live without it. You have to do what feels right. I can only say that one moment, in the middle of a stressful situation a mile up the Andes, seeing my kids’ faces and watching their expressions as I swiveled my phone to show the mountain range around me was priceless. Just to hear a whispered “whoaaaa….” It was amazing.

          Meanwile…THAILAND! Can’t wait to hear more! One of my top bucket list destinations.

  5. Oh how I get the “something else” of it all, and the understanding that the other isn’t usually perfect either. What I would give to be in more places at the same time.

  6. I work 3 miles from my house, my youngest’s preschool is less than 3 blocks from my office, so it’s rare that I am very far away. Yet today, middle of the day an unscripted call to Nana’s house prompted a chat with my 4 year old. Hearing her voice without the benefit of her face, the pronounced absence of l with w taking its place in everything from little to like and lemon, I was sobered. The moments when their always slightly sticky fingers and familiar breath aren’t within reach drive home how integral they are to every joy and every experience.

    I missed her with all my being and honestly, I wouldn’t say it anywhere but here, I damn near felt the let down of my breastfeeding days.

    Hugs to you and safe travels home to your people.

    1. I want to read this over and over Amanda.

      One of the things I love about this blog is reading comments like all the ones here and sighing…thank goodness. They get it too. Then I don’t feel so alone.

  7. That feeling, like you might be missing something or not being fully present in the moment, I detest it too. Being present is harder than it sounds. Sometimes in the moments that feel the most defining, I imagine myself in different scenarios. A situation I would be in if I had made different choices like what my life would look like, who I would be, or what I would care about.

  8. “It’s hard to explain, but I have always lived life emotionally. Little moments can be the big things that add up to form the memories that make up my life. I have always detested feeling like I’m missing something, small or big. ” ….I am 100% the same way and it’s something that I also struggle with. If it’s any consolation a therapist told me one time that this is typical of some certain personality type. I’ve since forgotten the name of it, but somehow being ‘diagnosed’ made me feel a lot better about it.

    1. Oh if only we had time to do ANYTHING that wasn’t work! We did get a few dinners in which was nice. But sadly, not much down time.

  9. Yes, I have been writing a lot for a wedding guide lately. Looking at all these photos of happy brides, make me think how I’ve always been fretting, emotional about things. I’m not sure I really enjoyed my own wedding and here I am almost 25 years later feeling the same way about daily life. I want to truly be present this Thanksgiving with my family. Detach from work mentally and plug in to beauty. Thanks for bringing that all to mind with this post.

  10. I was just away on an incredible press trip in Phoenix and felt the same way. You just phrase it so much better. Thank you.

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