Relearning a city

We're mostly settled, with only a few small towers of boxes left to unpack. We're finding our routes and routines, the house is arranged in a way that feels ergonomically familiar to us, and it's feeling less and less like we're visiting this place.

Of course the city isn't new to the girls. While I lived isolated in the middle of the prairies for almost four years, they still lived part-time in the city with their dad. So while I'm marvelling at the sheer convenience of everything, they're indulging me, their eye rolls landing somewhere between amusement and bemusement. I'm a scattered, easy to please, constantly wonderstruck, overly emotional mom now, and we're all fine with that.

What's really hitting me, is how extreme my lifestyle was for so long, and how normal it all became to me. I think I went a full three years without sleeping in past 6:30am. My whole self was keyed into surviving, building my business, learning to farm, and maintaining five acres of homestead. My whole self. I was swallowed by an alternate dimension of harvesting and rationing water, growing and selling healthy crops, battling mice, caring for a menagerie of critters, training dogs, pounding and pulling posts, building rickety "bandaid" type structures, watching the weather, watching the wind rip my naive efforts away, youtubing "how to fix...", collecting tools, upgrading my farmhouse, guarding against predators, watching things thrive, watching things die.

And then there was winter. Frostbitten chickens, a fresh deluge of mice and gawd knows what other critters all seeking shelter in my barely-warm farmhouse. Furnace bullshit. Venting bullshit. Septic bullshit. Frozen water lines. Hours and hours of shovelling the walkways, the driveways, the greenhouse. Spending weeks and months feeling like I lived on a different planet entirely. Often being "the only person for miles", literally. Living in my insulated coveralls. Finding mental balance in my family, my business, my social following. I was a tiny maestro conducting a riotous, drunken orchestra.

And then it all stopped. And now I'm here.

It's hard for me to look at flowers now. Like ex-lovers I abruptly abandoned, I'm overwhelmed with a gross melancholy I want so badly to shake off. I can't look at my farm's online feeds yet. I can't look at the other flower farms, now in the thick of autumn clean up and winter prep. When I see them, I feel either complete numbness, or a cruel tightness in my chest, which I know will lead to an entire day lost in grief. So I don't look. We brought one cherry tree from the farm that I still need to plant in the new yard, but I don't feel ready to smell the soil.

But when I walk around my neighbourhood, I still survey every garden, and I find myself involuntarily whispering every plant's name aloud. "anchusa, verbena, artemesia, hollyhock, campanula, cosmos..." I wonder if any of those gardeners followed the farm. I want to talk to them about their plants. What are their favourites? Where are the trouble spots? What are the surprises? I'm hoping this means I'll be up for building my own new garden soon, and continuing my garden club next spring. Maybe the cherry tree will be the push I need.

But for now, I'm still waking up at night feeling between places. The abundance of water is unnerving. Having everything within reach... food, friends, every sort of product, it feels too good to be true. Shedding my mode of survival isn't coming easily, and our recent loss has compounded that exponentially. I try to think back to who I was five years ago, and she's barely recognizable to me. Her habit of escaping her existential anxieties through new relationships and external validation... I feel like I can see that so clearly now. I'm anxious that I'll slip back into those habits, so I'm setting small goals for myself in the hopes of keeping steady; read books. Remember my strengths. No dating apps. No telling myself I can handle "casual relationships" (but at the same time, I don't want to share my house or finances with anyone else, so...). Measured social sharing. If I feel like I need to rant or release a torrent of grumpery, call my mom (lol sorry mom) or my counsellor. Learn new things (I'm learning to swim!). Find healthy places to direct my sometimes problematic, laser-like focus.

Mainly, my plan is to go gently, and trust that time will sort most of it out. I'm hoping that this evolved iteration of myself is more patient than who I was before. Grief counselling is there when I need it. Friends are there, curious to hear my strange experiences, and I'm curious to hear theirs. My kids and I are genuinely enjoying the house and each other. I feel like we're off to a good start in terms of settling into this new reality.

The perspective will be an asset eventually, I'm sure of it. I'm crossing my fingers winter will be kind, and warm, and clear.

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