Thursday, September 29, 2005

The ambiguity of "NO!"

Another thing that bugs me. There’s the whole thing about “choice”, and this being a group decision. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Somehow it never really feels that way. When Hizzoner called me from India and told me (on my birthday, no less!) that we could be moving to Thailand, or someplace else, I thought, “well, maybe that could be cool. At least they think well of him at work! Isn’t that nice?”

All my expat friends gave Thailand rave reviews, and Mr D lived there briefly years ago, so, well, “I’d consider that, I guess.” Such enthusiasm on my part! But that sinking feeling took over as soon as I’d hung up the phone. I knew in my heart that England was shortly going to be just a blip on the distant horizon.

Next day, another phone call from India.

“Well, Thailand’s off, so it looks like it’ll be South Africa instead.”

SOUTH AFRICA! Holy flippin’ cats! I did NOT sign up for this one!

“Do you want my opinion in the matter?” I asked pointedly.

“Of course!!!” he replied.

“NO. AND. NO.”

“Okay, great! But, why don’t you just think about it some more, and I’ll call you again tomorrow night.”

And thus began the slow, steady drip, drip, drip of rainwater on sandstone, day in, day out. I knew from the beginning that it was only a matter of time. One day soon, I would give in a little, saying, “I suppose it could work.” Or, “Maybe....” Parts of my resolve, bits of my determination and strength, would slowly get washed away, until all my opinions in the matter would be unrecognizable, even to myself.

And his thing is always, “At least let’s go there to look and see. Give it a chance before you make up your mind.” (Wait, didn’t I already make up my mind? What part of “NO!” was ambiguous? Am I talking to myself here?)

Or, “At least let me hear the financial part of the offer.” Or.... whatever. The point is, at some point you just throw up your hands and say to yourself, you know, if it makes him happy, and he’s thrilled that it’s more money, or a good opportunity, or a good life experience... whatever. Who am I to stand in the way of this force? Me, with my “tennis”, and my “no career” and my .... nothin'.....

I was stupider when we were looking at moving to London. I thought if I just put my foot down, I could put an end to it all. I thought I’d extracted a promise from him when we left Baltimore, that we could stay in Chicago until the kids graduated from high school. (Shoulda gotten it in writing, now, shouldn’t I? Maybe he misheard me, thought I just said “kid” ... we did get one of the four to graduate in Chicagoland....!)

But promises like that are hard to keep, I know that. When the big world is beckoning to you, luring you out of your ordinary old humdrum day-to-day experience, inviting you to instead explore, travel, go......

And I didn’t count on the wearing down, wearing down thing. Interestingly (well, it’s not that interesting) is that the mother of a college friend of his once said, “You know.... the thing I’m not sure I really like about Mr D is... that he always gets what he wants. Always.”

I would say Mrs. Williams was right.

And, finally, it’s hard to resist the whole plan without looking really ungrateful, pigheaded, unadventurous, and generally horrid. I mean, I look at it now, and I’m glad we lived in London for three years. It was fabulous. I made the best friends, saw the most amazing things, and lived a lovely life there. In fact, I’ve loved everywhere I’ve ever lived, and I’ve hated to leave each place. And I suppose it will be the same here in South Africa. ... eventually. But I’m not very good at this moving thing. I get depressed and lonely and have extra bunches of existentialist crises.

As in, “What on earth is the point of all of this? What am I doing? Why build a whole life only to toss it away three years later and start the whole damn thing all over again? And more to the point, why do that TWELVE times? Have I got rocks in my head?” (Don’t say anything, you!!!)

It feels like building sand castles, stupidly, below the tide line, every single day of the year. All your work will be gone soon... don’t you want to have some kind of lasting legacy? And leave your mark somewhere? What is the point of appearing in people’s lives if then you just disappear shortly after? (Although a few of those people are probably secretly relieved... you know who you are!!) It’s just too transitory and bleak, some days.

Added to which, the stuff you do end up having to spend your time on, doing again and again and again and again, in each new place, is the awful boring but necessary stuff. New driving licenses, new insurance, change of address forms .... new dentists and doctors and filling out those aggravating medical forms all over again.

“Tick the box if you have ever had: asthma? bronchitis? diabetes? emphysema? heart failure?”

“YES YES! That’s the one! ... my heart broke, again, just three weeks ago, when I left England!”

Aw, never mind.....

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