The further you are from your family, the closer you can become. Things have not necessarily always been easy between us, but the more I took some distance, the more I realized how much they matter to me. Before moving far away from them, I didn’t think of it as a necessity to call them every 2 or 3 days (at the great despair of my mother, I must admit) to have some news, as I pictured them as an immutable constant of my life (and vice versa), that would always be here, as they had always been. I didn’t realize that it was an actual soap bubble, ready to pop if any change in its surroundings was to happen, being through time, space or unpredictable events bringing a pointy needle around this ephemere membrane.
That’s why going back and forth to your family in under one week can be, altogether, heart-wrenching, regenerating, exhausting, refocusing, and frustrating.
Heart-wrenching, because as soon as you have the feeling of having arrived, you have to go back, far away from them, where you don’t get to be grumpy at them for waking you up with their absolutely terrible noises of spoons clicking with their teacup, and where your dog cannot jump on you while trying to reach your face to wash it integrally, with a whole lot of his loveful saliva.
Regenerating, because everyone needs a safe place too long for, where we can feel safe enough to really relax and process all the ups and downs we have been through since the last time we have been here. Because taking distance from the stress and the reasons to worry, no matter how real and/or trivial they can seem is the first step to accept it and find a way to deal with it. And of course, taking geographical distance, changing the environment, can seriously help with taking some psychological distance. Being constantly present in this vortex of our organisation is an amazing thing, as we are fully immersed, we feel appreciated and stimulated, but you don’t appreciate le Radeau de la Méduse by staying 30cm away from it. And no matter what you do, it is really hard to be able to do anything that is not somehow related to our organization here. Look outside your window, you can see the daily path leading to your work. Ho, it is not directly visible, but you can nonetheless feel it being here one bloc away, pulsating its energy into your contemplative mood, innervating your thoughts and rooting them in the fertile but nonetheless enclosed ground. When you go for a walk in the city center, you constantly stumble into places you visited together. Most of your friends here are linked to the organization. Et cetera, et cetera, like an Ariadne thread linking together all the places you have the possibility to spend some time in, and that materialize the one possibility for an exit.
Sometimes, I understand why to captivate and capture have the same etymological origin. Kind of like Ulysse being trapped in Calypso’s island, withering while all his immediate wishes are fulfilled, where he is loved and cared for, you cannot help but feeling this nagging home calling, despite all its flows.
And for me, this safe place to go back to and process things is my family. By their sometimes embarrassing questions, where I can often feel lost about what to answer because I simply don’t know how to, they really help me to put things into consideration, because they ask the questions I alone would rather have left unanswered, hidden in a dark corner of my mind, trying to ignore the problem, applying the ostrich principle as long as I need to for the issue to magically vanish without me having to deal with it. And of course, when you actually have to face these issues, you might feel uncomfortable for a while, but that helps you much more in the long run (hello people who like so much popping pimples that you had to create Instagram accounts about it).
It is also exhausting because going back and forth in under a week implies a lot of traveling, a lot of people you would like to see (and of course, that you don’t have time to see, for most of them), a lot of activities you would have like to attend to but have no time to (hey Tolkien exhibition, I swear I didn’t boycott you, you’re amazing I’m sure), a lot of energy when really you would rather simply enjoy a hot cup of Christmas tea at home with your loved ones. And no matter what you tell yourself, the choices you made during this period reflect your priorities, people around you know it, and are hurt by them or simply stop caring. You care very much about them, but you simply can’t spare these few hours because you PREFER spending these with your family. And even a small act matter more than empty promises or wishful thinking.
Refocusing, because when I get caught in the whirlwind of ICI things, I sometimes don’t know where I am anymore, what am I doing, why, what’s the purpose of being here, what really matters to me, what do I want to do, what are my goals, what I should focus on or what do I want to put efforts in. But honestly, I’m essentially getting lost about the reason for me being here, and whether it is realistic and tangible. And because of all these questions they ask, I can find some kind of center again, or at least try to define one, even though it implies a lot of other questions, leading a way to explore what I am really aiming for, during this time here.
And finally, frustrating, because when you get to go back for a week, you actually get pointed out to what you left behind, what sacrifices you made and all the stuff you paused in order to be able to get here, in Ukraine. You realize what home means to you. All the small habits you had come hitting you again, with all the weight they gained over the years in Rambouillet, my city of birth. You can taste the biscuits that, as a child, you were craving for every afternoon, but of which you were only allowed to have one or two, from time to time, because else they would taint your teeth (and for sure, I still, even today, have trouble refraining me from eating the whole pack all at once). You can lay in the armchair whose left leg is slightly distorted, and on which you mechanically compensate for the lack of equilibrium by moving your weight to the right, without even realizing it anymore. You can’t find your favorite tea around. It is one thing to make those sacrifices when you don’t get them pointed out every day because they simply don’t have any equivalent here, and another to have them hitting you all at once, like a shot of sugar after fasting, or a long-awaited cigarette when you finish your work.