I feel the shift of the earth in its orbit: the seasons have changed, and the first bite of winter came this weekend. It feels like one day we were sweating and hiding from the sun, and the next day shivering and seeking it out. This weekend I raised the awning over our balcony to let in more light, and dressed Oscar in his winter pajamas.
The turning of the seasons makes me contemplative all the more because it marks our first year in Albania. We moved here at Solstice last year, and we’ve now gone a full turn around the sun in this place. The coming of the cold usually makes me a little sad, but there’s a funny gladness in me this year as the angle of the light and the smell of roasting chestnuts evokes the memories of last year. It feels like we have come so far as a family in one year, in so many good ways – Illyria talking and engaging in pretend play, learning to use the potty, overcoming so much of her anxiety and fears from the first few months. And Oscar – wow. Transformed from an infant into a toddler. All those milestones – rolling over, sitting up, teething, eating solids, standing, walking – if only he would SLEEEEEEP! Ah well.
I find that the same things that bothered me a year ago about Albania still bother me – the litter, the second-hand smoke – and the same things I enjoyed a year ago are still my favorite things about living here – the kindness and generosity of the people, learning the language, the plentiful fresh produce (which I’m told is de facto mostly organic, not so much from an ideological motive but more just because farmers can’t afford a lot of agrochemicals).
As we took another interminable bus ride through southern Albania last week (accompanying my husband on yet another work trip) I was struck with a feeling I have not felt since 1998 – a feeling of rightness, a feeling that this is where we are supposed to be right now. I don’t think I could give a reason or explanation; I just know, somehow. Over the past decade Gimli and I have made a lot of big life-decisions – changing jobs, buying a house, going back to school, trying for and then having kids – and in each case those decisions felt more or less arbitrary; there wasn’t a right or wrong choice (which in its own way was a big agonizing), just a choice. The decisions we made never felt like part of a master plan, just stuff we decided to do, for better or for worse. This feels… just a little bit different. At the time we decided to move here, it really did feel like just another thing we decided to do, because what the heck, why not. But now, for whatever reason, it just feels right.
And that’s a good feeling.
It could just be where I am in my cycle, or some function of neurophysiology, or a natural result of having acclimated enough to feel at home here, but it feels good.
Recently people here have begun asking me if we’re going to be staying on after next year. The first time someone asked me this I was completely taken aback; the thought that we might stay beyond two years had literally never occurred to me. But when I mentioned it to Gimli, in a sort of “what a weird question someone asked me today!” he just sort of nodded and said “Yeah, I’ve sort of decided not to think about that until January or February,” and that surprised me even more than the original question – that he’d even thought about it as well.
I still can’t quite envision it. Just because this feels like where we’re supposed to be right now doesn’t mean we’re, like, married to Albania. We’d have to really think about the implications for our careers, our kids, our relationships. So I don’t know. I like to have a plan and then stick to that plan. Gimli likes to wing it. In our years together, I’ve come to learn that sometimes “we’ll decide at the last minute what we’re going to do” can actually work as a plan… but I don’t think this is one of those times. So we’ll see.