It’s been a few weeks and a few boxes for our coming change of home and country 😉
Something that is bugging me is that I keep wondering how we could tell our 19 months old son that we will be moving. Everybody I’ve been talking to seem to think that he won’t mind, as long as he is with us. But he looks really happy here, and even after a month of summer holidays, he still remembered where everything was, the books, the switches and the TV and how it worked. We have no way of knowing what he will think and feel and we can’t explain what is going on. I’d really love to be able to promise that we won’t be moving again and that the next house, or at least the area, will be the one where we will stay for him to grow up and make friends. I’d love that but we’ll have to see, I find it difficult to imagine us settling anywhere, really.
Because we are leaving soon, I thought I would post this poem written some time ago on the subject:
I was reading this article about authors who made a comic to show what anxiety and depression are to people who do not suffer from those. It got me to remember all the times that I tried to explain what an anxiety disorder is.
I’ve had anxiety issues forever, and at least since I was nine. Depression I am not sure, though the teenage years were really quite bad and I have a doubt about those. But because I grew up with anxiety, it shaped my personality – or my personality shaped my anxiety. I am superstitious, perfectionist, idealist and hypersensitive. I am also anxious a lot of the time.
What the authors of the comic show is true: it steals your energy. To go further, I’d say that a good analogy I’ve found is the fuel one: some people run on diesel while I run on unleaded 95, and when with a diesel engine you use about 4 litres of fuel for 100 km, I need to double that amount for the same distance.
Or, to put it another way, if we all start the day with the same fixed amount of fuel (just not the same kind, all engines are different), I run out of it faster than others:
– 1 to 2 litres to get out of the house: are the windows closed, the oven switched off, the cooker off, did I take enough games/change/food/drinks/warm clothes for him? Going down the stairs with him in my arms, going to the playground, going back up again with him wanting to be put down and run (+ the groceries and the baby backpack). Exhausting.
– 1 litre to drive somewhere: did I put his seatbelt right? What is that man doing driving like that?! (I think a lot of people would think these as well, but then they’d forget while I dwell on it, doing my best not to, to focus on the road… What if, what if?!)
– 2 litres for grocery shopping: people, people and people. It’s tiring to continuously make decision while trying to shut down the noise in the shop and the comments in my head (baby crying, child running, woman talking to herself, man-dressed-in-a-weird-way-who-is-not-necessarily-a-psychopath-so-you-don’t-need-to-avoid-him, chicken close to sell-by-date, cash-woman eating chewing gum or with unclean hair. Etc. etc.). Though I hope I’ve become slightly better at it with the years.
Pffff 4 to 5 litres gone!
So what about working, meeting with people, going to a picnic, to a barbecue, or a festival?
Working would be quite out of the question I suspect. I’d need to try again to be sure. Colleagues to talk to, people at the cafeteria, noises, deadlines for unimportant reports and projects (seriously who cares if it’s not done in time, my son walks!/is teething!/sick with a cold! and people are dying of hunger in the world! But I’d have to (force myself to) care otherwise I’d lose the job). And to leave my son at daycare?? I don’t know that I could trust anyone enough for that. Though I’ll also have to work on that, be it for daycare, holidays with the grandparents, or school.
Picnics, barbecues, festivals, I try. Some days are good and we go – when anxiety is on vacation. Some days or some festivals/places/people I just avoid. There is no point in it. There is no fun in being that exhausted, I don’t enjoy some of these things as much, it is true. It’s just too much work.
I work on all these, shut down noises, go out, do my best to accept what I cannot change. It’s just that it takes energy. What some people can do with the amount they have, I some days use it all doing not much, taking care of my son (Eat/sleep, please… Do not stand on the couch! Not that closet! Not the stairs!) or shopping. Even phone calls, emails or writing take their toll. But I still get stuff done.
For the third time in less than a year, I heard someone speak French at our favourite playground. Naturally – I think – I tried to engage the conversation when the children were playing next to each other.
I wasn’t groomed. Clean, properly dressed, but not groomed – I haven’t really been since our little monkey was born. But he was nicely dressed, nice pull-over (a present), clean jeans and nice shoes.
Why should I feel the urge to talk to a French-speaking person, just because she speaks French? I don’t have that same urge with English-speaking people. Except that I’m French; I’m hoping that it excuses my behaviour. There is always the hope that they will be open to discussion, nice people, and that we could maybe meet again at the playground to exchange another few words in French. Maybe I come by as needy, if so I’m sorry for that, don’t mean to, won’t happen again.
The first person I met, a woman, I actually went straight to when we were about to leave the playground. I felt that it would have been too bad not to try. She was ok, though not very interested in the country and, even after living here for years, she didn’t understand a word – spoken or written – of Dutch. And no interest in learning it. Hum. I cannot judge people for not speaking the language, but not understanding a word of it after years? Anyway, she was pregnant with her third and probably tired.
The second person was a man. We only exchanged a few words when the children were next to each other and they kind of “played” together. His 2 years old daughter went down crawling to copy my son who was still crawling at the time. I laughed, said I’d hoped it would be the other way around (that he would start walking instead). The man didn’t smile and only pulled his daughter up, frowning. Man is not happy – I walk away with my son. A few minutes later I heard him half-yelling at her for taking so long to leave the playground and walk back home. Hum. Ok, we all have bad days.
The third person, this morning, was a grandmother coming from France to help her daughter out after she’d had a second child. Again the children played next to each other at some point – little monkey was fascinated with the other child’s truck 🙂 – so I tried to talk a little, name, age, and we exchanged a couple of words. It was nice. The children each go their own way and we run after them. Another exchange of words, quite nice. And another one later on, closing down, judgemental… Too bad, too classical…
The propensity of French people to close down is incredible. Run away if anyone would find you interesting enough to want a few words with you. No smile, only cautiousness. Keep your ground. This woman is too friendly, go away.
And maybe I am too friendly… But not excited or pushy though, I promise! Only glad and interested to be speaking in French with a native for once…
Granted, the grandmother cannot know what it is to live in a foreign country, never speaking your own language to anyone except your husband or your family on the phone. To never hear it on TV or talked by anyone in the street. She cannot know.
But this tendency of French people to close down to discussion, to be not very polite, not very friendly, is something we complain a lot about with my husband. It is a known fact. That I keep forgetting… to be reminded soon enough. A fact that we keep acknowledging by comparing their behaviour with the Dutch or the British (when we go there), where a smile or a word at the bus stop or at the playground is not rare – but not with the French over 20 or 25 years old. Why? We can’t be sure, we have theories, but that would be for another post…
Anyway, it’s really too bad. But maybe it will (finally) teach me to keep my distance.
And maybe (I must add, to be fair) the grandmother was just a bit grumpy today (social anxiety when you hold us ;-)) and she might be a bit more smiley if I meet her another time – now that she already knows me a little – or not. Who knows?
One thing relating to the weather that I forgot to mention in this post on Amsterdam is the amazing forecast system we have in the Netherlands. I personally use two apps or websites: buienradar.nl and buienalarm.nl.
They can be used on a daily basis (when the weather is “normal”) or 10 times a day (when the weather is like it has been lately: unpredictable, with massive 5 mins showers 5 times a day). They are wonderful tools that we use before going out or planning anything.
Buienradar gives a general overview of the situation, including what is coming:
Buienalarm is more precise and sends alarms a few minutes before rain starts for (more or less) your exact position: