A new life

Last year, my life fell apart. Or exploded. It was all up in the air for a while, anyway, and I didn’t know where it would come down.

It was a good opportunity to try to practice inner peace, because there wasn’t much of it outwardly. I realized that this is the only security we can hope for: the ability to hold onto ourselves while the world goes crazy around us.

So I waited, and watched, and tried not to panic, and certain things began to fall into place. My marriage, which had appeared to be dead, came back to life. Somehow a complete break was what we needed in order to come back together.

When making that break, I certainly had no idea that such a reconciliation might be the result. I simply knew that it had to be done. I was reminded of the inexorable pull of labor, of the narrow gate one goes through in giving birth as well as in being born. Painful it may be, but there is simply no other way. One must give in to necessity before new life can open up.

Opening the Gate – Nicholas Roerich, 1922

When things settled, and I began to find trust in the new reality, there were some choices to be made. After a period of readjustment, my husband got a job in Switzerland (his native country). Should he take it, should we really move abroad? Or should we look longer for something else? What would I do there, in a country not my own? Was this really the best thing for our family?

It’s impossible to tell for sure. Again, there is no security except in trusting one’s ability to meet whatever may come in life, to take the consequences of one’s actions, right or wrong. But it seemed again that this was the way we had to go, and that we would find out where the path led as we went.

The Castle Gate – Friedrich Kallmorgen, 1906

He’s leaving this week, and I plan to visit with our son in April, then move there in July. In the meantime I’m still carrying on in the job we formerly did together, running a household caring for adults with special needs. At first doing this alone was so difficult that I thought I could not bear it, but I’m finding strength and capacities I did not know I had, learning something new every day, and receiving more help than I ever thought possible.

That’s not to say I won’t be glad to put down this load when the time comes. But more and more I think we cannot live by predicting goals for the future and trying to make them happen, by deciding this or that will have a good or bad result, by pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain. Too often, what I thought would be a great decision has turned out to be terrible, and vice versa.

I think often about Ursula K. Le Guin’s words in The Farthest Shore:

If there were a king over us all again and he sought counsel of a mage, as in the days of old, and I were that mage, I would say to him: My lord, do nothing because it is righteous or praiseworthy or noble to do so; do nothing because it seems good to do so; do only that which you must do and which you cannot do in any other way.

So I enter this new life, looking to discover what it is that must be done, and what lies on the other side of the door.

Where has the path of necessity led you? What narrow gates have you gone through into a new life?

The Temple Door at Abu Simbel – Henry Roderick Newman, 1900

0 thoughts on “A new life

  1. Wow! Switzerland! I have tickets to Geneva in July, going through Bern, Interlaken, Lucerne, and flying home from Zurich. We’re looking forward to seeing the waterfall vista near Interlaken that inspired Tolkien’s image of Rivendell.
    When my mother died I went through a narrow gate and it ended with me being able to travel more with my family and my brother and his family, using some money she left us. It’s in the stock market, so we’re trying hard to carpe diem.

    1. Switzerland is so beautiful, I’m sure you will have a wonderful trip. Let me know if you’d want to connect. (I’ll be in Bern canton, though not in the city.)

      1. That would be great…we have a side trip to Biel on the way from Geneva to Bern, just the four of us in my family, because Walker wants to see some chess sites, so that day would be a possibility, to meet for a drink or lunch.

  2. I loved this post, Lory. And the Le Guin’s quote too. I too have gone, as you say, through the narrow gates this year. After 14 and 12 years with my daughters, homeschooling them, they started school this past August. It’s been freeing. I’m also working a bit as a substitute. I do love our new life, but it took some leap of faith, and an effort not to mourn what I had envisioned for the girls, (a homeschooled long life.) As a person of the christian faith, I do try to leave decisions up to God, -which sometimes is difficult, I too want to control, or decide with pleasure/pain in mind-, but it is what He wants it to be.

    1. Deciding when and how to act out of personal initiative and when to let go in acceptance of a greater reality is very much an art – the art of living. For me this is the essence of the Christian path, whatever faith one nominally follows.

  3. Thank you for sharing how hard the last year has been for you, all we’ve known is that it has all been very upsetting. I’m so pleased that you’ve reached some equanimity, even if you’ve not yet fully resolved your situation. And I’m so moved that not only were you have to join in the discussion of The Other Wind for Witch Week but that you’ve returned to Earthsea to find support and inspiration.

    No narrow gates for us recently, thank goodness, but a decade and a half ago my partner’s health and my discontent with a teaching job did result in difficult decisions. Leaving a post I’d worked out for 30 years six years before retirement wasn’t easy, nor was moving 150 miles away (not as far as you are facing) from family and friends. But things are pretty much resolved now, narrow straits now behind.

      1. It always surprises me how books so often fall neatly into meeting a current need. And, like Chris, knowing more about your situation makes me even more grateful that you contributed to Witch Week.

  4. I am glad to hear you have started to work your way through the difficulties. Life throws so many unexpected things at us and it can be hard to deal with things sometimes. I wish you the best with all your life changes. Switzerland sounds so exciting. I visited once years and years ago and have always wanted to go back. Actually, I have always wanted to live in another country. I will follow your adventures with interest.

    1. I’ve always wanted to live in another country too, particularly to learn another language. It will be challenging at my age, but I guess it keeps the brain cells alive to learn new things. 🙂

  5. Oh, WOW! I am thrilled that you get to move to Switzerland. That is so exciting! The rest of it is much more difficult. I’m glad things have improved with your husband, and I hope for the best in the rest of this job and the time before your move.

    In a lot of ways I am still in the narrow gate. The last year or so has been a very interesting time. Because much of it involves my kid(s), I can’t really talk about it right now and I don’t know if I will. I’m never very eloquent anyway.

    1. One can be in that place for a long time. Sometimes the way out is very elusive. But I hope you will see the light at the end of the tunnel, when the time is right.

  6. What a brave venture! It’s always good to take a break and see what happens, and I am happy that things are working out for you. The move sounds daunting–but I’m confident you can do it. And I love the Le Guin quote.

    On Wed, Jan 23, 2019 at 6:48 AM Entering the Enchanted Castle wrote:

    > Lory posted: “Last year, my life fell apart. Or exploded. It was all up in > the air for a while, anyway, and I didn’t know where it would come down. It > was a good opportunity to try to practice inner peace, because there wasn’t > much of it outwardly. I realized that thi” >

    1. There’s much that is daunting, but things that were difficult for years are SO much better that I have confidence we can weather these challenges.

      The Tombs of Atuan and The Farthest Shore are books that made a huge impact on me growing up. This is one of the passages that really stuck with me.

  7. Such upheaval and such bold, exciting plans! Delightful to hear that extra strength and help came about, as needed. I also, am trying to rely less on planning by thinking, and rely more simply on recognizing, and acting on, the clarity that arises through presence. Always an adventure, for sure. Love the beautifully complementary paintings of gates!

    1. Living with people who lack the ability to think and plan intellectually has made me realize that the intellectual brain is really the stupidest part of me. It functions best when it slows down and humbles itself to pay attention to other, wiser parts (the body, emotions, instincts) — I think what you call “presence”. So the adventure continues, indeed.

  8. What a lot of upheaval in your life the last little while! The move to Switzerland sounds exciting, but I’m sure it’s also terrifying. Good luck with everything!

  9. The title of your post made me think immediately of In the House of Brede, and I thought maybe you were becoming a Benedictine nun…which is not without its own appeal. I don’t think I’ll ever be heading off to life in a foreign country ever again…I’m happy your getting this chance for exciting change!

    1. Well, I spent a summer in a Benedictine convent once! I’ve always been attracted to the monastic life, but that interest will have to play out in an inward rather than an outward sense.

  10. Wow, your move sounds so exciting! I’ve always wanted to live for a time in another country – but I also know there can be challenges when one spouse is working and the other one isn’t. I can’t wait to hear more. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  11. Lory, I wish you the best in your journey. We never really know what lies ahead, but I hope there is joy and peace as you go foward into this new life.

  12. So many changes! I envy you the move to Switzerland, and am happy to know that you pushed through the challenges and have reached a good point.
    My own “narrow gate” was becoming a single mother 30 years ago. And of course it was the best decision I ever made. (We also spent a year living in the UK when my daughter was 6 — I definitely vote for living for a while in another country.)

    1. I think the best thing about this “good point” is knowing that future challenges will not be so scary and threatening. I have more confidence in myself and my choices, and I also know I have helpers and companions I can trust. That is worth all the pain I went through, for sure.

  13. I wish you best of luck with your international move. Personally I have found found living abroad to be occasionally really though (so be prepared for that) but also very rewarding. I understand that you will be living in the Bern region? I have never properly lived in in Switzerland but I have stayed in Bern for a few months and found Bücherbergwerk on Monbijoustrasse to have the best selection of second hand books in English in Bern (not huge but varied and ok prices), it was my lifeline when I was feeling homesick, hopefully it is still good.

      1. It’s just one corner of a large second-hand bookstore but much better than the others I found and I always managed to find some good reads. The largest book store in the city center, which name I don’t remember, had a floor with new books in English so that is another good option. There is also an English Speaking Club in Bern in case you live nearby, I never found time to join but wanted to.

        1. Also sounds good. I know from past experience that being out of my own language will be hard, though this time I really want to make more of an effort to learn another.

  14. Hello Lory!

    What a splendid new blog, I’ve been enjoying reading your posts here. (And I love your choice of pictures.)

    Goodness, it has been a challenging time for you! Do you know, I was faintly sceptical about the claims in Marie Kondo’s book that tidying up had changed people’s lives, but you are living proof that it is true. I am so glad that although it has been difficult, you are all emerging into a better place.

    And welcome to Europe! Switzerland is very beautiful. I’ve found it quite difficult in some ways to live in another country, but also quite liberating. I wish you all the very best with the move and your new life. And let me know if you’re ever near Belgium…

    1. Thank you Helen! I would love to visit Belgium again. I had a friend from there I visited once, but I’ve somewhat lost touch – I think she lives in Germany now. We will see how things transpire (I’m not over there yet so I don’t want to make too many bets).

      I know, I was skeptical about KonMari but now I know better. I still do not think that tidying up actually causes your life to change, but when you are ready to change, you start in one area that appears manageable and then things snowball. It’s a lot easier to say “I think I will clean up my closet” than “I think maybe I need a divorce.” But they go together. (Some people just need their closets cleaned up, and then they can stop there.)

      1. Yes, and I think the two are further connected because you are, doing the KonMarie method, thinking about what you (still) value and how you have changed and how you haven’t, and that can start things off.

        Anyway, you know how to get in touch with me if you are Belgiumwards, I live in a not-very-pretty town but it does have an interesting history. Good luck in the mean time!

  15. You write so eloquently of the things you have been and are going through, and the vistas opening up before you. I am so glad that your marriage has found new life. Moving to Switzerland will be challenging but I hope also exciting, enriching, and rewarding for all three of you.

    I’ve been very fortunate throughout my life. I don’t know that I would classify any of my life as passing through a narrow gate, at least not since I became an adult. Medium gates, perhaps. There have been doors that closed, but almost always, a window has opened. And I have been blessed with a loving, supportive birth family, husband, and child; I’ve been able to lean on their strength and support when things have been tough. I know that someday I will encounter that narrow gate, because we all do. I hope when that day comes that I can go through it with the same courage, grace, and fortitude I sense in your journey.

    1. Beautifully put, Lark. I must say that any grace I displayed came more as a gift than as a quality I could claim as my own. Mostly I was just trying to find a way through the confusion, and sometimes a light shone through to help me. As with going through labor — you just have to get through it somehow, and that can call up unknown resources of courage and fortitude. And support from others is key, in all kinds of life transitions. I am so grateful for that.

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