Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Itchy Feet

This is going to be one of those personal posts that has very little to do with adoption. Except that it kind of has a lot to do with adoption, eventually. I promise.

Lately I've been restless.

I should be more specific. I tend to be restless physically as a general rule. I can't remember the last time I sat still. But lately I've been mentally restless as well, and it's getting worse.

I'm convinced it's a genetic trait. My paternal great-grandmother (for whom Roo was named) was born to an unmarried mother, her biological father having been the sort of man who does not stay in one place for very long. She married a man, my great-grandfather, who was also the restless sort. They had two sons, and their second-born became my grandfather.

But years before that, he got itchy feet. (Not literally.) At the age of sixteen he fudged his birthday and joined the United States Marine Corps. They gave him a gun and a knife, and then they shipped him off to the Pacific to fight in the second world war. When he got back, he married my grandmother. After a few years they moved. And again a few years later. And again a few years after that.

When my dad told people he moved around a lot as a kid they assumed his father was in the military, and he was. But my grandfather was in the Reserves after the war. The constant relocation was his own choice. He worked as a pipefitter and a foreman and he had a temper. Every couple of years he'd get sick of his boss, quit his job, and move the family to a new place. The wandering life seemed to suit him.

It did not suit my father. He wanted roots. Once my oldest brother started school, my parents were settled, and if my father occasionally felt restless like his father he hid it well with car trips or new ways of arranging the furniture. I spent the first 18 years of my life in the same small town ... and I hated it.

My father wanted roots; I wanted wings. I felt stifled; trapped. I was envious any time there was a new kid at school; I felt they'd seen more than I had, experienced more, been more free. My world was so small. I grew to resent it. I took any chance I could to shake things up. When we had a family trip planned, I would pack my suitcase weeks in advance (and end up unpacking one day at a time because I had nothing to wear). I loved moving furniture around, painting walls, planting flowers. Anything to shake up the monotony of my tiny world. Every couple of years I had to do something, anything, to make a change.

I never outgrew it. At college, I was the girl who would say yes to any trip, anywhere (even an ill-planned trip in an aging truck to the top of a mountain, in the snow, at 2am, to help my friend Connie look for her camera. None of us brought a flashlight, and I was wearing flip-flops. Sorry, Mom). I was desperate for new experiences, new people, new scenery.

Since the age of 14, I haven't done any one thing for more than two years. I had one job from 14 to 16 and another from 16 to 18. Then college for roughly two years, another job for two years, 16 months of beauty school, a salon job for about two years. Then two years of unemployment, during which I grew a human being in my free time. Then my library job - one position for a year, and 18 months in my current position.

And I am getting restless. I don't know how to have the same job for so long without getting itchy feet. I keep shuffling pictures around at my desk, trying to make things look new. But I'm starting to feel trapped again. It hit me a few months ago. I was refilling my water bottle and my brain was idling and I suddenly couldn't remember what day of the week it was. This happens regularly, but that day I realized that it happens regularly. That there is precious little to distinguish one day from the next. That the past year of my life has flown by as if it had hitched a ride on a cannonball. I had this horrifying feeling that the next two, five, ten years of my life could easily be the same kind of a blur.

I managed to shake the feeling for a few months but it's back in full force. My twenties got away from me and if I keep on keepin' on, my thirties will be an endless cycle of damnation - work-sleep-work-sleep-work-sleep. No progress, no change. There is no opportunity for advancement at my library, and the county has not given pay raises in over five years. I have reached a dead end. I'm not unhappy with my life, but I feel like there has to be more out there for me and I find myself getting more and more desperate to find it.

So a few weeks ago I reminded myself that I am not a tree. America is a big country - the land of opportunity. I have options. I'm not stuck. I can go anywhere I want. I started looking for library jobs in other cities (thank you, Houston, for letting me know how grossly underpaid I am). I imagined myself in Illinois, in North Carolina, in Texas, in Virginia. My itchy feet danced at the thought of a fresh start, a new city, something different to get tired of in two years.*

I would be alone in a strange city, and that made me a little nervous. But, I asked myself, isn't it worth the risk? What do I have to lose? What is there for me in Arizona?

And right away I knew the answer. Roo. Roo is here in Arizona. She is my precious, amazing, wonderful little anchor to the Grand Canyon state. Roo is here. How can I go anywhere else?

I am so spoiled to live so close to her - in the same city, maybe a dozen miles away. When I want a visit, it's a matter of weeks and very little planning (on my part, anyway). I've been able to go to her dance recitals and play with her at the park and have breakfast with her at a restaurant. I could do none of those things if I lived in Houston, for example. Visits would have to be carefully orchestrated, and they would be expensive for me. I'm afraid I'd feel I was missing out on the little things - things I'm invited to now because I'm close but that might slip past if I lived a thousand miles away because it would be so difficult for me to go.

Roo is getting older (she will be four this summer. Four!). The older she gets, the more important it is to have a good relationship with her and her parents. I don't ever want her to feel abandoned by me. I want her to be able to see me when she wants to. To get to know me if she wants to. I don't want to be some distant figure, someone talked about but not to.

The simple thing to do would be to find something new here in the valley. A new apartment, a new job. But ... I can't explain it. Arizona almost feels too small. Yes, all 113,990 square miles** of it. I have lived in Arizona for thirty years. I know it too well. It's too familiar. There's nothing new here for me, and my feet want to go somewhere new.

But how can I even think of going anywhere that Roo's not?

Yes, I know that I'm being stupid and that Roo probably wouldn't be bothered by my relocating. The truth is that I'm the one bothered by it. The thought of moving away from her scares the heck out of me. And yet the restlessness grows.

How can I make my feet agree with my heart? I wish I knew. I don't know if there's a compromise. I don't know which part of me is going to win.

But I do know that it's time to start rearranging the furniture. 

*If you're thinking the whole two-year-itch thing means I'd make a good military wife, you're probably right, and I've thought so too. But single Mormon military men aren't exactly thick on the ground in the Phoenix metro area. So if you know of any, do a girl a favor, won't you?

**Thank you, Wikipedia! Also, I know that people have these ideas about Arizona because of Sheriff Joe. So I would just like to remind you that we are also the state that brought you Grumpy Cat. You're welcome, America.


Unknown said...

Mormon military men are plenty in Logan Utah, heck probably anywhere in Utah.... We have a great bmom support group too!

Alysa . . . . and Reed said...

I just have to add my two cents here. I too used to live in the same state as my son, only a few hours away. Yearly visits were our thing and I loved and looked forward to them along with my husband and kids. Also phone calls, packages, etc. But the visits were the highlight for me.
My husband got accepted into a school clear across the country from where we used to live and it's been a year and a half since I last saw him and his family. I seem to be the only one lamenting our lost visits. I am sad, so sad about that! Not having any sons currently, I don't know if it's just a boy thing or his age since he's now 9 turning 10. . . either way, I would say if you're going to move discuss what ways you will stay in contact before you go!!! I really think this would have helped in my current situation because we didn't have a plan and it seems like we're all kind of flailing about trying to communicate here and there but it doesn't feel sufficient to me and it's a little too late to say anything without hurting anyone's feelings. Like I said, just my two cents. Whatever happens, have fun rearranging your furniture and exploring different options in your life!

JW said...

Please don't leave your wee girl again. I love your blog - I understand what you did and why you did it, although I don't agree that you couldn't have given Roo a wonderful life.

I do honestly think that she will probably understand why you dud what you did in placing her for adoption. However, I think it would be harder to understand why you then moved away and diluted your relationship with her.

Havi Andersen said...

I have been reading (and loving!) your blog for a couple of years. So, that makes me really qualified to give you advice, right?

Jill, you are young and intelligent. You seem committed to the gospel. You'are a wonderful person and a great (birth)mom. That said, maybe it's time for you to take a little time for you. Maybe it wouldn't be the end of the world if you did move--just to try it, and perhaps not permanently. But, if you decided to do it, Roo is old enough that she knows you and woudl remember you and that you could maintain the reltionship that you have, especially if you visited every 6-9 mos. I understand that you'd be missing things. That's why you need to do what's right for you. But my parents, grandparents to my 5 kids, have lived 2500 miles away since before me kids were born--and they have a phenomenal relationship with each of them that has been fostered during bi-annual visits (often 2 weeks in the summer & then Thanksgiving or Christmas). And my oldest kids are teens now & they still love my parents.

Just some thoughts. You do what you need to do. And keep blogging!

Rachel said...

This is the same way I've been feeling. My birth daughter just turned a year old, and I'm graduating. It's time to fly! But I feel so guilty about leaving an area where I can visit her as frequently as I am now. And it scares me! Thanks for this post, I just identify with it.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I actually just stumbled onto your blog because my partner and I are in the midst of an open adoption plan- ie. We've met and been matched with an expectant mom, and are loving getting to spend time with her and know her. We're having dinner with her tonight and I have all kinds of questions that I want to ask her--- about all manner of situations that might come up between now and her due date--- and I actually googled "What shouldn't I ask a birth mother" and found you. And I'm so glad I did! You're a terrific writer! Thank you for sharing your insights. They are very helpful.

cmgr said...

Roo isn't the reason; she's the excuse. You're afraid to face what's really out there. Too many what-ifs and buts.

It is unfair to place such a burden on her. "My birth mom never went anywhere or did anything with herself because of me." It should be the opposite! You should want to become the most awesome person you can be, because of Roo and her parents. She should be your drive, not your anchor.

If you really can't fathom moving right now, start taking road trips on your days off. I've found that coffee in a strange place or stopping in a small town I've never heard of can be very liberating and relaxing.

Amy Louise said...

I was thinking of a small but meaningful change. Why don't you go on a mission trip? See somewhere else. Do something else and have a change of perspective? or try a new club or activity. or are there other LDS churches ( I'm sorry I'm not LDS so I'm not sure if I used the right word) you can attend. How about one of those home party type businesses? I wouldn't be able to leave Roo either. These might help give you new experiences to relieve the itch.

Anonymous said...

I so wish my daughter's birthmom didn't live halfway across the country. I want her to be able to attend things casually... so I am inclined to advise you not to move!

But I'm also new to your blog...

Adrienne said...

I am a momma by adoption who recently moved all the way across the country from our wonderful birth mommas. I, too, am a wanderer and before they chose us we warned them that we would most likely move at some point. When we decided to move they were the first two people I told, and even though it was initially emotionally difficult for both of them, they have since told me (we have a great friendship, and are very honest about our feelings)that they know we were supposed to move and are so happy for us.

My Nana passed away two years ago and one of the greatest things I learned from her is that distance does not determine the strength of a relationship. I never, ever lived in the same state as her, and yet she was my best friend. We called, sent letters, she sent me gift packages, and she and I were so incredibly close. Have you prayed about it? Because that is how I have been able to find my answers. Don't make a decision based on fear, moving does not mean you do not love Roo by any means. Remember, distance does not determine the strength of a relationship.