I want to talk about homesickness. Not because I’m homesick – not at the moment, anyway – but because it’s something that skulks in the background for all the CBRbound family and I’ve steered clear of writing about it until now because I wanted to offer an objective opinion on it.
It starts with a song, a song by Missy Higgins – ‘Where I Stood’. For those who don’t know Missy, or this particular song, you’re missing out on something wonderful, but this isn’t about the song, it’s about a sentiment.
Although Mrs CBRbound and I discuss and do things together, I’ve always had the sense that this move to Australia only happened because I wanted it to. Yes, we both wanted to come, but I think we both wanted to come because I wanted to come, and if that sounds cryptic, it isn’t meant to. It’s just the way marriage is – you want things for each other and, in time, they become your shared ambitions.
But of course, that works both ways, because if one of you is hurt or sad, that sadness has the ability to backwash over you and everything you may be independently feeling. And homesickness is like that. When one of us gets it, it changes the feeling about being here for all of us, for a while.
Homesickness isn’t debilitating. It doesn’t curl you in a ball and have you sobbing for a return ticket to where you came from. Nor does it render you unable to socialise or to see the good things about where you are now. But it does tinge and filter everything you see and do with a layer of sadness. But homesickness for what?
When I asked my wife, she said England – but we haven’t lived there for 10 years. When she asked me, I said Denmark – because that’s where our little family has spent most of its existence.
In truth, the definitions are a little more vague. Our homesicknesses are for the familiarly shabby surroundings of a regular haunt; for the unspoken familiarity of a comfortable friendship; for seasons, views and rituals.
A few weeks ago, I met a lovely 93 year-old woman who moved to Australia from the UK in 1955. Since then, she has lived the fullest life you can imagine and she was truly inspirational (an overused word in my view, but fully appropriate here). I asked her when the homesickness goes away. She said: “It never does.”
“I’d like to go home now, for a visit,” she said (note the use of the word ‘home’ for a place she left more than half a century ago), “but I can’t get travel insurance for the trip.”
And I wondered about her, and her now long-gone husband, and which one of them was the instigator of their move.
This is important because it affects the distribution of responsibility when things go wrong – if there’s no work to be found, the instigator feels the blame; if there are setbacks that would never have been encountered back home, the instigator feels responsible; if fortune simply takes a turn for the worse in this new place, the instigator feels like they brought it upon their family. These are not insignificant burdens to bear, and they rely on the love, trust and support of every member of the family to overcome them.
That 93 year-old told me of more hardships than I can relay, but also of more fortunes – in love, in family, in the sheer magnitude of her experiences. I’d call that a life well lived.
Which brings me back to that song. It starts like this:
“I don’t know what I’ve done,
Or if I like what I’ve begun,
But something told me to run,
And honey, you know me, it’s all or none.”
Those words lay heavy upon me from time to time, but ‘all or none’ is how I feel about this adventure, and we’re giving it our all, despite moments of sadness at what we’ve left behind.
If you’re in the mood for a gorgeous tune, you can hear the full version of ‘Where I Stood’ here.