The constant stalk of homesickness

Group shot of a pub quiz team.

This is a photo guaranteed to get me misty-eyed. Pub quiz night with my mates at The Globe in Copenhagen.

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.

7 thoughts on “The constant stalk of homesickness

  1. Mark, my heart really goes out to all four of you. What you speak of is so familiar, our family has moved many, many times and the first full year particularly is always tough. I cried (not tears of joy…) when we arrived in America and it took a long time for me to come around and accept our new home. Always harder when you’re on the opposite side of the world to family and close friends and there’s no option of a quick flight home to give them a hug. After 6-12 months of immersing ourselves and investing in new friendships it all began to feel alright again. As I’ve mentioned on my ‘About’ page, a little piece of my heart has been left behind in all the places we’ve lived and that’s mostly due to the people we’ve met along the way. Long distance friendships are never easy, but the strongest ones will last and will become the basis of of some wonderful future holidays that will bring you all back together for more happy times.
    The pain/feeling of loss will soften gradually as you settle in to your new community and make friends here in Canberra. Having school age children who are active in sports, music and the like always helps…
    Thinking of you all. Cheers, Margot

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    • Thanks Margot, That comment about leaving a little piece of yourself in each place you live is so true. I think what has taken me by surprise is that, when we moved to Denmark, we had what I look back on as ‘the honeymoon period’ — those first three or four months where everything was new and wonderful. The fact that our first three months here were furniture-less and subject to greater uncertainty as we both look for work has somewhat dampened that feeling, such that I feel we missed out on it. The good news is that the kids seem to be living it to the full and certainly you couldn’t come up with a sum of money big enough to persuade maxi-CBRbound that Australia isn’t heaven on Earth. And in a sense, that’s how it should be. We were very clear that coming here was a decision for the kids, so as long as that’s working out well, it’s mission accomplished and everything else (which will come in time, you’re right) will be a bonus. Thanks for your good wishes, and happy Australia Day to you 🙂 Mark

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  2. And of course, when it all goes beautifully, when a special something occurs that would, or perhaps even could, never have happened before, then the instigator can also take that “blame”! There’s always a bright side I reckon.

    Seriously though, any of us who have moved know about homesickness and it’s tough. I think it can debilitate, in fact, if you don’t get a hold on it, but it sounds like you are all positive at heart so it doesn’t get to that level. Keep loving and laughing I say. (And I do hope Maxi CBR Bound enjoyed his Australian Open experience. Did he see Kyrgios?

    BTW My first experience of homesickness occurred just as I hit my teens. We moved from Mt Isa (where we’d lived for three years) to Sydney. That might be most teenagers’ dream, but it wasn’t my dream! It also happened to be about the time the Beatles’ “Yesterday” came out (I’m giving my age away now). “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away …” Oh yes, I wallowed!

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    • He saw Nadal play (and Martina on the Legends circuit, but I think that was more Mrs CBRbound’s influence). He was hoping to see Murray, but that turned out to be the evening session (and finished at 12.40am, so maybe it was for the best).

      You are right about there being a flipside to the ‘blame game’ — I’ll come back to that when I can claim credit for something 🙂

      And I think wallowing can be good on occasion. Just not too often and not for too long. There’s too much that’s good about this place for that. And as you’ll see from my next post, we’re discovering CBR’s good aspect by the bucket load.

      You know, the more I think about it, the more I suspect we will benefit from a bit of family/friend approval. We’ve not had any overseas visitors yet, but I remember our first visitors to Denmark and how when they commented: “I can see why you came here,” it made the world of difference. We haven’t had that yet, but it’ll mean a lot when it comes — that notion that, despite the distance, the challenges and the drawbacks, someone who is just as affected from the other side of our move might see its advantages too, will help us a lot, I think.

      All good wishes to you.
      Best, Mark

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      • Thanks Mark … that all makes sense. Now I shall go read the next post that has just popped up in my inbox. (How great to have seen Nadal. That’s something to remember. As for Martina, do you mean Hingis? Or is Navratilova playing too? I’ve see a bit of Hingis on TV). Anyhow, onto the next post. (BTW, I’m Sue if you hadn’t go that already)

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      • Haha … yes I read your later post after I commented and discovered Navratilova. But yes, Hingis was there and I’ve seen small bits of her women’s doubles and mixed doubles games. It’s been lovely seeing her.

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