The clerk at the post office gives me a strange look as she processes my paperwork. A look I’ve seen before. One that outwardly appears politely positive, but inwardly hides her surprise, her puzzlement, and her questions. Because when you live in such a sought-after coastal town, a town that people from all over the country flock to for their vacations, why on earth would you ever consider moving far away?
Then, as she stamps my mail redirection forms, the clerk can’t help but ask me why. And I give her the one brief answer that I know, with my youngest child in tow, will satisfy her. “We’re moving to be close to my family.”
And that’s exactly what we are doing. But my reasons run much deeper.
Once married, we settled back in the coastal town my husband knew as home, right by the beaches where he loves to surf and I find so much solace. The idea of moving states to be closer to my family didn’t form until I became a parent myself. And even then, for many years, it was always only a concept. Only an abstract thought.
But life started getting tougher. I was still adjusting to motherhood when PTSD began sending shockwaves through our home. And with each blow, it was gradually getting harder for me to bounce back. I noticed our conversations about moving had begun to lose their lightness, as they gradually gave way to an unspoken urgency. The scales finally tipped. All of a sudden, the stressful task of coordinating an interstate move with three young children (and one pet cat) was no longer as daunting as continuing with the destructive cycle in which PTSD has us all trapped. After 20 years of living away, it now seemed the only place to be.
Understandably, the news of our move was a delight to my family, but a shock to our friends. A few people said it, but everyone was thinking it. Everyone judges. “You know you can’t run away from your problems.” I know. “You know that he can’t escape PTSD by moving.” I know. Sadly, I know better than most that the PTSD will be right there, as we pack up our life, making us question time and again if we’re doing the right thing. Making us repeatedly doubt that risking the additional stress on an already shaky ground will be worth it.
This move means preparing our tired old house for tenants and finding a new place to call home. It means a new school for the children, a new daycare for my toddler. It means a new job for me, and new friends for us all. It means new therapists for my husband, a new foundation for our family. When I unravel it like this, the vision is entirely overwhelming, and I hurriedly try to tie the mess back together with the bonds of family support that we’ll be gaining. With so much to be done, I can’t afford to crumble now.
So although to the post office clerk, and the rest of the outside world, we’re moving states to be closer to family, to me this generic phrase will never justify the labyrinth of emotions that are driving my decision.
I’m moving for greed. I want more time to know my parents, and more time to learn from my grandparents. With my amateur parent ears, I want to listen to everything they all want to tell me, everything they have to say. And then, in those moments when there’s nothing to say, I want to simply be there to soak up their presence.
I’m moving for pleasure. For reasons that may be nothing to others but mean the world to me. A cup of tea in the sun while I watch my children play blissfully with their grandmother. Mastering a new vegetable garden under the wise gaze of my grandfather. Hearing the giggles from my children as their aunty reads them another and another and another bedtime story. Listening to my father patiently teach his grandsons the bowline, the clove hitch, and the double overhand. And the shared joy of the piano, with my daughter to one side and my grandmother to the other.
I’m moving for normal. The normal that we’ve been missing for too long, the normal that others take for granted. The lazy afternoon visits, the gathered family dinners, the lively weekend sleepovers, the comfortable silences, and the familiar security. Because when my husband is in the grips of his PTSD, and normal dissolves right before my eyes, I’ll know where to go for a hug. And in the stretches when my husband’s PTSD has devoured any semblance of normal in our life, we’ll have a place to pause, a place to find some calm.
I’m moving for tomorrow. I want to share the joy of my children with the people I love the most, and who love them the most. I want tomorrow, and every tomorrow after that. I no longer want to decide between quality and quantity when it comes to family. And in the face of illness and advancing age, I’m now choosing both. I want to be waving goodbye at my front door, not at the airport.
I’m moving for hope. A hope that recovery can be encouraged by a new view. Not trying to run from the PTSD, but withdrawing my husband from the locational triggers he endures daily, keeping him trapped in a web of traumatic memories. More than anything, a fresh start can only begin when I’m no longer waking up in a house that holds every dark memory I have of our long battle with PTSD. And I long for clarity. I want to recognize when it’s the end of a chapter, and when it’s the end of the book.
I’m moving for my children. I’m moving for my husband. And I’m moving for me. Because I truly hope for many more chapters in our story.
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