It is better to travel well than to arrive


So, this is sort of awkward. I’ve been writing this post in my head for two weeks, but now that I’m sitting here, staring at an empty post for the first time in almost a year, my mind is as blank as the screen in front of me. Nine months. That’s a long time to disappear. I could have had a baby in that amount of time. (I didn’t, thank goodness, but still.) I’m feeling a little rusty, so bear with me while I try to explain all this. It’s not particularly easy, and with my tendency to be more than a little long-winded, this could take a while.

I suppose it all started last April when I began to go through what I believe can only be described as an Extremely Early Mid-life Crisis. (Evidence here.) This prompted me to begin evaluating all of the pieces of my life, especially my hobbies, in terms of where-will-this-take-me-in-the-future and am-I-just-wasting-my-time-here. (You can probably guess where I’m headed with this.) Blogging has and probably always will be just a hobby for me. In the beginning, I loved every part of it – the preservation of our memories, the incentive to take better photos, the excitement of receiving a comment on a post – but over time that love started to fade a bit. So when I began trying to determine what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, I realized I didn’t want blogging to take up as much of my time as it had been. I only planned to cut back, not to stop completely, but then something happened that halted my Extremely Early Mid-life Crisis before it had even picked up enough steam to actually take me anywhere. I got sick. Not just cough-sneeze, better-in-a-week sick, but sick-sick.

The year is 1848. A man and a woman sit alone in a corner booth of their favorite pub. The pub is cozy, quiet, save for the conversations at nearby tables between various statesmen and noblemen, their voices growing increasingly louder as more drinks are consumed. The couple in the corner booth share an unspoken agreement as their eyes meet across the table. They tip back the last drops of their drinks, he helps her with her coat, she adjusts his hat, and they bid the barman farewell. The two young lovers leave the pub, laughing gently at a shared joke, their faces flushed from drink. Nine months later, they welcome a son into their growing family, setting in motion the events that would lead, 25 years later, to the birth of one of England’s greatest leaders, Sir Winston Churchill.

Disclaimer: I may have taken a few liberties with completely fabricated the story above. Whether or not Winston Churchill’s lineage can be traced back to one too many glasses of brandy on a cold night in a cozy pub is purely conjecture on my part. However, Churchill’s paternal grandparents, the 7th Duke of Marlborough and Lady Frances Anne Emily Vane, were once regular patrons of one particular pub in Kensington, and it is that same pub, now named The Churchill Arms in the family’s honor, where I met my aunt one Saturday afternoon over the summer for a few hours of catching up over delicious Thai food.

I don’t talk about it often, even with close friends, but I’ve been sick for a long time. Like almost 10 years. What started with cosmetic symptoms that went largely ignored by doctors (but certainly not by me and my vanity) eventually turned into a full blown illness causing a wide range of things from early-onset osteoporosis to relentless insomnia to hormonal imbalances. With each new symptom, I coped by adjusting my life to compensate for it because nothing we tried medically was doing anything to help. I was racking up quite the list of health issues for someone in my 20’s and becoming more than a little jaded by the ineffectiveness of the treatments I was receiving, so when we moved to London, I just stopped trying. I stopped seeing doctors, stopped taking medications and supplements, and just tried to enjoy our new life here as medically-free as I could. And for a while nothing changed, I got no worse or better. Until the day I did.

I can almost pinpoint the day it happened. It was like I woke up and had aged 50 years overnight. I tried to brush it off as just a rough night, which is common for me, but I could tell something had changed. And each day after that I continued to get a little worse to the point where I could hardly stand up without passing out or eat without being sick. I was losing weight, dealing with heart issues, and losing my hair so fast that Cory was regularly pulling rat-sized gobs of it out of our shower drain. (I couldn’t do it myself – it was too traumatic.) But it wasn’t until my brain began being affected that I really and truly started to worry. I’d dealt with a foggy memory for years due to lack of sleep, but this was something else. This was causing me to forget things I should never, ever forget and was, by far, the most disturbing symptom on my ever-expanding list. After two months of going on like this, I was starting to worry that I might actually die while I waited to get specialist appointments on the NHS, so we made the decision to switch to private, and finally, FINALLY we started to get somewhere.

It took multiple specialists before I landed in the hands of a gastroenterology specialist who, after extensive (read: highly invasive) testing, determined that the reason nearly every system in my body was turning against me is because I am not absorbing nutrients from my food. Or at least not absorbing them well. The nutrients I am able to absorb are only being delivered to the most essential systems in my body, which explains why early-on my only symptoms were cosmetic, but as time progressed, more and more systems began to be affected. (This is where I have to try really hard not to get angry because if someone had listened to me back in 2007, all of this might have been prevented!) The other problem is, determining exactly why I have absorption issues has been more than a little difficult to diagnose. Until we understand this crucial piece of the puzzle, all they can do for me is alleviate symptoms and attempt to feed my body what it needs through alternate methods ranging from potent mineral baths (pleasant) to sitting in a hospital room for hours while a rusty bag of liquid slowly drips into my veins (not as pleasant) to keeping me on a diet Satan himself must have created (definitely not pleasant). It’s not easy, but I am trying to be patient and remain hopeful that we are on the right path.

During all of this, I abandoned my goal to decide on a career path within the year so I could concentrate on my health which absolutely needed to take precedence and still does. But I quit blogging, too, because I was too tired and mentally drained to maintain the perky, happy presence I have here, and it wouldn’t have felt honest to go on writing like nothing else was going on. Even though I am not “out of the woods” yet, or whatever you want to call it, I am feeling positive enough now that I’m ready to bring this hobby back into my life, at least to some degree, because I do miss it. A lot. But it wasn’t always that way. Over the past nine months my feelings towards blogging have felt a little something like this…

Month 1: Look at all this free time I have when I’m not blogging – this is awesome!! I love not blogging!

Months 2-3: Why am I still forming blog posts in my head ALL THE TIME? How do I make this stop?!

Month 4: If I’m already writing the posts in my head, why don’t I just go ahead and start blogging again?

Month 5: After looking at a blank screen for 20 minutes. Yep, definitely not ready to start blogging again.

Month 6-7: I miss blogging. I need to blog about missing blogging.

Month 8: Nope. There’s just no way I’ll ever be able to write about everything we’ve done. Better just to forget about blogging altogether.

Month 9: Crap. I’m going to start blogging again.

So here I am, a little overwhelmed at the thought of tackling nine months worth of memories and travels. I might have quit blogging, and reading books, and learning languages, and working out, and many other things I used to love, but the one thing I refused to give up was traveling. How often I go and how much I’m capable of doing while there has certainly changed, but the anticipation of an upcoming trip and the enjoyment of arriving in a new destination have been the bright spots in an otherwise extremely difficult year, so I’m very grateful I’ve still had the opportunity to see so many new places. So many, actually, that when it comes to writing about them, “catching up” in any ordinary amount of time would be impossible. Even if I stopped traveling, it would still take me years to share everything we’ve seen, and clearly I’m not going to do that. 🙂 I’m not sure yet how I’m going to do it, but I’d like to figure out a way to share about everything I missed while still keeping current, too. Bear with me while I get all that sorted.

In other news that no longer seems like news because it happened so long ago, about a month after I wrote my last post, Cory was offered a year extension on his contract in London and we took it. So our three years in London have now turned into four! It feels a little weird knowing we were supposed to be heading back to the US this summer, but I’m delighted by the prospect of an extra year of opportunities to travel through Europe. It’s a trade-off, for sure, because we do miss our families and friends back home, but it feels like the right decision.

As much as we love living in Chiswick, three years is a long time to live anywhere so we will be moving closer into central London in June when our current lease is up. I can’t wait to be closer to the city. There are benefits to living on the outskirts, for sure, but I’m looking forward to not having to travel so far to see and do all the fun things that are constantly popping up in London. (I am not looking forward to the flat-hunt, though. The first time we did that was pretty much the most stressful day I’ve ever spent in London!) And since Lexie will be starting high school in the fall (what?!), we have decided to switch her back to an American-style curriculum to make the transition easier when we return to the States. Her application at our top choice American School was accepted last week, so it’s looking like our last year in London will be full of all kinds of fresh starts and new experiences. It feels good to shake things up a little bit!

And that about brings us up to speed here. Besides my health and some pretty amazing trips, it’s been an uneventful year. (I suppose that’s typically the case when you hardly ever leave the house anymore – ha!) I’m really excited to be back writing here, and don’t worry – this will be the first and last time I write about my health situation. This blog is not the place I want to be talking about stuff like that, but I felt you all deserved a truthful explanation for why I just took the longest (unintentional) blogging break ever. Thanks for still sticking around!

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