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Change is the only constant

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.

Lao Tzu

To everything, turn, turn, turn!

To everything, turn, turn, turn!

A week ago today M was smiling as he walked through the front door after a day in the office. He had his headphones in his ears.

Kissing him hello, I asked, “Are you smiling at me or did you hear something funny on a podcast?”

“Oh no,” he said, “I’m smiling at you.”

I looked at him. He raised an eyebrow slightly. I said, “You’ve been offered a job.”

He said, “Yep.”

I said, “Where?”

He said, “Islamabad.”

And so, off to Pakistan we shall go.

M’s too modest to enjoy hearing me repeat the following story but it’s one that I enjoy telling, so sorry, M, look away now. The first time I introduced M to my colleagues in the job that I was doing when we met was at a broadcast exhibition that we were working at in Las Vegas. My colleagues were my Suffolk surrogate family, so their opinions on things like my new man and the lifestyle choices that came along with him counted. After dinner and a few drinks with M, my boss said that what he liked most about him was that while he could very easily hold his own in a conversation about all things cultural and political, he also gave the distinct impression that he could wrestle a crocodile before breakfast. That’s my man. And such a man, while doing a fantastic job and enjoying a lovely life of wine, freedom, food and frolicking in the hills on the French-Swiss border, really belongs out in the field. And while I don’t suppose there are many crocodiles in Islamabad, one doesn’t get much further afield than that, and I can already see his synapses firing in an altogether different way now that he’s contemplating being back out there.

And as for me… This is where I come into my own. This is where all the many goodbyes that I’ve ever said to the people that I love, and all the desire for new horizons, and all the optimistic anticipation of extraordinary adventures snowball together into something large and fast-moving enough to swallow up our beautiful life here and propel it onto another continent far, far away. (And I’m pretty good at packing boxes, too.)

The disadvantages of this lifestyle are manifold. I’m always away from my family. I constantly have to say goodbye to the amazing people who become my friends. I never speak the language of the place that I call home. And by the time I’ve started to get to grips with how a place works it’s time to move on to pastures less familiar. But there are also massive advantages. And one of those is that it makes life very, very long.

I assume that most people have read Joseph Heller’s brilliant satirical novel, Catch-22? One of my favourite characters is Yossarian’s friend Dunbar, who is “working hard at increasing his life span… by cultivating boredom.”

Heller writes, “Dunbar loved shooting skeet because he hated every minute of it and the time passed so slowly. He had figured out that a single hour on the skeet-shooting range with people like Havermeyer and Appleby could be worth as much as eleven-times-seventeen years.”

His friend Clevinger argues, “Maybe a long life does have to be filled with many unpleasant conditions if it’s to seem long. But in that event, who wants one?”

“I do,” Dunbar told him.

“Why?” Clevinger asked.

“What else is there?”

Yes!

While I absolutely agree with Dunbar that since we only have one life we’d be foolish not to make it last as long as possible, experience has taught me that he’s going about it all wrong. For me life seems longest when I’m filling it with new places, extraordinary experiences, previously unimagined people and challenging new situations. Each year since I met M and moved to Jerusalem and then to Geneva and then to Ruffieux and then to Divonne has seemed to last at least three years… And I mean that in the nicest possible way! I want to stuff as many years as I possibly can into my years, and so far I’ve found no better way to do it than this. I may not know where I’m going to be living in two years from now, but I can be fairly confident that it’s going to be memorable.

One day when my lovely friend H came to visit M and I in the chateau that we happily inhabited in the French countryside, she said that the place really felt like home. Then we moved out of the chateau and into a bog-standard two-bedroom flat on the second floor of an ugly (but much more conveniently located) apartment building. And when H came to visit us here she said that this also feels like home. Her conclusion was that M and I have a home in one another. Thankfully, our home is portable. And from October 1st it will be located in an Islamabad suburb.

I hope H can visit us there too. And all the other beautiful people that I’ve met in France and Switzerland. And the amazing people that I met in Israel and Palestine. And all the people that I miss so much from my adopted homeland of England. And my friends and family in my native land of Australia. And anyone who might still remember me from back in the day in Japan. And whatever family I might still have in my ancestral homeland of Holland. And all the people that I’ve met along the way who’ve chosen new destinations, from Spain to New Zealand to Hong Kong, to make their own lives long and memorable.

Please come and stay. All the curries and rotis and rice you can eat are on me.

10 thoughts on “Change is the only constant

  1. Wow! never a dull moment for you – sorry to see you leave I don’t feel we have had time to get to know each other well enough, have camera will travel I guess!

    • No, you’re right, Caro, there really hasn’t been enough time. That’s one of my biggest regrets. One never knows, though, when paths may cross again… Perhaps some day there’ll be a “Tastes of Islamabad”?! I’ll look forward to all future mouthwatering posts on your beautiful blog!

  2. Such a wonderful post Michelle! And so relevant to me as I’ve been thinking so much about all my homes too the last few days (SA, Israel, NorCal). I love how your friend concluded you and M have a home in each other – simply gorgeous. Wishing you both much luck and love. I feel lucky to be able to join you on your adventures through your beautiful writing and stunning photographs! xo

    • Thanks so much, Nicki! Yes, you’re in a very good position to understand my rants about homes away from homes! I’m so very lucky that as well as having a wonderful home in M, I also have this happy place on the internet where my distant friends can sit with me for cups of tea and regular catch-ups… Thanks so much for being one of those friends! xxx

  3. I remember that little restaurant on the hill outside of Abu Ghosh near Jerusalem. Sitting there with you and M felt like I was at home too, so H is right…home is within each of you. I think Karen and I feel the same, we are at peace where we are and life is long. All the best for your new home in Islamabad; now there’s a place worth visiting!

    • That’s such a beautiful thing to say, Steve, and such a lovely memory. Yes, I remember that evening well, with the call to prayer chiming out as the sun set on the Jerusalem hills. Beautiful. I’m so glad that you and Karen are also experiencing the gorgeous sense that all is as it should be. Long may it continue. And do come and see us in Islamabad if you find yourselves back on this side of the equator after your studies are over!

  4. I both like and dislike this very much! Feel like I’ve only just started to get to know you but still have a few few months of your physical presence in Switzerland to enjoy and then I shall follow you into the world of cyber friendship. Very exciting for you and M though, it sounds like a great adventure for you both.

    • I know, Briony – I feel the same way! The worst thing about meeting fabulous people when you have an itinerant lifestyle is the fact that you have to say goodbye to them again. But thankfully I have a long history of friendships maintained across the seas… I shall look forward to keeping up with your efforts to avoid your fear of the reaper!

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