Growing up I always said that there was no way I would ever have a boyfriend or get married. I mean, how embarrassing is that?! Eww yuck! No way! I’m not a ‘sheep’, I was different from my classmates and people my age. I was a misunderstood little girl, who lived in her own world, a dreamer, a thinker, an old soul. It would often have me in tears, but at the same time, deep down, I liked being different. It made me feel special and unique.
And then there comes a day when all of a sudden that fear of having a boyfriend, someone you fall in love with disappears and it falls over you like a blanket. You don’t care about the embarrassment anymore, because it isn’t. Love is bigger than that.
I dreaded the day of bringing the person I had fallen in love with home. I think I associated love with being weak and if there was one thing I feared most, it was weakness.
Fear is a funny thing. I once read that ultimately, all fear is the ego’s fear of death, of annihilation and I guess it makes a lot of sense, but what I have also learned over the years, is that fear makes you feel alive. I wouldn’t say I love the feeling, but being alive and feeling present is like a drug. I have come to a point in my life where I enjoy challenging myself, taking risks and stepping out of my comfort zone. I’m not sure if ‘enjoy’ is the right word, but knowing that you’re growing as a person and not living your life like a zombie feels very rewarding.
It has been a month since my last day of work, my last day in Africa and my last day with Lance…
One last hug, one last kiss, one last wave. Saying goodbye to the person you have spent every living moment with for the past 4 years, someone you share so many things with, from memories, to friends, to work, to hobbies and interest, your first love, to call that painful is an understatement.
As I let go I can feel my heart ripping away from my chest, a sick, heavy feeling in my stomach. All I can do is cry. How will I ever get through this?
I knew I couldn’t go straight to the airport, so I decide to stay with a friend for two days, before leaving the country. That night we visit a friend of hers (anything to keep my mind occupied) and I seem to be doing ok, but all of a sudden it hits me again and we are forced to go back to her house. I am a complete mess, sobbing uncontrollably, feeling like I’m going to be sick, my legs literally giving way. I phone home and fall asleep with swollen eyes and my laptop still resting on my lap.
I sleep, eat and watch ‘Toddlers & Tiaras’ to make myself feel better about life and eventually it’s Thursday the 29th of May. We drive to Pretoria and pick up my passport as soon as it’s ready, literally hours before having to be at the airport (talking about cutting it close!). Somehow they have managed to sort out my NZ visa crisis and I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. My flight is at 20.30 that night and knowing that I still have another visa crisis to face I’m first in line to check in. When I get to customs I decide to just be honest and tell the guy that: “Sir, I think I might have a bit of a problem…” I explain the situation and how I have tried so much to ‘not be illegal’. He looks at me, tells me that it’s ok because I have a new passport and lets me go through. For a moment I am gobsmacked. Did that just happen?! I cannot help but laugh at how ridiculous this situation is and want to tell everyone I see that I am going home! I am smiling from ear to ear and decide to celebrate with a plate full of pasta and a Fanta (only because I don’t have enough money for champagne!).
On my first flight to Abu Dhabi I sit next to a guy from the UK who came over to meet a girl he has met on the internet. I never asked for his name or if things worked out, but we had a vodka and lemonade together, which was nice. Eventually I land in Abu Dhabi where I explore for 4 hours.
My next flight is to Sydney and I am extremely lucky to have a row of three seats all to myself. I roll up blankets around the arm rest and fall asleep. After one last flight and a total of 32 hours traveling it is fair to say I’m a little emotional when the plane touches New Zealand soil. I make my way to the baggage claim area, followed by customs and eventually into the arrivals hall where I fall into my family’s arms, crying.
I’m finally home.
That night I start to write. I often end up with a collection of ramblings, somehow to be put together to make sense, loose thoughts, all interconnected, waiting to be put in order, one beautiful mess. Writing has been my refuge, a place to hide away and let everything out, a place where I can be completely myself.
“I am a mess. I cried a lot today. It was so good to see everyone but I’m feeling such deep sadness for not being with Lance. I miss him so intensely. Today for the first time I felt like I could potentially have made a mistake. Driving from Wellington all the way to Waipawa, a lot of memories were brought back. These were OUR roads, OUR towns and OUR relationship I continuously kept being reminded of. I had to close my eyes, but eventually couldn’t hold back the tears. This is going to be even more difficult than I could have ever imagined. I just need to remind myself that it took a lot of strength to make such a decision, that I am strong and with time the pain will get less and lead me to the road I need to be on”.
I spent the first week with my family. I met my beautiful little niece, Maddie, who I love more than I could have ever imagined and whose cuddles continue to be the best therapy there is.
After a week of being at home I take the bus to Levin and visit one of my best friends and my beautiful godchildren. As soon as I walk in the door, I am bombarded with hugs. They are so happy to see me and so am I. I wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of footsteps and the touch of soft skin against me while 5 year old Dani slips into my bed for cuddles. I can’t help but smile.
That morning I decide to drop the girls off at school. I make them breakfast, pack their lunchboxes and with a lot of excitement we get to their classroom. “MISSSSS, THIS IS FLEUR!!!” they yell out. I go over to their teacher to introduce myself and she tells me she’s already heard a lot about me.
As I walk back to the car, I pass people I know or vaguely remember and it makes me think. It’s nice to be back, but so strange at the same time. Anyone who has been away from home for a long period of time, or has gone through a big change will know what it feels like. It’s like the world stood still back here and people are still going about their lives the same way they did when you left. There are times when I have real difficulty with this, because so much has happened in the past year and a half, and no matter how loving, supportive and interested everyone is, no one fully understands. And it’s not that I expect them to or blame them, but it doesn’t help when it comes to taking away this feeling of loneliness and the pain of not being with the one and only person who did understand.
Luckily there are also moments when I know that things will ultimately be OK and that the hurt will go away; when I accept that I did the right thing. Acceptance is a beautiful gift; it blows away the dark clouds and makes the beauty of the world visible again.
I spend the rest of the week catching up with friends and meet some new people who all know about me somehow. I feel like a celebrity to be given so much attention and love. It’s amazing what a good support system can do to you.
Over the past four weeks I have been staying busy. I’ve traveled far North, far South and in between and I have to admit, I kind of like being a gypsy. I like being asked ‘where do you live?” and answering “everywhere”.
Last week I visited Sera, my other best friend and co-gypsy, who lives in Hamilton. As the bus turns into the parking lot and I see her standing there my heart fills with joy. She has been such a rock and somehow always manages to say the right things, even when I don’t want to hear them. I jump off the bus and give her a ginormous hug.
Sera and I talk for hours, go for walks down the river, watch movies and laugh till our stomachs hurt so much we cannot sit up straight. She has a 5-year old daughter who I absolutely adore and admire and lifts my spirits as only children can do.
On Saturday I go to Auckland for the day to visit 2 other friends. It’s so nice to know people throughout the country who are all so happy to see me and welcome me with open arms. We have an amazing time and for a moment I am able to forget everything. That night we go out to town, but after half an hour we are forced to head back when all of a sudden I am overwhelmed by the whole situation and end up in tears. I have a full on panic attack of which I can only remember bits.
The next day I’m still feeling emotional and a trip to the beach with Gen is just what I need. We drive to Piha where we walk along the water’s edge with the cold wind blowing in our faces. We sit on a large rock and look out over the ocean. I don’t know what it is about nature, but it always seems to lift your spirits.
As I catch the bus back to Hamilton Sunday night, I’m still feeling a little down and all of a sudden tears are rolling down my cheeks. Soon I’ll get off the bus, one more hour. I find the evenings the most difficult and so the darkness isn’t making it any easier. With the moon high up in the sky, I am reminded of my nights in the bush, when I would look up, knowing that this was the same moon those I loved and missed at home could also see.
I am really missing Lance at the moment and long for one more loving embrace, look him in the eyes one more time and tell him how much I miss and love him. This sucks.
I stay in Hamilton until Tuesday, when I head back home again. I’ve been keeping myself so busy that I have barely had any time with my family. It’s nice to be back, even though I spend most my days in my room, which makes me feel a little guilty, because I know how much they want to see me.
After a week at home I’m off once again, this time to Christchurch. We catch a flight from Wellington and spend the weekend with a good friend. We go sightseeing and witness the damages of the earthquake from 3 years ago in the suburb of Sumner. Driving through the hills, seeing the abandoned houses, furniture still in place, is quite eerie and sad, but despite this, Christchurch is still a stunning city. We walk on the beach, take photos, visit some old bunkers and hike for a good hour and a half to enjoy the sun setting over the city. Later that night we go out for dinner and drinks and laugh till we nearly pee our pants. It’s been such an incredible weekend and I’m sad to go. I can’t wait to come back here!
It has been exactly one month since I arrived back in New Zealand. It’s been a time of many ups and downs. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve felt confused and at times thought I made the biggest mistake of my life but at the same time also knew it was the right thing to do. I still miss Lance every day and my love for him is still strong. I know that eventually with time things will get easier and better, but right now the pain is still deep.
When I look at people who suffer from even greater losses I feel ashamed, as if I need to harden up, but over the past month I learned that pain is pain, no matter what the cause is. You can’t compare it with other people’s situations. The only solution to getting through a difficult time in your life is to feel the pain, to go right through it and accept it for what it is. And only then will things get better, one step at a time.
I am hopeful.