The last few weeks have seen a constant stream of visitors to chez Gibbs - some were flying visits, some were unexpected, others were long-planned and eagerly awaited. But this morning, the house is once again quiet and empty of friends and family. It's just me and the dog, and he's not much of a conversationalist. Today is the first day back in the 'old' routine and started at 5.40 a.m. with a trip to the station to drop husband off. The up side of such an early start is that I was treated to a spectacular sunrise, the downside is that the day can seem very long when you have no plans. Days like today have often left me feeling lost and low, missing friends and work.
But there's something new about today - I feel a lightness of heart and real positivity rather than loneliness and anxiety about what the future holds. I have no real plans except the usual chores, but the uplifting effect of hosting visitors remains, and with three more lots of house guests booked in before Christmas, I'm feeling grateful for, rather than sorry about this time alone to process all the amazing things that have happened over recent weeks.
So what's changed? Apart from the fact that nothing beats good times with friends and family, there's finally been a breakthrough in my circumstances. Two long-awaited emails arrived last week and have opened up a whole raft or possibilities for this particular trailing spouse. The first confirmed that my work permit is being processed and isn't, as feared, lost in the post. The second granted me my teaching license with no restrictions, meaning I can look forward to getting back to what I love doing: teaching English Literature and Language.
And I feel completely different. After months of struggling to come to terms with rules and restrictions, and living with the genuine fear that I no longer knew my purpose, I now have absolute clarity about three things. Firstly - I needed a time to rest, build a home and reconnect with my faith. Secondly, I had to work out what really motivates me, and finally I had to trust and completely submit to God's will - HE is in control, not me. That last realisation only fell into place last Wednesday. It was, if you like, an epiphany - helped by some loving words from dear friends: STOP trying to control what you cannot control - and I made a decision to do just that. Twelve hours later, both emails were in my inbox, arriving on the same morning, giving me the news I feared would never come. After months of feeling adrift, I had confirmation that God has been the wind in my sails this whole time - once I stopped paddling against the tide, I suddenly saw land on the horizon.
There's some truth in 'faking it til you make it'. Up til now, I sometimes felt like I was playing a role in someone else's story - and whilst things have slowly been falling into place, nothing seemed quite real. But these last few days have been filled with genuine joy - I don't think I've laughed so much. I've flown in a wind tunnel, paddled in the lake, danced to the Gypsy Kings at Ravinia, eaten cake from a jar and drunk champagne in the city, to name just a few highlights.
Appropriately, we just had Homecoming weekend and Friday night's football game (our first) at son#2's school (Go Titans!) felt like a real celebration of a new season. Marching bands, cheerleaders, poms and cheering from the bleachers seemed like a scene from High School Musical, and whilst we didn't understand all the rules of the game, we did feel part of a team. Standing to face the American flag for the national anthem, I was unexpectedly moved - I wasn't really sure why, except that I was swept up in a wave of enthusiasm and patriotism - but also momentarily reminded of the fact that we are a long way from home. But at half time, the marching band began to play Elgar and the flag bearers suddenly waved a dozen Union flags... it felt like it was just for us - and another reminder that we don't have to pretend to be something we're not, we really do belong here, just as we are - no need to fake it anymore.