The Journey Inside

Post by Katrina Anne Willis for the Kind Kindred series.


print by Talitha Etters Studio on etsy

The Journey Inside

It’s been 20 months. I won’t bore you with the weeks, the days, the hours, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know those numbers by heart. I was an Indiana resident for 41 years, a Hoosier by birth and by soul. And then, after a whirlwind of house-selling and couch-surfing and multi-school-enrolling and cross-country-driving, I wasn’t.

Moving your family of six from the Midwest to the Deep South isn’t for the faint of heart. Watching everyone who has helped define your existence grow smaller in the rearview mirror is akin to tearing a very small bandage from a very large wound.

Sure, there’s the excitement of something new, something unknown, something undiscovered. And there’s also fear and trepidation, even though you vowed to strike those words from your vocabulary years before. They creep into the dark shadows of your U-Haul as you barrel down I-65 on your way to a brand new life.

Will the new ones like us?

Will the old ones forget us?

Will the unfathomable heat make me sweat yellow armpit stains into every single t-shirt I own?

When you watch those four pieces of your heart march like brave soldiers into their new schools – elementary, middle, and high – you’ll have to suppress the keening wail that rises in your throat and threatens to out you as the pajama-wearing carpool Mom you are.

There will be nights that you drink one too many glasses of wine, swirling the warm, red liquid in your glass like a tiny tornado to match the storm of doubt and loneliness that’s brewing in your mind. You’ll think about your family, your friends, the place you once called home. And you’ll take just one more sip.

You’ll discover that the Southern pace is much more molasses-like than the Midwest cadence on which you were raised. It will trip you up with its slovenly heat, cause you to stumble, make you second-guess your ability to keep walking, to continue putting one foot in front of the other.

But you will keep walking. It’s a choice, and you will make it.

Your kids need you to walk. Your husband needs you to walk. They all need you to blaze the trail. Sometimes you lead, and sometimes you bring up the rear, herding your babies like sheep as you go. Often, the six of you will simply hold hands, trudging through the unknown together, wiping the ever-present sweat from your brows, being ever-so-grateful for your tiny, tight human tribe.

And here’s one thing that may surprise you.

When you leave behind the noisy cacophony of a busy, overscheduled, familiar life, there is an unexpected silence.

At first, the silence is foreboding. It is empty and ominous and deep. But when you choose to lean into it, when you take a deep breath, close your eyes, settle your turbulent mind, and really listen, that’s when the magic happens.

If you’re anything like me, that is. And I’m guessing you are. We’re all human beings, after all. Same beating hearts. Same coursing blood. Same need to love and be loved.

In Indiana, my life was full and big and loud. I was surrounded by friends, invited to parties, constantly moving, always on the go. In Mississippi, all that changed. My friends were no longer a short walk or a quick drive away. My extended family members gathered without me. And so, I got to be with myself, my husband, my kids. We enjoyed long, leisurely dinners together. We hiked through the swampy woods looking for alligators. We spent our weekends playing games and watching movies and driving to random Southern destinations, singing in the car as we whittled away the long stretches of swampy nothingness.

Late in the evening when everyone else was asleep, I settled in to be with me. And moment by precious moment, I learned to embrace the silence, to listen to my own thoughts, to get to know me, myself, and I a little better.

Yes, that could have happened in Indiana if I’d taken the time. But I hadn’t taken the time. I’d been far too busy running, driving, scheduling, lunching, partying, gathering. Moving to Mississippi gave me the opportunity to step back and look inside. Whether she’s our long-term home or not, I’ll always thank Mississippi for that gift.

So if someday you decide to pack up your five-bedroom house, your four kids, your two dogs, and your guinea pig and move to a land of unknown, it might seem a little scary and overwhelming and lonely when you arrive. But never, ever forget that no matter where you go, there you are. You. Right where you’re supposed to be. Beautiful, flawed, perfect you in all your bruised and battered and abundantly loved glory. Your friends don’t forget you when you’re gone. You just get to make another one.

Look in the mirror.

She’s already there.

Katrina Anne Willis is the wife of one, mother of four. She is an author, blogger, slow and steady runner, devoted friend, book junkie, hugger, and red wine aficionado. You can read more of her writing at KatrinaAnneWillis.com or follow her on Facebook.

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