Do you cope with transitions well? We are in the middle of transitioning out of Arnhem Land and into our new role in Timor Leste, and it’s a strange experience. Sam and I are able to spend our days as we please, while Jason continues to fly for these last two weeks. We are house sitting for some MAF friends in Yirrkala, but we are thankful for this time to say farewell to our MAF friends here in town. So here’s some things i have been reflecting on as we walk through this time of transition…
Transition is about redefining the terms of your identity. So much of what I am and what i do is associated with where i am. I have noticed this week how words change in this time of transition. “My House” has become “your house” as a new MAF family has taken up residence. (Something we are actually really happy about as it means the Purdey family will have another family there with them permanently now that we have left. This wasn’t the original plan, but one we hope will be a great new Elcho MAF team.) On Sunday at our MAF church service, “community families” were prayed for as they returned home. But that’s not us anymore. I have been a “community Mum and wife” for four years. Not any more. “Home” where is that? The perpetual question for missionaries and others who move often, arises again. Another mind shift! A change in identity. The terms we use to describe ourselves and our work have changed.
Transition means trying to say goodbye well. I’d love to know exactly what that looks like and how you do it successfully. It is a phrase or an idea that i hear discussed a lot, but i’d love some more concrete ideas from those who have walked this road before. Our goodbyes have been spread out, which has been helpful. It has allowed us a bit more time to process and a chance to speak with individuals we care about. So far we’ve had a farewell from the Elcho church, an afternoon tea with other Mums and kids on Elcho, last meals with MAF friends, a farewell from the wider MAF AL program, individual farewells to our colleagues who returned to their bases, and a final flight away from Elcho island. We have more friends to farewell from town, a dog to say goodbye to and a flight away from Gove before we are done with goodbyes. The reading I’ve done suggests we need to farewell places as well as people, so it was lovely to spend an afternoon at a favourite beach on the day before we left Elcho, taking silly photos, walking on the beach and saying goodbye to a place we love to visit. Sam asked why were at the beach on this particular day, Jason’s laughing reply was, “Cos your Mum needs closure!” But it was true. I needed that trip. I need to take a few last photos of places and people. It helps me let go and say goodbye.
Transition contains grief. We all know that goodbyes are hard and emotional, but it’s the grief that catches you unaware i find difficult. Those moments that leave you unexpectedly in tears, for seemingly crazy reasons. I had forgotten about those moments and how forcefully they hit.That was me this week as i watched a music video on Facebook that had video footage of Elcho Island in it. The unexpected sights of “home” left me in tears for awhile. It passed quickly, but the depth of emotion surprised me. The emotions of transition are hard for Sam too. After farewelling one of his best friends in Arnhem Land, our Elcho team mate’s son on Tuesday night Sam sobbed and cried most of the way home, “But I’ll miss Jimmy” were the words we heard again and again as we drove along. We chatted with him a little about Skype catch ups and that we too are sad about saying goodbye to precious friends, but at the same time recognising that maybe he just needed to cry for a bit. I have done major transitions before, but this one feels different, perhaps i am just more aware that i am not just transitioning as me, but I am walking through these changes as a mum and wife, which adds levels of complexity to already complicated situation.
Transition for us normally means sickness. Do you always get sick on holidays too? Jason often does. This week, as Jason has continued to work, Sam and I have had a chance to stop and our fatigue has caught up with us. Sam has a fever cold bug. I am just pooped with little desire to do much. The busyness of packing, moving, cleaning, saying goodbyes and changing routines is taking its toll on us, so we are trying to sleep lots and rest where we can.
Transition means logistics. I am a pretty organised person and even enjoy planning things. But moving house and preparing to move countries challenges even my sense of organisation. I have an exercise book that is my “brain” for the moment. It contains to do lists, shopping lists, ideas for Sam’s birthday party, questions to ask, mail that needs to be redirected or cancelled and an inventory of all our belongings packed in various crates, barrels and suitcases. In recent weeks we have sorted, packed, sold and stored all of our personal belongings. I have created a folder of important documents to have on hand as we travel. We have sorted through computer files ensuring everything is backed up sufficiently. We are sorting through what needs to go to Melbourne, what goes to Timor now, what goes to Timor in our shipped goods and what needs to find a new home. Accommodation for Darwin to be arranged. Doctors appointments booked for immunisations. And then the logistical hiccups come…these things are never simple!
Jason’s headset, that was taken to a repair place in June to be fixed, is still there. It is still there now despite numerous phone calls and emails. An extra stress looms as we may need to go to Timor Leste with his old one, as it may not catch up with us before we leave. Another hiccup, trying to communicate with Telstra about changing our internet and phone to the new family in our old house on Elcho simple right? Wrong! While they have been good at returning our phone calls, 2am and 3 am were not the times we desired to discuss our phone plans with them! I will turn off our mobiles tonight! More hiccups, our credit cards sent to the wrong address, but to reissue them means being without a card for up to two weeks while they are in processing and in the mail. Hmmmmm.
But transition brings unexpected joys too. We are living in a house that backs right onto the sea. A beautiful location to spend our two weeks of town life. A home with lots of Lego, a dishwasher and a comfy couch to all assist us in relaxing. A morning spent building Lego lands with Sam. Words of friendship and encouragement from colleagues and friends. Story books that mention Galiwin’ku and Elcho island at bed time. Time with friends. Shared meals. Seeing Dora (our dog) getting to know her new adoptive family. Strengthening friendships and making new friends, even in our final days here. Enjoying the beauties of this land, as it seems brighter and stronger, the smell of frangipani flowers, the redness of the soil, the aqua colour of the sea, and sunsets.
We are excited about what is to come. But we need to say goodbye to Arnhem Land first.