02 December 2012

Yes, I'm here

Everything you have can go in a box. You put that box on a ship and in 8 to 9 weeks it appears at another address, one in Malaysia. An address that you memorise and write over and over again. You worry about whether the boxes will make it until you think: what have I put in these boxes that is really important to me?

When you move, you think think about currency exchange rates and get angry over the 3% to 5% you will lose in exchanging your money. You think, for some stupid reason, that money is equivalent  that one kind of money equals a real value in another kind of money. It doesn't. It's only worth what you can buy it for or sell it for. Everything you own is like that, actually. It's not worth what anyone says or tells you or writes down or blogs about. It's worth whatever you get for it.

When you move, you find yourself under an intense amount of stress. Some of it is manageable and explicit: what goes in what box. How many boxes do you need. Some it is implicit and malignant--the kind that causes you to suddenly get angry and start shouting at your wife or your kids over something that is not the problem. This stress you hate the worst: it makes you ashamed and want to eat and hide and run away. 

I want to keep up with the second person narrative, but I'm not fooling myself with it. It's never about you: it's about me. I'm the one shouting at my wife and kids. I'm the one trying to keep it all together. There comes a point when you are moving when you would give just about anything to not have to do it, but you have already signed the contract. 

Not you, I mean. Me. I signed the contract. I agreed to do this. I looked my wife in the eyes and said this was the best thing and she looked back and said that this was the best thing. And we can't go back now: there's nothing else to do but keep going forward. It's like having a baby. It's like jumping out of an airplane. You can't stop. You keep going forward.

The most important thing I own is my guitar, but I sort of want it to disappear en route.  It's like an albatross around my neck: the weight of a gift, of leading worship through college, of being in love and losing it. I don't know any songs but praise songs. I play them so well, too. It's a gift I want to lose: please ship, sink. I want it all to disappear, to have to start again from scratch. Drown all my things.

There are benefits to moving though. One is going away parties which are almost always fun. People like you so much when you're going. Another benefit: needing to drink all the whisky we have in the house. We have whisky in the house? Apparently we do. And apparently it's delicious. 

Mei is fighting the flare-up of eczema (seen in the image below) like a martyr dying for this family. Noble and kind and joyful through it all. Yoko is up all night with Mei as she cries through the discomfort of having open sores all over her body. And then Yoko falls down the stairs and bruises her tail bone: the boxes still needing to be filled through all of this. I'm the useless husband/father, trying to make myself useful--cutting tape, filling out forms, investigating shipping rates, picking up heavy things--but fooling no one. Mia stands around watching the whole thing and screeching as if to say, But it's supposed to be all about me, guys. ME. And Naomi is doing her best to support everyone: Mum and dad, I love you, she says and I want to break down and hug her and not let go: I don't deserve any of this. Any of it.
I'll be a doctor in two weeks time, I tell them--the kids.
That's what we came here for. Mei, you weren't even born yet.
Doctor Daddy.
Do people call you mister--Naomi thinks as she tries to form the question--do they call you Mr Stephen?
I lie: sure, my students do.
And she laughs, Mr Stephen. Doctor Daddy.
And then it is completely silent. Everyone is sleeping and I am swilling whisky surveying what's left to go in the boxes. Christ. What have we gotten ourselves into. Where does this land. I like the metaphor of the spinning top: the top wobbles and looks to fall. I want to hold my whole family in my arms, tighter and tighter as I did Mei this morning when she woke up. I'm sorry for this. All of it. I have invented nothing but complexity for all us: all three of my children are born of complexity.

One family, three different places each of us belongs, according to five-year old logic which allocates belonging to where you were born. But there's only one place in our future--I've memorised the address and written it 12 times now. Selangor. Semenyih. We don't know it yet, but we will soon enough. You just hold on, okay?