Torn Between Two Worlds
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Today, the world outside my window is a melting mess of white snow and sloppy brown mud.
It sounds like rain as it cascades off of my roof. Snow? In Jamaica? No, sadly, I’m back “at home” in New Hampshire for a while, enduring snow storms and frozen blasts of wind from the icy north, with thoughts of the sunshine, flip-flops and warm smiles waiting for me back “at home” in Jamaica.
Can a woman have two true homes at the same time? I’d have to say yes.
Although my heart lives in Jamaica, my body is constrained to reside in New Hampshire, at least for six months of the year, thanks largely to the rules and constraints of Jamaican immigration. I’ve recently become aware of the fact that when I’m in New Hampshire, I think constantly of Jamaica. When I’m in Jamaica, I have only fleeting thoughts of New Hampshire, and those surround the well-being of my family. Most of the time, I’ve booked my next trip to Jamaica before I’ve even left the island. That ticket serves as a life-preserver for me…keeping my spirits high.
My husband and I have two teenagers finishing up high school so although the light is at the end of the “parenting tunnel,” we aren’t quite there yet. I was blessed to take our sixteen year old daughter to Jamaica for my recent 10 week-long stay because she chose to home school this year but, most of the time, my husband and the remaining two of our combined 15 children still need my time and attention. I have to admit that I’m not anxious to see them leave the nest, having been actively parenting for nearly 36 years.
One chapter comes to an end and we must move on in the next chapter. That’s how life goes, doesn’t it? Children grow up and leave home. Sometimes, marriages end. We retire from jobs that may have felt like our life calling. Aches and pain become a daily part of our lives. Illness strikes and we lose loved ones. We may even wonder who we are and how we got to this stage.
As an elderly friend of mine wisely once told me, the trick to a long, happy life is to keep reinventing yourself.
Look for new opportunities and make new plans. Having a glimpse of the next phase and an infusion of passion towards something new, we find renewed direction and develop new dreams. For me, that means building our new life in Jamaica.
Having come from a military family that bounced from place to place nearly every year of my childhood, travel and adventure runs through my veins. Seeing new places, meeting intriguing people and immersing myself in new cultures is my happy place. I love to master skills unknown to me previously and to absorb unique facets of unfamiliar towns. Packing and unpacking, arranging my belongings into the latest configuration available, is as second nature to me as is breathing.
My husband, Robin, is cut from a slightly different cloth. He enjoys a world of stability and predictability.
He spent most of his childhood in the same neighborhoods, with the same people, year after year. He took a job as a bag boy in a family owned grocery store chain at age 15 and still works for them, albeit now in management, at age 54. How many of us can say that? It’s in his nature to plan an event or project “to death,” making certain that every jot and tiddle in is the correct place before he proceeds.
In that respect, we balance each other out. Were I alone, left to my own devices, I might scurry off into the unknown with little planning or thought, quite possibly ending up in a disaster. Robin keeps me grounded and safe, forcing me to form structure, to plot my course and to pace myself.
On the other hand, I bring Robin to life. I take him by the hand and lead him to places that he might have never gone without my urging. I help him to enjoy the moment and to dream. I gently stretch and “grow” him in ways that he doesn’t even always realize. We are good for each other.
Many people have questioned our current lifestyle, which includes me setting up shop and “living in” Jamaica half of the year while Robin stays at home, still working, visiting me when he can. The reality is that I have no problem going ahead of him into new places, learning the lay of the land, figuring where to shop, making friends and setting up a home for us. This way, when we are both eventually able to call Jamaica our home, Robin will face few obstacles and will be within his own comfort zone. It’s a plan that works for us.
Meanwhile, I remain torn between two homes, each with its unique flavor and challenges.
When in Jamaica, I make lists of things I have at the house in New Hampshire that I could really use better in Jamaica. When back, I usually start a new “take to Jamaica” pile by the time I finish unpacking. People argue that most necessities can be purchased in Jamaica but having blended two households when Robin and I got married 9 years ago, we have plenty of quality duplicates that I’ve hung onto “for some reason.” Why not put them to use?
Poor Robin always has a hard time following me in conversation these days. I often make reference to doing this or that “at the house,” usually referring to our Jamaican home because it’s always on my mind. His mind is still focused here in New Hampshire so my comments often confuse him, forcing him to scratch his head and ask “Which house are we talking about now?”
There are many things I love about the small town life I live here in New Hampshire.
I’ve spent most of my 22 years here carving out a living from my dairy goat farm, growing to the point of making close to 15,000 pounds of fresh goat cheese every year. This life afforded my children the chance to learn to work and solve problems. It also taught them to think creatively, successfully launching them into amazing careers and families of their own.
Many of my deepest, most heartfelt conversations with my children took place while shoveling steaming manure and stacking sweet, fresh bales of hay.
It was hard work but we did it together. I wouldn’t trade those years on the farm for anything. Selling the goats last December and closing my business left me in tears for days, despite the fact that I knew I could no longer manage the lifestyle physically and that it “was time.”
Jamaica offers a new beginning. Although I’ve been slowly building my knowledge base and my group of friends down there for years, I only found “our house” last September. A two-week stay at that time educated me as to what I needed to do to make it feel like “home.”
I began the long, maddening experience of tearing out a bathroom and putting a new one in while I was down from January until March of this year. You can read about it in my post “Remodeling in Jamaica.” That was quite the experience and taught me a lot about life in Jamaica.
There are so many aspects of Jamaica that entice me.
Obviously, there’s the nearly constant sunshine and warmth. A water lover from birth, I’m most at peace feeling weightless while floating in the sea, listening to the waves crash on the shore or peering through my mask as I snorkel over a reef. Maybe it’s because I’m a June baby or perhaps it’s because my mother took me to the beach for the first time at six weeks of age, but I simply love the beach…anywhere, anytime, and in any weather.
Mountainsides rich with vegetation, mangos hanging heavily from the trees, and scores of coconuts dangling precariously atop skinny palm trees, is what I imagine the Garden of Eden to have been like. Waterfalls and rivers dot the landscape, along with fields of sugarcane and pineapple. Tiny villages sit aside winding, sometimes treacherous roads. In many ways, Jamaica is the tropical version of New Hampshire.
Of course, no discourse on Jamaica is complete without acknowledging Jamaicans themselves.
Often described to me as cunning or even diabolical, I’ve found most to be incredibly colorful, interesting people. Sitting and talking to them about their lives, both past and present, is always entertaining. I’m convinced that nobody can tell a story or relate an incident with more animation than they can. It’s always certain to make me smile or blush.
Although certainly warm and inviting, it’s often said that Jamaicans are the nicest rude people you will ever meet and I have to agree. It’s not that they are without manners. Quite the opposite is true and you see this in their insistence on calling people “Aunty Julie” or “Miss Valerie.” No, it’s a different kind of “rude.”
If I were to describe them, I would say they are simply blunt. Brutally, painfully blunt. You rarely have to guess how they feel about you or anything else, for that matter. If they don’t like your dress or the color you painted your house, rest assured, you are going to hear about it. I actually find great comfort in that fact. I, too, have been accused of “over sharing” of my opinion along life’s way, even being told I lack “tact,” so I guess I fit right in!
As we move forward, writing the next chapter of our lives, we won’t tear up or forget the ones we have already lived. It’s never about hating one place and loving another, although I DO have to admit that my bones ache in the cold of New Hampshire and I feel like a new, younger woman in Jamaica. They say in transient military life, the two best places you will ever live are the place you are heading to and the place you just left.
It’s tempting to think that the grass is greener someplace else but this woman has lived enough places to know that there will always be challenges to face and things left behind that we will miss.
So, for now, I count myself fortunate to be torn between two worlds, and will savor the best parts of each. The tapestry of life is woven only when the color of the thread is changed. I hope to look back one day and find that it’s a beautiful sight.
If you would like to get a deeper taste of life in Jamaica, you can read more here.
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