i need more grace than i thought

Posted by on September 26, 2011

Pale sunlight,
pale the wall

Love moves away.
The light changes.

I need more grace
than I thought

A fragment from the poem Dissolver of Sugar, by Rumi

* * *

Attempt at a blog post, written 9-19-11, never finished:

We’ve moved!

And five years ago today, I gave birth to a baby girl. When you become a mother and hold a nursing infant in your arms, the thing that is clear is that you are the world to that infant. It seems strange to me that now, five years later, under the circumstances of having moved to a completely unfamiliar place, I have, in a sense, become the entire world to Esme again. Only now, this is not an agreeable situation for either of us. This morning, when I was trying to explain that, if she really wanted to go to the park, or do anything else outside of this apartment, she would need to put on some “real” clothes–or at least a pair of pants– over her ballerina outfit, she shouted angrily: “I am thinking NOT what you’re thinking!”

You and Yahweh both, Esme.

She has also taken to slamming doors.

Our furnished apartment, the one that comes part and parcel with Jeff’s fellowship, is in a gorgeous neighborhood, for sure. It is the opposite of South Bend, Indiana; it is the opposite of the rust belt. Architectural beauty, colonial elegance guards the mossy brick sidewalks. A linear chain of luxury cars choke the clean, narrow streets. The playground just around the corner from our building, is almost a work of art. There is no plastic on this playground; the one slide is metal. There is a circle of graceful iron ponies that go around on a platform. The monkey bars arch just so, visually balancing the other play structures. Children with bows in their hair are with attentive nannies, or with their mothers chatting about the trials of redecorating their homes and working with contractors. The few dads seems to have just come from whatever very-white collar job allows them to live in such a place, with such cars, and such houses, and such a park.

So having an address in Georgetown, at least after one week, has so far transported me to a sort of Twilight Zone. I had so many visions of getting out for adventures all around the city, but so far the victorious adventures have been such things as: finding a Goodwill; finding a Target; finding the Trader Joe’s; finding the other, regular grocery store (which is really not that regular, by Midwestern standards).

What I am feeling most right now is that my children’s world– the one where they moved with confidence and a sense of belonging and ease of owndership– all disappeared in a big poof. In their minds, we are in a place where there really is little else besides their parents to define the world. For a two year old, suddenly being without her crib (we’ve transitioned her to twin bed with a rail since moving here) and no rocking chair (we were not able to bring any furniture) might feel like having landed on the moon. And being a family of four, stranded on the moon, I’ve found, is exhausting.

The picture above shows how very exhausting our moving week was, but it was exhausting in a different way. I was emotionally almost completely numb by the time we turned in the key to our apartment simply because I had been running on adrenaline and working so very hard. I think we were quite literally one entire day behind schedule, but somehow still did everything that needed to be done, including those horrible tasks like cleaning the oven (after, um, four Thanksgivings of not cleaning it) and leaving the apartment vacuumed and mopped and then making that final trip to the storage unit to drop off the said vacuum. Needless to say, our girls were not getting a whole lot of our attention in those final days leading up to our departure, but yet how they moved about in our little community with ease while Jeff and I were completely preoccupied and running on adrenaline. Trusted friends were watching over them. They were upheld by our little world, going from the house of one friend to another, and in Esme’s case, just running outside into the tribe of children where she held a certain kind of office, sharing power, of course, with many others of the tribe. I think that moving week was fun for her because the normal structures of daily life were so slackened and she was given a week of freedom to play more and move about in a way more unmonitored than she has ever done in her nearly five years of life.

The move was exhausting work. But if I thought I was going to recover as soon as arrived here, I was wrong. Our first week here just put us on track for a different kind of exhaustion.

There has been a certain anger, sadness, and frustration hanging over us since moving in. Of course, it’s partly due to things like discovering that we have no cell phone reception in our apartment, which adds to the feeling of isolation and adds another thing on the to-do list of getting settled in. But anger and sadness are just stages of that old time grief process, and this, I think, is what’s really going on. And while Jeff and I can at least articulate these feelings to each other or to friends or to ourselves, in a journal, our girls can only feel these things inarticulately and lash out and act out and go from clingy, or affectionate, or defiant, or furious faster than the BMWs parked in front of our building. And whether I like it or not, they reign over my world in such a way as to almost completely level the entire city of our nation’s capital so that, going through the mundane needs of each day with them and the logistics of getting anywhere with both of them, I might as well be stuck in a little farmhouse in the middle of a cornfield in Indiana. But at least there Esme could run out barefoot.

For the time being, until our world starts filling in with new people and the warmth of repetition and pattern, until the landscape starts filling in around us with known routes and worn paths, a family with little children seems to be a world unto itself. When we were going through the work of moving, I could not have anticipated how much harder it would be logistically with two little children, since I’ve never moved before with two little children. And now that we are here, I realize the degree to which I could never have imagined what it would be like to transition here with them.

Postscript, written 9-26-11

Things are getting better. I’ll post again soon when Elsa’s dankie (blanket) is out of the dryer and we are less in crisis, and I have been able to at last visit the National Gallery.


  1. Nostalgia
    September 30, 2011

    You cannot imagine how often I check your blog for a new post. Daily. I know that you took to post on Wednesdays only (with a long recent gap), but I still check it daily. I was so happy to see a new post – and so sad about what you actually describing. My days are so completely overtaken by my two girls. In fact, when I saw your post I had no time to read it – to read it properly: slowly, devouring each word, it took me this many – till today – days till I actually finally read it. I hope by now your life is a bit more settled and I'm saying a prayer for you.

  2. annajouj
    October 4, 2011

    Oh Dear Julia–
    I too check often to see if you have posted lately . . . so how good to find you here now. And timely, as I begin to miss familiarity in my own stage of transition.
    Following the fact that you had moved, I also was hungry to hear a bit of your own voice about it all. A beautiful voice.
    Trusting that your transition has had the grace that my own not-so-easy one has been beginning to see glimpses of . . .

  3. Julia
    October 4, 2011

    I've never been more grateful for my good friends!

  4. Annie M. B.
    November 1, 2011

    I just was wondering myself how you are doing, and should be emailing you but just read this… Ah, would love an update. How is Esme now that she has started school? How is Elsa doing without her crib? How is Jeff's work going? Have you made it to the National Gallery?
    Much love,