This past July marked eleven years that I've lived here in Norway.
Each anniversary spurs me to mull over the years that stretch between the first and the latest.
There's been a lot of life in between meeting a group of wild, friendly Norwegians on a white Icelandic night in the wilderness at 2 something in the morning at the age of 18 and sitting here now, 16 years later, in a city I never imagined living in all those years ago when I traveled and lived for months out of a big backpack with the slogan "War is not healthy for children and other living things" on it. Always was a bit of an idealist. ;)
Some of those years were friendship, some were love, some were heartbreak.
Always this knowledge that in a lot of ways I am still that girl I was at 18...waking up to write poetry on night trains that spun me across these beautiful Northern countries, collecting cool, misty Scandinavian days and nights in my mind, confident and optimistic because living was an adventure and if I met any challenges along the way, well, wasn't that what made the good stories? Wasn't that what laughter was for? To deal with the hard things?
This knowledge that I am still the woman I was at 24, leaving Manitoba on a sweltering July morning and knowing somehow that I wouldn't be going home this time. Then getting engaged a month later, and married just over a month after that.
But then I catch myself, shake my head and think, I am not that girl, that woman, at all. Who WAS she? Why was she so confident?
11 years of everything. 11 years of complexity: becoming, undoing, learning, regressing, loving, despair, light, darkness, journeys to far corners of the Earth to bring together the family God had in mind for us.
Sometimes I am amazed and sometimes honestly, a little bit tired when I think of the distances we had to go to for "regular" things...for a family.
A beautiful baby boy handed to me by his weeping mother on a dirty side street in Colombo. People stopping what they were doing to stare at us, at the picture we made: the screaming baby, the sobbing mother, the nuns holding her to keep her from collapsing on the road, and us...feeling so wrong, just so indescribably wrong in the heavy tropical heat, holding this piece of all of our hearts.
Then five years later, a laughing judge in a courtroom in Chili saying in rapid Spanish that we would have parental rights straight away and us, bewildered, walking away from the courtroom with an almost three year old son we'd known for three very short days. It was terrifying and good. Just like that, suddenly ours. We were and were not ready. But this time people were laughing, kissing our cheeks in congratulations. This time no one's heart was breaking. It was as different as night from day.
But after so many years of interviews that leave a person with almost nothing of their own, the question that tags along behind me like a child tugging on a mother's sweater is: Are you really good enough? Are you? Are you? Are you?
So sometimes it feels like a lot of the time in these years has been spent fighting so hard, proving something to someone, proving we can do this thing, we promise, not really ever free from scrutiny, yet also as a dear friend wrote in a photo caption earlier, these are the "happy days". Maybe also the happy years? It seems as good a description as any for these years that can't be neatly labeled because no word can really sum up anything, let alone the way it feels to live a life.
Maybe it is much more simple than I imagine and these, all these days, simply are the happy days because they are my days.
It's been a long and a short 11 years here in Norway. Grueling in a lot of ways. There have been so many lessons. So many surprises.
Maybe there is not much more to say but that they've held everything. They've held all the love in the world. Shattering and healing such a multitude of things...