I’m looking for a word to describe where I am. Ungrounded is the word I think I want, but the dictionary defines it as having no basis or justification; unfounded. That isn’t quite right. The word I want is the opposite of grounded, but antonyms of grounded include afloat, adrift, drifting. Those aren’t quite right either.
We have been in Vermont for seven weeks and it has been everything we hoped it would be. Ideals rarely live up to expectations, especially when the ideal becomes the be all end all and obscures reality. Yet Vermont’s reality matches our ideal. Perhaps we (finally) have some life wisdom and were able to manage our expectations of this ideal over the years. Or perhaps any outdoorsy place with trees and hills would have done after the intensity of our city life. Regardless, we got here and, against the odds, it is exactly what we thought it would be.
But at the same time that I feel overwhelming relief to have finally arrived here, I find myself in that strange space in between novelty and home. The drive to Katherine’s school is routine now and I anticipate the curves in the road. If I turn down a dirt road I can generally orient myself by the main road I come out on; I have many “Oh, I know where we are!”s. People continue to be helpful, easy going, friendly, but now my pleasant surprise is an afterthought, no longer worthy of exclamation. The intensity of the newness has faded into the background. But it does not yet feel like home.
It feels like it will be home, but it is not yet. At home I knew how our street looked through all seasons. With the arrival of fall I looked forward to that one maple tree at the playground turning a fiery red, all aglow as the sun set on it. I knew what friends to expect at the park on a cold and wet winter afternoon. I knew where all the best spring gardens were in the neighborhood.
In the midst of fall here, what was a familiar view of green from our front door two weeks ago is now a completely different scene of empty trees thinly revealing the mountains in the distance. I did not expect that. My surroundings fluctuate between familiar and novel and I have no idea what will come next, leaving me feeling ungrounded.
I find myself longing for our old apartment (the one I couldn’t wait to get out of) because it holds six years of memories. Despite all I didn’t like about city life, we were grounded there. If I could just slip back into our old living room for 15 minutes, the familiarity would steady me. My eyes would not have to adjust, I would not have to look twice at the crayon mark on the wall or the leaf collage hanging in the window. I would probably not even see them. They would not take any energy.
I’ve been told it takes a year to adjust to a major life change. A cycle of seasons. Next year we will have memories mixed in. I will be able to look at the trees and see their beauty without it also being new. The familiar will steady me.
Slowly we will become grounded here. But in the meantime, I am left ungrounded.