After my husband goes off to work each morning, I spend a good part of the day helping Boy and Girl configure and re-configure empty packing boxes. Sometimes we form shinkansen. Or airplanes. Or taxis. Or boats afloat in sunshine on a sea of grass. But always, the arrangements are variations on a theme: vehicles in motion.
As we’ve just traversed half the globe in our recent move from Japan to Atlantic Canada, it’s really no wonder that our kids are now obsessed with transportation.
I, meanwhile, am also obsessed — not so much with transportation as with this pervasive feeling of being in limbo. Between countries. Of not having yet fully arrived.
There are many tangible signs of this unsettled existence: piles of clothing that smell of an old Japanese house — musty and organic, as if they’ve never known dry air. Stacks of books and documents, in varying states of disorder, take up the corners of rooms; my disassembled bicycle waits in a box behind our only chair. And somewhere between here and the west coast, a room-sized container filled with forgotten items from our previous-previous lives in Alaska — in days or in weeks, it will land on our front lawn, burying us in yet another life lived far away.
We’re trapped in this metaphor. Currently, I am without singular purpose or trajectory, save for a gnawing urgency to take action. To put our house — but, especially, our lives — in order. I need a job. The children need decent daycare. I need to exercise. I need to write. Above all, I must accomplish. Something. Now.
My reaction to all of this has been to multitask. To be here and not here. I shop used furniture on the iPad while stirring soup and telling Girl to be careful on the stairs. I brainstorm career strategies and nod at intervals as Boy tells me all about his favorite real and imagined superheroes. In stolen moments between surfing job postings and fielding e-mail from daycare providers, I check in on Facebook (my daily aizuchi) and am reminded again and again that everyone else has it all together. And when we build those cardboard vehicles, I am far away, preoccupied with my own distant destination.
None of this alleviates my anxiety. It adds to it. If I’m honest with myself — really, really honest — I have to admit that nothing about this feeling is new. It is all too familiar.
Sometimes multitasking is necessary. Maybe. But instinct tells me there is a better way. Today, I pay attention as I build another vehicle to somewhere. Girl sets the first box in motion. Boy calls out the stops. We are always traveling. In each moment, we arrive.