“I just wanna go home. But considering who I am and the path I have traveled, I’m not exactly sure where that is.” —-Facebook status of Shane Elizabeth on April 23rd, 2014 at 10:12am
I think I was having a bit of a bad hair day that morning.
Or maybe that is the simple truth.
I woke feeling profoundly lost that particular day. And not lost in the physical directional sense but rather in the emotional meandering way which leads one to a feeling of utter loser-dom and ultimately strips the soul of self-worth and dignity.
Where am I and what am I doing here?
I’m not from Long Island. I’m not from New York. I’m not even from Jersey or Connecticut. I’m a true dyed-in-the-wool transplant from the outer reaches of the Chesapeake Bay on the Delmarva shore and I am a misfit.
But misfits are cool. Once they know and understand they are misfits. Nothing is cool about a misfit who thinks they are a fit but….well…miss.
I find myself on Long Island now – not IN Long Island…apparently that’s just bad English and further punctuates my misfit-edness – and my reasons for being here continue to stem the tide of sadness and guilt I might otherwise feel.
Let me explain.
I am the mother of five of the most glorious creatures ever to walk the face of the planet. They stand all in a row and I am filled with their light of life. They smile and the shattered shards of life’s disappointments dissipate and I am in a moment of joy. They laugh and my blood runs with such elation which permeates the breadth of my heart and I am happy.
When they fight, I want to sell them. Individually or as a lot. Come and get ‘em and good luck to you.
However, these wonderful, dastardly beings do not reside with me. Rather, they live in Maryland with their father and I see them every other month.
A mother of five who doesn’t live with her children.
Yes, I have made choices. Choices based on circumstances, past experiences, desires, goals and probably the amount of cognac I was sipping on at the time. Choices which have brought me here – to this reality:
I live on Long Island.
But where do I belong?
In 36 short years, I have lived in 37 different places I can remember. Born in Florida, raised in Delaware, married in Maryland, bore children in Iowa….and there’s really no good reason for it. I wasn’t an army brat nor did I have exotic parents. I rather wish I had been born in the arms of Argentina, raised under the sun of Sardegna, married in the simplicity of Singapore and bore babies in the mountains of Montana but life was a little stingy.
Instead, I can say I have lived what seems to be five separate lifetimes, each on divided by some major event. It has been less than ideal practically and materialistically, however if I was looking to be rich in life experience and find my wealth by winning each round in the boxing match of tragedy, I hit the jackpot.
Ages 0 – 12 found my sister and I raised by both my alcoholic mither and my recovering alcoholic grandmother. I have huge memories of my grandmother and to her I owe my affectionate inclinations. My mither was there somewhere my memories of her involvement in my upbringing are sporadic and, for the most part, negative. My father was absentee.
At the age of 12, Mither married my second stepfather and life turned on its head. No more drinking or smoking. We now attended church and became devout Christians. Sister and I got “saved” and mither and stepdad, who both accepted Christ as kids, renewed their long-abandoned bows to serve Him. No more tv. No more pants. No worldly music. No more public school. They had four children of their own and we became the “ideal” Christian family.
Twenty-four was the year I married a man in the church. What followed was eight and a half years of childbirth, frustration and sadness with bits of sunshine here and there. It was both the upswing and decline of my faith. I was tested sorely. I had my children in a five year single file – I’m so organized that way. Each year, one by one, I introduced a new person into the world. Sadly, this lifetime ended one day in February outside in the snow with my babies holding to my legs while watching our house burn. I looked up at the sky and decided if destruction was my fate, I would be the one to orchestrate it and not an unseen being.
From 32 years until 34 years old, I came unhinged. Having left my marriage, re-entering the world and reality with a scarred heart is not too easy and I discovered sin. I made the decision my children would be in a better place if they lived with their father while I tried to piece my person back together. Often torn between my ultra-conservative upbringing and my new-found freedom, I was a jumble of emotions followed by erratic behavior. A psychiatrist’s nightmare. I moved to NYC for professional reasons and further compounded my chaotic existence.
Until I died. Literally.
Being in the city in the ICU unit with no one to call and no one to turn to changed my life.
I began to yearn. To yearn for normalcy, stability, quiet, and a sense of belonging.
I pined for a place to call home.
I have now been in my fifth lifetime for the past two years. Shortly after the hospital stay, I moved out to Long Island. First to Huntington and now further out to the east end. I work in Riverhead managing a restaurant and there I am exposed to the people of both the North and South Fork. I love my job and I am everyday falling more and more in love with the place I hang my hat.
As each week passes, I find more peace. More calm.
I visit wineries and feel the warmth of the people. I possess empathy for the vines; so young yet and struggling in the soil of the island to put down roots which will eventually produce some of the finest wines in the world. I know their plight and feel the same sense of angst as I slowly let my heart dig its roots.
I go to work each day and see the construction of downtown Riverhead. It is one of many towns on the East End being revitalized and brought back to life and a former glory. Revitalized. There is the perfect description for me as well. I identify and am working to re-construct for myself a life here.
I took a ride down Dune Road. Big houses, little houses. Each one standing on plots of land worth at least ten times the amount of money I will ever make in my lifetime owned by people untouchable to me. I smile. I received my very first credit card last week with a $300 credit limit. I am proud of myself. Dune road reminds me pride is the same everywhere for people of all walks. I am no less proud of my little apartment than any millionaire of his monstrous estate.
There is a small gem of a beach on the south shore I frequent. The waters here are much clearer than those of the eastern shore where I grew up. Each time I visit the water is still there. The waves are still crashing and the tide is still ebbing. The sand is still coarse and children are still enthralled with the biggest bathtub they have ever seen. What a comfort for a sore heart to watch the sun sink behind this gorgeous land.
I have found my home.
What a startling and glorious realization!
As I come from a world of confusion and sadness, I am finding tranquility. I have made friends and established relationships. I have almost lived in the same apartment for nearly six months. Six months in the same place will be a record for me. I even bought a bed and a couch. My gypsy streak is slowly being replaced by a strong, healed, healthy and, I daresay, STABLE woman.
I still carry a sadness that I do not live with my babies and I miss them every day.
But they are coming. Now that I am personally and professionally level, I am going after them
The next battle to be fought.
Because I want to raise them and raise them here where culture flows and opportunities exist and minds are open.
So wish me luck, dear reader! And having read the synopsis of my story please be ever more grateful for your ties to a land which still accepts misfits and heals the broken.