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Sunday, March 18, 2018

Change in Plans

A few weeks ago I found a firm mass in my abdomen.  I'm not very conversant with the usual makeup of my abdomen - it's not something I worry about most of the time - so after consulting with Google and then Brandon, I went to see the doctor here at post.  He confirmed both Brandon's and Google's opinion that there aren't supposed to be firm things (with the exception of babies) hanging out in your abdomen.  I got a bunch of blood tests, an ultrasound, and a CT scan.  None were able to provide satisfactory answers, so Brandon and I decided to send the children and me back to the US five weeks early.

I've come to know the disjoint that comes from a sudden and unexpected change in plans.  It's only happened once before, when we were evacuated from Cairo during the Arab Spring.  That change came so suddenly that I remember sitting in my hotel in Athens thinking that we might still be able to stay in Cairo and wait it out.  As soon as this thought would enter my head, I would look around and realize that we were already gone.  It took a few days, but before long the new course of events was the new normal and everything that had happened seemed foreordained and sensible.

So when the mind-bending change came this time, I knew what was happening.  It only lasts a few days, but the mental stutter that happens as you adjust to the new plan is very disorienting.  It takes time to get the new story to stick your brain, and meanwhile you catch yourself thinking "What should we do for Novruz? I'm glad we have Novruz holiday so I can pack."

It's even more disorienting this time because we made the decision to leave weeks before the children and I will actually leave.  My situation isn't dire enough to need a medevac, so we've had to get Brandon's orders changed to reflect my earlier departure.  Bureaucratic wheels turn slowly and so while we've been waiting to see when we can leave, I've played like life is normal.  The children and I finished our last week of school, I hosted Ladies' Night, Brandon and I have gone out, we took the children to the park.  But the whole time, the little voice in the back of my head keeps shouting, "You're leaving! You're never coming back! You have no idea what is wrong with you! Now is a perfect time time to freak out!"  I try and quiet it with ordinary concerns like what we're having for dinner or which clothes I want to pack for a 4-? month stint of living out of suitcases.

We had a surprise four-day weekend last week, so Brandon and I spent two of those days purging the house so that twenty-three pounds of crayon drawings and seventeen pounds of ratty books don't get sent all the way to Tashkent only to fill up their landfill space.  But a lot of things just won't get done.  It's interesting how many things in the necessary category can be shifted to the optional one when you're faced with a contraction of available time.  After all, it isn't necessary for blankets to be clean and toys to be organized just so they can be thrown in boxes and loaded onto a truck.

I feel a little like a book returned to the library with the last chapter left unread.  You know all of the important details, who married who and how the villain got their just desserts, but you don't get the satisfying closure that ties up all the loose ends and leaves you emotionally satisfied.  There are friends I've said 'see you later' but not 'goodbye' to.  We won't make it up to the mountains for one last hike.  That farewell party that I've been planning for the last year will have to be thrown by someone else.  My carefully hoarded food will now just be casually given away instead of savored for that last amazing meal.  I'll never teach that much-promised class on how to make doughnuts.

But in the end, we were always going to leave.  There was always going to be a last hike, last meal, last party, last night out with friends.  I just didn't realize that they'd already happened.  Eventually we'll almost forget how we left hastily, furtively, in the middle of the night like a song cut off halfway through the last verse.  We'll only remember the forty-one months we lived here and not the forty-second that didn't happen.  And then when something reminds us, we'll laugh and think how we had everything planned so perfectly and then so foolishly assumed those plans would work out - because who ever gets to live their plans exactly the way they plan them?

But for now, I still feel the absence of that forty-second month and the last chapter I didn't get here in Dushanbe.  But I also know that the loss, like everything in life, will pass eventually.  All in good time.

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