Ships and Hearts: Moving and Melding


A while back a friend of mine said these words, “We should all be traveling by ships still because our hearts arrive much later than we do,” or something to that effect and within the context of conversations surrounding moving. In this case, internationally. And friends, that is so true, at least in my experience. Physically we may be present and accounted for, if you will. Emotionally, not so much. This move abroad in particular, for me, has been rather difficult to navigate, in the heart category specifically. Two of our children made the move with us and two decided to remain Stateside (USA). Then after six months here in Vienna, our youngest daughter returned to the States. So yeah, my heart not arriving with me, that is a concept I can relate to. 

Those who know have made claims that moving anywhere, let alone to a foreign country, is one of the top three stressors in life. Take that information and apply it to the heart issue and this theory is elevated to an entirely different level. Do people account for that emotional transition? Are we pausing to consider what is being left behind? Do we take the time to say goodbyes well, and not just to the people but the places that have shaped our stories and been the backdrop for the life lived in that place? I think not.

I can only speak of my personal journey here, the story that includes over ten moves, two of those international. In our family we have a little saying to remind ourselves when the departure is difficult. This covers everything from airport farewells with family and friends to the actual hopping in the moving truck or plane wave. We simply say, "It's not goodbye, it's see you later.” And with that I secretly hope that all the feelings and emotions that flood in will be sealed up and neatly stored away. Such is not the case. Like ever.


And what I'm learning, from trial and error, is that easy is not better. When leaving and saying goodbye is difficult, that means we were invested. Invested in the community that surrounded us, rooted in neighborhoods and schools and homes with doors that were flung wide open for all, colleagues and seniors and all those faces we encountered on the daily. Street signs we knew by memory and city squares with festivals, pumpkin patches and tree farms. Our favorite coffee shop and the gym where we would run into familiar faces. And for some family, while it can be a breeding ground for complicated dynamics, is still family and being the one leaving that safety is unnerving and challenging. So no, see you laters don't ever make it easier. More so they serve as a reminder for all the brutiful that was and that might be later. In a new location. With new people. And maybe even with some of the same.

While our family's little quip may seem like a solution it is merely one piece of the puzzle. That puzzle being the complexities that encompass leaving. In my view it really is a process that requires thoughtful planning and time, time being the key. Allow for those big feelings. We are capable of saying goodbye well, and in thoughtfully pursuing that closure we open ourselves, hearts included, to the opportunity waiting for us in the new. 

Now to reference the quote I lead with and this whole moving thing. When my dear friend said those words out loud, in response to another friend sharing her moving story, I began to cry. Not just a tear here or there but the big kind of tear drops falling from my cheeks. I choked up and felt as though something profound had just been sent into the atmosphere. And I do believe it had been. So often we scurry past the present, shuffling on as if nothing is the matter. Pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps and forging a solid path ahead. While that is all well intentioned, I'm sure, deep within I do believe it necessary to pause.

Acknowledge the here and now, the present. Look at it square in the face for all it is bringing to the table and then, only then, should we continue on. No, I am not encouraging anyone to sit and dwell and ruminate. As familiar as I am with such acts I don't fully believe that they are fruitful. What I am saying is that we are allowed to have bad days, days where our heart hasn't fully arrived where we are. Or maybe days when we feel as though our heart is residing in two locations. To paint a picture here, do you remember those pull along toys from back in the day? Where the dog was being lead around by a cute toddler pulling a string? Yes, those ones…


Well maybe this moving and transitioning is a bit like that. Our hearts are attached to the string and we're all forging ahead with something a bit tender trailing behind. Regardless of how well we bid goodbye to where we were, the place we've landed is a work in progress. Not quite feeling like home. All our insides are raw and vulnerable. The former strategies have been stripped away and all the messy, unlikable and darker sides revealed. At least for me. Every move has shown a light on some not so pretty parts of me and when my heart has caught up, it has been more akin to a collision instead of a welcome home party.

The thing of it is though, the heart always finds the way. It may be tethered in two places, or seemingly so, but it will arrive. And I feel as if mine is returning to me. I have sat alone and stared down isolation, even contemplated jumping on a plane in hopes of finding it. I've searched for it in the bottom of coffee cups and wine glasses, computer screens and phone screens. Stared blankly at pages of novels and listened intently for the whisper of it in a worship song. I have longed for it on the other side of a phone call or the lines of my journal.

All that to say, I have been on the hunt. Each day I continue on. I make the coffee, schedule the dentist appointment, navigate the daily tasks. Attempt to discern the German labels at the market, nod in understanding when ordering and to the announcements on the trains. I ride public transportation to a Bible study to be in a room with women whom have experience and understand the ways of the heart. My trainers get laced up to pound the pavement and clear my mind, cookies are baked and the house cozied so we feel safe and ready when the heart makes its entrance.

Then, like the spins of the whirling dervishes, it arrives. Reunited in this new space and with fresh eyes, home is different again. I find myself noticing buildings or people or nature with the lens of someone rediscovering what's been in plain sight all along. Yet, there are days where the separation is tangible and the heart still lags behind. That is what it's like, this moving business. The heart is catching up and I have no choice but to wait. 

In saying that my heart is catching up, I thought of my husband Jared and I when we're out on our runs. Never mind that I can leave the house before him, start at the same time he does, regardless, he always runs at a faster pace. No matter how hard I train or try I cannot keep up with him. Uphills are his jam, like he practically sprints up them and I'm left at the bottom of the hill hoping my short legs will remember how to climb. Such is the way of my heart. I am here in Vienna, bodily form and all, yet my heart is ever so slowly remembering where it needs to be. 



About the Writer

Gathering people around the table, sharing stories and welcoming all to that space are some of Leanna’s favorite things.  Living in Vienna since 2018, Leanna also is learning to navigate the logistical and emotional journey of her three adult daughters residing in the United States (her home country). Additionally, with having experienced multiple moves, she is no stranger to the mental and emotional challenges related to living life in a foreign place - whether that be a new city, state and/or country. Leanna shares her journey on her blog, The Six Hansons.