Expatria · Health · Prague · Third Culture Kids · Trauma · Travel

Lost in Transition


Screen capture from The Dixie Chicks "Landslide" video.

Four-plus years.
49 months.
1,489 days.
35,736 hours.
2,144,160 minutes.

That is how long we will have lived in Prague when we board our plane on August 2, moving away from here permanently.

I tried to focus on finishing my second novel, American Monsters in Los Angeles, anything to not emotionally engage with the move. Last week my hands froze up, excruciating, swollen, the joints locked in place.

Not being able to write means I have to face what is happening — I am moving to the sixteenth city I will have lived in during my 32 years on this planet. The amount of anxiety that arises shuts me down and I find myself in the throes of PTSD-style anxiety attacks. Every trauma comes to the surface like it happened yesterday. I’m crippled, run ragged by such a flood of memory and emotions.

Can this all please just be over yet? Not only this upcoming move. All the moves. I never want to go through this again.

Can the child in my heart rise above?

In the process I’ve realised something: my wrist problems started when I was working for an international relocation company, helping people do the very thing I hate most in the world. Unfortunately, I was good at it and why I ended up working there for a whole damaging year whereby my hands got worse and worse.

Can I handle the seasons of my life?

The poetry of injury: my body did not want to be participating in relocations, even from a distance. No surprise then that I am having this flare-up, I watch the clock count down to our zero hour. No surprise that PTSD rears its ugly head, either. Every move is another trauma to add to my bundle.

I would have stayed here in spite of the bad weather and poor economy just to avoid moving. Pulling up my tumbleweed roots hurts so bad, scars I forgot I had open up and bleed anew.

Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?

Saying goodbye to the few friends we have left. Missing events because paying work comes up, unable to say no to the extra cash we will need in 13 days/312 hours/18,720 minutes. My emotions ragged, seeing people one by one becomes too much for me. I need a band-aid goodbye – everyone in one big yank.

I took my love and I took it down.

All the little things about my home that I will miss. The drippy faucets and their bathroom tattoo. The uneven old hardwood floors that hurt my knees when I dance around to Lady Gaga in my underwear. The beautiful botanical garden forest view from my seat at the computer, watching the seasons pass me by. Sticking my head out the window to say hello to Vysehrad, my favourite site in Prague. The clang-clang-clang of the 18 and 24 trams as they ride by. Our lumpy mattress. The front door that rattles when the wind blows. The freight train sound of our old washing machine as it does its best. The desk I have written at for 1,489 days that does not belong to me.

Yes, these are just things. But these are the things that have grounded me. They helped me feel safe. They have been my sanctuary for four years, making Prague the fourth longest I have ever lived anywhere in my life.

I climbed a mountain and I turned around.

Four years of establishing myself here with work and writing. In many ways I have to start all over again, hitting the pavement and hoping to find new niches I can fill. I won’t know until we get there. How long will it take before I will feel settled enough to finish my novels?

So, take my love, and take it down.

I am untethering, floating above, one of Prague’s ghosts. Every time I leave our flat I get dizzy, my heart pounds, my hands shake. My body withdraws from the city that has clutched me in its mother claws for all this time.

Having moved my whole life, you’d think I’d be used to it, that it gets easier. Not so. Harder, in fact, to re-settle, find a job, make new friends, get into a creative groove, feel safe and secure in our new home, our new neighborhood.

Stevie Nicks’s voice in my head: I’ve been afraid of changing because I’ve built my life around you.

I take my Prague life apart, dismantling each piece that will come with me, choosing which will remain behind. I add the pieces to my load, my hands tremble as I tie it shut. My heart is breaking. I squeeze the bits into my bag, something else to mend one day.

I took my love and I took it down.

Oh Prague, you beautiful monster with claws. Who will I be without you?

And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills, ‘til the landslide brought me down.

©2011 Sezin Koehler
Landslide lyrics in italics ©Fleetwood Mac


2 thoughts on “Lost in Transition

  1. Sending you lots and lots of love, Sezin! See you on the other side — lots of exciting things to look forward to.


  2. Hi Sezin,
    Reading your powerful essay makes me hopeful. There`s a healing process going on beyond the words written here. Warmly, Kari

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