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Life is Awful & I've Never Been Better

I'm really homesick.

I miss my apartment in Vyshgorod, with its scattered books and mismatched mugs. I miss walking in the forest during lunch breaks with my husband, and grabbing coffee with a friend on Saturday morning. I miss feeling like my Russian was inadequate before I moved to Bulgaria and realized how much I was actually able to communicate. I miss cramming into a marshrutka, grabbing vareniky at Puzata Hata, and spending lazy afternoons in the park.

I miss Kyiv, and I miss my life as it was 7 months ago. I've written before about how being an expat who was able to escape from the war obviously isn't as trying as it is for those who are still in the country, or those who are defending Ukraine. But I still feel like my life was upended, and I'm bitter about it.

Last October, I took this photo. I remember the day vividly: I was reading Slowness by Milan Kundera and drinking a великий latte from Aroma Kava. I'd stopped in the park on my way home from visiting my in-laws. I remember feeling fully content in a way I hadn't before, and I remarked to a friend that I was afraid something would come and mess it up.

Exactly 4 months later, it did. I don't want to live my life waiting for the next horrible thing to happen, but I also want to remember how fragile every moment is.

Since then I've made a temporary-ish home in Bulgaria, found a job I love, and travelled around the EU. I'm slowly losing the weight I gained from stress-eating during the first few weeks of the war, and my anxiety's been manageable (maybe because it for once has a clear source?). I'm reading some great books, spending time with family, enjoying the fall weather, and thinking about grad school. I've picked up some new hobbies and have been better about drinking water and eating real food. I'm incredibly grateful, and heartbroken. I didn't know those could exist together.

To be ridiculously clear, because I feel like I have to: I'm not glad any of this happened, and would give anything to undo it. I don't see the good parts of my life as a silver lining or a happy side effect. It's just been an adjustment to have such a dichotomy of emotions and experiences simultaneously. I realized the other day that I feel happy, and my first reaction was guilt. I don't like that I'm happy. (And what a privileged problem that is.) How can I have moments of contentment when the world is burning, when so many people are needlessly suffering?

Maybe better habits arose as a coping mechanism born from a need for consistency. Maybe humans can only take so much sadness when they're removed from the source. I don't know. This isn't the first time I've tried to put these thoughts into words, and probably not the last.

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