I love Wales. I went to university in Cardiff aged 18 and lived in south Wales until I was almost 30 (apart from 8 months in Sheffield while I studied for my MSc, and even then I spent a lot of weekends visiting friends and my now husband in Cardiff!). I met DH in Wales, he proposed in Wales. My daughter was born in Wales.
We moved away extremely reluctantly at the start of 2011 following our bankruptcy and the repossession of our home. DH and I were both desperately unhappy at having to leave but promised ourselves that we would return soon, even if it was only for a visit. Circumstances conspired against us however, and it’s only now that we’ve been able to come back for the first time, having saved up for almost 2 years in order to afford it.
So here we are. I have been unbearably excited for weeks, ever since we booked the cottage we’re staying in. I even cried as I drove across the Severn bridge for the first time in 3 years and in a lot of ways it feels as though we’ve only been away a few weeks. But in other ways there is a yawning gulf between who I was when we left and who I am now. We have an extra child, for a start! DS was conceived and born in England; although this beautiful country was home to DD, DH and I, he’s never seen it before. As well as this I feel like a completely different person, just a shadow of the confident, sociable woman I used to be. My physical appearance, my mental health, my path in life – these have all changed and none of them for the better.
Yesterday we met some old friends, most of whom DH and I have known since university. Although I was really looking forward to seeing them I was also dreading it because I’ve changed so much. I’m ashamed of who I am these days – an obese recluse who only seems able to engage with other people through blogging or on Twitter. In the end it was actually a great afternoon but it brought home to me just how different I am now and how I feel about myself.
This trip, this holiday, our long awaited return to Wales, was supposed to be a joyous occasion. DH and I have both suffered from hiraeth, that heartsick longing for home and Wales for which there isn’t really an equivalent in the English language. I hadn’t foreseen that being here would be so confusing and upsetting, that it would strike at the heart of who I am and how I perceive myself.
I am so unbelievably happy to be here, to have returned home to Wales even if only for a week. I’m enjoying taking the children to places that we used to go and it’s good to meet up with people that DD doesn’t remember and DS has never met. But I’m also sad because already I’m anticipating having to leave again; most of all I’m grieving for the life we used to have and for who I used to be. And I’m feeling all of these things at once.