That's a bit melodramatic, I thought this morning. But let's see where it goes anyway.
I did spend quite a long time only living half a life. First I was in Dublin living one half of a long-distance relationship, not doing much, waiting to move. Then I was here, living a life that could be packed up and returned across the Atlantic as soon as the word was said. It took some commitment, to not acquire things, to pay no attention to local news, to maintain a presence at home and abroad.
A lot of people do it: the country not moved to, the job not taken, the man not married, the baby not born ... the road not travelled, whether by accident or design. We all have parallel lives where we did the other thing, to which our minds wander every now and then to wonder which way we'd be better off, how things would be different, how we're going to deal with the fact that they're not.
I spent a long time living lightly, noncommitedly, waiting for things to get going. I used to be yelled at by the hockey coach in school for keeping my distance from the ball: "Stop saving yourself, Maud!" she'd bawl, justifiably irritated by my habit of staying safely back, claiming that I was waiting to spring into action when the ball might come close enough to need to be repelled by me, but otherwise mostly retreating from the fray. (I was a terrible hockey player.) Things have now got going, and I'm in the thick of it, and yet there's still a small percentage of me that's lying low, waiting, watching what's going on on the other field, in my other life where I live in Ireland.
I still look idly at the property section of the Irish Times, marvelling at how prices have dropped, fantasy shopping for some gorgeous redbrick in D6 or a delightfully updated cottage in a secluded road just outside the heart of Dalkey. B reads the letters page. We still have our Irish bank accounts, our Irish drivers' licences, our wedding-present gift tokens for Irish department stores (dammit).
(You know, it has just now occurred to me that they probably ship to America. I think next time we're home I should just go up to the third floor of Brown Thomas, choose a nice piece of Le Creuset, and have them send it here.)
Of course, I also still have the co-sleeper, the baby stroller, the bouncy seat, and a big box marked "Maternity Clothes" downstairs in the basement. I'm no more - or less - likely to need those (aside from lending them to friends now and then) than we are to move home, but I'm not ready to let go of the possibility. Not quite yet.
When we moved into this house a year ago, the people doing the kitchen asked, "Well, how long are you going to be here? A few years, or forever?" "Yes," we said. "One of those." We still have no idea whether we'll end up here or there or somewhere else, and if so when.
For now, we're here, and a part of me is there. If we moved back, the opposite would be true - we've been in this country too long now for it not to leave a mark. Such is always the lot of the emigrant, or the returned emigrant, or the renewed emigrant. But you have to take the half of life that you have and run with it, because nobody gets to have both halves - the thing that happened and the thing that didn't - ... oh crap, I just wrote Sliding Doors, didn't I?
A prize (of my admiration) goes to the first commenter to tell me the source of the title quote. (It's not Sliding Doors.) (My husband is not eligible. Anyway, he already has my admiration.)