Thursday, November 1, 2007

Blogging Backwards

This is one of those entries which has been written and rewritten several times over. How do you begin to write about normal life again after all those exciting entries of a glorious European vacation? Not that our normal life is anything close to boring, as you know it never is, but there are still those remaining feelings of let-down. I wish I could say it was just that. Let me be frank at this point and say that in each and every blog I've written to capture our "normality" has began with humor and smiles and ended in oozing with words from the pits of despair. No matter how hard I try or how smiley I am in the first paragraphs it always comes back to the same ol' depressing lines at which point I follow a wandering trail of rants until I can no longer listen to my pitiful cries and I walk away from the computer to finish another day. This time I am trying a new approach; I'll work backwards. Let's see if it works shall we?

We passed the day which marked our one year anniversary of our move to the Netherlands without mention or celebration. It slipped by in a frenzy of days which were jumbled together and unworthy of a backwards glance. It was just over a year ago that I found myself frustrated with the family, friends, and even strangers who would look at me with pity etched on their faces upon the announcement that I'd be taking my young girls and following my husband along his career path into a foreign country. The remark was almost verbatim from one person to the next: "And how are you with that?" I was irritated and angered at the thought that they should consider me some little wife who takes no part in the household decisions. We discussed our options together and made the decision together. Yes, I was the one who took the opposing position of the argument for months or weeks, I cannot remember which, but I was convinced of reason by the end and welcomed the inevitable adventure with open arms, just as I had our last assignment in life. (History Note: After graduating from undergrad with Cum Laud with a double major in Physics and Physics Engineering my husband was offered a very prestigious and high-paying position at the local Hewlett Packard and I was more than happy to settle down in a house with a back yard and a few kids right where we were; he was not. The position offered him little enthusiasm and he claimed he'd either be bored out of his mind in 5 years or have been laid off only to have to find some position who knows where, so I followed his dream of becoming a neuroscientist under the premise that it was only four more years of school and he'd have his dream job. Not long after arriving at said school person after person laughed in our face when we mentioned the nice round number of four years; the program may have said four, but nobody actually made it out that early and "haven't you ever heard of post-docs before?" He graduated with his doctorate after six years in the program and we're off to finish the first of his 2-3 post-doc positions, the first of which we decided to do in the Netherlands, and I'm still dreaming of the house with a backyard, a minivan, a cat and a dog; the kids have passed from dream to reality and wait with me in the cue.)

So, how am I with that? If I've never confessed to having a tendency of naivety before this, I will here and now. What I should have taken as a warning from those friends, family, and strangers I took as fuel for burning tenacity. Unfortunately, that fuel has run out and I find myself sitting in a foreign country with no self-esteem and even less will power. Those friends and family seem like a mirage I don't even have the courage to look back over my shoulder at, but I've no lack of strangers and they're of a finer breed than what you can get in the states. These strangers come from a culture which doesn't know the meaning of "zip your lips". I was once confident in myself and sure of my steps, I knew how I wanted to parent and if I didn't I had the resources to find the answers. I also knew what I wanted to do in my life and how I wanted to get there. Suddenly I don't know any of that any more. A strangers slightest reprimand or disapproving look sends me shaking back into the dark and deep cavern I peaked out of. How did I transform into an unstable freak from the confident young woman I once was? I wish it could be summed up in one little paragraph, but try as I might the experiences and feelings which got me here cannot be contained in such a defined and simple space. If you read through these blogs over the last year you may find some of the veins that this corrupted blood has traveled, but likelier than not you'll just see the smiling mask we so like to hold up for the common passerby to see. I wrote a blog somewhat along these same heart-felt lines not too long ago and, other than the few brief comments, I got an email from one friend back in the states. This should encourage me but rather I only remember her advice that I should take some time for myself (us mothers know how easy that is) and instead of writing my heart into a blog maybe I should "just keep these things more private" and start writing in a journal. How come that last part bothers me so much? This is all I can say, I did not began this blog just so passersby could return a smile towards my mask. If you come here looking for the life of an expat you'll not be tricked into the assumption that all is rosy; you're going to get the truth here and if that means you'll bump into the few rocks we've hit, so be it.

I am now over the illusion that I can achieve the status of perfect parent, perfect spouse, perfect daughter, perfect sister, perfect neighbor, perfect friend, perfect anything. Did it take screwing up? Nope, it took realizing there are forces out there even I cannot compete with. I came here under the assumption I could catch whatever the adventure could throw at me, but here I stand with a couple black eyes and a shattered soul. As bad and lonely and depressing as that sounds, it is not, for I know my eyes will not be sealed shut forever and I will glue that soul back together with the darkened cracks to show what I have learned and to remind myself that I can pull myself together again and get through the few rough spots one can encounter in life. Even the ones I've thrown myself headlong into with full knowledge of what I could be getting myself into, because it is not the unexpected mishaps which bother me the most. It is the situations I expected to encounter and fully expected to conquer. I expected to walk away from this with a life defining moment or two, I just didn't fully grasp what it would take to get those results. Here I sit in the midst of that moment, the confidence is gone, only blind faith keeps me getting out of bed in the mornings and some clearer definition is awaiting me at some point down the path of my future. I hope it does not take too long as I've began to realize I cannot keep myself stable in the shadow of this valley. My children will attest to that and my husband will confirm with a rolling of the eyes and any number of peculiar antics to recall, but out of it that blind faith will lead me and I'll probably tell the next young couple I meet, just as any veteran mother might tell an expecting girl that the pain of labor is worth it, that the experience of moving overseas is an experience one should never omit in a life. Though, if you'd ask me at this very moment I'd have a list of reasons to stay home. Wanna hear 'em? I'd list them, but like me you'd probably shrug your shoulders, say something like "'tis to be expected", and board the plane anyway. Much like labor, you never can know until you've lived through it yourself. I could relate the transitional periods, the moments when you want to drop your bag of groceries, grab your kids and run the the 5 kilometers to the next flight home without stopping, the time you'll give up on ever speaking the language and swear you'll never utter another word of it your entire life, the time you delude yourself that the friends you've made have each become your enemies over night because one of them has turned a shoulder away for a moments breath away from your pain, or the time you yell at your children for stupid childish antics only because of your own frustration at life and then yell at yourself in the mirror for stooping so low below your own firmly set moral standards. I could list the bureaucratic loop-holes and the daily irritations which steal time and sanity from your deluded sense of order, but they'll remain unexplainable to maintain my current state of remaining sanity. Besides, you'd only laugh at me and tell me it's just all part of the game anyway. Some will even recall their own expat experiences in an attempt to relate or bring me a sense of cheer and prove to me that you can live through it and exit the other side with enough sanity left to remain seen as a normal human being, but like the woman in the midst of her labor I can only see two things: the pain of my current circumstances and the desired end to it all. These pains a friend could not comfort as not even my husbands valiant efforts have succeeded, it is a battle within the walls of my own limitations which only I can end. It takes a great amount of effort and strength to pull ones self out of their own weakness, but I think I've got hold of the rim. Just don't let one of the strangers or, worse yet, a friend come and give me a kick because the slightest insult could send me spiraling again. How degrading this has been. I admit not all expats could be in for the same experience as this may have just been the time in life for my own reclamation, and no better of a time could it have picked.

There are those days when I peek over the rim and see the sunshine and blooming paths of my future jungle and it gives me hope through those days when even trying to reach the rim seems impossible. Fortunately, I have many more days with views of bright paths and even the warmth of rays which reach my cheeks and it is those moments which I will focus on from here. If I slip into another reverie of despair just know that it is all part of the process and something which needs to be looked into to ensure I am not stepping into a false reality. So, onward ho! We will march across those rosy fields and seed some sunshine from where once it shone, because it has warmed the paths of this family on many more than one occasion since our return.


Here's to turning head and gazing in the direction of the son instead.

Read comments (11)

No comments: