Moving is Hard or This too is India

Moving is hard or This too is India by Robynn. Today’s piece is longform – and you will be glad you read it. Especially if you are in a move or frequently support those that move. You can follow Robynn every Friday in Fridays with Robynn. You can also follow her on Twitter at @RobynnBliss

 moving is hard 2

Our family is moving this summer. It’s the shortest move we’ve ever made but in someways it feels the most daunting. We’re simply moving four blocks away and yet the process of packing and sorting isn’t greatly diminished. I wonder if moving will be hard this time too? Since we’re not really leaving the neighbourhood I wonder if much will change? I wrote this for others whose move involves actually leaving the city, or the state, or the country but perhaps I’ll need to re-read it in a couple of months time.

When we moved from India to the United States, 7 years ago, we were astounded by how difficult it was. Packing up a family of five had been stressful. Leaving one beloved country, travelling through two more en route before unpacking in a fourth was tiring. However, settling in was shockingly hard. I wasn’t expecting it to be like that. This was America. Things were supposed to run a little easier.

Part of our job in India was to welcome new expatriates and help them settle into the chaos of our North Indian city. We answered thousands of important questions, we walked people through hundreds of frustrations, we held their hands, we cried with them as they grieved their losses, we laughed at their surprises and delights and celebrated each of their new discoveries. It was an intense part of our lives there.  During that time we heard repeatedly of their frustrations with the Indian systems. Bureaucracy was a nightmare. Systems didn’t work. Loopholes were deeper, thicker, higher, and impossible to jump through.  Simple errands were complex. Nothing made any sense. The newly arrived were often angry, frustrated and exasperated. India was blamed for most of their troubles.

I’m not denying how agonizing it can be. Original copies of this certificate. Photocopies of that form. Four copies of passport-sized photos. Notarized copies of this application. Signed duplicates of that original. Go there. Get that. Return there. You still need this. The office is closed on Tuesdays. Office hours on Fridays are limited. It was often ridiculous and relentless. But I’ve come to see that very little of it was actually India’s fault.

Those first few months of life here in the US were (equally?) maddening. To apply for a phone we needed an address and a phone number. To sign up for gas and electricity we needed a phone number. We couldn’t get the phone number until we had a phone number. There were, nearly hilarious, systemic loops that we fell into. We couldn’t get internet service until we had a phone number. We couldn’t get a phone until we had an address. We couldn’t get our address until we could meet with the previous owner for him to sign over the deed. But we couldn’t fill out the deed until we had a phone number. Often Lowell and I would look at each other, remembering the angst that our newly arrived friends would experience upon arriving in India, and we’d say, “This too is India”!

Enrolling our children in school was also confusing. We had to have copies of their birth certificates (which birth certificate? Two of our three children have three birth certificates each!) and copies of their immunization records (which were unreadable and confusing and had to be redone by the local pediatrician’s office).  I didn’t have an American social security number at that time. My Canadian social insurance number confused everyone as it didn’t fit into the prescribed number of boxes. It was awkward and embarrassing. It wasn’t just my identifying number that didn’t fit into their boxes….our whole family seemed to be out of place.

I recently read a well written piece by a woman who was reflecting back on moving with her young family to a foreign country. I found the article a little annoying, if I’m being honest. Somehow it felt like the new country, let’s call it Papua New Guinea, was blamed for all their struggles. Her children struggled at settling in. Papua New Guinea was blamed. She and her husband struggled with the guilt of bringing their kids to this new and strange place. Papua New Guinea was blamed. As I was processing it with my friend Marilyn, I wrote, “It’s really an unfortunate piece. The fact of the matter is any move is hard on every member of the family. Just ask Jill about moving their 10-year-old and 6-year-old from Kansas to New Mexico. It’s hard to move. Period. It is a really narrow perspective to blame a cross cultural move for all the troubles you and your kids will have. Life is hard. Parenting is hard. Moving is hard”.

Two years ago, my good friend Jill and her family moved from Kansas to a nearby state, New Mexico. They transplanted their two young children and all their earthly goods to that new place. Both Jill and her husband were familiar with the city they moved to and yet it’s been a very difficult transition for them. They didn’t leave the country. They didn’t need to learn a new language. And yet…nothing is the same there. They’ve struggled to find a new church. The school system seems strange. New doctors, new hair stylists, new rules, new systems, new neighbourhoods, new friends. It’s been hard.

moving is hard

In a major move it’s easy to idyllically reinterpret your past. It was so much easier when we were there. Remember how fun that was? Remember how tasty that treat was at that restaurant we loved? It’s much harder to be present where you are, especially when where you are is new and strange and your responses to it are less than perfect. You aren’t the same person you were there. Your marriage looks different. Your parenting changes. But it’s also true that had you stayed where you were you still wouldn’t be the person you had been. You’d be older. Your marriage would have taken new turns. Your children move into the next developmental stage. They have new growth spurts and hormones and rebellions, new friends, and new circumstances. Everything is constantly changing. Resisting the temptation to blame the new location for the new you, the new (and strange) struggles your children experience, the new pains in your relationships, the new sins that surface in your soul is difficult but necessary.

This new place where you find yourself is a new opportunity to grow. There are fresh beginnings and unfamiliar experiences ahead. Train yourself and your children to be here now. Present and stable. Certainly there is value in remembering….but focus on remembering how faithful God was in that old place. Recall some of the hard things from that last chapter. Call to mind how you managed to get through it. Remember circumstances that were foreign and frantic. Remember how the Peace that few understand melted over your family then. And then be assured that it will sustain you in this new place too. That hasn’t changed.  The mercies of God, which were new every morning there, will also be new every morning here.

I’m not for a minute trying to minimize the pain of a move. It is painful.

There are a thousand losses. Nothing remains the same. None of your previous routines and systems seem to translate. Everything must be relearned. It’s very very hard. And it takes far longer than you think it will to truly settle in and be at home. But there is little to be gained for blaming the place for the heartache and dis-ease you feel. Pain is always an invitation to grow deeper. Jesus meets us in our pain and offers to lead us through it. Through to the other side of settled. Through to a new normal. Through to a new sense of home and being settled.

And who are we kidding….

Through to a whole new series of change and loss and opportunity and joy…through to a whole new invitation to go deeper.

This too is India! 

Photo Credits: http://pixabay.com/en/delhi-road-india-chaos-282933/ and http://pixabay.com/en/bellman-luggage-cart-baggage-104031/

16 thoughts on “Moving is Hard or This too is India

  1. Jumping through hoops can be frustrating. When I lived in Oman, I was beginning to learn to take each hoop as God’s test for that day. Did it take three days to do something that should take three minutes? Yes. On the other hand, God gave me three days to meet new people and to bless them in their boring government job. It became less about getting something done and more about who would I meet that day and bless. If something was actually accomplished, that was a bonus.

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  2. We are in the middle of changing neighbourhoods…. and even that was sad…. some changes in relationships come with that (neighbors on the compound and workers and their kids no longer around close by)… and we had only been there one year! Now we are back in the old city we left last year and so much has changed in a year (not all for the good either… little by little our old “favorites” are gone!)…

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  3. Very well stated. Indeed, every move is a difficult one. Being married to an active duty service member means you become accustomed to frequent relocations. Before we had children, we lived in 5 different states, and each state does things just a little differently. Since adding children to the mix, we’ve moved twice more stateside, and then twice internationally. Moving with children is infinitely more difficult. As they’ve gotten older, they feel the loss more deeply. Our last move was our most difficult to date. The loss of community we felt made it more difficult to find our place in this new home. I agree that it is pointless to blame the new location for the problems and difficulties you face, that prevents you from ever really overcoming the obstacles before you. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  4. Ahhhh how I recognise those major move frustrations! After three country moves I don’t take them lightly at all. I think I’ve just learned to factor that hard work and bureaucratic palaver into the time it takes to settle in. Our frustration was in having to prove or identity with a creditcard which we couldn’t get until we had proved our identity with another creditcard. What a farce! And that was in Australia! I find it even more frustrating when the problems come in a ‘western’ nation where as you said, you expect things to be easier!

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    1. Factoring in the bureaucratic palaver, as you called it, is wise.I wish we had had this little chat years ago! Love to you Sophie.

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  5. One consolation is: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the ends of the earth.” God bless you Robyn and the family during this transition and the beginning of a brand new experience for all of you.

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    1. It is comforting that Jesus goes with us. .. as well as ahead of us. He has the advantage of understanding us and the worlds we face, the worlds he has called us to. ..

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  6. Everything you wrote here is so true. Moving is hard, no matter what, no matter where… Sometimes we forget that and try placing the blame on the location or even on ourselves. These words particularly hit home for me and the sentiments were beautifully expressed: “There are a thousand losses. Nothing remains the same. None of your previous routines and systems seem to translate. Everything must be relearned. It’s very very hard. And it takes far longer than you think it will to truly settle in and be at home.”

    Thank you for sharing this – it came at a moment when I needed it, so it was a great comfort to read today. Thanks again and good luck with your move this summer!

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  7. Amen sister! Moving is hard and yes New Mexico is India too :)
    Our street sign on one side says Ave and right across says Drive- where are we really?
    To all those in the midst of a move, may the God who guides us be your strong hold and may you find laughter in the times you want to cry. Thanks Robynn for putting all those feelings into words. Love you my sister.

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  8. Even the move we never made was hard. My father had severe breathing problems (he also smoked) and the family considered moving from rural NC to Arizona, even putting the house on the market (this was mid-1950’s). We lived within forty miles or less of all our first cousins (uncles and aunts) on both sides of the family and the prospect of moving (I am firstborn and at the time had two brothers and three sisters) terrified me.

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  9. This piece resonates with me. We are six weeks into moving our family of six from Melbourne, Australia back to Pittsburgh, PA. Each of us is reacting differently, but all would agree that moving is hard. We are tempted to romanticize our life in Melbourne now that we have left it, but the truth is that the move there was tremendously difficult as well. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here.

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    1. Oh Christie…. Grace to you all during this time of transition. These things take time. Be patient with yourselves. I’m trying to speak these things to myself in the midst of boxes of chaos and piles of crazy!

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