My friend Angie, one of the primary people behind A Life Overseas, recently moved to the United States after 15 years in Bolivia.
Watching her through this move was an emotional experience for me. I empathized so much that I hurt. I watched through social media as she told people, as she packed up, as she said goodbyes. I watched as they received a mini van from friends thousands of miles away, as they found out they had a place to live, as friends and family gathered things for their new home.
Angie says she is “relearning life.” There is no better description for the expat who moves back to their passport country than this. We relearn life. And it is difficult.
Angie describes being at the airport with her family in a post called “This is NOT Home!”:
We left Bolivia. To quote a friend, “It is not so weird that you left, what’s weird is that you are not coming back.” Oh the sting.
The impact of the separation has not yet hit me. I am sure the ones we left back in Bolivia are feeling it. I have been the one left behind, it is excruciating. I can see on the faces of some of my kids the sadness and loneliness. Others beam with relief and renewal. The colors of our emotional profile burn bright like a sunset on fire. Or is it the sunrise?
The transition material tells me that a new beginning starts with an ending. The rites of passage of ancient cultures teach us to face the end, embrace the grief, and move through to the new. Denial, slap a happy-face emoticon on it, fake-it-’til-you-make-it, just won’t do. Honest tears help wash the soul.
It hurts so much, though. And there are so many people so very happy to have us here. And we don’t want to disappoint people. But it is not fair to them if we are dishonest with our “glee” in the hopes to manage their emotions. No. This is not what we want to do. So we sit broken, together. Yet, there does exist happiness in all the grief. Sparks of hope of what will be flare up and our faces make genuine smiles. – See more at: http://www.angiewashington.com/#sthash.MIcolUsY.dpuf
I watched and I remembered. I remembered what it was like to do that. To leave with 27 suitcases that contained all our belongings, five kids, and a cat. I remembered coming to a bright red, mini van. How excited we were to step into that car. I remembered like it was yesterday, even though it was so long ago.
And I remembered how difficult it was, with no one to help us process, no one aware of the inner turmoil in our family.
Those who reenter their passport countries have to relearn life. It’s similar to what someone with a serious physical injury goes through – they have to relearn the basics, relearn what we call in health care “activities of daily living.” Or someone who has lost a person close to them — a spouse or a child. Even relearning life when all your children have left the nest you so carefully made for them all those years. Relearning life without the person you used to have around all the time, without the physical abilities you relied on, without the life you used to know.
“Relearn the activities of daily living.” It’s so technical, but sometimes it helps to make things technical.
The activities of daily living for the one who has reentered have completely changed. You no longer need to boil water or milk, and going to the market daily is unnecessary. You are now in the same time zone as your extended family, so arranging a time to talk when you’re both awake is not important. You have to consciously think about driving on the right side of the road, lest you head toward an oncoming car.
Relearning life – baby steps to adjustment. And celebrating milestones like the first time you go to the grocery store and don’t cry; the day you don’t tense up as you’re sending your kids out the door to public school; the evening that you fix dinner without an emotional break down.
Those are baby steps in the journey and baby steps need to be celebrated.
Relearning life takes courage and tenacity, it takes a sense of humor and humility. Most of all it takes leaning on God with every fiber of our being, accepting that he is the author of this new chapter of life.
Angie continues to write from what she calls “transitory land.” She talks in this piece about what she used to be, contrasts it with what she needs to get used to and she ends with words I drink in like water, because whether I am reentering, or still living in a place where I have lived for awhile, they are truth.
“Gratitude abounds in the midst of the many moods. The goodness God has poured out is undeniable and comforts me.” – See more at: http://www.angiewashington.com/2015/03/used-to/#sthash.xvEatFH1.dpuf
Are you relearning life after a move or death or injury? How do you relearn life? What practical, emotional, or spiritual tips can you offer other readers?
Photo credit: http://pixabay.com/en/light-dark-tunnel-black-path-495238/ word art by Marilyn