On Polio (and When it’s all too Much to Bear)

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Afghanistan – where war, Taliban, drones and mudslides keep this country of hospitality, amazing people and amazing food on its knees and in its cemeteries. And as if this country has not had enough to contend with, a little girl sits on the floor in her home made of brick and mud suffering from polio.

Sometimes it’s just too much to bear.

Polio was near eradicated. For 25 years the World Health Organization promoted an aggressive world-wide vaccination campaign. The oral polio vaccine is simple – a couple of flavored pink drops at 2 month intervals and then a final booster dose a few years later, 4 doses in all. It doesn’t hurt. It’s safe. And it works. 

Here’s a bit about polio*: It loves hot weather, thriving in conditions that kill other viruses. Although it’s primarily in children it can be spread through others, through porous borders, through trade. It lives in the throat and the intestinal tract and is spread person to person. It is spread through oral secretions and through the feces of the infected person, so in places where the sewer systems are inadequate — refugee camps, poor villages, places where many people are living in close quarters without proper bathroom facilities. Already this year, a couple of months before the true hot season has begun there are 68 cases reported worldwide. While that seems miniscule compared to the billions of people in the world, last year at this time the numbers were about a third of this. And of those 68, 54 of them come from Pakistan.

But Syria too is in trouble. Prior to the war (or uprising because uprising perhaps caters to our prim sensibilities, but let’s be honest – it’s a war) the vaccination rate of Syria was high, upwards of 90%. But that has fallen dramatically and the first case of polio in years was reported this past year.

Vaccinations and vaccinators are suspect in Pakistan, the part of the world where most of these cases have emerged. At one time the CIA launched an undercover mission, using vaccination camps as their cover. Since that time any vaccination program is suspect.

So now polio has spread to Afghanistan, and a little girl sits on the floor. The New York Times reports that it is the first confirmed case in the capital of Afghanistan in 12 years.

Sometimes it’s too much to bear. 

Too much to try to make sense of all this. I thought yesterday was bad as I was reminded that over 200 Nigerian school girls were kidnapped by an extreme Islamic group and we all finally began to pay attention, signing petitions and using hashtags because we felt so helpless and knew we could do nothing else. And then today I’m reminded of polio and its devastating effects.

What do you do when it’s too much to bear? When you work in a grey cubicle and your heart hurts? When you want to point a finger but you know three will point back at you? What do you do when you try to figure out how you can in one breath be raging about Nigerian girls and in the next be excited about a television show that keeps you captivated for two hours? When you realize your own inadequacy in everything but that which you are directly responsible for – and even then, you often feel inadequate?

What do you do when it’s too much to bear? You put your head down and pray so deeply it hurts. And then you go to work doing what you know you’re called to do for the day, because you are not the Saviour, you are only the saved and that by grace alone. 

*For more on polio see the CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/VACCINes/vpd-vac/polio/default.htm

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The Reluctant Orthodox – Volume 26 “On Midwives and Confession”


I wait on a side pew with several others. Vespers and vigil have ended and most of us are sitting in silence. In the far left corner of the sanctuary our priest sits with someone. We sit and wait, none of us impatient.

Like a waiting room in a doctor’s office, each of us come with our own particular needs, pains, sorrows.

My mind travels back to Chicago and my pregnancy with my firstborn. I didn’t yet know that it would be a baby girl and that we would name her Annie. I sit in the small waiting room of a midwifery practice. The room is full, all of us at various stages of pregnancy, some of us accompanied by husbands, mothers, or others. We sit and wait, none of us impatient. Because each of us know that when our turn comes the midwife we are waiting for will have eyes and ears only for us. We will be her focus, our problems and pregnancies the only thing that matters right then. The midwife will examine each one of us with care, checking the heart beat of the baby, measuring our expanding bellies to make sure our babies are growing properly. At times she will ask a question, at times she will give advice or a warning. We are all grateful for this midwife. She is amazing and gifted. We wouldn’t think of going through an important time like pregnancy without her.

When we leave we are encouraged and comforted, moving forward and resolving to have as healthy a pregnancy as possible. And each of us will return, not at the same time intervals — some will come in a week, some in two weeks, some in a month. But we will all return.

Somehow this waiting in the church feels similar to the waiting for the midwife. We are waiting for confession. None of us impatient because we know when it’s our turn we will have the undivided attention of a priest who is called to walk with us through this spiritual journey. He will listen to us, ask an occasional question, at times give advice or a warning. Like a waiting room in the midwife practice, each of us come with our own particular confessions, needs, pains, sorrows.

Confession in the Orthodox Church is not about confessing so a priest will forgive you. The belief is that no one can forgive but God. The priest serves as witness to the confession. So we confess our sins to God with the priest present. He in turn gives advice, counsel, or encouragement. We live in a society where self-help, advice columns, and ‘bettering oneself’ are daily topics of writers, pop psychologists and motivational speakers. There is a constant stream of information for those who are on the journey of self discovery, of self betterment. I find it ironic that despite this, people think it odd and archaic that a priest be involved in the process of confession. The message is clear as is the irony of that message – it’s okay to go to everybody else for advice or help, but a priest? Why would you need to go to a priest?

In honesty, I too pushed back at this idea for a long time – these things are no big deal, I thought, and as long as I’m being honest with God then that’s all that matters. But the accountability is compelling and there is comfort and growth in learning how to confess honestly before someone I trust. I know I am a novice at this practice of confession. I had my first confession just days before baptism and that was a life confession. Think about that for a minute — I’m 54. That’s a lot of life. That’s a whole lot of bad, an abundance of wrong, a life-time of needing to say I’m sorry or I forgive. But in a way that one time life confession feels easier than the regular act of going before God and confessing that I still struggle with the same things – envy, pride, discontent over, and over, and over again. So I still don’t know what to do and when, instead I am learning as I go. But one thing I am clear on is that I need help. one thing I am convinced of is that I need the cross. 

The sanctuary is gradually emptying out. Only a few of us remain. Daylight has gone, replaced by the soft glow of lights and candles in the church. It’s my turn – the wait has ended and I go, nervous but at peace that just as I couldn’t go through my pregnancies without a midwife to walk beside me, I can’t go through my spiritual journey without the same.

To Confess your sins to God is not to tell him anything he doesn’t already know.  Until you confess them, however, they are the abyss between you.  When you confess them, they become the Golden Gate bridge. ~ Frederick Buechner

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Indeed I am Fearfully and Wonderfully Made


I lay flat on my back, a hospital pillow tucked under my head. The nurse has started an intravenous line in a small vein in my right hand, so skilled that I felt just a needle prick. I have a blood pressure cuff on my left arm, a pulse oximeter on my index finger, and the nodes of an electrocardiogram on my chest. I watch my heart beat through the green of a monitor – the rhythms jagged on the screen. The monitor tells all: my pulse, my blood pressure, my heart beats, the oxygen level in my system. It is the inanimate, all-knowing object in the room. It searches my body and monitors its activity, but it knows nothing of my soul.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Modern medicine can identify many things about the workings of my body and I am grateful. A breast lump caught early gives a woman hope she will enjoy her grandchildren, a polyp identified and taken out means a man can live to see retirement. But only One knows all the goings on in my body.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

The nurses and assistants are busy with tasks – I am Preparation Bay 12. “Have you gotten Preparation Bay 12 ready?” says someone who seems to be in charge. I can’t hear the reply but I know the answer because I am Preparation Bay 12. They are kind. They are efficient. But all of us in here are just a part of this day’s work. There is talk of cookies in the break room and laughter from a couple of them recalling something one of their children has done. They will not remember me after I leave today. And that’s okay. Many people enter this place every day. And all day they give of their skills to make sure we who are fearfully and wonderfully made will be well-cared for.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Nothing illustrates this more to me than laying here on this hospital bed. I am more than an electronic green rhythm, I am more than a heart beat, I am more than an oxygen level, I am more than a vein. And while the all-knowing monitor can tell so much, it is the creator who really knows what’s going on. The bones, the vessels, the arteries, the muscles, the tendons, the heart, the brain cells. But most of all the soul.

I lay back and sigh. The nurse comes in and tells me about the medicine that she will be giving me through the intravenous line. It will make me sleepy she says. I probably will sleep through everything and wake up in another room. The last thing I think of before I drift off is that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.*
From Psalm 139:14
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Unequal Treatment and Tuskegee

“For a serious offense writes” psychiatrist Aaron Lazare “such as a betrayal of trust or public humiliation, an immediate apology misses the mark. It demeans the event. Hours, days, weeks, or even months may go by before both parties can integrate the meaning of the event and its impact on the relationship. The care and thought that goes into such apologies dignifies the exchange. For offenses whose impact is calamitous to individuals, groups, or nations, the apology may be delayed by decades and offered by another generation.”*

In 2002 the Institute of Medicine released a report calledUnequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care

The report was a landmark study that documented the disparities that racial and ethnic minorities experience even when their insurance and income are the same. Prior to the study, many thought that the narrative of disparities verbalized by both patients and health professionals was just that – a narrative. Or they thought that it was about health care access. The conventional wisdom was that if you give a person health care access the disparities will go away.

In fact, they found this to be categorically false. In compiling hundreds of studies across the nation, documented disparities were found in almost every area of health care. Here are just a few of the disparities found:

Cover of "Unequal Treatment: Confronting ...

  • Receipt of appropriate cancer treatment
  • Pain control – Minority patients more likely to be under-medicated for pain than white patients (65% vs. 50%), more likely to have severity of pain underestimated by physicians
  • Mental health services – “plagued by disparities.” One study indicates 44% of White English speakers to 27.8% of Blacks received treatment after a diagnosis of depression.
  • Heart procedures – including bypass surgery
  • Diabetes – from diagnosis to amputations disparities were found in diabetic care
  • Pediatric Care – Less satisfaction, cite poorer communication, perception of lack of response

 Many factors contribute to these disparities – it is complex and the report gave a number of recommendations. It demonstrated that we have a long way to go to provide equal treatment for the minority populations in the United States.


Between 1932 and 1972 the public health service of the United States enrolled 600 poor, black men into a study to document the effects of untreated syphilis. Approximately 400 of these men had syphilis before the study began. The men enrolled thought they were receiving free health care from the government and they were promised food, burial insurance, and medical care for participating in the study. They were merely told they had ‘bad blood’ and were never treated for the disease. In the early 1940’s Penicillin had become a standard and effective method of treatment for the disease. None of these men received penicillin, in fact – treatment was never offered for 40 years. The study is known as the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment.

It has been 42 years since Tuskegee and to this day, it is difficult to get African Americans to participate in research studies. It does not take a rocket scientist to wonder why.

It was 30 years after Tuskegee that the report Unequal Treatment was released.


I am a white woman. Anyone who reads this blog and has seen any pictures knows this. I did not grow up in this country and did not think about race – ever. I was raised as a privileged white minority in a country that still had memories of British occupation where whites ruled and were regularly sent to the head of the line. I now work as a nurse in public health with minority populations and regularly confront issues of racism and unequal treatment in health care.

The disparities that happen in health care have historically been wrong. The disparities that occur these many years later are wrong. There is no other word for it. They are wrong and a corporate apology is in order.

And I want to apologize. It doesn’t matter that I was not involved with Tuskegee. It doesn’t matter that I was not one of the care givers in any of the studies documented for Unequal Treatment. What matters is that I am part of a health care system that has routinely discriminated against people because of their color; a system that has treated people unequally based on their outward appearance, not their presenting symptoms.

To use some of the words of Aaron Lazare who I quoted above – these offenses were calamitous to individuals, to groups, to our nation as a whole.

In Notes from No Man’s Land, author Eula Biss talks about being a teacher at a public school in Harlem. A young boy a foot taller than her hissed at here in the hallway. As she sat in the principal’s office, waiting while the principal went to “hunt him down”, another kid stepped into the office. She writes the following about the interaction:

“I’m sorry I sexually harassed you.” I stared at him. He wasn’t the same kid. “But it wasn’t you.” I said finally. “Yeah,” he said as he pulled down his baseball cap and started to walk away, “but it might have been my cousin.”

So today, as we near the end of Black History Month I borrow from the last sentence of Eula’s book. I apologize for Unequal Treatment. I apologize for Tuskegee. Because no – it wasn’t me — but it might have been my cousin.

*As quoted in Notes from No Man’s Land by Eula Biss page 189

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We Have Work to Do! State of the World’s Mothers – #SOWM

During my flood relief trip in Pakistan a couple of years ago I witnessed severe malnutrition among babies and toddlers. Break your heart malnutrition and hunger. Shout for joy Plumpy’nut solution in some cases. Moms and babies have my heart – probably because I am one and I had five. Getting a good start in life changes a generation and with catastrophes like floods and earthquakes, the chances of having that good start decrease.

For the past 14 years Save the Children has published an annual report on the state of the world’s mothers. The report is long and detailed, providing key findings as well as giving recommendations. The data includes information from 176 countries on the health of children, health of mothers, and economic well-being. Finland came in first and Congo came in last.

This year’s report was released yesterday. Here are just a few of the findings:

The birth day is the most dangerous day for babies world-wide.

More than a million babies die on the first day of life, usually from preventable causes. While great progress has been made around maternal/child mortality, newborns continue to be the most vulnerable of all with little progress made around their health and survival.

Three primary causes of death were identified.

These include complications during birth, prematurity and infections. For all three of these there are interventions that work, that are effective, that can change these statistics. The number of newborn deaths could be reduced by 75% if these preventive measures were put into place. That’s a staggering success rate!

The interventions cost pennies to put into place – from 13 cents a day to $6 a day.*

  • steroid injections for women in preterm labor (to reduce deaths due to premature babies’ breathing problems);
  • resuscitation devices (to save babies who do not breathe at birth);
  • chlorhexidine cord cleansing (to prevent umbilical cord infections); and
  • injectable antibiotics (to treat newborn sepsis and pneumonia).

This is a big deal. Give a baby a healthy start and you change a generation, one baby at a time. Where it stands now is a public health crisis. 

So what do we do? How can we help? If you’re pregnant you help by taking care of yourself, of your baby; by eating right and getting prenatal care. Others of us can pass this information on – if we live in countries that fall at the bottom of the list find out what we can do in both big and small ways. If we live in the United Kingdom or the United States – take a look! The United States falls 30th despite spending approximately 18% of its GDP on health care. This is just sad.

  • 1 of 2,400 women in the United States will die from a maternal cause. This statistic is the same as Iran.
  • In the United States 60% of newborn deaths occur on that critical first day of life.
  • The United Kingdom fares better but not great at number 22 on the list. 

Take a look at the report linked below and the Save the Children website. Learning about this is the first step in making a difference! I’ve also included a link to a Huffington Post article that has a great infographic you can share. Huffington Post infographic.

What do you think of the statistics and the low cost interventions? Have you had maternal child health experience where you have seen these interventions work? Would love to hear from you in the comments! 

Learning to Grieve Well


Research shows that those of us who have grown up as third culture kids have layers on layers of loss.

Dave Pollock, a man who arguably did more to understand the third culture kid experience than any other before his death, said this: “One of the major areas in working with TCKs is that of…dealing with the issue of unresolved grief. They are always leaving or being left. Relationships are short-lived.At the end of each school year, a certain number of the student body leaves, not just for the summer, but for good.It has to be up to the parent to provide a framework of support and careful understanding as the child learns to deal with this repetitive grief.”

He ends the paragraph with these words:

“Most TCKs go through more grief experiences by the time they are 20 than monocultural individuals do in a lifetime.”

We are told we need to grieve our losses. We are told that this is healthy, that this will help us move forward in life, not paralyzed by what was, instead purposeful in what now is.

But what does grieving those losses look like? How do we grieve?

Cecily at Cecily.Mostly wrote a post about grief – specifically getting over grief – a couple of weeks ago. The post is full of wisdom and sound advice.

It struck me as I’ve thought about grieving, specifically grieving well that it’s something we have to learn. But how do we learn it?

It helps by reading posts like that of Cecily’s, it helps also to read books like the classic CS Lewis, A Grief Observed. But part of it is not about outside resources and more about walking with one foot in front of the other and owning the grief.

The ‘grief and loss’ road has been a long one for me. And it’s not just about being a third culture kid. This road has been full of what it looks like to not grieve well and that’s not pretty. But through the journey I think I’m learning more of what it means to grieve well.

So here are a couple of things I’ve learned about grief.

Grief is good. You can’t grieve well if you don’t grieve. I grieved because I loved my life in Pakistan and then in Egypt. Yes – hear this loudly – I loved boarding school! I didn’t love everything about it but does any kid love everything about school? I think not! My grieving is not bad – it is a protective emotion. It is cathartic. It reminds me how much I loved. Grief and grieving is a good thing. Understanding grief as something good is a first step in grieving well.

Grief is individual. It is unique. Though grief itself is universal, my response to my specific circumstance is unique. It is caused by, and directed at, an event or series of events that are from my perspective. And just as the stamp of my fingerprint is like no other, so is my grief. Grieving well means understanding and living with the paradox of grief being universal and grief being personal and unique.Understanding that grief is universal helps me let others in; understanding that my grief is unique helps me to give grace when their suggestions may fall short.

Grief is rarely nicely organized. Grief doesn’t fit into nice categories or pockets. And those that try to put it there want to medicate us too quickly instead of allowing us to process, to go the hard route of getting to the bottom of grief and slowly healing. Grieving well means understanding that it is not well-organized and the more I can accept that, the less surprised I will be when it comes on like a tsunami in the most unlikely places.

Grief is physical and emotional. Grief is exhausting. The yawning. The anger. The wanting to cry but knowing you can’t –  all of that is physically exhausting. Grieving well means that I’ll be conscious of how grief affects me physically and do what I can to sleep and to eat well: protein and vitamin C, those physical healers need to abound in my diet.

Grief is culturally based. From wailing at funerals in Pakistan to the stoicism in a German woman diagnosed with cancer, responses to grief are culturally based. I cannot assume that others are not grieving because their grief ‘looks’ different. Grief knows no national boundaries, but it is definitely culturally bound. Grieving well means understanding how the culture where I am now living both defines and copes with grief, yet understanding that as one who knows what it is to live between worlds, I can choose to define and cope in other ways.

Laughter in the midst of grief is okay. Grieving well means understanding that laughter and joy are holy gifts. In the midst of grief it can be amazing to laugh until you begin to cry. It feels wrong at times – how can we laugh when something so terrible has happened, or when grief rips our souls, when we’re still full of pain? The amazing truth is that we can laugh. And laughter is good. It is holy.

Spiritual truths that we believed when we weren’t grieving are still true. They just don’t feel true. So know God doesn’t waste pain. Never. Part of me doesn’t want to say this because it is so cliché. But it’s also truth. He doesn’t waste pain. He doesn’t waste grief. Period. Full stop.

He meets us under whirring fans or beside oceans; in cold bedrooms or curled up on couches. He is as present at six as he will be at sixty. He speaks to us in our grief and in our pain.  And he never, ever gives up on us – even when we give up on ourselves.

How do you grieve well? What truth have you learned about grief? Please do share – we need each other.

This essay (and others that speak to living between worlds) is available in the book Between Worlds: Essays on Culture and Belonging

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Part 3 – Re-entry: Reconstructing a life well-lived

Continuing the Re-Entry series….

In Part I, we discussed how the development of an individual identity, a sense of belonging with one’s peers, and close personal relationships are normal developmental tasks faced by every young adult.   In Part 2, we focused on how re-entry introduces an additional, often strenuous, developmental task – reconstructing our lives.

sartre quote

What story will you tell yourself about your reconstructed future? 

In a study of 450 re-entered early-adult TCKs, the primary source for psychological well-being and for psychological distress was a sense of fulfilling life goals, life purpose or life view, in the expected directions:  The more returnees felt they were fulfilling their purpose or living a meaningful life, the higher their well-being; alternatively, the less returnees felt they were fulfilling their purpose or living a meaningful life, the greater their distress.

So how do we reconstruct lives in our home cultures that are filled with well-being and purpose? 

According to Martin Seligman, the granddaddy of positive psychology, a sense of a life well-lived is based on five elements – known by the acronym, PERMA – which lead to a sense of well-being:

Positive emotion – heartfelt emotions that create a pleasant feeling, e.g. love, joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, and inspiration

Engagement – a state of flow, i.e. being so absorbed in a challenging, yet doable, activity that we lose track of time

Relationships – close, high-quality social connections

Meaning – living with purpose; contributing to something bigger than the self

Accomplishment – the pursuit of mastery, achievement and success

While everyone finds their own “right” mix of these elements, many early-adult TCKs appear to be tipped toward the need for meaning, and perhaps achievement, reflecting the life reconstruction underway.  If you happen to be one who feels the angst of marginality and dissonance, know that it gets better.

TCKs’ overall mental health improved as they reconstructed ways to fulfill their life goals and life meaning.

Reconstructing our lives begins by building continuity to offset the disequilibrium brought on by the novelty we encounter in our “home” culture.

  • How can we carry past valued relationships, beliefs and values into our present and future?
  • How long must we compartmentalize those aspects of ourselves that are different – or must we?
  • What environment would be the best match for us – for a good person-environment fit?

Reconstructing our lives continues as we search for ways to bring our worlds together – to benefit from both our past and our present, to understand and navigate our new world:

  • How might we turn our re-entry experiences into opportunities and possibilities?
  • How might we reintegrate our “unused life [and] unlived life” into a multidimensional whole self?
  • How might we turn our “a part of and a part from” experiences into a skill we can use constructively?
  • How might we find meaning and purpose in our lives again?

As you look to the next chapter in your story, what are you creating?  Might you gently free your fingers from clinging too tightly to distressing stories?  Might you flex your thoughts and find possibilities?  What would your best possible future self look like?

If you’d like to explore who your best possible future selves could be – what it might look like to have a meaningful future where you are at your best, you could complete the Best Possible Selves Exercise.  You can read about how this exercise can be helpful here.  Then, give it a try by answering the following:

Think about your top core values (e.g. relationships with friends and family, religion, creativity, athleticism, etc.) and your life in the future.  Consider why these core values are important to you, and imagine that everything has gone as well as it possibly could in fulfilling them.  You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your life goals.  Think of this as the realization of all of your life dreams.  Now, write about what you imagined.

Do this for 20 minutes per day for three days in a row.

What story did you tell yourself about your best possible reconstructed future?

Part 2 – Re-entry: Reconstructing our lives

In Part I, we discussed how the development of an individual identity, a sense of belonging with one’s peers, and close personal relationships are normal developmental tasks faced by every young adult.

Why then did it knock me off my bearings?

It’s because we face these during the major life transition of re-entry. The cultural changes we face may include a loss of status, a sense of marginality, a loss of friends and perhaps family, and often a loss of purpose and meaning. And the novel ideas, values, people and customs we encounter upon re-entry create a tension between our host and home cultures.

Culture shock

They require a transformation of our approach to the world – a reconstruction of our lives, which emerges as an additional developmental task, one uncommon among our peers. This layering of stressors and life tasks can throw us off balance, and can magnify the anxiety we feel when exploring typical early-adult tasks.

The first couple of years upon return to the U.S., I felt a definite “culture shock.” I had been a blonde among Japanese and all of a sudden I was a blonde among other blondes who all looked like me and I felt lost in the crowd – I wished I looked different because I knew I was different. On the other hand, I also wanted to belong but found that there were many conversational topics that I knew nothing about… and also attitudes/customs that I was unfamiliar with… On one hand I felt “older & wiser” than my college peers, and on the other hand felt inexperienced in life as an American 18 – 20 year old. ~ Re-entered TCK, 31 years of age

It is very difficult to even begin to try to explain what a bicultural upbringing is really like and how it can tear at the very foundations of your life… The whole pace of life and values seemed to be totally reversed… I was neither American nor Indian and I felt like it, an outsider in both worlds… I wish I could explain my anguish to you, but I can’t on paper. ~Re-entered TCK, 28 years of age

During re-entry, most of us maneuver the external demands of our new worlds well. It’s the inner tensions related to our life reconstructions that take some time to work through. It’s wise to not be overly pre-occupied by these tensions; instead, compassionately allowing ourselves time to once more find our bearings. It takes time.

I don’t think people realize how different you are after living overseas. Another country becomes “home” and then you are thrown back int your real “home” and it isn’t really home anymore… After a while it became a lot easier and I finally felt like I belonged… I hardly ever talk about living overseas… ~Re-entered TCK, 20 years of age

When I came back [to my home country], I was very much like a naïve immigrant who thought the streets would be paved with gold; I had a very idealistic idea of what to expect… But when the shock of reality had worn off, …I pretty much accepted things which confronted me… yet to this day, I still feel a part from the world around me… I feel very lucky for having lived overseas and if I had to live my life over again, I wouldn’t want it to be any different than the way it has been. ~Re-entered TCK, 33 years of age

While having simultaneous life stressors can take a toll and leave us vulnerable, studies show that they also give us opportunities to build coping skills and personal strengths. Negative emotions can also be appropriate and helpful if they ground us in reality (e.g. loss of close friends and family) and move us forward to constructive action (e.g. seek out new friends).

It often has been a lonely road full of difficult decisions. But I feel I am a more creative individual than those around me because of it. Though I found it difficult to adjust to my new life in the States, I wouldn’t trade my years overseas for anything. I can see things from different perspectives, understand the world around me more and enjoy life a little more than those around me. ~Re-entered TCK, 22 years of age

The first couple of years, I had a hard time. I was lucky I found an interest to keep me going, setting goals, etc. I met nice people who were interested in the same things. ~Re-entered TCK, 23 years of age

I found that I questioned my sanity a few times because I felt about things differently. As soon as I was able to say to myself, “I just had a different experience and that is why I am different,” then I was able to feel comfortable with other people. ~Re-entered TCK, 22 years of age

What coping skills and personal strengths are/will be part of your life story based on your time abroad and/or re-entry experiences?

In Part 3, we’ll discuss what a life well-lived looks like, and how we might go about reconstructing it.