Friday, June 28, 2013

Keep Following

If you like to subscribe to my blog via Google Reader, you may be aware that it will shut down on July 1st. I am not going to be so presumptuous as to assume that mine is the only blog you follow - I'm guessing there are others and you'd like to keep following them as well.

I heard of this impending doom awhile ago and switched my blog reading over to a place called Feedly. It's a bit of a different format, but I got used to it after awhile. It even has a one click Google Reader import, so it's easy! It's one of many options you can use to keep following blogs.

So please keep following me - I'll still be blogging! 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Great Outdoors

I'm not an outdoor girl. I've said it before, but I could live happily in a bunker, as long as I had space to jump around. But after eight years in one of the most polluted cities in the world, I can't get enough of our neighborhood because it's just. so. beautiful. Here's evidence:

See, this is a SWAMP and I'm excited

Honestly I did not edit this

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Expectation Management

One of the best coping skills Erik and I learned in the early days of expat living was a simple phrase, "lower your standards!" When you read that, you have to imagine it with your best game show host voice, like you're inviting someone to an exciting opportunity behind door #1. It was all about expectations. If you expect that the bathroom you've been led to out the back door of a restaurant and down a dark alley will be a picture of cleanliness, you will be sorely disappointed. However, if you imagine that it will be a sufficient hole in the ground, you'll be satisfied. You get the idea.

It's called expectation management. The problem with expectations is that we are so often unaware of them. It doesn't occur to me that I would appreciate a toilet that flushes until I look up and see that the wall mounted reservoir in the back alley bathroom is partially missing and the frozen water within is still holding its shape. I can, apparently, flush in springtime.

I've been reminded lately how important it is to talk about our expectations.This is especially true with our kids. When we began summer vacation this year, they had an unspoken expectation that it would be like their three previous summers, when they spent all day, every day, outside with friends. Last summer I even had to call one mom and ask her if her kids could maybe not schedule the summer project involving my children quite as often because they weren't able to spend time with other kids. We were beating off the playdates with sticks.

This wasn't the case in Orlando. The kids they've met from school mostly live about an hour away, and others were preparing for long trips away. Within a few days we were all scratching hash marks on the walls. I finally realized we needed to have a talk about expectations with them, and we basically had to say, "lower your standards." It required a little more mourning of what they used to have, but within a day their "I'm bored" statements had reduced significantly. It's a process of looking at reality and making adjustments.

So often when I am frustrated with life it is because I expected it to be a certain way and it isn't. Many of my expectations are residual, left over from what I was accustomed to having in my "previous" life. It's helpful for me to take a hard look at the expectations I have and ask myself if they are realistic in this new season of life. Some of them might not be, and that's where I need to tell myself to "lower my standards." It doesn't mean I'm giving up hope. I think it means I'm choosing contentment.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Real Me

It happened yesterday at the dentist. I was myself. I mean, really truly, like just how I would be if I were with someone I'd known forever. I was chatty. I made witty comments. They laughed. It felt comfortable, and normal, and I thought, "Hey, I'm being me! With people I just met!" This is progress.

You'd think I'd always be me - isn't everyone? - but I'm still getting there. A friend of mine here reminded me lately that when someone has gone through a major transition, you should assume for the first year that you don't really know the real them.

Ah, how true.

It was good to hear that again because I know that my traditional transition stress reaction is withdrawal. I usually don't realize I'm doing it until people make comments like, "Gosh, I thought you were so reserved and quiet, but . . . " (It's ok, go ahead and finish that thought, "but you're actually kind of goofy and don't stop talking.")

The first time I did it was when I got married, and everything in my world changed - new city, new job, new home, new roommate, new church, new friends. I met one of my good friends that year, and she thought I didn't like her the whole year. Meanwhile I was saying to my husband, "I really like her! I hope she'll be my friend!" Sigh. I had no idea.

Since then I'm at least aware of it (the first step is admitting you have a problem). I think I am doing better here, but I think it's partly because there are people I am myself with because they already know me. Or people who are just so inviting they make me want to show up all at once. There are others though who still think I'm the quiet type. Just wait, I want to say.

A person who has just gone through transition is a bit like a new house plant. You can give it the best environment, but it's probably going to wilt a little at first. Give it time. It'll perk up. Pretty soon the real Gina will show up and the "I just played Dizzy Lizzy* with my life and I can't walk quite straight" Gina will fade away. I'm still just a little shell shocked and not so sure of myself here so I shut down the non-essentials and just focus on getting through. I'm triaging. But as we say in the middle kingdom, "yue lai yue" - it's coming gradually.

Like at the dentist. The prospect of major dental work somehow drew me out. Who knew?

*Dizzy Lizzy, for the uninitiated, is a game in which you place your head on the top of a baseball bat, spin around several times while maintaining contact with the bat, and then attempt to walk toward a destination in the distance. It seems like it should be so easy but it is hard. Very, very hard. Like, "walk sideways until you fall down while your friends laugh hysterically" hard. But oh so fun.