Saturday, September 17, 2011

The great majority of us are required to live a life of constant duplicity. Your health is bound to be affected if, day after day, you say the opposite of what you feel, if you grovel before what you dislike, and rejoice at what brings you nothing but misfortune. ~Boris Pasternak

This is an incredibly difficult post to write and touches on two main subjects: homesickness and happiness. However, anytime I take a moment of reflection, it is extraordinarily difficult to look at myself with the same kindness as I do others. This is not a phenomenon. We are all kinder to others than ourselves.

When I was visiting, a friend told me much she enjoyed my blog and how positive she couldn’t believe I was and how she’d never have been able to do it. Which I doubt—you do what you have to do and I have been blessed with strong people in my life (there are no doubts she could handle anything thrown at her).

But, truthfully, I’ve had a horrible time adjusting. Sam went from a job in the States to a job here; the children went from a school in the States to a school here, and me. Well . . . that’s a different story. I went from a place where I had great friends and family and activities that I enjoyed to nothing.

That’s not to say there are not enjoyable things here (the earlier posts explore that). I’ve made friends (some of which have become close friendships) in the expat community and I am struck by the fact that moving to such a strange world for the purpose of having a completely different life experience—what you end up truly wanting is “home.” Think about anytime you’ve traveled overseas and how you’re more than a little excited when you find an American.

I was told by many people that going back to the States would assuage that homesickness and I’d be so glad to be back in the UAE. But, driving through the Smoky Mountains, I had to fight back the tears just a bit. Then, I found an intense irony in how I’d worked all my life to get out of the sleepy town I grew up in to find myself desperately wanting to be back. I miss the South with an intensity I didn’t know possible. At the heart of it all, we crave understanding and people who know us. There is a comfort in being around those who have known us since early childhood. The friendship that Edith Wharton describes as, “There is one friend in the life of each of us who seems not a separate person, however dear and beloved, but an expansion, an interpretation, of one's self, the very meaning of one's soul.”

Those are the people we miss most when we’re gone. Everyone has that friend that despite them being apart for years, always seems like no time has passed when you see each other.

Ultimately, I’m a fake. I’ve put on a marvelous show of keeping my head high and maintaining my positive attitude, hoping it would be enough to dislodge this perpetual lump in my stomach. There are certain things here that I find mortifying as an American woman: in order to go back to school, I have to submit Sam’s financial documents. And I can’t even open my own checking account without actual employment. Finding a teaching job has been a nightmare. These are all things outside my control.

Although, the most aggravating factors are those that were within my control: allowing my teaching license to expire, not going back to work when I truly wanted to do so, allowing myself to be persuaded that unless a career made a lot of money, it really wasn’t worth doing, allowing important issues to fall by the wayside for fear of “rocking the boat.” These are my fault, but fortunately, not irreparable. With time, they will be remedied. It’s not to say I’ve regretted the use of my time—I stayed home with the children. I’m a good parent, an excellent wife, and I maintained a comfortable life for my family. A certain amount of this was at expense to me, but the sacrifice was usually made willingly. But, I’ve reached a point where the resources have been depleted and I’m ready to find something that makes me hop out of bed in the morning.

Despite the incredible changes the last year have brought, I find myself the same. And I’m tired. I’m ready to do more and be more, and over time I’m ready to take back the things I’ve given up and choose to make myself happy. The children don’t want a miserable mom any more than I wish to be one.

For now, my friends are my buoy. My new friends here, my friends back home: thanks for keeping me centered and encouraging me. Change is a good thing.

The only difference between a rut and a grave is their dimensions. ~Ellen Glasgow

Monday, September 12, 2011

There is a time to take counsel of your fears, and there is a time to never listen to any fear. ~George S. Patton

As I look back on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I (as I'm sure many) have very complex feelings. This is somewhat compounded by the fact that I live in a Muslim country. And I continue to realize how much of our fear is motivated by misunderstanding, which quite often turns into prejudice. I've had an opportunity to have many conversations with people regarding this issue (American and otherwise). Certain things I heard growing up from teachers, parents, religious leaders I have found to be only slight shades of truth, if not complete and total falsehoods. But, I’ll leave that for another post as there are more pressing issues. . .
While I have grieved for the people killed, their families, and our nation and world, my thoughts often turned to those intimately involved with 9/11. For those interviewed in positions of responsibility and power in the wake of 9/11, there have been determinations there was “nothing” they could have done. They did their jobs and when they realized the magnitude of terror, they continued to do their jobs (oftentimes putting aside their own fear and concern, and sometimes lives, for themselves and families) in the hopes that as many people could be saved as possible.
9/11 forever changed the scope of our world. While it happened on American soil, there were victims from over 90 nationalities. We were united as a world: disbelief, horror, grief, compassion, sincerity. We were brought together by horrific circumstances and over time as our collective psyche healed, we resolved ourselves to the idea “There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them (Andre Gide).”
Some have continued their lives by simply putting one foot in front of the other, realizing “today is the worst day you’ll ever have. Tomorrow will be a little better and each day will continue to improve.” This is not to discount the horror, but to simply understand how grief and disbelief are intertwined. Some continue to seek help for stress. Some have never been able to return to their jobs.
As I continue my introspection, I am choosing to keep an open mind. That is not to say I don’t experience fear, uncertainty, hesitancy as these are quite often useful emotions that will protect you at a primal level. But, I will travel, I will meet people, I will experience the world. Living in fear is simply no way to live. And I can’t be held hostage by the possibility of what might happen.
To close, I’ll continue to steal from another wise person; I’ve copied and pasted TG’s status update from September 11th:
“Today is not a day for memory. Everyday is.
Remember to not be filled with hate.
Remember to not treat people like things.
Remember that it is the collective sum of all of our choices that create the world we live in. Your choices are important. Even the small ones.
Namaste'. I honor that part of you that is also in me."

Fear makes strangers of people who would be friends. ~Shirley Maclaine