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


  1. I am forever amazed by your bravery. To pick up and bring your kids to a completely new country, and now to share your honesty about how hard this really is.

    more people should learn from this type of honesty.

  2. Yes, my wife is an amazing woman. Thanks babe and I love you dearly.

  3. Monique, on top of brave, honest, and amazing, I'll add that you're incredibly wise. It takes far too many women decades to realize that they've sacrificed too much and years more to reclaim themselves. Recognizing and attending to your own needs is surprisingly difficult, and it's compounded by the fear of appearing selfish. In being able to understand those needs and voice them, you've won half the battle. Many hugs...I have no doubt that you're going to be just fine.