... where did my Village go?
My girlfriend put things into perspective for me a few weeks ago when I was having a meltdown of epic proportions. I was complaining that while life was finally on an upswing and most things were moving into place ... there was still something I couldn't put my finger on that had me REALLY depressed.
She called it Reverse Culture Shock.
Reverse Culture Shock is defined as "returning to one's home culture after growing accustomed to a new one can produce the same effects as Culture Shock. This results from the psychosomatic and psychological consequences of the readjustment process to the primary culture, and is surprisingly more difficult to deal with than the original culture shock."
I spent an inordinate amount of time questioning how I could be dealing with this considering ... a.) I've been back in the States now for over a year now, and b.) I've spent more time living in the States than abroad. But as I slowly move out of my funk, I'm beginning to understand just how much this has affected me... and our family.
Last year with Matt in Iraq, I was purely in survival mode in our tiny California rental house. We had very few of our own belongings with us. I knew our situation was temporary. And in retrospect, that's exactly how I acted. That's how the girls acted. We talked more about our future in Virginia rather than enjoy the time we spent in California
Now that we're here in Virginia, living in our new house with all of our own things, our focus is on establishing roots. Making life-long friends. Building a community. Though, we're finding that settling in and starting anew isn't as easy as it used to be. Yes we are together again as a family. And yes, we are completely unpacked, with most of the construction issues behind us. Yet I still am in search that one elusive piece of the puzzle I'm certain will hold the key to my happiness.
The reality of my reverse culture shock, is that I am seeking something that just doesn't exist. That a large piece of what I've come to expect and appreciate with each overseas move, is missing here. Moving back to the States now means ... that we don't live on a compound or have an Embassy / Consulate looking out for us. We don't have the immediate built-in friendships of those who are in the same situation as us... friendships based on same experiences that start strong and last a lifetime. We don't have the built-in work / family social structure that has been our saving grace, even when we may not always have appreciated it at the time. And the parent's don't all go to the same work place and do the same kind of job ...
Now that I recognize I'm comparing what our past was like to what our future holds, I need to let it go. It. Is. Just. Hard. Moreover, it's lonely. It took me seven years in three different countries to be comfortable enough to accept the chaos ... the fishbowl ... the diplomatic lifestyle. My neighbors here don't understand Matt's crazy work hours. The new friends I have don't care. The stories we all shared at dinner parties and at official events now seem far fetched when I tell them. I mean ... how many of Riley's friends really care that for her 7th birthday we took her to Singapore? How many of Sheridan's friends actually believe that she's American, despite her being born in Oman? How do I delicately address Grady's affinity for darker skinned people?
These past few months have not been the easiest of transitions. From an interim boss for Matt ... to the girls being introduced to cliques for the first time ... to repeatedly putting myself out there and going outside of my comfort zone to meet new ladies and build new relationships... (because unlike kids, thirty to forty year old women don't just knock on each other's doors and ask to become friends ... though that would make it SO much easier).
But every day is a new day and we are finally moving in the right direction. We're making plans. We're making friends. We're addressing this as a family. And just as the seasons begin to change, so too do our attitudes, as we slowly begin building our own little village.
Or at the very least for now, a small tribe.