I hope you’ll join me as I navigate the re-entry stage in our repatriation journey. Every three months I’ll share a series of ‘snapshot’ blog posts about the particulars of building a new life from scratch, filed under the post category Re-entry Reality. I’ll look at everything from making a home, engaging socially, staying healthy, and stretching creatively, to becoming part of a community, launching new career endeavors and addressing spiritual needs and emotional well being. The first post in the initial three-month review, Why Here, examined where we decided to repatriate.
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It was nearly three months ago to the day when Daughter and I walked out of the airport following our flight from the Netherlands and into the blast furnace heat of a northern Virginia mid-afternoon in early July.
We had a tough road ahead of us, literally and figuratively. Our immediate concern was the five hour+ drive in rush hour traffic, with our dog Oli and cat Ava in tow.
Our immediate destination would be North Carolina, the first stop in a series of comings and goings which would include three trips to Florida, spending precious time with my parents as my father’s health declined rapidly, being reunited on this side of the pond with Husband and Son who had followed ten days behind us, closing on the house we’d put under contract, nailing down Daughter’s place at school, camping in our new home while awaiting arrival of our household goods shipment, my father’s passing and memorial service, getting Son ready for return to university.
All of that and more – far more – awaited.
However, for those few minutes as Daughter and I struggled to get the pet carriers, hand luggage and large suitcases aboard the shuttle bus headed for the rental car facility, the feeling of being on the cusp of a new adventure did permeate the fog of jet lag and concern, and lifted my spirits just a bit.
Because isn’t that what transitions offer? The promise of a fresh start, the allure of new beginnings, the adventure of fashioning another life…
Indeed they do. Yet they are only one side of the re-entry coin: the other is the lack of familiar faces, activities, routines, rituals, structure.
For each of the past ninety days I’ve been chipping away at an extensive ‘to do’ list chock full of items. Some are mundane: arranging for utilities, deciding where to store kitchen utensils and cooking paraphernalia – closer to the stove or the refrigerator? high shelf or low cabinet? – hanging pictures, prints and art work, renewing my driver’s license.
Other tasks are practical: finding curtains for the master bedroom, replacing a leaky shower door, arranging and re-arranging furniture to get the ‘feel’ of each room, buying a car.
Still other items on the list are more substantive: getting Daughter settled in her new school, kicking around questions and ideas with Husband as we both consider what career adjustments we want to make, deciding on my next big writing project, reconnecting with old friends while beginning the process of seeking out new, supporting my mother in the early days of widowhood after 62 years with my father.
At times it is daunting. We celebrate the smallest of victories, and keep plugging away. We work hard, yet take time to care for ourselves and each other. When problems arise or things prove overly difficult, I try to put a good night’s sleep between us and those feelings of being unanchored, adrift, lonely. We spend time together, and look ahead. We laugh a fair amount, and sometimes we don’t. There has even been a tear or two shed along the way.
After going through many transitions over the years, what is the single most important thing I’ve learned?
Transitions are exhausting.
No two ways about it. They are energy vacuums, sucking the stamina and vitality and vigor right out of you.
They are also to be respected, which is why my mantra has been ‘Be one with the transition.’ Over and over and over again.
Be one with the transition.
Emotional resilience at its finest: Be one with the transition.
All together now
Be one with – well, you get the picture.
So when family and friends ask how (or what) I’m doing, I say this: every morning, I get up and strap on my imaginary tool belt. You know, the one carpenters and construction workers use to hold the instruments of their trade.
The difference is that I’m not pounding nails, cutting sheet rock, painting walls.
But I am ripping out old emotional dry wall, laying a solid foundation, filling in cracks along the fault lines in my life. I’m plastering over the niggling holes formed when I yanked myself away from one life and plopped down in another.
And where the crevices are too large to fill, the holes too gaping, the edges too rough to smooth over? I’m having to tear it all down and start over, building anew from the ground up.
I do this every day, a little work here and a little work there.
It’s a life under renovation, an existence under construction.
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I hope you’ll join me as I navigate the re-entry stage in this repatriation journey. In the weeks and months to come, I’ll be sharing blog posts about the particulars of building a new life from scratch, everything from making a home, engaging socially, staying healthy, and stretching creatively, to becoming part of a community, launching new career endeavors and addressing spiritual needs and emotional well being.
[Photo attribution: Adamr, portfolio 4061 at freedigitalphotos.net]