On being back
Obviously, I don’t do so well at blogging in the midst of intense transition. Blogging is one of the ways I process life and well, I haven’t had a ton of time to process in the past month or so. Packing up our life in Thailand, living out of suitcases for the last 1.5 weeks there after leaving our house, spending last times with people who had become incredibly dear to us, catching a flight to Hong Kong, and then another flight to America after 2 days in Hong Kong, tends to keep one a bit busy. And then there’s dealing with jet-lag and having to encourage our bodies (and our kids’ bodies) to eat, sleep, and function at totally different times than we had been the previous 12 months. Then, a week after returning, the kids and I flew to Minnesota and are now with my parents in Wisconsin. I’m not complaining; the aforementioned things are all just a part of the process of returning, but … wow. However, I’m grateful because it all has gone really well overall, and some sweet reunions with loved ones have happened.
But today, I have some time to sit by myself and think. I’m at the only coffee shop in the small Wisconsin town where my parents live. It’s cloudy, rainy, and about 60 degrees colder than the current highs in Chiang Mai, and the smell of a Midwest spring is in the air. And as much as this alone time has been desperately needed, I’ll confess that I felt a bit nervous when my mom dropped me off here (remember the expired license thing? For now, I’m back to be chauffeured around by my mother.). I no longer had the responsibility of looking after my children because they were off happily running errands with their Papa, and I wasn’t sure what might come up when I was finally alone.
Nonetheless, I was thankful for the time, so I went on in, ordered my vanilla latte, and settled into a corner of the coffee shop. I have spent time looking back at pictures from our last days in Chiang Mai. I have smiled, remembered, and cried. I cried as I sat in my seat of the Singapore Air flight that took us far away from Asia, but I have not cried much since. But now? The tears are coming. I’m not sure all the specific reasons they are coming, but I don’t need to know. I find comfort just in the fact that they are.
People have asked me what it’s like to be back. To be honest, I’m not sure. I’m thankful to be back for so many reasons, of course. I have watched my kids play happily with their cousins. I have gotten to hug my parents after not doing so for about 14 months. I am enjoying drinking water out of the faucet, and I find comfort in the fact that I “get” so much of the culture in which I’m now in. BUT. What do I do with the fact that the people who have become like family are now 8,000 miles away and that it’s not possible to drop in and see them when we’re in the area because we won’t be in the area anytime soon? With the fact that, throughout each day, I often calculate the time difference and imagine what our friends might be doing in Thailand at that moment? With the fact that one day recently, I found comfort that there was a pigeon flying around in the Safeway produce department because it reminded me of the open-air restaurants and markets in Thailand? With the reality that I am forever changed from the last year and am not sure how it translates for me to be back amidst those personal changes? I’m not sure.
Before leaving Thailand, I had coffee with my wise friend, Pam. I remember telling her through my tears that I didn’t have any box in which to put the sort of leaving we were about to do. I didn’t know what to expect; I didn’t know how to even approach thinking about the leaving, or about the returning. This unnerved me. She told me that I’d have to create a new box for my upcoming experience. Did I mention that she’s wise? These were timely words for me and challenged me to be ok not knowing what the experience of leaving or returning would look like. In addition, since I’ve been back, a friend in Thailand (both she and her husband were third-culture kids) told me that her husband once said that things get a bit more complicated the more places you live. I now get that in a way I didn’t before, even though I have moved around the US a fair amount.
So, what it’s like to be back? It’s sweet in many ways, sad in other ways, and overall a bit complicated. A new box is being created for such experiences. And that’s about how I can answer that question for now … and I’m realizing that’s ok.