My “plan” for processing Thailand
The dust is settling a bit and we’re now living in our new home in the Bay Area of California. At the moment, it feels like an absolute dream that we ever lived in Thailand. Life is very different now and although I am in touch with friends in Thailand and think about our time there often, I sometimes wonder, “Did we actually live there?” I sometimes don’t like that that’s where my mind and heart are at in regards to Thailand. However, I can’t just sit around and process the Thailand experience to death as I usually do with life experiences because our new home needs to be settled, our new area needs to be explored, and well, meals need to be made, children need to be parented, that kind of thing. And so, I’m trying a new approach with processing the experience … it’s called the, “don’t force it,” approach.
I am introspective by nature and a counselor at heart and I don’t want to gloss over the deeper things that are going on within me (or in many cases, in other people) during any given experience. As a result, my tendency is to question myself about deep emotions I am having, struggles I may be experiencing, things I said or did, and the like. Sound exhausting? It is.
Processing experiences and digging deeper to get below the surface of how things appear is a good thing. I don’t want to live life on the surface and desire to be constantly growing into the person I was created to be. I believe asking oneself some hard questions is a necessary part of this process. BUT. I’ve now realized that I often do this out of fear of swinging the other way, of being in a place where I don’t think deeply about things in my heart at all. I’ve watched people who are completely disconnected from their heart (both intentionally and unintentionally) and I never want that to be me. I’ve also realized that I sometimes “over-process” as a way to control life. I act like if I can just figure out the why behind these things, I can then fix them. I believe I can think myself to a place where I completely understand what’s going on within me so that I no longer feel out of control. And, also? Over-processing can become downright self-focused. It really becomes about me, me, and me. I get sucked into the processing and I can no longer easier think outside of myself.
Please hear me out. Processing life, asking the deeper questions about what’s going on in one’s heart and mind … you should be doing some of that and I of all people am a huge advocate of you (and me) doing so. But if you’re like me, you needed to hear someone give you permission that sometimes you don’t need to process things. You just don’t, and shouldn’t (or at least, not at the moment). When a wiser, older friend (People, I’m serious. Have older and wiser friends in your life. You need them.) once told me that, I could not believe it. Seriously?! I didn’t need to figure out why I was having every deep emotion I was having? I don’t need to immediately get to the bottom of every struggle I was experiencing? But, but … wasn’t that somehow being irresponsible? Wasn’t that somehow living life just on the surface? And what if I then ceased being introspective at all?
If you know me deeply, you’ll know that’s a laughable prospect. As mentioned before, God wired me to ask the deeper questions of life, both of myself and of others. But what I am responsible for is living out life being wired such as I am in a way that does not lead to insanity (I jest, but only partially), without becoming completely self-absorbed, is not done out of fear or anxiety (nor leads to such things). I also need to let go of the different ways in which I try to control life when I need to entrust myself; my struggles, emotions, and the deeper things of my heart, to God. The God who can meet me where I’m at, and can do so perfectly.
This gets tricky because then people (me) who are more on the “type A” side of the spectrum want a formula for when to process things immediately, at a different time, or never. Well, fellow “formula-wanters,” I have bad (or good?) news for you. There’s no such formula. Instead, I’ve learned that I need to pray and wait on God for when certain things in my heart and mind need to be addressed. I’ve also learned that when I’m tired, hungry, super-emotional, or have other things I just need to attend to, I need to choose not to process things at that moment. Sometimes I return to things later on the same day. Sometimes the next day. Sometimes months down the road. And sometimes? I never return to them. But then there are those times when I have to process those deeper things when I’m tired, hungry, super-emotional and have other things I needed to attend to. Like I said … no formula.
Back to Thailand. I’ve had moments of grieving what it meant to leave there. I’m just now starting to be able to answer the questions of what I miss and what I don’t miss from living in Thailand. It’s happening slowly and I’m sure it will continue happening for some time, because that experience rocked my world.
But I’m not forcing it.