Welcome to Day 15 of a 31 day challenge to write 500 words or more. For more on that click here: goinswriter.com
Cross cultural life is easily and often described with negative words. Fair enough.
Frustrating. Challenging. Overwhelming. Stressful. Confusing.
That’s the one I love the most. It feels so accurate doesn’t it? The picture in my head looks something like this: standing out in the barnyard while a tornado goes by. The house is being blown away. Boards and chickens are flying by and I am clinging for dear life to the old oak tree trying not to get sucked into the vortex.
Nothing is in my control. Everything is chaos.
Here’s the thing though. Life here is not chaotic. People have been living and doing quite well here for thousands of years. I see them out there, every day, living their lives without a cloud in the sky or a chicken in the air. The chaos is not actually an external reality, it is an internal condition.
I FEEL chaotic but life is NOT chaotic. My chaos is directly connected to the gap between what I expected to happen and what actually ends up happening — the gap between my desire to accomplish something and the time and effort it takes me to accomplish it — the gap between how I want things to be and how they really are.
Much of the chaos of expat life, though could be resolved by understanding the rhythms.
They rhythms are the things that you can see coming. They are the events that are bound to happen over and over again and even though we may not like them we could have braced for them, prepared for them.
When I look at my life through chaotic lenses I say things like this:
- We have moved 8 times in the last 9 years.
- We travel all the time.
- My kids feel rootless.
- People in our community constantly leave.
- New people keep showing up.
- I don’t know who my friends are going to be from year to year.
- Everyone stares at me when I go out.
- I don’t speak this language well and it’s frustrating.
My theory is that there could be a significant shift in perspective if we could find the rhythms in what feels like chaos. Asking some simple questions could be a good place to begin. Questions like:
- What happens (or is likely to happen) every January regardless of what else changes?
- What is Tuesday likely to look like no matter what?
- When do people leave?
- When do new people show up?
Then asking, “how would knowing the answers to these questions help me bring some order to the chaos?” Being familiar with the cycles and the repetition affords me the luxury of adjusting my expectations . . . and when I know what it coming it’s hard to label it as chaotic.
So many rabbits to chase on this topic. Here are a few that have come up just from writing this one post:
- Pessimism’s impact on life abroad
- Expat Gaps
- The uber significance of intentionality
And those are my 500 words