I want to document this for a few reasons:
Facebook lies....it tells the story that you want it to tell. Yes, I have taken some amazing trips with the family and yes, we had one night with a whole group of people over, but that is not day to day reality. It looks like we are adjusting well....but that's not reality.
The other reason for the post, upon arrival back in the States, whether it be 1 month, 1 year or 3 years from now, I will tend to look back at things with rose colored glasses and say, "Oh it wasn't that bad." Isn't that how it always goes? I want to remember exactly how bad it was, not just for myself but for others who might follow behind me. This so far has not been a great experience, one that I will go into later. I have really questioned what is wrong with me. Before leaving I heard, "it's the best thing I ever did. I would go back in a heartbeat." What I didn't hear was how hard it was to get to that point and that people that have gone before me have struggled too.
It's been a relief for my mental health to hear things as I have questioned those who have gone before me this week say, "I was depressed, almost to the point of hospitalization," "I ended up in counseling for the first year," "I remember breaking down and making my spouse feel bad that the family was moved," and my personal favorite, "how much alcohol do you have?" It is reassuring to know that I am not alone although it certainly does not solve the situation. What is best for our family?
So what is reality? I want to come home. The kids want to come home. Everyone longs for friends, family and as Grayson said, "the sun!" It's not just me that feels this way. Michaela is threatening to run away or at least get a new dad since, "he's the one who moved us here."
It is hard, very hard.
Yes, we knew it would be hard, but we never knew just how hard it would be. It's kind of like when you get married or have kids...moonlight and roses or matching non-stained white shirts sitting on the beach, when reality is dirty laundry, dirty floors, dirty kids. Didn't you ever feel duped? That's how I feel now.
The culture is different.
Yes, they speak the language, sort of, but they use the metric system, drive on the wrong side of the road, cuts of meat are called different things, eggs are left on the counter, life starts later. School here starts at 9....half my day in Texas was already over at that point. I still haven't decided on the roundabout. Life is much simpler when you have 3 choices to go at a 4 way stop. They are friendly, but not in a Texas sort of way. You don't stop at the grocery store to have a 10 minute chat with the cashier, you are too busy bagging your own groceries.
I did introduce one of the ladies here to boxed brownies, Ghiradelli at that (thanks Costco). She had never seen anything like it. Oh how I miss boxed brownies, muffins, etc.
Americans are big on convenience. I miss that, really miss that. I need a CFA when I am too tired to cook. Drive thrus are few and far between here. You pay to park anywhere you go and speaking of parking, they park on both sides of the street going in both directions. It really confuses me especially when I can't remember what side of the road I am supposed to be on. They walk more, which is good, except that it rains, well, drizzles....a lot!
The weather is miserable.
Oh how I miss the Texas sun. Cold, rainy, dreary and when we first moved the days were 7 hours long. 7 short hours. We drove home from school in the dark. We see the sun, for a few hours during the week, but mostly since arrival it has been overcast, cold, windy days. Not really a fan! We have been reassured that it gets better as spring and summer gets here and we have been told more than once, "you moved here at the worst possible time of the year," but somehow that's not helping.
There are no kids around.
We went from a street that had 15 kids on it that went in and out of our house to a house every afternoon to where there is one little girl around. The kids are in a great British private school, but that also brings the challenge that families are driving in from all different areas to bring kids. There are no after school play dates or just running here and there to see people. Plus, everyone has multiple kids so to arrange a meeting is challenging, not to mention the drab, overcast weather and school ending at 5 pm. Afternoon play dates are not part of the equation right now.
Everything is very small.
And I mean small (please forgive me, Mrs. Thorpe for starting a sentence with the word "and."). The girls are sharing a room that is the size of my closet in Texas, promise I am not exaggerating. They went from each having their own Texas sized room to sharing a room where they can't turn around, a tiny closet and one dresser. Even I feel claustrophobic in there and there is one of me. Grayson's room isn't much bigger, doesn't have a closet, but at least there is one of him in there. It's less than ideal given the changes they have been through.
Roads that Texans would consider one lane roads are dual carriageways....and sometimes will turn to a one lane road leaving me to question, "who has the right of way?" I can't get in and out of parking places and sometimes a quick trip to Costco just so I can see an American sized parking lot is nice! Not to mention - where are the shoulders?
The kids fight nonstop.
Given the above, no surprise that there is constant yelling and screaming of the kids. Michaela (my introvert) who needs space to retreat to, has none. Hope, my extrovert who needs friends, is finding the girls to be well, girls and exclusive. Grayson, who needs to run outside, is stuck indoors. One can not even imagine the screaming, arguing, hatefulness that is occurring between the children right now.
None of my appliances work correctly.
We are on a first name basis with the plumber as some day the toilet flushes and some days we are able to wash our hands afterwards. Some days, the water might squirt out at us and leave a big water spot in a belly. We may or may not have water pressure for a shower. The microwave is broken and the landlord won't fix, the dryer doesn't dry, the oven is inconsistent so things are either burned or undercooked and the dishwasher leaves water stains on everything because the water is so hard. The car sometimes works. All of these yes are minor annoyances, but on top of an international move, it adds to the frustration.
It is lonely.
I spend the majority of my days at home trying to figure out what to do. I take the kids to school, may/may not run (haven't felt like it), cook, wash clothes and that's about it. VERY lonely. It seems most of the women here work or the ones I have met have newborns. Plus, I have been told outright, "you are only going to be here a short while, I don't want to put forth the effort." We did have our church group over for a dinner, but that was one time. During the week, it's hard to get together because everyone already has their own lives. Reality.
I have looked into volunteering at the church - was told you have to be here 6 months first, looked for a BSF or CBS class as well as an expat group- nearest ones hour and a half away, running groups meet at night (as do most groups and right now, I need to be home helping my kids adjust), have started networking to see about a job, but reality is there's nothing and that's tough. I spend most days couped up at home by myself. It's a little easier for Jamison as he has the instant connection of work and people there - apparently those were the same words out of another expat's mouth as well.
Part of reality is we don't live near London where there seems to be a concentration of activity and expats.
There are a lot of tears.
I cry, the kids cry a lot. Daily we cry.
I have felt less than adequate as a wife and mom.
As much as I want to support Jamison all of this combined is too much and while I know it affects him, I don't at this point know how to support him.
What next? Not sure....we don't know. We are praying. We are seeking wisdom. We are seeking God's guidance.