Please excuse my appearance, but I’m completely off balance these days. I thought I had it all together, thought I finally had a grasp on things but no. My proverbial plate is too full. I’m not quite sure how it filled so quickly and now the damn thing has overflowed.
Life on the road can be stressful, mainly because you never quite know what will happen next, but life in one place? Turns out the switch between traveler and expat hit me much harder than I could have expected. Now we have a lease on a house, Lila’s in school, and we have work. We are committed. In some ways, that’s really lovely, something I found myself dearly craving after so long without a place to call home.
Emmanuelle Archer, a professional expat I met through Twitter read my last World Blog Surf Day post and recognized the expat melancholy. She e-mailed me to express concern and offer a listening ear. Emmanuelle’s website, Winning Away Expat Tips and Resources, offers a wide assortment of advice, outlook and resources to help adjust to your new country and life.
Of course, I’ve been so busy trying to settle in, work, get the house cleaned and liveable, find my way around, meet people, locate doctors for the family, I haven’t written back. I’m pulled in so many directions I don’t even know where to go first.
Then there’s my new job at Matador. It’s quite an amazing experience. I’m meeting creative, interesting people, honing my writing skills. I’m learning loads about search engine optimization, writing articles that bring big hits and producing (hopefully) quality pieces in short time. Matador has opened up my writing and teaching career in new wonderful ways.
It’s also my first so-called real job since before Lila was born. The pace is wicked fast, and I too often feel I’m struggling to keep up. I now have daily deadlines and people who will ask questions if they are not met. In many ways, Matador pulls me back into the I-need-it-all-and-I-need-it-now world I wanted to escape when we chose to leave New York.
Thus my life feels like triage. I run from one line of my to-do list to the next, never quite paying complete attention to anything and never finding time to properly rest. Ironic, I think, given that what I write for Matador is all about finding balance and thriving when you’re not on vacation. On the job training, I suppose.
So Why Is This and What Can We Do?
As I’ve struggled with all this, I’ve come up with four different reasons why life balance -- too often happiness as well -- eludes us.
This is how I felt when living in NYC. Not at first, mind you. The city challenged me, but after ten years there, I no longer enjoyed it the choices I'd made for my life. I felt stuck, angry, uncomfortable. I just wanted to be free.
We spent the last three years searching and have since found ourselves in a wonderful new city, where the people are perhaps the kindest, most helpful and most decent I have ever met. My work is going well. Lila is happy with school and friends. Noah and I have new projects on the horizon, and all seems well.
I have everything I could want, so why so unhappy little bear?
We're adjusting to something new.
I recently saw Facebook status update from Paulo Coelho saying: Change is part of life. Friction is part of change. Get used to it.
Yes, change is a part of life, and often the good, happy sort takes as much adjustment as the really hard painful kind. Perhaps the key is to simply, as Coelho suggests, accept it. Let it just exist and eventually, friction wears down to comfort again.
We Need Something New
So it stands to reason, that if change is a normal healthy part oflife, if you’re not changing, you’re stagnating and thus will feel friction from that as well. Sort of can’t win on the happiness train, can you? Then again, it’s not really so much about winning as it is realizing that life is a cycle of constant movement.
This is different from my first point in that you can have everything you want in your life, nothing is missing, but you are searching for change. Many times, you simply need to shake things up before going back to your life as it was.
We Always Want More, More, More
You’re thinking of the future and past, what you used to have, what you hope to have. You look at your life, house, career, spouse and friends seeing what isn’t there, what could be, what used to be. Worst of all, when you turn this eye on yourself, the criticism will be the most harsh.
While happiness isn't something we can expect to have every moment of every day of our lives, at times sadness is necessary, this sort of thinking will leave us permanently dissatisfied. Unless you break away from this cycle, you’ll never find those crucial moments of rest and happiness.
So Where Do I Go From Here?
I sit here at home typing with a gentle breeze blowing through the kitchen, birds of all ilk chirping and still I wonder to why I can't shake this feeling. I don't feel myself anymore.
Then I realize, perhaps it is not that I am somehow not myself. Instead, there is a part of me that will always remain off balance until I make the clear choice to shift my thinking.
"How?" you may wonder. Well, first step is recognizing why you feel the way you do. Then you can start making a change.
DISCUSSION POINT: Where are you in the spectrum I describe here? And what do you do to make changes in your life? Or maybe you're one of the few, the proud, the content to be where they are. Perhaps you have some tips to share with the rest of us.