Sunday, September 15, 2013

You Won Me Over, You Did

Ode - Room Eleven

“Success is the other side of frustration.” I read that somewhere, you know – one of those motivational quotes that pops up on your Facebook feed with a romanticized photo of a sunset, beach, or mountain.  Cheesy, but sometimes, it hits you at the right moment. 

I didn’t think we were going to make it. I don’t know if that came across in my blog, but last summer, after it rained for thirteen days straight in July, I was about to lose my mind and give it all up. All the Expat blogs I had read, the people I had talked to, all pieces of advice were consistent – “it takes about six months to adjust” - and I just wasn’t feeling it at all. “It’s supposed to be better by now, I thought to myself,” as I looked in the mirror and I knew we weren’t even close. I started to panic, my confidence wavering. V’s work was hectic, too hectic. I looked out the bathroom window at the endless drizzle flooding my Texas-bred sunshine soul. At the library, in between chasing my kids around, I spouted off to a fellow Expat Mom that I wasn’t lonely – that we were always so busy back in the States – that it was nice to focus on my nuclear family for a while, do the things I always wanted to – go to museums & the park with the kids, cook, clean, read, write, while still being able to travel.  I told her that I didn’t mind the isolation, or at least I didn’t think I did.  I was never alone and I was constantly busy with the tasks of taking care of Cosette, Holden, and our dogs Tyler & Dash. In reality though, I was still getting the hang of becoming a full-time Mom, and Vinny and I were on edge. Holden was a horrible sleeper – some nights up at 10 p.m., 11p.m., 12p.m., 2a.m, 4a.m., & 6 a.m., so the 24-hour care was intense and took a toll on our sleep, our time together, and our sanity. I was tired. Tired from the lack of sleep, but also from biking the kids around, pushing the double stroller everywhere we went, etc. We had a car, but I was afraid to drive it, not that it mattered – very few places in Leiden even had parking available. Vinny would come home spent – mentally exhausted from his job and I’d be at the end of my rope with the kids screaming, trying to get dinner ready, the dogs barking to be fed as well.  Both of us were individually facing the hardest jobs we had ever had. We were both drained and needed each other’s support, but neither of us had a lot of energy left to give. There were a few occasions where we threatened to throw in the towel and just move back to Texas

We drove. We ate Chick-Fil-A three times within two days. We shopped at Target, spent $75 in 20 minutes and found everything I had been searching fruitlessly for in Leiden over the past nine months. We saw everyone we ever knew in ten days. Our house was still there. Our friends and family were still there. Five Guys Burgers still there.  Holden was still up at night. V and I were still stressed.  I realized that it didn’t matter.  It didn’t matter where in the world we were, there would always be happiness and stress as a family. We had been given an amazing gift of time and it was up to us to make the most of it. As I said a tearful goodbye to my best friend at DFW, I knew, in my heart that I was ready to go to my ‘other home’ in Leiden. There was work to be done.          

After my visit to Texas, my thinking shifted – continents, time zones, and perspective. I didn’t reflect as much about what was happening in America or even compare this to that – I was beginning to find my way, as an Expat – a strange identity that’s neither here nor there, which can be really, kind of fun. Like Dutch pannenkoeken with Duncan Hines chocolate frosting, I started incorporating the best of both cultures. I felt like I was able to appreciate both, have frustrations with both, but ultimately mesh the two into something new, something mine. I hosted a Christmas Party for my Book Club, and for any reader that’s ever met me – you know that hosting parties is one of my most favorite things to do. In my attempts to isolate myself and focus more on my family, I started to fill my calendar – book club, writing group, birthday parties, trips out of town, dinner guests, date night, friends visiting, etc. And as I started to run (or rather bike) from here to there, to meet this person, or coordinate that girls night out, (and recently) working evenings and weekends. . . I realized, that I had come full circle, reflective of the ridiculously busy life I thought I wanted to escape in America. . . and I couldn’t be happier.    

We decided to try and extend our rotation. Before we moved, my dream was to stay three years.  I knew the first two years were going to be tough with Holden, since he was only three months old when we arrived and the thought of moving when he just turned two (supposedly, when things got a little better) made me sad.  It wasn’t until Vinny had his review with his manager a few months ago, that he learned that they actually kind of liked him, appreciated him, and wanted him to stay past December 2013, our original departure date. We took this information and ran with it. Conference calls, approvals from Dallas, correspondence with rotation coordinators in New Jersey, all of Europe being on holiday in August – and we finally found the answer a week ago – we’ve been approved to stay until October 2014. 

There’s more work to be done. The inevitable task of renewing residence permits, leases, and creating Target list for our next trip to Texas, but we’re excited. I’m proud that we’ve made it thus far – when I didn’t think I could make it one more day, I’m now excited about another year.      

I was never too hysterical
I thought myself too smart
But I loved your music
Words right from the heart

Well, sometimes I changed them
Into what I want them to be
But you changed something
You changed me

- Room Eleven, Ode.