Tuesday, December 27, 2011


I've said it before, but this space is long overdue for a face-lift. As far as my profile is concerned, I still live in Shanghai China and am "loving the adventure" there. The fact is I live in Royal Oak Michigan, and I can't come close to a similar sentiment regarding loving or adventure here.

While I recognize that this was part of my life and that I need to move forward, I am feeling strangely nostalgic these days. As I sit here contemplating how to approach the changes needed, I feel slightly tempted to leave this blog as it is and just start a new one. I have moments where I embrace the new and look forward to what will come, but I admit that those are few and far between right now.

It feels like I've taken a step back recently. We moved back to the US over eight months ago, and instead of feeling all settled in and ready to ride this wave, I find my thoughts going toward the what ifs. What if we had stayed in Shanghai? What if we could go back? What if? What if? What if? It's unexpected and frustrating. I figured I would have gone through these thoughts and emotions in the beginning of repatriation--not eight months after moving back to my home country. I can psychoanalyze it to the nth degree, but I have decided to take a less painful approach and simply accept this as part of the process and try to understand it a little better.

This brings me to a note about our culture. So much of our culture is built around the worship of organization and methodology. We focus on minimizing risk, surprise, and failure. We like to know what to expect. We deal in measurable equations. We create routines, organize our families, schedule every moment of our time; and as a result we live with a sense that we are in control. Culture shock, repatriation, and reverse culture shock have been analyzed, written about, and placed into neat little stages. We have even staged grief as a process with the intent of better understanding and therefore equipping.

As a product of this culture, I found myself entangled in a web of thought surrounding repatriation and its stages. Whether conscious or not, I spent a great deal of time and energy wondering if my experience was normal, if I was in the right stage or if I was spending too much time in a particular stage. Somewhere along my thought path, I decided that I was taking far too long to move on and growing more frustrated with each day.

After a bit of reflection (thanks to Aimee Mann and Starbucks), I have come to a fairly simple realization about this whole process. I was hoping to come back, struggle a little, write about it, and then get over it and move on. I wanted a nice neat little package that I could go through with predictable results. For a variety of reasons- this has not been my reality or experience.

I have had to remind myself that I spent more than half of my married life in Shanghai. I lived, worked, and built relationships there. I learned the language, studied the culture, and traveled the land. In my attempt to live as fully as any foreigner can, China became part of me in more ways than I realized. I suppose I expected to come back, shed that part of me and meld into the community around me. Instead, I have been left with the realization that I need to find a way for the whole me to fit into the new reality in which I live.

Times Two

When the boys were born, I received an adorable little frame that read "Twins are Love Times Two". While putting laundry away the other day, I spotted the frame and thought back to the time when I placed their newborn photo inside. I wondered if that person had any idea what she would face two years down the road? I occasionally meet people in public who tell me how doubly blessed I am or how fortunate I am to have twins. I feel a pang of guilt as I fill in the phrase with my new updated versions "Twins are Vomit Times Two, Twins are Snotty Noses Times Two, Twins are Screaming and Waking All Night Times Two". But the guilt gets swept away by a little chuckle.

The last month has been a blur of runny noses, ear infections, coughing fits, vomit, diarrhea, ER visits, and countless calls to the pediatrician. Now that health has returned and life has approached our version of "normal" once again, I am content to stay right here.