when the American dream meets the British reality.

>> 3.30.2012

By the end of next month, I will have lived in England for a year and a half.

If we're honest, I really didn't think I'd make it.

I've spent countless nights crying with homesickness, begging my husband to "please, please, let's move home" and dreaming about the day that I'd be far away from this terrible little country.

But (you knew it was coming, didn't you?)
--in the last few months, it seems I've actually "adjusted" to life in the British culture, at least enough for the desperation to give way to a quiet routine of daily living. I'm sure becoming a mother has been an instrumental part in this: I have to get out of bed and out of the house for the sake of my son. We go to rhyme time at the library, and monster music at the children's centre, and meet up with other Mommas and their babies for the sake of socialization.

In the fray of adjusting, I've also come to realize an interesting distinction between the two countries, and I think it's something that made it so difficult for me to come to terms with this place for so long:

In America, we are told, "You can do anything you want to do, if you put your mind to it. Dream big, and the sky's the limit." We are taught that we can be famous athletes, movie stars, astronauts, scientists, writers, doctors--literally anything is open to us, if we want it bad enough.

In Britain, they are not told these things. People are brutally and bluntly honest about shortcomings and where yours are. If you aren't good at something, they'll make sure you know. Kids here are not taught that the sky's the limit, rather, they are told that there definitely are limits and maybe they'll surpass them, but probably not (so best not try).

As an American, this rubs you (and me) the wrong way. It is offensive, it is pessimistic, it is wrong. "Of course, I can do that," we gasp in horror as a Brit gives us an eyebrow raise. "I can do anything I want to!" Unfortunately, this isn't actually the case (even though we don't want to admit it). I will never be an Olympic athlete (even though I like to think that I might have had a shot if I hadn't quit figure skating). I will never be an amazing singer, and I might (probably) won't ever be a world famous author. In fact, I might not do anything with my life other than being a mother and a wife. I know.

So when I would lie in bed and dream about the life my family and I would have back in America once we got out of here, it would be full of nice things--the dream house, great jobs, happy kids doing lots of fun extracurricular activities, weekly date nights, a church that allows us to use our gifts and minister well. When I compared that dream to our current life in England (and the prospect of a future here), it looked about as gray as the sky I was living under.

It is only in the last few weeks that I have really come to terms with the fact that it is okay to just live. In fact, sometimes it is better to just live where you are at, than to dream about a future you might never have. For so long I got so caught up in the dream of our life "back in America" that I forgot to put anything into the life I was currently living in England. I'm sure that I wasted opportunities, missed friendships, and generally put a damper on any positive thing that I had going for me over here--and even though that is a natural and normal part of adjusting to life in a new culture, it's still not something I'm proud of.

I spent so long bemoaning the practicalities of the English, and pitying them for their inability to dream of anything more than a quiet house in the country, that I failed to see the positive side of things. They are generally content in the lives that they lead (I mean, most are. I am making pretty sweeping generalities here). They may not tell you that, with their semi-constant complaining, but they are. Their lives are familiar and what they know, and they are all right with that. They don't feel bad for not being something greater. They do what they do, and they do it well. This is something that I have probably never done, and it is kind of, (but not really) ironic to me that God has made me live in a place that is the very definition of "blooming where you're planted".

Now, I know that there are two sides to every coin, so before I get hate mail from all the British dreamers out there, let me remind you that I am simply remarking on a side of England that I have not wanted to appreciate, but now do. I have found myself with a certain fondness for this strange, backwards country. This is slightly terrifying, because I can't hate it with a passion anymore and wish myself back in America. Yes, there are moments nearly every day when I think about how much I miss my country, but recently, this has been countered by a tinge of sadness when I think about leaving what we have invested here.

This is the birthplace of my husband and son, and it is a country that will always be a part of me. It has helped refine me in many areas, and opened my eyes to the fact that there is more than one way to live life and look at things--not wrong, just different.

Any other citizens of the world care to share your opinions?
I mean, he's the best part about England.
Peace at last.



>> 3.21.2012

Through a series of strange circumstances, I have found myself with a pen pal.

Really, this is a long-reaching goal for me, since all my friends had pen pals when we were little, but I could never find anyone that wanted to write me letters on a regular basis.
Until now. Which I love.

Anyway. My first letter from said pen pal came the other day, and it was like a breath of fresh air into this dusty brain of mine. She was so honest, and open, and everything she wrote just made me smile.
She spoke truth into my life, when so many other people haven't been able to, or when I just couldn't listen.
(I think there is something to be said about having an objective observer give advice. They're not bogged down by the drama or emotion of a situation.)

She wrote to me about how she firmly believes that the Lord has placed her and her family in a season of rest. And it struck me, because maybe that's exactly what God has done with us, too.

Why is it that I always struggle to see the good in others, and especially the good in God?
Why can't I remember that so many people are good-willed in their intentions, and that the Lord doesn't do things to harm his children, but prosper them?

The Lord has given me a son.
A fire-cracker, pistol of a son who does exactly what he wants when he wants and will not be dissuaded otherwise. And I love him all the more for it.
However, taking care of my son is a full-time job. But that's okay.
In fact, it's more than okay--it's exactly what I've wanted.
It's just that, somehow, I got caught up in the idea that I have to be doing something in order to feel validated, in order to feel that I didn't waste my time.

Which brings me back to rest. So often in scripture, God called his people to wait, and to be quiet, and to rest. And these periods were not without a reason--these people were placed in this position.
Placed there.

For too long I have ranted and raved at God, questioning His love and His care.
Too long have I begged and pleaded with Him to just get us out of this place, and put us somewhere new. To please, please, break the silence and reassure us that He heard and that we mattered.

So for now, I am choosing to rest.
I am choosing to believe that God has placed my family into this situation that we are in.
It is not without it's struggles (as I sit here and battle against the three-letter-monster that is raging war in my brain), but there can be reward if I allow it.

I am going to relish in afternoon naps with my son, walks to the park, movies on tv with my husband, and watching my child grow.
I will not allow myself to be dictated by the part of me that screams "What are you doing with your life? Accomplish something!"
And it will still be a battle, and I will still fail--but at least there is an acknowledgment and a resolve.
And maybe I can finally let go of the anger, and let my heart begin to heal.


three little letters.

>> 3.12.2012


I know.

It's not for sure (as in, I haven't gone to a doctor and gotten an official diagnosis), but there's a good chance.

It's like a fog in my head. I can't remember the words I wanted to say, or even what it was that I wanted to say about them. Sometimes I forget what it is that I've said a mere five minutes after I said it. The other day I was writing a letter and couldn't remember what month it was. Then I had to say all of the months out loud, and I couldn't remember what came after February. Finally I realized it was March, and I was so frustrated that my brain just couldn't seem to keep up.

I have no energy to do anything. No mental energy to engage in something that is unnecessary. That is why all of my inboxes are full of unanswered emails, why I keep missing writing deadlines, why I haven't written anything on this blog for days, and why I haven't finished a book in months.

There's this great analogy that I heard once: Imagine that you start out the day with six spoons. You have to use two spoons to wake up, get the baby dressed, fed, and occupied. Then you have to use another spoon to put the laundry away and make yourself lunch. Getting out with the baby and doing a grocery run is another two spoons. After that, you've got one spoon left to make dinner, start another load of laundry, feed, bathe and put baby to sleep, finish work, and then get yourself ready for bed. You have to plan out your day so that you don't do too much in one area and leave yourself empty-handed and trying to finish your day.
That is how I feel. I have to focus, focus, focus on the absolute necessities and drop everything else.

There is more, so much more, but those two things are at the forefront of everything I'm trying to deal with right now.

I've had this post rolling around in my head for so long, but every time I'd sit down to write it, I'd feel so exhausted and I just couldn't make myself put the words down. There were more elegant and coherent phrases in my head, but they flit away at the earliest opportunity, and I am left with this.

I'm hunkering down for now. I'm burrowing in to my family--being a wife, being a mom. That's all I can do right now. Dreams of writing and grandeur have been put on hold, because frankly, I'm useless until I get some sleep. (Sleep. The connotations of that word...my child doesn't know what it means. And before you tell me to let him cry, or let him sleep in my bed, rest assured that I have done everything and he remains as steadfast as ever that waking up a few times in the middle of the night is necessary. I'm just trying to live with the damage right now.) I'm not reading any more blogs about "attachment parenting" or the harmful chemicals in this mattress, or the dangers of letting your child cry, or why he needs to eat organic food and how processed food is going to kill us eventually. I don't want any more opinions, advice, or lectures about how to parent--I am on information overload and I can't take it anymore.

My brain has quit when I need it the most, again, and there's nothing I can do but hang out and wait for it to show back up.

I'll let you know when it happens.



>> 3.01.2012

My tea is going cold, it's 10:30 pm, my baby is starting to wake up, and I have two articles to finish before I can crawl into my bed tonight.

And I just can't seem to wade through the fog invading my brain for a long enough period of time to get a grip and get it all done.

I'm so good at keeping things *almost* together. 

I can stretch a deadline as long as possible, until I am well and truly up against a wall, and it has to get done right then. 
I can rinse the same load of laundry five times, and throw a little more soap in there, and you won't know that it sat in my washer for three days before I hung it up to dry.
I can spot clean my apartment in five minutes, so that it looks like I always keep it nice and tidy, unless you look under the couch or inspect the bookshelves too closely.

"The ability to keep up appearances" should be listed as a skill on my resume. 
I don't really know if that's a good thing or not.
I know it's where I am. 
I know that I'm utterly failing at the standards I put on myself, but I must be meeting others, because no one seems to quite have noticed just what a mess I am. 

Don't worry.
It's the same wall I keep running into over and over again. It's got a name, and a face, and one day, I might be able to just walk past it...but not yet.

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