Ok guys, get ready for what might be the most self involved post ever. In my defense, this is a blog. And also, this is my blog about me, and my loved ones. So it probably frequently does come across as a little self involved.
I was chatting with a dear friend in Louisiana the other day, and she complimented me on my blog – how it was so upbeat and positive, and I managed to make my life seem so cool (or something). I was slightly aghast! The truth is, I have been having a very hard time, and I was dying to share my struggles with someone who loved me. Her. And she listened so sweetly, and encouraged me so well!
But afterwards, I went back and I read some of my blog posts, and I realized that she was right – I make my life sound very rosy on this blog.
Part of that is just my personality. Yesterday I had someone ask me about my pregnancy and how it was going, and in the moment, all that I felt was such thanksgiving. I gushed that my energy was coming back and I had had so little nausea and I was feeling so good. And I meant it! I promise. I literally completely forgot about the fact that my heartburn has been miserable (and sure to get worse), my pregnancy induced carpal tunnel was starting to flare up again, and oh my gosh, I haven’t gotten any sleep because of my crazy HOT FEET and getting up every hour to use the restroom (that is not hyperbole, I get up. A LOT. Sometimes every single hour)! I don’t know how that slipped my mind, but it did. And the truth is, I just don’t dwell on those things. The truth is, I am just so grateful for the little nausea and more energy that I don’t have time to really dwell on the harder parts of my pregnancy.
I’ve said this about my blog before, but one of the reasons why I love it, is because it makes a great filter. I sit down to write and complain, and then I read it, and all I can think is – that doesn’t look so bad! Hey, what about this great thing that happened? What about this unexpected help that you received? For example, if you read this post, you would have no idea that it was one of the most difficult and stressful days of my life trying to sort out the flights and getting ping ponged between FOUR DIFFERENT COUNTERS with a hungry, tired, jetlagged baby and all my luggage plus stroller, but by the time I sat down to vent about it on the blog, all I could think was how lucky I was that I wasn’t stranded overnight in the airport with my 16 month old! Nope, instead after all the flight sorting drama, I had a company paid taxi come and pick me up, take me to a free (with points) 4 or 5 star hotel for the night, and I just made it home 20 hours later or so than I had originally planned. And all the bad stuff just sort of melted away and all I could think about were my blessings.
Have you ever known someone who complained about everything or complained about everything on their blog, and you just want to be like “Gaw girl, count your blessings!" I don’t want to be that person.
But there are some really hard things about living overseas. There’s culture clashes, days where I’m tried of trying and often to failing to communicate well and all I want to do is stay holed up in my apartment and not have to deal with the world. Days where my driver calls me 20 times (ok that one is hyperbole, but it can be as many as 3 times per day) and asks when I will need the car. Being a Christian, all I can say is “I don’t know.” But what I really want to say is “WHEN I KNOW, I WILL CALL YOU! WHY DO YOU EVEN BOTHER CALLING? EVERYTIME YOU CALL, MY ANSWER IS, I DON’T KNOW. WHEN I KNOW, I CALL. WHEN I CALL YOU, I HAVE A TIME. AND DON’T KEEP GRILLING ME WHEN I SAY I DON’T KNOW. DON’T KEEP ASKING, MORNING? AFTERNOON? EVENING?”
Arg. See, that’s the kind of ugliness you don’t want to read about. But honestly sometimes having a driver is not so glamorous and is kind of a frustrating hassle. Some days when I am feeling suffocated or overwhelmed, I would give anything to be able to spontaneously hop into my car by myself and go for a little drive to clear my head. Or days where I would love to be able to walk outside with my toddler and not have every single babushka in Russia criticize the way I dress her! Seriously, it doesn’t even stop in the summer time. Apparently, in the summer, it is mandatory for Russian children to wear hats and open toed shoes… but heaven forbid any actual toe flesh be seen, nope, they want you to wear open toed shoes (NOT tennis shoes for sure)… with socks!
And then there’s the loneliness. That’s the hardest part, and probably the most difficult to explain. I had a new friend write me yesterday and she said “It must be exciting and lonely sometimes?” And I admit that I immediately began to cry. She’s the first person who hasn’t said anything about our cool trips or our great apartment or our drivers or our housekeeper, just… it must be lonely sometimes. And it is. Sometimes it is cripplingly lonely.
There are times where my calendar is full, and I see a lot of friends, and I Facetime family and friends in the evening or morning. But then there are times where everyone is busy with work or their own kids and school or away and my internet is out or I can’t get in touch with people in the states because of the time change plus their busy lives, and all I can think is how I have totally failed at making friends here, and I am losing my friends in the states. And I start doing what I swore I wouldn’t do… which is live for my next vacation. I don’t even remember feeling lonely in the states. And certainly not this often.
Relationships are like a treadmill, if you stop working at them and moving forward, you start moving backwards… until eventually you fall off, fall out of touch, whatever. My friend Elysha said the sweetest thing to me, that I was the only person she knew who could handle a place like this because I was constantly “pursuing my friendships”, which is what is needed here, and not to be lazy like her (her words, not mine, they made me smile)! I know people who are much better than me at maintaining and engaging friends so I have always thought that I was kind of bad at it, so her words were very encouraging. But still, its hard when you have months like we did in August where I was so exhausted with jetlag and pregnancy and we were so sick and keeping with the treadmill analogy, after a month of stopping, once you start moving forward again you have to run twice as fast as you did before with some friendships. Some friends understand that that’s life and are so happy to hear from you when you resurface (again, Bless you Elysha and Emily), and others are not so understanding.
Anyway, I promise that I didn’t write this post to vent (except maybe about my driver); its just to let you know. Life isn’t always rosy. There are some incredible blessings that come with living here that almost always make it on the blog, but only about 1/5 of my year is spent away. The rest of it is here in Russia, where I struggle often, I lose my temper with husband, let Isla watch way too much TV, and I am frequently so miserably lonely that I hide in my apartment and I don’t know if I can cope with world. But you probably won’t hear about those days. And its not because I am trying to be fake, its because I cannot help but be profoundly grateful for all of the blessings in my life, and the blessings that I have from living here. And that’s where my focus is.
And just to be super corny, here is part of a song that I always sing and listen to on my hardest days here…
You Are Good by Point of Grace
When it's dark and it's cold and I can't feel my soul
You are still good
When the world is gone gray and the rain's here to stay
You are still good
With every breath I take in
I'll tell You I am grateful again
And the storm may swell even then it is well
And You are good
So how can I thank You, what can I bring?
What can a poor man lay at the feet of a King?
I'll sing You this love song, it's all that I have
To tell You I'm grateful for holding my life in Your hands