Thursday, April 29, 2010

Final Weeks

I have attempted to blog several times in the last several weeks, but have never had enough energy to finish any of them. Also, many times, I have had everything to say...and strangely, nothing to say. Since Allen left, I have felt somewhat isolated here in China with the boys. And even though we are staying with my friend and I have other friends to chat with, I have felt some reluctance to "dump" my feelings on anyone one of them, especially since there are cultural differences and barriers that all of us expats have to work around. In the end, I know they would try to make me feel better...but I'm never really sure they completely understand where I'm coming from. It's always hard to tell...

So, without anyone to really, really talk to, I had attempted several times to blog my feelings into cyber space. However, sometimes I felt too overwhelmed by what I was feeling and other times I was just too exhausted to feel much of anything. So, there you have it...reasons #52 and #68 for why you haven't heard much from me lately.

Just to bring everyone up to speed...

When Allen left, there were some things that came up that set me off in a big way and I was very angry for a long time...with him. To add to that big ball of icky feelings, the boys grieved the absence of their dad for quite awhile, leaving me to deal with the aftermath of his leaving. Much as I suspect will occur many times in the future...and again, not making me very happy.

Brandon wrote his dad a heartbreaking letter about missing him and how much fun he had with him and how he wished they could be together again. Ryan found his dad's bath towel in the basement of the house we are living in and walked into my bedroom, crying and hugging the towel to his chest, saying how much he missed his daddy and wants him to come back. Allen's current career choice...and yes, it was a career CHOICE in my something I try and reconcile within myself - often. However, I have yet to find a solution for that inner reconciliation, thus leaving me with open and festering wounds of discontent in my marriage. Sad, but true.

This is when it helps to have people to talk to. I wish I had someone to remind me why we are returning home. If Allen decided to take a job that would take him away as much as possible...I find myself trying to figure out why we are even coming back to the US at all. HERE, at least, I have HELP. Big time help. And even with that help...I'm exhausted - all of the time. SO, needless to say, thoughts of coming home, with Allen being gone all of the time...well, sounds exhausting and miserable. I didn't sign up for a military or consulting type of marriage. In fact, THAT was a conscience decision of mine, even from a long time ago. My faith in my marriage is running pretty thin right now and I guess this is when it would be nice to have someone talk me back from the edge of the cliff. Thinking about all of this and feeling that MY thoughts and feelings were pushed to the back burner in my own marriage, thus displaying a direct show of disrespect towards me, makes me angry all over again. Around and around I go...

So, there's been all of THAT I've been trying to sort out. And now, on another note...

I've been trying to do things around Shanghai with the boys before we leave for good. But, they don't seem to be able to appreciate (at their young ages) the gargantuan effort(s) it takes to get all three of them out and about...without dad to help. Even the ayi has her limitations and I always feel so bad leaving Jaiden home all day, every day. The baby thing has always been very hard for me, but living in Shanghai with a baby is even harder. The entire country of China is NOT stroller or baby friendly. So, there is a lot of lifting, pulling, maneuvering, planning ahead, etc. It's exhausting. Jaiden still wakes up in the middle of the night due to the fact that we are still sharing a room because his crib is being shipped I really can't say that there has been one night of good sleep since Allen left. Let's just say...I FEEL my age every day now. If I forget...ONE of my body parts has a way of reminding me of just how old I am.

I'm a wreck. I look it. I feel it. And, unfortunately, I sometimes act it.

Ok, now that I've kind of vented about the difficult things, let me now talk about the GOOD things! :-) And this is why I think it's been so hard to blog lately...the last few weeks have been a complete meshing of both negative and positive feelings. Every time I have sat down to write about one thing...the tide changes and I'm usually too exhausted to start all over again.

I told my mom a while back that I couldn't leave China too quickly. That still holds true and I'm so glad I've had a chance to step away from this experience instead of leaving it all at once. I have had a little more time to think and process...well, everything. Anything from shopping to school to friends to whatever. I have had a chance to absorb, appreciate and say goodbye a little at a time, instead of in a rush. I will be the first to admit how surprised I am that my journey here seems to have taken a 180 degree turn since arriving here. I predicted this would happen on my way out...and now I can officially say, I will actually miss many things about living here.

I will also admit that now I'm a little worried about the reverse culture shock back home. Leaving a city of over 20 million people and once again moving to a small town, would be a shock for anyone. My saving grace, however, are the friends I will be returning to in that small town community. I have missed them and I'm really looking forward to seeing them again. I'm also really looking forward to being able to talk, on a regular basis, with the friends who live elsewhere in the US as well. I have missed talking to them immensely. And, OF COURSE, it goes without saying, how much we are all looking forward to seeing our family again! That is definitely been a recurring theme here in much we miss being near-er to our family.

Living with my friend from Switzerland has been wonderful. She has provided us with a beautiful and luxurious space in her home. Me and the boys occupy the entire second floor (2 bedrooms and 2 baths, with a nice view of the river walk!) of her house, while her family uses the third floor. Her husband is also away back in their home country and they will be repatriating back to Switzerland in late June. If I have rough days, I always return to the house of Swiss chocolate and that always makes me feel better! I've determined that MY heaven will have an abundance of Swiss chocolate on hand. You will see just how much I've been enjoying the chocolate here when you see me...and, unfortunately, that isn't a good thing. But, for now, I'm enjoying the comfort it provides, as well as the friendship that usually accompanies it. :-) My friend and I enjoy chatting for many hours, every day, and I have enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity we both have in this situation. Luckily, all of our kids have similar temperaments as well as us mommies. So, it really has been nice.

My group of friends wanted to plan a last "hurrah" trip together somewhere, with just us mommies and kids again. This was really important for all of them as well as myself. They wanted to go to a place called Guilin/Yangshuo which required a two hour plan flight...which costs more money. I opted out, however, because of my restricted finances before leaving China. I asked them to take some really pretty pictures and to think of me. Then, by the pictures I received from them, I would have seen the trip through their eyes and would have known that they were thinking of me at that time. I had planned to frame the pictures in a really nice way and that would have always made me feel special. However, they would have NONE of it. So, I suggested smaller, closer trips to/from Shanghai. We thought for days about where we could go, but something was always getting in the way...someone had already been there, someone was planning a trip there with someone else in the near future, someone just wasn't interested, etc. EVERYONE wanted to go to Guilin, which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful places in China. But, I kept refusing due to the trip exceeding a budget I had allotted myself and my family. And when I mean my family...I mean the ayi too. Because there was NO WAY I could enjoy myself without any help, especially in NON-kid friendly China. So, why spend money on something that was inevitably going to stress me out to the max? Ultimately, I kept suggesting several different places because I had the ayi to consider as well. Places we could take a train to...places that were closer and we could spend on nicer, more comfortable hotels, etc. Again, they didn't want to spend THEIR money on closer, more affordable destinations. They wanted a special trip for a special group of friends. After several times of trying to encourage them to go without me, they finally asked me directly why I was resistant. I told them I couldn't afford that kind of trip, especially with my ayi. This shocked them. Because these are a group of women who have less cushy expat assignments here in Shanghai. But, because it was EXTREMELY important to them that I be part of the group, they offered to pay the amount over what I had budgeted, divided evenly among them. Wow. That stunned me...and embarrassed me too. I don't think these women should spend more money than they have to and especially on me and my family. This spurred even more resistance from me several more times. They ended up booking all of our and my family included. In fact, they planned the whole trip from beginning to end and since they figured they were paying for anything beyond my initially stated budget, they pitched in even further and splurged on a 5 star resort for all of us to stay at our destination.! I fluctuated between excitement and complete guilt that they did something like that for me - and us. However, to make ME feel better about it, they told me it was also my birthday gift from all of them., it's starting to get really hard to refuse or complain without seriously "losing face." So, I finally threw in the towel and decided to have a LOVELY final trip with these wonderful women friends of mine!! :-)

On the flip side of that wonderful token, however, was a sad feeling. I knew that once we took the trip and came back to Shanghai, it was really the beginning of the end for us here. We would only have two more weeks left once we returned and that time would fly faster than ever before. :-( I tried to prepare for this. But, inevitably, there was nothing I could do. Time just had to pass...and with that passing, I have become more and more sad.

However! On the flip side of THAT actually has made me better to know that I'm only the FIRST to leave. Almost everyone in our group of friends is also leaving this summer...just later, after school ends. I know that staying here would probably be much worse than being one of the ones to leave. AND, I have my friends and family back home to really look forward, OF COURSE, that helps me center myself! :-)

See? I'm truly back and forth. Exhausted...happy...sad...miserable...relaxed...stressed out...or not. Depends on the day...and which time of the day...and the variables of each day as they come my way. Did I mention, I'm exhausted?! ;-)

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