Sunday, September 16, 2012

Life is Not All Sunshine and Roses, Not Even in Spain

I've been feeling it coming most of the summer... the coming of the downward spiral.  The need to isolate and to bury myself in anything but a social atmosphere (which at least for my bottom line right now means work, so at least there is financial gain).  I've been for the most part feeling the need to be devoid of most human contact.  I recognize what I'm doing and yet, lately, I just don't care.  I thought our trip to Menorca would make it go away, it was a distraction but no, it didn't go away.  This isn't a Spain or a US thing.  This is just a phase of life thing.  This is just turmoil in life that just... is.  I think you just can't have life be sunshine and roses 365 days a year... sometimes these things just happen - it's what you learn from it that counts.

And the good thing is that I know that this too, shall pass (see I've learned from the past).  It has before and it will again.  I don't deal well with change, never have.  I've learned to adjust but it doesn't mean that emotionally I don't pay the toll because I do.  Summer was hard.  Having the kids home is hard.  Yes, they are my kids and I love them with all my heart.  But as a person who craves routine, summer often throws my whole system off and the kids suffer the repercussions of that unfortunately.  For all those moms at school who said on the first day to me how sad they were that the summer was coming to an end, I must say... YOU ARE INSANE!  I say that in the nicest way possible of course.

Because the kids are a part of this problem as well.  With most of the summer at home, we were all at each others' throats - too hot to go outside to play and while our house is bigger than our old one, there are only so many days in a row that you can spend in one place before you want scream.  The boys are at a difficult stage, though I'm sure every stage has it's difficulties (or at least they have so far).  Defiance being a BIG one.  Lack of listening skills, yes, typical of any child though the force seems strong in these two with this ability to tune out their mother.  Strong emotions another.  Drama drama drama is the name of the game these days.  Some of the drama is to be expected and some is just tween/child drama, but drama nonetheless.  And I don't need it these days.

Life is a balancing act, we all know that.  It's cyclical - but as I've said before on this blog, life as an expat is cyclical but on speed.  Nothing here happens at a reasonable pace.  And so a part of that balance is the kids.  I haven't done well with balancing social, work and kids for the last 2 years - I'm the first to admit that.  And so this fall I'm trying to reprioritize and make them first on this list for the 3 hours a day that they are awake and in my care, I don't think it's an unreasonable thing.  Though the moment they get off the bus, 9 times out of 10 one is near tears out of exhaustion or frustration or just plain pissed off at something his brother said or something that I don't have (like gum, god forbid I don't have any gum on me!).  It makes those 3 very long hours filled with moments of "what made me decide being a parent was a good idea?", "how is it possible for one person to fail so badly at parenting", "my entire day was peaceful until they got home" or "why does everyone else seem to have children that listen/behave/are respectful/etc etc etc and I don't?".  The list goes on and on...

Let's add in Aidan's struggle with the start of the school year for the exact kind of reasons I'm struggling.  The dynamic in his life is changing yet again and as an adult, I get it and I'm struggling, so ask the same of an 8 year old kid who gets it on the surface but just can't grasp it emotionally and see what happens.  And then add in the fact that school is a struggle for him on a good day, much less one when he's once again trying to find his place.  You've got two peas in a pod who don't deal well with change constantly butting heads and unable to put into words how we are feeling at a given moment (yet both of us MUST get in the last word) - it doesn't come out pretty in any way, shape or form.  His struggle becomes my struggle.  And it pains me that I can't help him because these days, I can barely help myself.  Being a parent is never easy, but it's even less so when you are already not in a good place and you have to try to create a better place for them.

To be honest, I'm not even sure what I want to communicate in this entry but it's taking all my energy just to write it because I feel the need to do it and I've started this entry several times and keep getting stuck.  But like every other entry in this blog, I feel that you need to witness the good, the bad and the ugly in order to fully understand our lives abroad.  And sometimes that means writing about things that location really has no relevance to.  Because my funk really has nothing to do with my location.  This could just as easily happen in Attleboro as it can here in Barcelona.

So what does it have to do with?  I just don't know.  Change, in general I guess.  Part of me knows that it's friends that have or are leaving, though to be honest, I'm sick of hearing myself whine about it no matter how difficult it's been (and it has been hard).  The other part of me just feels empty of caring about it or much else for that matter.  Issues at home in the States.  A disconnect from home (again).  I know this is a multi tiered thing going on - several things coming to a head at once.  But the more I think about the change, the more I don't understand why it's bothering me so much and yet, here I am, just wallowing.

As I reflect back on my life at home which I've learned to look at without the rose colored glasses, I see a great life.  But it's not a perfect life.  And it's a different life than here which is just fine and believe me, this life, while privileged, it not perfect either.  Nothing wrong with different.  The last 2+ years have been filled with social opportunities, with chances to meet people that I might otherwise not have met or built relationships with.  And I've taken full advantage of that opportunity.  So much so that my work and my family life have suffered unnecessarily.  And what bothers me is the simple question of, why is the fact that my life is changing bothering me?  Isn't life all about change???

As I look back on my life I home and the course that my life is taking here, I see similarities.  My social life was not what it is here and I was just fine with it.  Yes, I have a lot of great friends at home.  But I didn't see them daily and I actually spent a good chunk of my time alone or with the kids (which would explain my shopping habits and the NEED to get out of the house).  That's what my fall is looking like and in a way it scares me and yet it also comforts me.  This is what my life was like at home and that was my comfort zone - can I make Barcelona my comfort zone?

But there is at least some difference between here and there.  There I know I have a support system.  I know at the end of the day I'll see my friends as they get home from work and all the kids come out to play.  I know that I can arrange to see any of my family with a quick phone call.  Here, my support system is falling apart.  There are new pieces to the puzzle to add in, sure.  I'm not alone by any means so let's not take this pity party too far - I have friends here still, great and amazing people.  But my daily life is changing and it scares me - it reminds me of when we first moved here and while I know I'm not starting over (again), it still feels a bit like it.

I feel lost.  I don't know my place any more, either here or at home.  I feel like I'm in purgatory - not able to move forward because I don't know where I should be going and obviously can't go backwards.  I'm an emotional basketcase, crying at the drop of a pin.  But yet, also emotionally distant and moody.  Part of me wants to be back home in the States and the other part of me feels that I would be no better there than I am here.  In addition, I'm struggling with my ability (or in my mind these days, lack of ability) to parent well - feeling that I'm failing constantly.

So what am I going to do to turn this around?  Because yes, I will turn this around.  Like when we moved here, I'm giving myself a time limit on this wallowing before it goes to far.  And so I run, a lot, like several days a week (in addition to working out 5 days a week).  I plan travel and have at least 2 more trips to plan for this year.  I am a social creature by nature and while I don't want to socialize lately, I will force myself to socialize til it feels natural again.  I am going to get my drivers license so I feel less trapped with a new found ability to escape the city when I need to or to simply just take the kids on a playdate outside the city without jumping thru hoops.  I will re-focus on the needs of my family.  And I will throw myself into my work.  Somewhere along the way, things will feel normal again.  

But in the end, I will learn from this experience just like I've learned from every experience here.  Life can be tough no matter where you live and location doesn't always make a difference.  Life happens.  Life moves at warp speed.  And we can either let the bumps in the road take you down or we can use those bumps to jettison ourselves to a better place.  And while there are moments lately where I feel like it's been taking me down, I'm at least trying to get myself to that better place that I know is out there - I just need to look harder.


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