Settling In

Change is weird. The process of adjusting to massive change is fairly strange in and of itself. The rare individual thrives on change. However, the majority of humanity, we like our routines, our familiar people and places. There is comfort in what is known. At heart, most of us aren’t real risk takers so we stick with what we know and trust.

What does one do when change does come? How do you rebuild the familiar without exhausting yourself, or being uber frustrated, in the meantime? Life is a weird mix of new and old right now. My clothes are the same. I’m making myself the same kinds of food (mostly, shopping is still a challenge). I still have text messages from friends. The ridiculous and the fabulous still fills my social media feeds. I’m doing homework.

On the flip side of those familiar things is so much new stuff. New school. New classes. New people. New church. Trying to build new friendships. New professors. News ways of doing dang near everything – laundry, grocery shopping, transportation ANYWHERE, printing documents, finding books. It takes so much more effort to do all the mundane tasks of life in a new place. That is the comfort of familiarity- not having to think about the HOW, or WHERE, or WHEN or with WHOM. You know you’ve settled in when all those elements no longer take effort. You’ve arrived.

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When surrounded by new we seek comfort in the familiar. I was out walking the other day, because nature and trees feels familiar no matter where you are, and the distinct odor of horses wafted to me on the breeze. Folks, this is deeply familiar to me, even after all these years away from a barn. I met this lovely fellow and for a few brief moments, as he licked the salt from my skin, there was a different kind of peace. The encounter was a touchstone that helped calm some of the emotional toil the last few weeks have wrought.

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Now that classes have begun and I’m trying to find a rhythm, the whole “I’m not going home anytime soon” feeling is starting to knock on the door of my brain. This of course triggers twinges of homesickness. Thus far I’ve successfully avoided this plague thanks in large part to processing all the new stuff around me. So it appears I’ve entered the next stage of adapting to change. While pretty much everything still takes a whole lot of mental effort- I’ve managed to figure out just enough of the daily necessities to give my brain a tiny window for obsessing over what I’m missing. Oh. Lovely. It hit pretty hard yesterday and I had a little cry over my breakfast. So glad none of my multitudinous flatmates walked in at that moment.

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The cliche about “Its a marathon, not a sprint” is totally true in my case. This is only a year program (to those of you taking bets on my not returning…I see you…), but I need to remember I’ve been here barely two weeks. I have to allow enough time for familiarity to develop. Settling – in the best way possible – takes time.

 

A New Normal

Nine days ago I left home. Five days ago I moved into a new flat, in a new country and met lots of new people (most of whom seem quite nifty but are certainly much younger than me – but that was to be expected). This is my new normal.

I think I like it. . . but other than that I’m not sure how to feel.

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Here are a few things I’ve noticed in my wanderings this past week:

  • The British don’t refrigerate their eggs…I knew this but it still throws me every time I go to the market or look in my cupboard (where the eggs are).
  • I’m definitely slipping into an accent already.
  • Undergrads are the same no matter where you are. (Insert sigh here)
  • Training myself to look right-left-right instead of left-right-left when crossing a street is pretty hard actually.
  • People are amazingly forgiving of and patient with my gaffs if they can see that I am genuinely trying.
  • Europe is just much more pedestrian friendly than the States.
  • A few comforts of home and familiar items can make all the difference in the world. (I ordered two cookie sheets from Amazon, turns out they are the same ones I had at home – this made me stupidly happy when they arrived this afternoon.)
  • If I want to socialize I’m going to have to go to pubs, rather frequently. This isn’t a problem – just definitely not where I normally “hang out.”
  • The cars are small. Like wow, small. But you can do a trip to Ikea with three people in a two-door Mini Cooper. #TetrisIMG_0400

Thanks to the Ikea trip my cooking “station” feels a bit more normal. Even found the same cutting board I have at home (see above comment about familiar things).  Getting my first reading assignment definitely qualifies as “normal,” though it definitely won’t feel normal to JUST go to school and not work full time. I haven’t been a full time student in well over a decade. Which reminds me . . . I need to DO my reading for next week!

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I’m working to find a routine and rhythm that works for me in this new place. The process of building a new community isn’t going to be quick or easy and will require putting myself out there in ways that are fairly uncomfortable – even for an extrovert like myself. I miss my friends and I miss the familiar, mostly because processing so much “new” day in and day out is exhausting work. Thank God for FaceTime and text messages. Those little touchstones are keeping me grounded. I don’t know how long it will take for the “new” to transition to the “familiar.” For the time being I’ll focus on enjoying the journey, and the view.

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Standing Under the Waterfall

Words. They fail me.

That is a rather hyperbolic statement, particularly for a logophile such as myself. I am NEVER at a loss for words. Perhaps the problem is not that there are no words, but rather there is an utter preponderance of words. I am desperately trying to conceive of a way to condense the last few whirlwind days into comprehensible chunks. I am not sure if that is for my benefit, or yours.

So I’ll do what I always do…namely find a word picture to help. Let’s start with this.

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I took this in Iceland – on Wednesday – at Seljalandsfoss Waterfall. Please do not ask how to pronounce that name as I have no idea. My life feels a bit like this waterfall. Life is crashing over me in a never ending wave. Do not misunderstand. Nothing is bad. Just like this waterfall is beautiful and refreshing so are all the changes happening right now. It is just a tad overwhelming to try to absorb, so some of the blessings are likely flowing away in waves and floating away in mist simply because I cannot quite grasp it all.  Little rainbows moments peek out at me and I manage to snag them before they evaporate into the ether of life.

In the last 96 hours my life has entirely transformed. Tuesday morning I woke up in an utterly familiar world. Wednesday morning I “woke up” (read: got off a plane having not slept) and stepped into the surreal landscape of Iceland. Thursday morning I galloped horseback across ancient Icelandic lava fields before boarding a plane to London. Today I spent wandering my new “world” trying to figure out how I will fit in.

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Perhaps the end of a rainbow doesn’t hide a pot of gold. Maybe there’s a waterfall instead. God promised in Genesis that rainbows were to be a sign of blessing. Waterfalls are the one place where you can always find a rainbow. I doubt this is a coincidence (even if it isn’t particularly profound theology). So I think I’ll do my best to stand under Life’s waterfall.

Standing on the Edge, Waiting to Leap

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There is always a moment, right before you do something big, that hangs in the silence. A moment of quiet, of contemplation, perhaps of dread, that comes right before a huge leap. Right now I am in the limbo before the leap.

The insanity of the last few months – the packing and sorting and organizing- is behind me. My life, as I have known it, has been tucked into boxes and stored away for the year. All my thanks and gratefulness goes out to those friends who helped make it happen without me totally loosing my sanity. You are all saints for putting up with me because there were plenty of ugly moments in the last few months. I’m sorry. Really. I owe you. Big.

In front of me waits this big, wide (and sometimes daunting) adventure of life in a new city on a new continent at a new school with new people. That is a whole lot of new and a heck of a lot of different from the quiet life I’ve been living. I’m trying to be excited, but the honest response I have at the moment is anticipation mixed with apprehension. Excitement is a fickle thing. It only stays for a moment as I combat the dreaded “What if?’s” or fight logistics for surplus brain space.

In those fleeting moments however, the excitement is a small but bright flame. I know, deep down in the corners of my heart, that this is my path and God’s adventure for me. I may be scared, but I am utterly assured I am headed exactly where He wants me.  For now, I am trying to soak up all I can of the moment before the leap.

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On the Ordeal of Packing

Want to peek into my life? This. This has been my life for weeks now. Hence, the lack of new, intriguing, entertaining posts.

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Boxes. Lots of boxes. And more boxes. There are boxes hiding behind the table. Under the table. Bins in the basement and in my bedroom. Boxes in my car.

Oh and don’t forget the binders full of class materials I’ve been scanning and storing. Thank you Google Drive.

Also, pardon the cat toys in the bottom corner.

Most people are excited for me to embark on my grand adventure. Unlike a traditional vacation though, I have to pack EVERY. THING. So this is a grand slam combo of prepare to start a new life + Pack up your ENTIRE old life and put it in storage + Figure out what goes with, what stays home, how to pack what stays home and what gets chucked out.  It maybe exciting but it sure ain’t glamourous. Like most people I hate packing. I also hate the process of moving. Before I can do the adventure I get to do the packing and moving.

20170805_121646As you can see, more boxes. These were approximately 1 foot from the other pile of boxes. In a one bedroom apartment this many boxes makes things crowded. Not to mention confusing for the furry roommate. Normally she likes boxes, but I think at this point she knows something is afoot.

As I sort and purge and pack all kinds of lovely memories have wandered to the surface. Memorabilia from past trips. Pics from college. Little souvenirs picked up along life’s road. It’s actually been kinda fun (gasp!) in it’s own weird way. Also encouraging. In the Bible, God told the Israelites to write down what He did for them as a reminder of His faithfulness – hence how the Old Testament exists basically. Stumbling through all the letters, pics, and random accumulation of  life objects has had a similar effect. He’s been faithful whenever I’ve started over – first in New York and then in Pennsylvania. First in seminary. Then at new jobs with new students.

For the moment, I feel like I can do this.

For the moment. Ask me tomorrow and I may have an entirely different answer 😉

But I still can’t stand boxes.

Off the Beaten Path

Have you ever played one of those weird question games where you are presented with two seemingly random items/events/places/actions and you have to decide which you would do in real life, if faced with the choice? I confess I occasionally do this to my students at school. It yields hilarious results.

IMG_2310But just think for a second, what if life actually worked like that? What if, instead of ploughing ahead along our rather humdrum existence, head down (looking at a phone) and not noticing LIFE happening around us–what if instead we regularly faced radical choices that determined the next step of our lives? What if life forced us off the beaten path more often?  How many of us would go, willingly and with joy? We talk a pretty good game, but can we play?

 

Currently Life is pushing, pulling, begging and pleading for me to get off my path. My comfy little path is pretty, well-worn and familiar. I teach. I go to school. I hang out with friends. Rinse. Repeat. I’ve become pretty rooted in my little rut. I kinda like it here for the most part.

But Life…Life is not satisfied.

 

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This is where Life wants me to go. It wants me to wander down the scrubby path under the thicket and into the trees. Life wants me to explore the path that I can just sorta make out as it winds off into the great unknown. A year ago Life presented me with a choice. Against all odds and all sanity I took the unbeaten path. Now, a year and much preparation later that decision is about to become unalterably real.

I’m terrified.

In the same moment I have the kind of peace that “I know, that I know, that I know” I’ve chosen the right path. It’s so settled in my soul that I regularly chide myself for my fears.

When I travel I’m the person that regularly “looses” the group or their travel partner because I have a tendency to wander off. The unbeaten path is my travel specialty. Tolkien was right when he observed that “Not all those who wander are lost.” So now is my chance to embrace that as a whole lifestyle. I’m packing up my whole life and moving across an ocean to a place I’ve never been, to live with people I’ve never met. I’m sure the oft-quoted words of Robert Frost will prove undeniably true…

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.