Did you know it was an art? Do you even know what I’m talking about? Isn’t this home? Should returning to the country of your birth ever need to be anything more than a tiny blip on the radar that is life? Did you have any idea that people of all ages and nations and walks of life have been studied and whole books have been written in order to better understand the phenomenon known as reverse culture shock? I’ve been reading one such book, which is aptly entitled, The Art of Coming Home by Craig Storti (don't know him, not doing any kind of review, yadda yadda yadda...just reading a book).
This concept of reverse culture shock is something I've wanted to write about on my blog for a while now, mostly because it’s a topic that consumes much of my thinking. I’m more or less in the throes of it…I’m up, I’m down, I love it here, I miss it there, I wish I could see/do/be xyz here, I don’t miss that about there, I cry and wring my hands in frustration, won’t someone understand… I go hours or days without life there even entering my thoughts at all… but wait, that's no good…I want it to stay fresh in my head…no, it needs to fade…who am I now… how do I take what I learned about myself and people and differences and life and make it fit here…where do I belong and how do I balance memory and reality?
There is a problem though in writing about all of this in a forum such as blogland, or for that matter anywhere outside of the expatriate community, and that is this: at the very core of 'coming home' is the undeniable fact that people don't really care. I’m truly not being critical here, just keeping things real. It’s a bit of, "So what's the big deal? You were here, you moved overseas for a while, blah blah blah, and now you're back.... where you belong. Home.”
Do you know how many times I've heard those words...here... home... where you belong? The thing is we're not really feeling it. Not yet anyway. We will I’ve been told but at the moment not so much. I'm sure a few of you are rolling your eyes as you read this thinking, ‘My goodness, will she just get on with life already???” That's an honest reaction and I understand it. Recently the welcome wagon lady stopped by my house. She stayed for almost 2 hours and I’m pretty sure I mentioned we'd just moved back to the states after 6 years overseas but what she really wanted to talk about was...herself. Her reaction to me was pretty much the reaction I get from almost everybody when I mention that we're new... ‘Wow, London, that's nice...so anyway back to me’. A slight exaggeration but I think you know what I mean. We're all very much about our own stuff...our own little corner of the world, what's going on inside our own house and particularly what is going on inside our own head. Perhaps this reaction is a blessing in that it is what helps me move on, to look forward, to be in this moment and not moments past.
It’s a high wire act I find myself walking most days. I want to feel settled and at home here, in this place, this town, my country, but in doing so I don’t want to let go of a single thing that has been added to my life in the past six years. A friend who also lived in the UK for six years but has been back in the states for seven years now recently said to me, “Sometimes I forget I ever lived there. Like those years never happened.” Is that feeling inevitable? Oh I really hope not. How exactly do I embrace the new without letting go of the old?
I started my blog back in January. We’d been told since the previous June that we would be repatriating in the next few months and it was just after Christmas that the time frame seemed to come together. I knew then that I would be overwhelmed by my own thoughts and feelings and I started blogging to capture that in some way, to put some of those thoughts and feelings in writing so they wouldn’t keep me awake at night. I wrote about what I expected to feel as we made our way back across the pond. Now I’m feeling it and I want to write about that too. Perhaps this post reads like one great big giant whine but I assure you that is not the case at all. My heart is in fact feeling very full…full of gratitude and sweet memory and hope for the future. A future where memory and reality are blended in equal parts…where I smile at the old and welcome the new….where home is where I am and the rest is in my heart.