Adjustment Update

As we approach the halfway point of our first year I thought it would be a good idea to do an emotions / adjustment update.  Not just for you, but as a chance for me to reflect on how the last several months has affected me psychologically.

At about the 2 1/2 month mark you probably noticed my blogs becoming a bit more upbeat after a period of what I can only describe as a downward spiral.  Those first few months were filled with tears, regret and fear.  Around the 2 1/2 month timeframe a friend told me that she noticed my entries were no longer positive and that my original plan of tackling the world (or Spain) one small task at a time suddenly had disappeared.  That I had forgotten my original plan that I had talked about when we arrived – that every little success counts.  That it’s not about the failures but the attempts and the small victories.  That conversation hit home with me and I realized I had been progressing towards being seriously depressed.  Up til then I had been checking flights home regularly, planning how I was going to convince Josh that this really wasn’t working, coming up with any excuse to say that we really should go back home because (insert pathetic reasoning here) and legitimately just falling into a chasm of despression that I didn’t know I could escape from.

Well the good news is that I took that conversation to heart.  She was right.  I got sidetracked.  I forgot what this experience was supposed to be about.  I knew this wasn’t going to be easy from the get-go but I was letting it get the best of me.  I had two choices at this point in time – (1) I can let my fears and regrets take me down and make this a terrible experience or (2) I can take the bull by the horns, accept the challenge for what it is and make the best of this experience.  It’s not going to be all roses, nor has it been, but just changing my perspective has made things significantly better for me.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I think of home EVERY day.  I think about the fact that we are close to 6 months into this journey.  Part of me thinks, “wow, this is flying by – there’s so much left we want to do and not enough time”.  The other part of me thinks, “ok, almost 6 months down, only 18 left to go.”.  It changes back and forth on a daily basis.  I’ll be honest, the last week or two it’s been the latter.  Call it PMS, call it just a cycle that will happen over and over again over these 2 years, call it what you will.  My guess is that I’ll waiver back and forth for months to come as well.

But back to the good news – I’m no longer on a downward spiral into depression.  I don’t love it here but I don’t hate it either.  I like it – plain and simple.  I don’t see myself here for the rest of my life but I can see myself here for the next 18 months.  I don’t want regrets when I go home.  I don’t want the fact that I miss my home, my friends, my family, my LIFE to interrupt what this experience is supposed to be about.  Living a life different from my “ordinary” life.

And so we are trying to take advantage of those opportunities.  In just a few months we’ve been to Sitges, Valencia, DisneyParis, Castelldefels.  Sure, 3 of those are in Spain, but they are outside the city and we have no car so they’ve required some planning so I’m looking at that as a new experience.  And next weekend Josh and I are going to Rome.  We’re hoping to go to Paris in July and we’re going on a family vacation at the end of July to Costa Brava (on the coast of Spain).  There are other travel plans in the works but nothing else finalized yet.

We have our first visitors coming next month.  An exciting opportunity to show people where it is we live and how we are managing.  To show them “our city” from our perspective is something we are looking forward to.  Getting to see familiar faces and not over the computer is another exciting thing for us.  I’d love for more people to come see us – honestly… open invite to our friends and family.  I know we’ve said it before, but I’m saying it again – we want to see you!!

On the flip side, I have another thing to look forward to – my trip home!  I’m heading home for a week in October which gives me something to focus on beyond our other travels.  In between I have Josh’s parents coming and my BFF Michelle in June/July.  That still leaves half of July and all of August for me and the kids on our own – I’ll be ready for that trip home for sure!  This will likely be the only trip home for us this year and this trip is a solo one – just me.  Josh may have to come home for work at some point.  But as a family we will not likely (not 100% sure on it) be coming home this year to visit (I’ll need to reflect on this entry come Xmas time when I’m so bummed about not being home that I’m crying constantly as I’m sure I will be).  So again, come visit us!

Anyways, on to my update – I’m trying to break it down into topics… topics that I feel have come up over the  last few months but I wanted to summarize where I am on each.

Friends:  I’ve met some absolutely lovely people here.  Some have been here for a number of years, some for just a few years, some for just a few months like us.  These are people that I feel like I’ve started to build some nice friendships with.  However, friendships as you know take time to grow – and I’m not super patient.  I keep reflecting back on home and I know I look at home with rose colored glasses because, well, it’s home.  I know those relationships back there didn’t happen overnight.  But in my warped mind here they did.  And so I most definitely experience some frustration on the friendship part here.  And mind you, not to the fault of any of the people I’ve met – it’s me.  I feel that at home, my life is intertwined with my friends lives at home and vice versa.  Here I just feel that everyone is doing their own thing.  However, like I said, realistically my life being intertwined with those at home – it didn’t happen overnight.  And so I need to be patient on this one and just let things happen.

Socializing:  On a similar topic to the above, socializing.  I’d like to be socializing more.  My challenge is that Liam is home with me full time.  I have a sitter for 1 – 1 1/2 days per week.  I really don’t want to push more than that – Liam starts school FULL TIME in September at age 3 so I really want to spend time with him before he leaves the nest so to speak.  So it’s a catch-22.  I’m most definitely lonely.  That’s the feeling that grips me more often than not.  I don’t always have plans on the day I have a sitter and I find myself just wandering the city streets by myself.  I feel like this shouldn’t be a bad thing – I like having quiet alone time.  But for some reason it bugs me.  Why, I don’t know.  I need to get out more in the evenings as well.  I had committed to a girls night once per week when we first got here and again people get busy, or Josh has to work late or I’m just too tired to make the effort – I haven’t been out at night in weeks and I need to be more proactive on my end.  I can’t rely on everyone else to make plans and can’t complain about being stuck at home if I don’t attempt to make plans on my own.

Language:  I’m pleased to say I’m feeling more confident with my ability to speak Spanish.  Don’t get me wrong, I know that I’m messing up the tenses and don’t always choose the correct word to describe my needs.  But I’m most definitely understanding a lot more that’s said to me and feel that I’m capable of getting my point across with the little bit I know.  My skills have improved significantly in the last few months.  I have a long way to go but it feels good to know I’m capable and can do this.  However, because I’m still not great, I find I have to rely on others here and there which is frustrating for me.  I want to do it myself.  But I also know realistically I can’t – YET.  For instance, the kids had their physicals last week.  I had my sitter, Alefiya, come with me in case I couldn’t communicate.  I’m thankful she did because I wouldn’t have had a clue on the process of getting thru the doctor’s office.  From there we went next door where I had seen a pediatric dentist office.  Three desks later we found the counter where you made the appointment.  Not only was I glad she was there for me to make the appointment but it also turns out that Aidan needed to have his last dental xrays with him for his appointment or they would not see him on that day.  There is absolutely NO WAY I would have understood that on my own.  So I also had to have her make an appointment with him to go to the hospital for radiology to do his dental xrays for that morning before his cleaning (yes, he has to go to the hospital – they can’t just do the bite tabs…why, because it’s Spain).  These are moments where a few months ago I would have been in tears because I had to rely on someone else to help me with something that should be so simple.  Now I realize, I just need to ask even if it means putting my pride on the back burner.  My hope is that by this time next year, I can do these things on my own.

Shopping:  The shopping bug is back.  Need I say more?  Ok, really it’s only back for clothes for me.  And I’m still not 100% on board with the style here.  But I’m getting there.  Slowly.  As far as other shopping – like for food… well, it’s still a pain in the ass.  Sure at first it was charming that I had to go to the local mercat to get my fruits and vegetables, the grocery store for basics and then to the American or British store for special treats for home.  But given that most stores (not just grocery) are mainly open from 10-2:30 and then 5:00-8, my window of opportunity is very small.  Liam naps from 12:30-3:30 or so, give or take.  So if the store doesn’t open til 10, I have 2 – 2 1/2 hrs to get my shopping done before I have to come home, feed him lunch, put him down for a nap.  Then he wakes up and we have maybe 1/2-45 mins before we have to go get Aidan from the bus.  Aidan gets home at 5 so there is our day.  I feel like I spent most of my time grocery shopping at one store or another on a given day.  And I don’t even cook much!  And the fact that the things that I expect to find at certain stores are not actually at those stores but some place completely irrelevant.  For instance, I needed a muffin pan for the kids’ birthdays.  It wasn’t in a store you would expect like the grocery store or a home store… no it was at the hardware store.  But of course, why wouldn’t you look at the hardware store for a muffin pan, right???  Seriously, would you ever go to the hardware store for a muffin pan?  Again, a few months ago I would have been in tears so I consider it progress that I now can find the humor in the fact that the freaking muffin pan is at the hardware store (to the tune of 18 euros).

Food:  Speaking of cooking… I still don’t like to.  But I’m forced to more than I’d like.  I still don’t really like the food here but I’m finding restaurants that I do like and that I will eat their food.  You still won’t see me eating a ham sandwich/bocadillo for breakfast or ingesting paella for dinner, but I’m managing.  By no means am I starving.  We’ve found a fabulous Italian place that we go to regularly and I could seriously eat there every day.  That and the Creps a Barcelona.  I’ve found all their locations and just realized they had one maybe 10-15 mins walk from me (YES!).  Tapas I can take or leave.  I like them every now and again but unless you go for pinchos I’m finding that pretty much everyone has the same tapas over and over again – some done better than others, but the basic premise is the same with them all.  No variety – at least that I’ve found.  Josh especially finds my complaint about variety funny because I’m pretty much the pickiest eater known to man and at home live on maybe 5 different meals.  However, food here is pretty cheap and the menu del dia is usually a great deal.  Wine sometimes is cheaper than water here and actually very good.  Surprisingly you can get a bottle of wine for just a few euros and it’s delicious.  Cava Sangria has become my new best friend that I JUMP at the chance for a martini any time I can find one.  Most restaurants serve wine and sangria – no other drinkies.  Like tapas, that gets old.

Phone:  I still haven’t figured out how to work our voice mail on the land line.  I don’t see that happening any time soon either.  Don’t leave a message 🙂  However, I do know how to check on my cell phone so please feel free to leave a message there.  Since my Spanish is rustic at best, I don’t like to talk on the phone to any non native English speakers still – I’ve made a few dinner reservations and have to say they were highlights of those days that I was able to communicate my needs without using my charades skills in front of them.  Some have required calls back by me because at the end of the call they communicated different information than I had given, but in the end I sorted it all out and it felt good.

Work:  Yes, for those that don’t know, I’m still working.  I’ve been able to run my business from over here and for the most part, other than some days where I just can’t focus (which of course happens at home to if I’m going to be fair), things are working out well.  My clients are 6 hrs behind me so it gives me a chance to get a few hrs of work in during the morning before the stores open, go spend some time with Liam, feed him lunch, get more work done, all before my clients even come online.  Of course the flip side of that are the late night (my time) requests that come in that I feel badly that I was sleeping during.  Unfortunately I can’t be everywhere all the time, but really my customers have been really great about the transition and it’s worked out nicely for me so that I can still have time with my family and focus on my business as well.  I’m hoping when Liam starts school in the fall that I can refocus and build my business up some more – at least as much as I can while being across the Atlantic from where my customers are located.

So you’ve heard my updates.  Overall I have to say, positive.  Sure there are moments when a negative bug gets in there but I feel that I’m on a positive hill right now.  I know there will be some bumps along the way but I feel confident now that I can handle it.  As far as the rest of the family goes – I seem to be the one with the most issues.  Josh has since day 1, been fine.  Work is challenging for him which is important, especially given that’s why we moved here.  He absolutely loves it here.  The kids.  Well, I don’t think Liam realizes yet that we moved.  I know, it’s been almost 6 months.  I think for him since he’s so young, his home is where his family is and so he’s adjusted just fine – he talks about home here and there but I don’t think he’s phased.  Aidan had some definite bumps in the early months.  The first 6 weeks were really rough with him.  He was angry ALL the time which didn’t help me since I was feeling angry all the time too.  But he’s settled in now and has made some really nice friends at school.  He likes his school and says he misses his old one but likes this new one too.  I know he misses his friends terribly but he does Skype with them at least once a month.  The winter months were easier I think for all involved since we were all home more, but now that nicer weather is here it’s been harder to coordinate schedules to have the kids Skype – I really need to be better about that for him.  He has days where he cries about how he misses home.  But then he has days where he says he doesn’t want to leave because he loves it.  I have to say, I’m really proud of the way he has handled this move.  Not only did he leave all that was comfortable for him, but he moved somewhere where he has virtually no yard, now has to share his bedroom, new school, new kids, new language – he amazes me.  People always say kids this age are resiliant and I’ll admit I was hesitant to jump on board, but really, he’s been great.

So that’s our update.  It’s long, but it’s thorough 🙂

On the agenda coming up – I think we may tackle Monjuic.  We haven’t seen the Magic Fountain or much of Placa Espana so we really need to explore that part of the city.  Josh is off for a holiday on Monday so we have an extra day in there to have some fun as a family.  Looking forward to it!

Julie

3 thoughts on “Adjustment Update

  1. Julie,

    Hang in there. While we didn't have to deal with the language and other country issues, we did have to deal with a complete other lifestyle. This is not Virginia! We are still living in a 1BR loft with 4 people and will likely find a rental in August (9 months after I moved in October). I am taking this as a challenge and nothing is going to stop me from enjoying this stage in our lives.

    If you ever have time to read, I would read the Julia Child book about her time in France. While it may be about her genesis as a chef, it really gets into her adjustment to living in Paris in the 1950s. She had to learn French and make friends while her husband was away at work. It might provide some comfort.

    Buenos noches!

    Pedro

    Like

  2. Pingback: This is Not Home | The Expat Chronicles

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