Learning to Go with the Flow (Or as Josh Says – Focusing on the Right Box)

Josh is always telling me to “Focus on the right box” – it’s one of his favorite things to say – I think “7 Highly Effective Habits” might be his favorite book of all time.  I admit, I do have a habit of stressing out about things that are out of my control.  Take our current situation.  There are so many unknowns. We know it’s unlikely we are staying in Barcelona beyond the end of this school year but there is always a possibility that it could happen, just one more year.  If this job works out for Josh beyond an interim position, would we still be going home in July?  Would we move to Amsterdam?  Or would the kids and I stay in Barcelona and Josh commutes?  And then the next question – what do we want?  For me, at least, my wants change weekly, daily in fact.

There are so many “what if’s” that it is enough to drive one insane which doesn’t help the decision making process.  And not knowing the answer in the immediate future is something that frustrates me, even moments of panic.  But even Josh would be surprised to know that while not thrilled with our current state of limbo, I am really doing my best to sit back and let life lead the way.  Yes, I am trying to focus on the right box.

This is hard though when every bit of stability you have is constantly changing and obstacles are being thrown our way.  This is the life of an ex-pat though and it’s the one we’ve chosen.  However, it’s how we handle the obstacles that define us and how we have changed over the course of this adventure. Right now we are in a state of limbo.  For me, the ultimate planner, this is an obstacle like no other.  I don’t know where we will be at the end of the school year and as a result, I cannot make decisions, do research or plan.  It is the unknown and it scares me.  It also excites me.  And it frustrates me.  My biggest concern is school for the kids and not knowing our destination makes this difficult.  But I’m taking things (overall) in stride.  It shows me how much I have changed as a result of this lifestyle we now lead.  And while I have my moments of panic, I just whip out my trusty notebook and make a list. It feels a little less overwhelming that way.  Or, I laugh in the face of ridiculousness and the fact that everything always happens at once.  Because when it rains, it pours.

For example, a few weeks ago our tenants in Attleboro gave their notice for the end of December. While this was not unexpected as we knew they were house hunting, it also came at a time when we were trying to make some big life decisions. This forced us in a sense to do just that, deciding to hold on to our house with the intent to move back once our contract was up.  This was a good thing at the moment and it felt really good to check one thing off the list.  But that was before the job in Amsterdam.  Now being in that state of limbo and being not wholly sure of when we will return (it could be this summer or if Josh’s job works out, could be longer) how do we know how long to rent it for – 6 months? A year?  Right now we are looking at 6 months, erring on the side of caution but knowing that if we stay here, we could be looking for what will be our 4th renter in 5 years – that’s a lot of legwork on our end and wear and tear on our house.
But wait, that one we were expecting – perhaps not the specific month, but we knew it was coming. However, our tenant on the Cape who has a lease thru April 30 asked us a week ago if he could leave early if he found a house.  I wasn’t thrilled at saying yes to this but also knew that this was something that was incredibly important to him as a single dad and trying to give his son some stability in his life. Though funny enough within that week he managed to find, inspect and set a closing date on a place. Hmmm I think he was working on that one for more than a week if you ask me.  So as of Feb 1 we will need a new renter there as well.

These are not end of the world situations but it puts a financial strain on us when we have the possibility of having not just one but two houses empty plus paying rent here in Barcelona in addition to our every day expenses.  It’s stressful when we are already trying to figure out our “long term” (I use that term so loosely these days!) plan. And it’s inconvenient to deal with from abroad when we are already trying to make some major life decisions. But again I’m doing my best to take it a day at a time and go with the flow. Stressing is not going to solve any of these issues. All I can do is break it down one task at a time and solve the issues that I have the information to do so on.

I look to my list of things to do and realize that right now I can’t tackle many of them.  But my list is ready to go once we have some decisions that will lead to a task.  Because while I’ve already started my pinterest page of things to sell, if we were to stay within Europe, I won’t need to sell many of those things.  But if we go home, I will.  And no matter what, I’m going to need to get school records for both kids ready along with any pertinent testing they may need.  School research will wait til I know our destination.

But there are decisions that need to come in the next few months because there are financial repercussions – like giving our landlord 3 months notice.  That puts us in March if we are going home at the end of June.  And the car lease – could we take it with us to Amsterdam?  Or do we terminate the lease early here (and at what cost?)?  And of course, finding new tenants at home.  We need to do that.
I no longer ask Josh what our “plan” is.  I know that when he knows something, I will be the first person he talks to.  The Julie of yesteryear is long gone… ok, maybe not long gone, but functioning in a different, better capacity.  Or at least trying to.  Of course I have moments where I feel incredibly overwhelmed by the entire situation – I find it’s when I have excessive amounts of time alone to think. And with Josh now gone 5 days a week, I have a lot more time alone than I normally do, hence the overthinking.

However, there is nothing I can do to make the stress go away other than taking things one piece at a time and working with the information I have to solve the issues.  I can do something about our rental situation – I can find new tenants.  That’s a solvable problem.  I cannot plan for the upcoming school year at this point.  I need to put that aside for the time being.  And I need to be ok with doing that. The best method for me at this point is to focus on the here and now and deal with the solvable issues and put all the unknowns aside for the time being.  They will get their time in the sun, it’s just not for right now.

I know this is all a part of the life that we have chosen and I’m accepting of that.  And I know, as a friend pointed out to me, that we aren’t going to be homeless and that the answers will present themselves when the time is right.  And it helps when I’m able to put things in perspective like that – there are so many worse things that could happen than spending a few months in the unknown.  I just need to remember that every time I focus on the wrong boxes!

My aunt and uncle are visiting starting tomorrow and I’m really looking forward to their visit.  It’s well timed in the sense that it will take my mind off of things I cannot control and focus on making sure they have a good time.  We’ll celebrate Thanksgiving together with them and our friends here – and we are thankful.  We are thankful for all the amazing opportunities we’ve had here and that no matter where we end up, we’ll be a family, together, on yet another adventure!

Besos,
Julie

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