In the scheme of things, today is no biggie. I mean, I’ve had worse. People other than me are having worse right now. A friend lost her father suddenly this week. There’s thousands of people whose homes and livelihoods are devastated thanks to the most terrifying hurricane I can remember. President Trump still has the nuclear codes. But this morning began with rain, credit card fraud and a phone call that left me in tears. So I’d like to think my day might improve from here on in.
Why was I crying? Well the bottom line is something to do with being let down by a friend, and that triggered a feeling of frustration and loneliness usually reserved for the much darker days of my early expat experience, which in turn has led me into the rabbit warren of doom, questioning my ability to really be successful at anything very much. I got from ‘my life is full and happy’ to ‘everything is turning to shit’ in about 42 seconds, which was a record, even for me. I know: these are just normal feelings that come and go as we journey through this little thing called life. It’s not like I haven’t felt this way before, and I know it will pass. I just don’t like it. I don’t like this feeling of being crap and having stuff fall apart at the seams despite my very best efforts and intentions. Especially not before 10am in the morning.
It’s a few hours on and I’m still a bit on edge. I realised, earlier, that I haven’t cried in FOREVER. Nor have I self-assessed my feelings for quite some time, which is probably bad, because it means I’ve been ignoring myself. So as I write (this being, in itself, a step forward to regaining the zen mindfulness I’ve missed these past few months) I start to assess why I had such a violent reaction. I wonder if it was really the phone call? Sure, that was the catalyst, but was it the cause? Usually September – and with it turning one year older – is like a shedding of skin, a time to get going with new projects, revive passions for old ones, and generally rush headlong into life again after the stagnation of the summer. Why is this one different?
Maybe I need to spend more time with my thoughts and feelings, to reevaluate what is making me passionate and what is not; what or who I need to walk away from to be happy and find the new balance I obviously seek. I feel like I’ve had to do this a lot since we moved back to London, but then is this really all that surprising? I spoke to another friend – a newly arrived fellow expat – last week, and reminded her it takes three to five years to really feel settled and accepted into a new place. I think I should probably take my own advice and remember I’m only two years into this particular adventure. I’m still, in some ways, experiencing reverse culture shock. I’m certainly nowhere near the ‘mastery’ that is the golden snitch of the expat/repat experience.
When I think about how I felt two years into our Dubai posting, maybe it’s not so shocking I struggle to find my way here at times. I realise my feelings right now, today, are reminiscent of all those years ago, of not quite having found my groove, of missing the people and places that were part of what made the sum of me – of having complete faith in every aspect of my life.
I know I accepted sometime at the end of last year that my life in Dubai was truly over. My friend’s wedding – feeling like a visitor for the first time, instead of coming home – I knew, then, that ‘there’ was no longer home. When I hit the 2-year mark in June, my friend said ‘wow, it’s like you’re really gone now,’ which I suppose was a truth of sorts. But home still isn’t here, not quite: I still feel a little lost, like I haven’t quite mastered this new world – and some of the bits I created in the meantime I kind of wish I hadn’t. So maybe that’s why I’m crying. It’s just another step in the mourning process, in the acceptance that things aren’t the same as they once were, and I’m still learning the new rules of the game.
I know I’ll get over myself of course; in true extrovert style, I just need to surround myself with the right people – people who make me inspired, who make me feel supported, loved and needed because of who I am, rather than who they would like me to be. Fortunately I’m seeing them later tonight. Ironically, they all come from Dubai.