Reverse Culture Shock

Well, seeing as you’re still reading, I guess I’ll keep writing.  For now. 🙂  I’m happy with a lot of the posts I’ve achieved with this blog over the last several years, and I don’t really want to give it up.  So if you’ll just be patient with my few, sporadic, posts, I’ll try to focus a bit more and put stuff up more often.

After the last post, a kind woman who has been through a similar situation expressed the feeling PERFECTLY as “reverse culture shock.”  Yes, I’d say that’s exactly what we’re feeling after this most recent move back to the USA. I know it’s what I’m feeling for sure.

It’s been a little crazy. 🙂  We were so worried, and anxious, and upset, when Frank didn’t find work for so long.  And health care (or the lack thereof) really, really got to me.  I wasn’t even thinking about President Obama or all the debate or even where we were going to find the money – I just wanted the security of knowing we’d be taken care of!  And after being turned away and hung up on and treated like dirt when I just wanted the basics for my family, I was very, very upset.  Finally, as you know, Frank found work and the benefits are really good.  In fact, they just went into effect for us, which is good because Frank and I were turned down twice for Medicaid for “lack of paperwork,” even though we provided everything and more that they requested.  The kids, however, were covered by Medicaid for some reason, so they’ve been “safe” for the last few weeks. Whew.

Then, just as we prepared to celebrate, I got very sick all Christmas week.  Explosively sick.  Was it our Dec. 23rd Chinese take-out, or was it an evil predatory virus?  We will never know.  As soon as we’d gotten back on our feet from that one, the weather came in to play.  As you probably also know, it’s been an insane winter for the Midwest.  In all my years here before, I never saw a winter like this, though, to be fair, I was living in an apartment building a couple miles away from my work, so I didn’t really worry about  bad roads and the like.  Well, there was a massive storm in early January that crippled the city.  I was shoveling the walk as the snow came down and stopped to watch as sparks of blue light shot through the air around me from the exploding transformers as they blew in our neighborhood.  We lost power and heat, and tried to get the car out so we could go stay with friends, but the car got stuck in the road.  So we went back inside, bundled up, lit candles, ate cold food.  The power mercifully came back on, Frank and I watched a movie and went to bed.  When we woke up, the power had gone out again sometime in the night, and the temperature in the house was dropping rapidly.  Our neighbors had run out of firewood and came over to say they wanted to go to the Marriott down the road.  We followed suit.  We packed up everything again and this time we were able to get the car out, all four of us and Georgie, and we went to stay that day and night in a hotel.  It was sort of fun for Evelyn, I think, but scary for us.  After checking to see if the power was back on, we headed home the next day.  On our way, there was an Army/Navy store and I suggested stopping so Frank could pick up some more cold weather gear for work that night.  I pulled into the parking lot and apparently a water main nearby had burst, so I drove through a pool of water.  My next mistake was parking while Frank went inside the store.  It was so cold that the rear brakes froze to the wheels.  We were completely and utterly stuck, in a parking lot, in a bad neighborhood about a mile from home, in -20 weather, with freezing water rising up around our car.  I think that was my lowest point.  I felt terribly awfully incredibly sad, scared, upset, angry, worried, and stupid.

Long story short, a friend came to our rescue and took us all home.  We left the minivan and later had it towed and unfrozen at our mechanic’s, to the tune of $300.  The snow eventually melted, the temperature eventually went up, and we went on with life.  We got a lot more snow, and cold temperatures, right up until last night.  Meanwhile, Shea got sick with a bad tummy bug.  Frank got sick with the flu.  But we have kept on going, and we’ve had a couple good days now, I’m very happy to report.

Evelyn is in preschool two days a week, and that is great for her. It’s nice to see friends when we’re not snowbound.  I’ve been doing some freelance writing in addition to working a couple times a week at Starbucks.  Frank’s job is going fine, even though it’s not his dream place to be, but we’re really thankful for it and he’s learning a lot and making mental notes for his next scripts.

But, we are all homesick.  We miss Irish family and friends, especially this last week when Frank’s sister got married.  We miss having our little coal fire going and we miss having our small town all around us, so close that we could walk wherever we wanted to go.  I love having the car and more choices, but we do miss the simplicity sometimes.

We miss funny things, like food and TV shows and people on the streets.  We’ve been very lucky in that there have been several wonderful care packages sent over from family and friends.  I don’t think Frank has had to go a day without his Lyon’s tea!!! And believe me, it really makes such a huge difference to us, and to him, that people care enough to send those things.  It’s the little things that are really the big things!!!

As for me, I just feel displaced all over again.  I feel like I dont’ have a real home or a place to belong.  My hometown of Bozeman has outgrown me.  Drogheda was my home for the last 5+ years, but I never felt 100% at home there.  Indianapolis was the last home I have known, and now, being back, I feel like a stranger all over again.  One of the other baristas at Starbucks told me last week that I’m losing my accent – the Irish accent I never intended to pick up is now melting away, and that makes me feel sort of forlorn.

I’m out of my groove – I can’t cook the way I did back in Ireland, I miss my routines and my coworkers and in-laws.  It’s like I’ve traded one form of security for another.  I tried to make a batch of Brown Sauce from scratch, thanks to a great friend at Stockwell Artisan Cafe, but somehow I totally botched it and over-reduced it and ruined the hell out of it, making some kind of terrible, inedible Brown Sauce Toffee that took a week to come out of my glass bowl.  It was a hideous culinary disaster of epic proportions. And I cried.

I’ve been very impatient with my kids, and frustrated that I am, because in one sense I’ve been so happy that I get to stay home and spend more time with them.  I’m thrilled Evelyn gets to do pre-school and she is getting so big and grown up and learning so many things!  She’s started drawing again recently, and she constantly amazes Frank and me with her attention to detail and discipline to sit and draw, draw, draw.  Shea is a monster, crawling and climbing and boxing me in the face and growling and laughing and eating me out of house and home!  He does not sleep nearly enough.  The kids, they’re adapting, I think.  But I still feel at odds, and that, combined with a sleep deficit comparable to the national debt, has definitely upset the minutely fine balance of my nerves.  A lot of days I feel like a bad mom, and a bad wife, and a bad friend.

But, I’ve been reading “The Long Winter” again.  And if Laura Ingalls Wilder can make it through a much, much worse winter than ours, then I can, too.  I realize I’m allowed to feel displaced, even if I don’t have to twist hay to keep my family from freezing, but I don’t want to feel like Oscar the Grouch for the rest of my days.  I dont’ want to still be yelling at Evelyn “Will you stop jumping on the couch so help me I’ve told you 30 times today” when Spring sunshine is coming in the window.

I want the confidence that I’ll be able to breathe again one day.  I want to know, in my heart, that I’m an OK person, I DO love the special ones in my life even if I don’t always act appropriately, and I won’t always present kitchen failures to them as dinner.  And I want to be able to write about something more fun, and interesting, and, frankly, sellable, than all the breaks and sprains in my psyche.

So, um, thanks for holding my hand, even though you probably didn’t mean to when you clicked on this blog today.  But thanks.  I know I’m blessed, and I do feel it when I look on the faces of my little immigrant family.  But, I just pray, with all of my heart, that God will help me feel less anxious and more whole again soon.  And if you’re ever near our street, please stop by, have a cup of Lyon’s tea and a slightly burnt cookie.  It would be nice to see you.


3 thoughts on “Reverse Culture Shock

  1. thank you for your honesty,friend. i’m glad i get a piece of it. of course, i’d much rather enjoy it with a cup of coffee, but ce la vie. you know, i could join you all sometime for breakfast, or mid-morning coffee/tea. would you like that? i have a fairly flexible schedule as well, so when you need a little break, let me take the little ones. we can run errands together or play at home. whatever works. 🙂

  2. I am glad you and Frank are writing down your frustrations and drama of your first months back in the states. You know one day you will look back on these months and laugh. I have been in situations like this, with no money and everything falling out from under my feet, and felt that fear and loneliness, so it is kind of homey to read this and hear my own heart sympathize. It makes me want to come drink a cuppa with you and commiserate 🙂 I think it is especially hard with little kids. If it just you and Frank like it was getting started in Ireland it could be an adventure… with babies it is a whole different story. Hang in there and put your hope in the one who really holds you up!

  3. Today, I went to the beachfront with my children. I found a sea shell and gave
    it to mmy 4 year olld daughter andd said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” Shhe pput thee shell to heer ear and screamed.
    Thedre was a hrrmit ccrab iside and itt pinched her ear. She never wants too go back!
    LoL I know this is completely offf opic bbut I had to tell someone!

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