Young Man, calling home: “Mom, I met the girl.”
Mom: “I love her already.”
Young Man: “She may not be quite what you expect . . .”
Mom: “I like surprises. Tell me about her.”
Young Man: “She’s really into belly dancing. And incense.”
Mom: “Ooooh, so am I.”
Young Man: “She’s . . . wait, you are?”
Mom: “Starting now.”
In this fascinating little snippet of dialogue you are Mama and the new place is the girl. She’s in your future so get ready to love her. My best advice in this whole series is probably this: make up your mind to like the new place. It might come easily to do this or it might be really hard work. Determine that you will like it anyway. It seems to me, no doubt due to the irreversible irruption of Facebook on our world, the word “like” has new shades of meaning. We can now stamp “like” on the face of something and it’s all settled. That’s the last word. Like the new place like that.
Note that it may require palpable effort at times to not resent the new place simply for not being the old place. Homesickness is a real thing–I know it. It may be something you have to learn to live with, but it’s one of those things that makes a bad master, so keep it in its place. Appreciating the good things is your best defense.
The truth is, even once you like it, you won’t like everything about it. Sometimes you’ll feel as if you don’t like anything. It is your job to find and dwell on the positives. I hereby appoint thee Pollyanna. Get ready to appreciate. (You’ll have to be a learner in order to be an appreciator.) You’ll also have to open your mind a little. Don’t be like the girl who gets taken out to dinner at the world’s best seafood restaurant and orders chicken. (If snake is their bestseller . . . )
Two times in my three years in Oxford I’ve met American expats who were extremely unhappy to be here. With both girls I noticed the same thing after a while: every time I talked with them I heard complaints about being here. It was always something: the weather, the culture, the distance from home, the lifestyle, the hardships, the cost of living, the way Things Are Done, and so on. The vast majority of their vocalized observations were negative. I never heard anything about Oxford’s beauty and charm, the deliciousness of English strawberries, or the warm hospitality and sheer funny fun of many English friends. Unsurprisingly, neither one ever seemed to settle in or be happy here. After finally returning to the States, one of them sent me a message: she was longing for the cool breezes of Oxford in the heat of her new home!
A word of warning: keep an eye on the other side of your mouth. You can’t hold an appreciative line if you are undermining it constantly by speaking complaints. Determining to be an appreciator means you appreciate what you honestly can and let that be what you talk about. Ever notice how voicing bad feelings makes them stronger? Don’t tell everyone one thing you love and follow it up by kvetching on the weather and the cheese. You are allowed to hate the cheese. You can tell your husband once in a while that you hate the cheese. (Don’t tell the children.) Then invent the cheeseless taco and have something local that’s delicious for dessert.
I know I’ve said stuff like this before, in a way it’s the theme of this blog. And you’re probably thinking, easy for you to say. After all, our most distant move to date was to merry old England, motherland of Austen and purveyor of tea and scones. The land is lovely, the people are lovelier, the language is our mother tongue only better, and nothing could be more brilliantly brilliant, right? I can only say if you’re thinking this that you’re absolutely right. Just this morning I was reading an update on Sonja’s family, they are back in North Africa. Determining on a heart of gratitude is very easy where I am, it doesn’t even seem possible in some places–apart from the grace and work of Jesus. But my wall-jumpers are teaching me that this is a work that Jesus does, it’s to him we turn for help. Can it be that he can so radically renew my mind that I see wherever I am as a blessed place to be?
See also How Does Your Garden Grow?