Complicated can be used to describe math problems, recipes, emotions, relationships, and even life. On May 13th I wrote on Instagram about how life can be complicated, especially for expats raising third culture kids (TCKs). Who knew that a few weeks after that post my life would become more complicated?
Complication always visits my life at the most inconvenient time. Maybe you, too, have had a visit and can relate or maybe Complication has unpacked his bags and is living in your guest room right now.
A few things you need to know about me before I share more about what I am calling the “Summer of the Perfect Storm.” First, I have lived in Taiwan for many years and am married to a TCK who grew up here. We have three kids of which the oldest is making his way in the US, the middle child has mild-severe special needs and attends the local special education school here in Taiwan, and the youngest attends a high school in an international school.
Last school year, we made a huge transition decision of having two homes. Our youngest child’s school was a half-day drive from where we lived. So we rented a flat near the school and I lived with our youngest and my husband lived with our middle child. We switched many times and it was complicated, but worked. Oh, let me add that I was mid-way through my Master’s in Care and Counselling.
“The Perfect Storm”
May 13th: I had just finished a workshop on TCKs and was thinking about transitions and thriving when I saw the aloe plants growing in the cracks between the building and the road (see photo above). I asked, “Are these plants really thriving in this environment?” It made me think about how the TCKs in my life were doing; how I was doing. To be honest, I was processing the year. It led to some good discussions with my husband and youngest. Then the Complication entered our lives.
My youngest had two weeks left of school and the middle child had six weeks left. My husband left for Germany to visit with his family and we had all the details worked out for me here. It was going to be perfect. Then our middle child went online for school. This happened last year and it was terrible. She has to have one-on-one help with her schoolwork. I took a deep breath and thought, “We survived last year, we can survive it again.” Then a few days later my youngest also went online. All three of us did online school. It was “The Perfect Storm.” I do not want to complain or even compare myself to single parents but read between the lines that it was more than just the online school issues. At one point we had an incident with a mouse that included houseplants and a dog – it seemed that I never had a dull moment.
After any large storm, there is an aftermath. After typhoons, we step outside and survey our yard and street for damage from the storm. We check for electrical lines that may be down, broken windows, or anything else amiss. After the Complication left, surveying our house was necessary. This was not just doing a deep cleaning because we were all in survival mode. This was also surveying relationships to make sure all was okay with my family relationships. Because let’s be honest, Complication likes to leave relationships a mess when it packs up the suitcase to exit the premises.
Survive & Clean-up
During the storm, one must survive and afterward, there is clean-up. Here are a few things that I did or wished I had done better while Complication sat around my firepit drinking my cold grapefruit green tea.
- “This is a season”: Remember that this is not permanent; Complication will leave. Or like my mom always told me, “This too shall pass.” Just hang on and take one day at a time. (Please know that if it is something that is permanent like a child with a diagnosis, then you will transition to “the new normal”.)
- Gratitude/Thankful Journal: Every day write out what you are grateful for in your life. It can be small things or big – either way, look for the good in your life. There is always something. Or do this as a family and keep a big chart on a wall that anyone can write on. Positive thinking and having an attitude of gratitude (I feel like this was a slogan on a high school poster) are good for your mental health.
- Conversations with your family: Apologize when you mess up. Ask open-ended questions and then listen without trying to fix the problem. Show empathy. At supper ask about the highs/lows of the day. The key is to keep the connection with your loved ones.
- Process: Take time to process. That could be journaling, writing a letter to yourself, hiking, yoga, running, painting/drawing, etc. This is taking the time to reflect on your emotions, your body, and your mind.
- Talk to a counselor or therapist: If the above sounds too difficult and not doable, then find someone who will listen to you and help you navigate to a place where you can thrive or kick Complication out of your home.