on life in a foreign place :: ambiguity.

if you missed the first installment, click here.

yesterday, while my hands were soapy with dishwater, i mused over the fact that there is so much ambiguity in my life, i don’t even know where to start.

how have i, a myers-briggs J, come to deal with all of this? the inability to understand and mentally organize my world?

there are so many areas of life overseas that this applies to, but the biggie for me right now is jones’s youchien (preschool for ages 3, 4, and 5).  some examples:

-usually when i show up for a PTA event, i have no idea what its about or why i’m there, except that i’m to bring slippers and show up at 9.  i find out when i get there, by asking a friend to explain, that we are learning how to read books to our kids, or that there is an event coming up (who knows what?!) that we are planning for, or that it wasn’t a mandatory meeting and i could’ve stayed home after all. (dammit!)
-there are lots of times where i show up and everyone else has a facemask/camera/piece of paper that i don’t have, and i’m left to wonder why.
-when i read the many many MANY papers that come from the youchien each week.  all the other moms have the luxury of reading and understanding all that is in them, but without about two-hours study time, i only know if there is a date and time on the paper, and figure out from there if i’m supposed to send something to school, be at school, or do something for the school.

these are just three examples, but there is so much more that happens that i don’t understand or am totally out-of-the-loop on.  it has become a way of life for me, to not know what’s going on.  showing up and finding out just then feels normal.  the only way i’ve been able to survive as “J” in this setting without pulling my hair out or having a nervous breakdown every weak has been practice — practice at letting go, practice at facing my fears, practice at not controlling everything.  and you know what?  practicing these things can actually make you change.  i know that’s not revolutionary or anything, but some of these things about myself were things i thought i would always carry with me — and now they aren’t part of me anymore.  like…

-fear of being the center of attention (of which i always am, foreign lady with foreign children, one of them strikingly BLONDE.  i used to feel mad on the inside when we were stared at — now i smile and wave, which is returned with a smile over half the time.)

-fear of looking/sounding stupid (i’m certain this happens at least twice a day.  the more often it occurs, the less i care.)

-desire to control my children’s lives, and terrifying fear of what would happen if i couldn’t (absolutely NOT POSSIBLE, given that i don’t understand half of what happened for jones during his first year at youchien.  this is changing somewhat, now that we’re into his second year and i’ve ‘done it before’, and my language is further along.  we ‘ve also had several meetings with teachers and the principal to get a better idea of what goes on for jones at school.  but still… he loves school, the school loves him, and he comes home happy most days.  isn’t that enough?)

strange, isn’t it? perhaps even a little bit inspiring, i hope — the fact that things you struggle with, with practice at facing them, can become non-issues in your life.  perhaps this is my first taste of that kind of spiritual, internal transformation.

thank you for Japan, God.

what are ways you’ve seen this kind of life-change with time and practice?

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3 thoughts on “on life in a foreign place :: ambiguity.

  1. Jamie, I absolutely love your posts. Please do keep posting on things like this. I don’t believe it is offensive to others. All I know, though is that you are able to put into words my feelings so exactly. Yes, we are no better and in many cases life isn’t harder than those who live in the States. However, you cannot deny there is a difference that honestly only those who are living in another culture understand. And being a mom to little ones in that country- yikes. I, with all my being, totally understand your thoughts on language and having kids. I’ve had that conversation with myself a gazillion times. I need to restudy French and Bambara. But, this is my life at the moment. I don’t have hours to sit and study. But I’ve learned that this is a process. I’ve often clung to the verses that there is a season for everything and that He makes all things beautiful in His time. Not in mine. I want fluency in french and bambara now. I want to understand all my work at the hospital now. But that’s not His plan. As you said, it allows us to lean on Him and learn my dependence on Him. He is most glorified when I am weak. Instead of trying to shy away from my weakness and inabilities, I should embrace them knowing that that is when He will be most seen in me.

    Thank you for your posts. Love them.

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