Identity Crisis during Snowpocalypse 2014

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I had a dream my purse was stolen.  It was an awful dream where I realized I had no money, no phone, no driver’s license, no keys.  No one knew who I was and I couldn’t call for help. I was no one.

This dream happened after three days of being unable to leave the house after a snowstorm blanketed Wichita with 8.5 inches of snow, and the city was slow to clear the roads making road travel impossible. So I wasn’t able to go to my volunteer job at the Red Cross. My husband went to work leaving me alone with the cats for hours on end.

I was really bothered by this dream….until I forgot about it. Then this article in the WSJ showed up inexplicably and I remembered the dream: After Divorce or Job Loss Comes the Good Identity Crisis – WSJ.com.

I am relieved to know that my ongoing mood swings, negativity or irritability, and inexplicable emotions could be that I’m still reeling from losing my dream job when we moved. And mostly my resentment towards housework.

moo mouseI didn’t realize that my whole conception of my value as a person hinged on what I do to occupy my waking hours.

I have tried to be crafty on Etsy. And I’m trying to be a “blogger.” I’ve expanded my cooking repertoire and my kitchen confidence has indeed grown.  I have researched countless trivia to keep my mind active.

But for me this doesn’t really cut it compared the daily routine of having meaningful work to fulfill your life’s purpose.

I’m currently trying to embrace that I’m a Highly Sensitive Person as well as an Introvert (Just read Quiet by Susan Cain). I’ve been more selective of people I bring into my life to shield myself as recommended by HSP experts and Cain. So my friendships are limited currently.

It doesn’t take much analysis to see that loss of my social network has probably contributed to feelings of isolation and loneliness, especially during a blizzard. What confounds me at least is my continued anxiety about not having a job and the stress of not liking Wichita. I’m not sure why I still haven’t acclimated, but this WSJ article does shed some light on why I’m still out of sorts.

If you have tips or experiences to share about moving or relocating difficulties, I’d love to hear about them. Leave a comment below!

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The Anatomy of Friendship | Aly Walansky

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From The Huffington Post:

The Anatomy of Friendship | Aly Walansky.

When you are young, making friends feels effortless.

You fall into deeply intimate friendships with the girl who sits next to you in math class, your shift mate at the Dairy Queen. You don’t really have to work at it, because there seems to always be people with common interests right there, eager to hang out and become your new confidant.

But when was the last time you made a new friend? A real, true friend who withstood the test of time and life complications? Someone who you really, truly love — not just someone to bitch and moan with at the office Keurig, but who will be there for you in a snap, who you can call at anytime, and who can call you at 3 a.m.? That person who, no matter what, will always be there for you?

I’m touching upon a pretty difficult birthday in a few weeks, and it’s heading up a year that has been the hardest one of my life. (And that’s saying a lot, because I spent the birthday prior in the ICU.) This has been a year that’s seen a lot of changing relationships, and lost ones. And I discovered, as I pick up the pieces and try to move on, that as you reach your thirties, it gets increasingly difficult to make true and lasting friends. Why is that? And what can we do about it?

We just don’t have the time anymore

Sure, we thought we had it rough in high school and college — but in retrospect, that was all youthful naiveté. Many of us now work ceaseless hours and while we may have many people we love spending time with, we all too often just don’t have the time to spend. It’s hard enough to maintain ties with our dearest friends. Do we have time to add new ones to the mix?

We’ve solidified our identities

If you think about it, as we grow up, the friends we have are a crucial part of the person we develop into. Our friendships determine who we are in a lot of ways we don’t even realize. But as we get older, we sort of already know who are and it gets harder. We now need to cultivate relationships that compatible with our own inherent self. They don’t need to be just like us, but they do need to be someone that doesn’t leave us wanting to rip our hair out, either. Because, as said above, who has time for that? We didn’t have this criteria as kids because we simply didn’t know what our criteria was. It hadn’t been created yet.

Friendships are a lot like dating

A friend of mine recently moved across the country on a whim. She’s happier than she’s ever been, and I noted when I saw her recently that it’s amazing she made friends so quickly. She shared a mutual friend had been setting her up on “friendship blind dates” — lady dates where she’d meet a new potential friend for drinks or a show. For her, it’d been working really well.

For me, I was unsure how I’d personally fare at something like that. If dating itself so often feels like a job interview, imagine having to interview for an entirely new social circle?

People show you who they really are (and you may not like it)

When we were kids, the worst thing that ever happened in friendships would be that my fifth grade BFF would start sitting with someone else at lunch. It felt tragic at the time, but by the next day, I had a new BFF. It was easy then. Now, when we make and lose friends, the parameters feel a lot larger — it’s very much like a breakup, possibly even a death. There are so many different types of friendship breakups. The people who say they will be there for you, and then ultimately aren’t. The people who put you on an impossibly high pedestal — and then one day tear the chair out from under you. The people who get married or have babies and suddenly just aren’t as available as they once were. And, there’s the most common type of friendship end in your 30s — the ones that drift apart. You simply have different interests now, and nothing left to talk about. As I said, it’s kind of like a divorce, and just as hard to come back from.

Even with tons of friends, life can be lonely. Especially if these friends are long distance, or people you predominantly chat with on the Internet. No tweet can hug you when you are sad. No email can give you someone to meet for an impromptu happy hour when you’ve had a bad day.

This has been an incredibly hard year for me, one where a lot of friendships have simply disappeared. And I’ve discovered that maybe, as you get older, it’s not the same anymore. You don’t need to have loads of friends. You need to have a few really good ones. And when you manage to have that — and, praise the lord, I do — treat them like the gold they are. You’ll never have a more precious asset. And, as you may have noticed, they aren’t so easy to replace.

I resent my spouse

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Initially I tried to hide or deny that I felt resentment about being a trailing spouse.   Then someone pointed out that I was grieving and this reframed everything.

I think it is necessary to grieve for the loss of a particular dream or hope. And grief often entails anger as one moves through the process of letting go and adapting to a new reality. Plus I was dealing with severe culture shock.

Although resentment and anger are part of the same coin, resentment is usually toward someone  you perceive to have higher status than you. When I realized that resenting my husband was a hallmark of low self-esteem or worse, internalized patriarchy, I kicked that attitude to the curb.

These days I focus on creating the best life possible and to live each day to the fullest.  Here are my coping mechanisms for handling trailing spouse resentment:

I remind myself that this is an opportunity to learn.

There’s a saying that goes something like:  “The more you learn, the less you know.” I have realized I have a lot to learn about other cultures, ecosystems and economics.  I sometimes feel angry and bitter that all my “skills” are wasted or underutilized. Recently, thanks to Mr. Money Mustache, I now see all my free time as a gift of freedom to learn NEW skills to make myself more marketable. Now I am pursuing skills that allow for a portable career.

I stay stimulated and busy.

If you are doing something, then you can’t brood about what you aren’t doing!  Here are some things that have created happiness:

  • Cooking
  • Reading
  • Exercise
  • Exploring (I sometimes combine exercise and exploring)
  • Eating  (I often combine eating and exploring)

I focus on the positive and having fun.

See  above.

But also consider volunteering–I love my volunteer job at the Red Cross!

If all else fails, Chocolate. And reading blogs from other trailing spouses.

Eenie, meenie, miney, mo. Ok, I will just eat you all.

Let’s see which one is the tastiest.

Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Trail Food. No granola here.

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I realized last night that Julia Child had also been a trailing spouse early in her marriage.  I also realized I had been creating some marvelous foods here in the Heartland.  I confessed in an earlier post that I’d eaten a lot of sweets and gained weight.  The full story is that I baked and ate a lot of sweets.  But truly: I do love to cook and bake and it was a solace to have such wonderful delights coming out of the kitchen.

Lots of sprinkles always makes things better.

Real ginger. Real lemon. Real molasses = Real pain in the butt.

My first creation was gingerbread cookies.  My husband eats Little Debbie brand cookies by the box, and I was hoping to save some money.  However, they are too much work!

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“yule” want summa dis.

My second adventure was a Bûche de Noël without all the little meringue decorations.  This dessert appealed to me due to its gluten-free nature and tons of WHIPPED CREAM.  However, it was difficult to roll.  But it was very good. Could become a tradition.

yum in my tum

yum in my tum

Then I decided who needs to go to coffee shops to have delectable morning or afternoon sweet treats?  With hubby’s permission, I used the last of the bananas in the house and made this great banana cake, thanks to the Gluten-Free Goddess. They were easy to freeze and marvelous in a pinch.

Gluten-free paleo tart crust Photo credit Elana’s Pantry

Photo Credit from Elana’s Pantry. Gluten-Free tart crust was a real delight the other day.

I made this crust with this Chard Recipe from chard from the garden, although I used greek yogurt instead of all that cheese. Delish!

Recipes for other creations:

Handheld Meat Pies

Southern BBQ Chicken with Lima Beans and Cornmeal Dumplings

Snickerdoodles (gluten-free)

Lemon Blueberry Cake

Chicken Cacciatore

Cold Soba Noodle Salad

Staring, politeness, tailgating. This place rocks, man.

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I wasn’t accustomed to being the odd one.  So it took me by surprise that people stared at us. All the time: In Walgreens, in the grocery store, on the sidewalk, while driving by.  They would see me on my bike and crane their necks out the window as if I had green skin and two heads.

I also wasn’t very experienced with super duper kindness in person upon the first time meeting but then the cold shoulder otherwise after that. But that is how we were (are) sometimes treated here. It makes me leery of any kindness extended, because I am unsure this person will speak to me again.

Finally, I had to adjust my own driving style to accommodate the TAILGATING here! It is so scary.  I just drive a little slower than the speed limit and put my blinker on way before I need to turn.  So many cars here are dented (or worse) and it doesn’t take a genius to understand it’s because of the way they drive.

Of course, now that I’m used to these things, I realize also that people aren’t as touchy feely as I’m used to and aren’t as responsive to conversational opinions either.  Most times I just get a blank stare when I say something. To soothe the awkwardness of social interactions and ease into another culture, consider the following:

  • It is easy to romanticize where you formerly lived and think where you live currently is full of odd cultural ticks.  Even though you might still be in the US, there are regional and even municipal cultural aspects that differ significantly place to place. Accept it: What’s normal for you is balls-out weird for others.
  • Personal space is a key cultural factor.  Figure it out. For example, most people don’t want to be hugged by a stranger during a conversation, but that’s how people operate in Eugene, Oregon. Conversely, I was hugged by an elderly Latina as I dropped her off at her appointment when I was a driver for the Red Cross here in Wichita; I have never seen her again. It just depends.
  • All citizens in the US either are immigrants or descendents of immigrants.  That means that another country’s culture has been transplanted here as well.  So it could help you understand some nuances by learning about what settlers colonized where you live and then read a travel guide on cultural competency for the original country. For example, it helped me to understand that parts of Kansas were colonized by religious Swiss immigrants.  Since I’ve lived in Switzerland too, I started recognizing cultural similarities in small Kansas towns and here in Wichita.  In fact, for some people in Kansas German is their mother tongue, so some Kansas government documents have a German-language version.  Cool!
  • Change.  Don’t do what is comfortable to you.  Mimic and imitate. Observe what locals do. You might fit in more quickly and get a favorable response sooner.  Instead of expecting chatty customer service, I state the facts now and reduce my friendliness to wait staff unless they initiate something more.
  • Get a sense of humor (that’s culturally sensitive).  Everyone likes a good laugh!

What have you done to adapt to your new place?  Let me know in the comments!