Soooo…how does it feel to be home?
In the past 3 months I have been asked this question countless times…you might expect I would have perfected my answer by now. But every time I stare back blank. Frozen. Like a deer in the headlights. How can I possibly summarize the myriad of emotions I experience on a daily basis?
Most often I am truly glad to be back but at this point the reverse culture shock has hit hard. The first weeks are always a whirlwind of seeing people and getting my fix of everything I’ve missed from Seattle. A bit euphoric. I visited friends. I bought theater tickets. I ate at A LOT of fantastic restaurants. I had coffee and soaked up the skyline and mountain ranges at sunset. I unpacked and settled…trying to make my new space home. Everything felt like it was in constant motion humming along.
I didn’t really stop. I didn’t really process. There was too much to do. Slowly the task list decreased, the excitement wore off and I began to settle in to a more predictable routine…but it just doesn’t feel right. In 5 years as an expat I have adapted to European life and now as a repat my “home” feels foreign. I knew to expect this culture shock moving back…but expecting is different than experiencing. The holidays have been the most confronting for me.
It is a time of year I absolutely love. I love decorating my home and creating a cozy atmosphere. I curl up with a book next to my tree to enjoy the soft glow of the lights. I love advent and preparing to celebrate the hope that came into the world at Chrismas. My music playlist is full of the classics and some modern day crooners. There are few songs that move me as much as O Holy Night and Ave Maria. I appreciate the peacefulness of the season. And I fit really well into the Dutch Christmas culture. It is more simple…less frenzied. I belonged there. It was natural.
This Christmas (I’m sorry…Holiday) season in Seattle has been extremely difficult. A place that is supposed to be “home” in a season I love so much feels overwhelming. Angry. Aggressive. Disorienting. Competitive.
We had a holiday decorating COMPETITION at work that was so intense it threatened to kill my Christmas spirit completely. People were constantly talking about it and trash talking with other groups. It took a decorating process I normally embrace whole heartedly and pulled the soul out of it. The expectations were high and participation was
compulsory “voluntary”. Many hours, forced participation plus a 2 page rule list we needed to follow. I tried to keep my perspective and not get so wrapped up (heh – pun intended, at least I still have my sense of humor right? 🙂 ) but it was difficult…and being new you feel an extra motivation to participate and be part of the team.
Add to that “volunteer” events with a consequence if you don’t participate, plus a constant barrage of petitions for money and donations. Add to that family functions and shin digs with friends. Everything turns into a whirlwind of pressure and expectations in a hurry. Individually, these things are great but having them piled on top of one another has given me a holly jolly disorder.
I know that this will pass and I am more sensitive since I am in the midst of such a major transition. But, seriously, Christmas here in the states is crazy. It’s not the liberals that have a war on Christmas but the entire consumer centered culture and ever increasing expectations. Hopefully I will be better prepared to resist next year.
Soooo…how does it feel to be home? I’ll let you know in January. For now, I will just take a deep breath and curl up under my tree. I will try to enjoy the special moments/memories and block out the chaos. I will enjoy family and focus on the true reason for the season…the hope Christ offers to all of us. The hope for healing. The hope for restoration. The hope for transformation.
Blessings and have a fantastic Christmas,