The apartment is attached to Jorge's Grandma's house, so it wasn't like we didn't have additional living space. I read Apartment Therapy, and there's an IKEA within a reasonable distance, so this situation was gonna ROCK!!!!
I knew it was temporary, and I was feeling positive about nurturing our family during this time, and focusing on our experiences together.
"This will be a little tough", I thought. "But it is actually going to be way better. Imagine all the ACTIVITIES we're going to do as a family! Downsizing means less financial burden, right? So much more time for activities! FAMILY TIME! YEAH!"
I was looking forward to reducing our stuff in exchange for enhancing our time together.
The idea felt like a benediction, and I imagined that God would display His approval by sprinkling glitter from the clouds, Chelsea (our dog) would resemble a unicorn, and we'd skip away on a rainbow and it'd play out like an episode of Good Luck, Charlie - laugh track and all. At least, I had moments where I felt like that.
So...Where's the Unicorn?
That all changed pretty much the first night we got here. It's one thing to imagine what downsizing looks and feels like. It's another thing to arrive 1,500 miles away from your "normal" and try to raise a family in a completely new, five times smaller environment.
I wasn't counting on an air conditioner that cooled only about 200 sq ft at a time. I wasn't counting on Jorge's grandma being in the late stages of Alzheimer's and being physically and verbally abusive. I didn't think he'd still be waiting on an answer from the potential employer who interviewed him four times. I wasn't sure how my kids would adjust to a completely new culture.
I found myself weeping in the middle of the night, sitting on the top of an old milk crate turned upside down, blabbering over and over how this was the wrong thing to do. I know - Jorge couldn't have found a more sane person to marry. After all, it was me, who, huddled under two comforters during another bitter cold night in January, definitively said, "We need to move back."
Suffice it to say, the first few weeks we were here I was a mess. A roller coaster of emotions. I hated everything one minute, and felt hopeful the next. ROLLER.FREAKING.COASTER.
Since then, I've fallen back on a few coping skills I've learned and I've tried to be really, really intentional about trusting God.
This isn't easy, especially when I feel like my world is ending and I'll never be able to enjoy glittery clouds, or have a unicorn pet, or skip on my rainbow, but it is possible to know it'll all be okay. I'd like to share those with you now.
7 Ways to Pull Yourself Together When You're Falling Apart
1. Go for a WalkOne look at me, and you'll know I don't work out. But I do like to walk every now and then.
And when I do, I bring my dog. Not the unicorn dog, but the dog that pulls agressively and I have to stop with every quarter block. I usually have some sort of strange power surge as I'm walking, and start to do a run/walk that probably looks a lot like one of the munchkins from Wizard of Oz on a treadmill.
While I'm catching my breath, I usually have a conversation with God in my head. There is nothing special about my prayer, it usually goes something like:
"Please, Jesus, I need to catch my breath. This dog is wearing me out, Lord! Yes, I know I should be doing this more often. Also, can you please just help me get through the rest of the day without feeling the need to physically assault someone? Thanks."
And guess what? So far, so good. I'm writing this now, aren't I?
2. Play with Your KidsI know this might be the opposite of what you want to do when you're freaking out about life, but when's the last time you turned around and were completely enveloped in what your kids were doing?
When's the last time you asked to be the "second player" in their video game, or were the "customer" at their shopping center, or became the "parking attendant" when they were riding their bikes? (Yes, I do feel super smart for getting my kids inside last night with that last one!)
Kids feed on chaotic energy. They know when Mom and Dad are stressed, and it stresses them out, too. I'm no child psychologist, but when you chill and bring life down to their level, the kids chill, too. There's peace, even if only for a few hours, and all your problems that you can't exactly fix in that moment don't really matter for a little while. Bonus: Giggles. Lots of hearty, real, giggles.
3. Engage with Your FriendsIf I could choose just one reason why this move has been great, it would be because of our amazing friends who actually want to spend time with us.
Before we left, I remember praying for strong and fast friendships for us and for the girls.We have spent almost every free day in the presence of other families since we moved back. Whether we were welcomed for a day on the beach, or invited to a barbeque and a Frozen "concert" (put on by four adorable little girls), we have been extremely blessed to have some really great people in our lives who have made this feel like home again.
Your friends don't have to be prepared with all kinds of life advice, so don't spend time with them expecting a counseling session. Just enjoying their company is a stress relief and reminds you that there is a lot of good happening in your world, and maybe you just need a change of environment for a while to see it.
4. Venture Out of Your Comfort ZoneI'm an extrovert with a touch of the Social Anxiety.
Big parties, weddings, networking events, and even church all sound like good ideas, but you basically have to convince me 100 times to get ready to go, because I will probably cancel last minute if given the opportunity. And if I do finally make it to the event, I will find the bar immediately before exchanging words with any strangers. (p.s. they don't serve mimosas at church, fair warning in case you were wondering.)
That's why, when we got here, I knew I had to get involved with a church right away or I just...wouldn't. Life would start getting busier once we developed a routine, and I would push it by the wayside. I didn't want that to happen for us, so we attended Christ Fellowship the first weekend after we arrived. It has been a tremendous blessing.
We felt so unbelievably welcomed the first time we arrived, and last week, I searched their small groups online for one in our area. What a wonderful group we stumbled upon! The best part is all of the families that attended the small group last week have kids that are right around our girls' ages. They had a great time playing while the adults ate a meal together and discussed scripture.
None of that would have been possible if I didn't reach out. Nobody wrote the email for me, nobody drove us to a stranger's house, and nobody prepared us or coached us on what to say before we arrived. We just showed up. It's funny how when we "just show up" with honest and pure intentions, God seems to show up in an even bigger, more pronounced way.
5. DanceBecause you can't possibly feel sorry for yourself when you're dancing your heart out. And no, I'm sorry to say that is not me in the video. Caballito!
(Click here if the video doesn't automatically load.)
6. Don't Consume Yourself with the Future, and Get the Heck Out of Your PastI used to live in my past, but once I got over that, I started only living in the future. And I needed to stop. I'm a poster child for extremes, apparently.
We all know we can't change our past. I also tend to forget sometimes that I can't possibly know what's going to happen tomorrow. Goal setting is fantastic, and I am a personal growth junkie. However, I have to remind myself that even our best intentions can lead to great disappointments. We are never guaranteed anything.
I was spending too much time trying to figure out tomorrow, when I really need to figure out how to get through today in one piece. If this is sounding too cliche', I would challenge you to try to spend one whole day just appreciating what's around you. Write it all down if you have to.
We have great weather, I have food to eat, and we have our health. Please know these are not small things. In this city, there is poverty like nothing people have ever seen or experienced. We live less than 700 miles from Haiti, and less than 300 miles from Cuba where the suffering continues, and some don't have enough to eat.
While I ponder things like "Will I have a successful launch?", some people are relishing in the fact that they got to eat a lunch today.
7. Praise Your Higher PowerWhen all else fails, and I really feel bummed and like I might die wallowing in my own misery, I just hand it all over to God.
The ironic thing about this point I'm trying to make is that it should be the first thing you try - not the last thing, and I need to remember that. God gave us this amazing gift of life and He wants nothing more than for us to discover our purpose and live out our story.
We're in a series at church right now called "This is My Story". As I listen each Sunday, I realize the difficulty I face is I want to write all the words to my story. I want to lay out each chapter and skip past all the suffering, heartache, and trials that I have to endure. Even though these chapters are uncomfortable and HURT - MAN, they HURT, if I continue to praise Him for all He's done for me, the story just keeps getting better!
Just Keep Swimming…Just Keep SwimmingWhenever I start to feel like things can’t get any worse, I usually remember that things have been worse, and I’ve made it out okay.
In fact, I’ve usually made it out wiser and stronger than I was before. These moments of conflict and pain are necessary to build our character and reinforce our foundation.
This is what we were put here for! SUFFERING! Just kidding. Really, though, we were put here to persevere. Giving up is not an option!
Add to this list in the comments - how do you pull yourself together when life seems to be falling apart?