Four closet boxes, check… Boys winter clothes, check… Shoes, check… China and silverware, check… Camping gear, check…….
Why does it look like the more I pack, the more clutter spills and takes over my floor space?
The system is quite clear in my head. In fact, I have fleeting moments of sheer pride in my planning and organization skills. But if you pop in for a stroll around my house, you’ll probably think, poor Laila, what a mess she has to deal with. No one seems to be able to read the system behind the Labyrinth of cardboard and plastic I have created. At times, I think I can’t navigate it either. Put I quickly push any doubts aside. The one secret to a smooth move is CONTROL.
This is my sixth move and by far the most chaotic. My last was five years ago and the eldest of my children was only four. All I had to do to make him happy was make sure his Blue Lightning McQueen would make it safe to the other side of the ocean. It never did, but by the time our container was opened, He had lost all consciousness of the 15$ toy. The lure of a trip to Target to replenish the toy closet in his new room had all but wiped away all shreds of memory he carried along from his previous life. That simple!
Now,11, 8 and 6; my kids are very conscious of the move and have been yo-yoing between dumping their fears and insecurities on me, and shooting three pointers filled with anger and frustration straight at my head. They always score!
Generally speaking, they are handling the process much better than I thought. But they are THREE, and I am ONE. It doesn’t take a genius to quickly do the math and conclude that I’m officially outnumbered!
If there are any skills I have gained from this move, here is a list I have been using as my default setting to smoothly ride this avalanche of emotions, logistics and details.
1- Be Positive. The UN alone employs thousands of internationally designated staff. Add the private sector, foreign ministries across the globe and I immediately feel less alone.
2- Investigate the new destination. Many roamers have to deal with pit of the earth destinations. That alone can be cause of serious mental stress, and in many cases, a separation of the family for more child-friendly shores. But if like me, you have been blessed with a destination you are actually looking forward to explore, do just that. Virtually explore and plan your first series of adventures ahead of time. I already have a list of Tree House hotels I want to take the kids to. Silly, yes.. Trivial, definitely yes.. Crucial for my mental health.. YES YES YES
3- Engage the kids in the process. New beginnings always bring new toys and new spaces in tow. My boys helped choose the car. We debated for days the merits of another 7-seater versus a sporty looking Sedan. My eldest two are boys, talking cars with them is always surprisingly very enlightening.
4- Be flexible. Two weeks before departure, I was boxing my house up, planning the dates for the container to ship when Walid zoomed in on a great house very close to school – my one and only big condition. The house is furnished! My mind went into loops and hoops.. What do I unpack? How do I separate what goes into storage and what I have to absolutely take along? Do I really have to take anything along? I need to create three separate spaces: stuff that goes to storage, stuff that we take along and the packing for our summer in Egypt. I have two weeks to go. I CAN DO IT! The house is worth it.. Keep repeating that.. The house is worth it. Even if has no kitchen per say and non-existent closet space… the house is worth it.
- - You are a Butterfly in the making.. It seems that my kids have made a secret pact to keep me on my toes. We are one family, they are all the offspring of one drained body, we are moving together to the same destination and YET.. they can't seem to agree on how to collectively deal. Accordingly, their needs and expectations from me are just as incoherently varied. As I said, I find myself constantly morphing in response to each of them. I can't remember how I personally feel anymore because my mind has been overtaken by three young but oh-so-capable armies of sorrow, eagerness, sadness, can't-wait-to-go excitement and then some.. I'm expected to embrace and understand. I do, at least I think I do. And every time I stop to think: where am I in all this? I pull hard on my mental brakes. It Matters naught... For I'm in a Morphing stage and soon I'll emerge more beautiful and free. (Unrealistic and totally untrue, and you're probably lollll-ing right now. But hey.. it works)
5- If you absolutely have to whine about the misery of it all, make sure you do it with an energizing spin. I chose to whine and hike. Poor Hanan, a dear friend who has been quite accommodating. As we tread unchartered trails and gasp at every wild animal sighting failing miserably to capture the moment with an IPhone Selfie, she listens patiently and offers what I need the most, JOKES! We laugh so hard as we share the various anecdotes that have marked each and every move we both endured as career Roamers. Believe , we all go through it and we have loads to tell.
6- Stay in CONTROL.. That’s key.. Boxes are cluttering your home… Kids are testing your ability to morph into mood soother,., anger bouncing ball, beacon of hope, anxiety catcher net, all in one afternoon… cooking, cleaning and driving to activities remains unchanged despite the added cardboard load… Stay in CONTROL.. Please don’t ask me how, I’m still figuring that one out!
7- Don’t ignore your own personal sadness. If you are too eager to leave then you haven’t really lived this last post. The more you live a destination, the deeper and more intricately twined your root system becomes. Letting go isn’t easy. Better deal with it while you are still at it. Because if you are like me, you bottle up and compress till the moment is gone; it will be so hard on the other side, you won’t know what has suddenly gripped and crushed your essence. But newly established and still rootless in your new destination, you won’t have the support system to lift you up when you whither and fall. I know that’s exactly what I should be doing. But I’m still stupidly bottling up.
I’d like and keep this list flowing, but I’m running out of excusable time off of boxes. More purging awaits in the kitchen.. By the end of today, I intend to claim victory with seven more Checks next to my to-pack list. But before all, Taymour forgot his homework at home and I need to rush to school to save the day.. aka shield myself from the torrents of emotions should I decide to let it go.