Confession time: There are moments when my kids drive me bananas. Like certifiable, up-the-wall crazy. There are no three people more skilled at finding and pushing my buttons, except perhaps their dad. But then there are no four people who know me better, right? For that matter, there are also no four people whom I hold more dear.
We as expats move a lot. We lug our stuff to and fro, packing and unpacking, settling and resettling. Perhaps military folks aside, I know no other group of people who can make a home faster, especially when their heart is in it. Sure, there are some things we put into storage, but the rest we use to attempt to remake our definition of home in various countries. No matter where we end up, I can assure you, our house will have tons of ‘real’ books (as in paper, not e-; kid, adult, recipe, and other), some of our favorite pieces of art, baskets galore, and color on the floor, on the walls, everywhere. We’ve painted in every house we’ve lived in, and it really makes such a difference. GSO white is just not our thing. After 16 years of doing this, we’ve figured out what it is we need to make our latest chapter in expat life more appealing. What IS home for us. This is important. But, you know what? It’s still just stuff. Every single piece we have, every single book, every piece of ‘art’, every thing, just stuff. All replaceable.
What’s not replaceable? People. Think about it: think about your favorite piece of art, or your most treasured book. Now think about not having it. Maybe you'd miss it, maybe not. Sure, there's a bare spot on your wall now, but you may very well find a piece you like better. Now think about your favorite people. What if the last time you saw them was the last time you'll ever see them? I'm not trying to be morbid, really. I am trying to make a point: how vacant would your life be? How quiet would your living room be? How much empty time would you have on your hands?
After having lost my sister, I realized something. (no, that's not true. I boobed and moped for a few months, and then, after many long insightful runs, and much brooding, I came to the realization. I didn't want you guys to think I was a robot.) There are no items or pieces that you can value as much as you can value your people. People are what matter; YOUR people in particular. For me, that's my three (loud, rambunctious, always going going going, volatile, energetic) boys and their dad. Who you include in your people may be your nuclear family or may include your extended. For me, yes, I’m saying the nuclear family is most important. Extended family, too, but they aren’t RIGHT HERE with us. They are in my thoughts regularly, and inboxes perhaps daily. But they are not HERE.
Outside of my 4 people, I have my favorite close-by people. And my favorite email people. And my favorite Facebook people. I know who it is I love to hear from, in person and otherwise. It matters, too, that I make a conscious effort to notice how much it matters that I hear from them. Gratitude for your friends is a beautiful thing.
What difference does this make? I think, a lot. Knowing what we value, what we treasure, helps to form what we are grateful for. Being able to list specifics for gratitude is an important task, especially when we are having an off or stressful day. Who do you love more than anyone? Do you spend a moment or two each day, considering your gratitude for having them in your life? It doesn't have to be a soliloquy, just a focused thought.
One of my people was lamenting about feeling tired, over-worked and just worn. He does have a lot on his plate right now, and when I asked him if he spent any time focusing on feeling grateful, he gave me one of THOSE looks. I'm serious, I told him. Focusing some positive energy on what you DO like about your day will help you dwell less on what is stressful or less enjoyable. I have the same thought for: Think about your people, friends. Enjoy what they bring to your life. Focus on it, and embrace it. And then go about your way, creating more time with them. Because that's what it's all about anyway, isn't it?