We have been back in the states for over a week. It is Tuesday afternoon now and we are heading out on Thursday morning for the next leg of our journey. We have been having a wonderful time here in Michigan, but the exhaustion and overwhelming-ness of this experience came crashing down on me yesterday. Up until that point I felt like I was doing totally fine. Reverse culture shock? What’s that? Tired? Not me! I’m like the Energizer Bunny who can just keep going, with enough coffee and chocolate pumped into my system.
Yesterday morning reality hit and it hit hard. I am reliving conversations from the past week and wishing I’d just kept my mouth shut about 90% more of the time than I actually did. I’m feeling awkward about some moments and sad about others. I've realized that I've probably scared a lot of small children and that maybe ticked off a few mothers as well with my “it takes a village to raise a child, and I am that village” attitude.
I have found myself saying “I’m sorry, I’m not like this is Africa” on more occasions than I can count. I've heard “That’s ok, this is the Jonna we remember” the same amount of times, which is kind of nice, but also troubling. I feel like I've changed, but maybe I haven’t. I feel like I am a better version of myself than I was 3 years ago and I kind of want to punch myself (the old me) in the face for coming in and stealing the show.
I am trying to give myself a lot of grace, because really, this is not like a normal situation. Staying up til midnight and even 3 in the morning is just not my thing anymore and it has been happening way too much since we landed. The kids are doing as well as can be expected and I’ve been trying to be super gracious to them and allowing them to do whatever they want, within reason, because this whole experience is supposed to be fun and filled with laughter and memories and while I don’t want them to love their time in the states so much that we have to carry them kicking and screaming on to the plane, I do want them both to return to South Africa filled with the knowledge that they are loved and being prayed for and haven’t been forgotten.
Darin, my dear husband, is just gliding through. Being in large grocery stores does not overwhelm him, so he is the one running errands. He does not do the whole “open mouth, insert foot” thing like I have done repeatedly. (Why do you have so much CHEESE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) He isn't starting up conversations with people at Wal-mart and then sharing kind of strange observations with his new besties in the customer service line. Nor is he scaring small babies by talking like a psychotic Elmo. I, on the other hand, have been doing all of these things. All of them. Me, the lady who manages a children’s home and makes babies laugh and small children smile is now roaming around West Michigan scaring children of all ages. I also have forgotten about this little thing called tact and have been sharing my opinion on everything from squeeze applesauce pouches to putting children in team sports.
The sad thing is, I feel like I have changed and like I have grown and actually have accrued some wisdom and if I had been less like the old me and more like the South African me, people might have wanted to listen and I might not now be thinking “Wow, I think I now only have 2 friends left in Michigan”.
This is why, for all the true and real desire that I have to try to fit in one more face to face meeting with people who I might not see again for 2 or three years, I am just going to be sticking close to our temporary home. I’m kind of coming unglued right now and have decided to just stop now before it all comes undone. I am hoping that the 2 people who are still my friends will understand this and love me anyway. I wish we had another month here so that we could space out these visits and I could show that I really am kind of normal, but that’s just not going to happen. Plus, I have to go upset people in more of these United States. Michigan just can’t take all the crazy.
Much Love and Please eat lots of blueberries for me when the season hits in a couple months!