Be less of a line and more of a scribble

Being an immigrant is challenging psychologically as well as practically, logistically, legally and in all those everyday ways.  It is especially challenging for someone like me: a complete control freak who craves stability and security.

The decision to move here was a leap of faith and – as an atheist – I mean a leap of faith in ourselves to have arrived at the right decision, to have conducted adequate research, to have the capabilities and strengths to seize and make the most of the new opportunities we were creating for ourselves.  I don’t like unknowns, however, so this leap of faith was also a leap in the dark.  My husband is ceaselessly chipper and bouyant and glass-half-full so largely my leap of faith involved just trusting in his judgement and allowing myself to be carried along by his positivity.  I, of course, did all the control freak stuff: endless hours spent on the internet researching things to the nth degree.  And I do mean the nth degree: I even researched whether Americans use rotary clothes lines because the ability to line dry clothes would help our electricity consumption.  Seriously.  I am a planner and Mr Pict is a doer.  That’s what makes us a successful couple: we are compatible where it matters and contrast and complement each other where it matters too.

I live my life in lists.  I generate dozens of them each week.  Shopping lists organised according to different sections of the supermarket, To Do lists, wish lists of books, lists of movies I want to see, even lists written on my hand in case I forget the most urgent items from all my other lists.  I am a planner.  I need to have a plan.  I need to know what I am doing, where I am going, how things are going to work.  Voyages into the unknown are inherently not my thing.  For every vacation we take, I create a spreadsheet of all the things we might possibly do in that area with columns for opening times and prices and directions.  For a vacation in Rome, I even created a colour-coded map that linked to a colour-coded and indexed spreadsheet.  That is me accepting different possibilities and not being too controlled because I accept it is not an itinerary but a list of options.  That’s as into the unknown as I usually voyage.

Yet here I am in a country I have never lived in before, operating in systems I have no experience of, driving on the other side of the road, having to translate myself into different vocabulary, navigating a different education system with my kids …. Every day is about an encounter with the unfamiliar and the unknown.  For a control freak, that is an assault on the psyche.

Furthermore, a lot of our immediate future is not clearly mapped out and that makes me hyperventilate if I dwell on it to much.  We cannot buy a house here until our house in Scotland sells and releases our equity so we don’t even know where we will be living a year hence.  We have a house here but it is not our home.  That then leads us to scour our budget to determine the impact of paying rent and mortgage for longer than anticipated.  And what if we cannot find a house within the catchment area of the boys’ school?  Or even an affordable house that can accommodate us all within the school district?  That degree of uncertainty transforms a control freak into a wing-nut with ease, especially a glass-half-empty control freak like me.

I recognise that for the sake of my sanity I have to relinquish control.  I have to accept that we did all of that research and all of that debating and weighing up the pros and cons and arrived at the decision to emigrate with good reason and that those reasons are still good.   All of the things on the pros list still hold true.  I have to, therefore, learn to just go with the flow during this turbulent transitional period and trust that all the hurdles will be overcome, all the niggles smoothed over and our leap of faith will be justified and vindicated.  Going with the flow.  That’s pretty much an alien concept to me.  I have to stop trying to impose control on things I have little or not control over.  I have to stop trying to structure things that are too undetermined to be lassoed into any sort of organisation.  I need to learn to relax into life and let it happen to me.

So while I’ve been pondering this aspect of my psyche, I have also been trying to have another crack at art journaling.  The art I normally produce expresses me in so far as it is about the things I enjoy, the things that interest me but it is not candid or revealing and is not “about me” so that element of art journaling is something I am having to come to terms with.  However, my style of art is also very graphic and controlled.  I work up sketches and then go on to produce a completed work with intention as to what the outcome will be.  Yes, in my art work I am also a complete and utter control freak.  I do not go with the flow in my art work either.  Trying a bit of this and a bit of that and seeing where it takes me is not how I work.  Because my style is graphic and cartoonish, even at the sketching stage I am quite rigid.  The loosest I ever get is with very short life drawings.  But art journaling is about not having an intention or having a vision of the completed page before you commence working on it.  It’s about just letting the art work flow from you as you produce it.  That presents a major challenge to a control freak like me and, as such, I am finding it to be a struggle.

So earlier today I looked at a blank page in my art journal with all of these thoughts in mind and this is what I created:



It’s something to aim for, a reminder to try and just go with the flow a bit more, rely on my instincts in life and in my creativity rather than relying on my intellect and knowledge.  I think it is a good “note to self”.  But what does the control freak in me do?  Well if you look closely you will see that I erased not once but twice my initial scribble patterns because I did not like the shapes they created on the page.  So much for going with the flow, eh?  And in a moment of distraction I inserted a comma where there should not be one.  As someone as anal retentive about punctuation as I am, that almost had me tearing out the page and shoving it in the recycling bin.  The only thing that stopped me was that the reverse of the page has a collage of New York city on it.  But that comma scoffs at me for my moment of distraction, for my loss of control, and goodness it annoys me.  But I need to go with the flow in that regard too: I need to accept that along the way in experiencing anything new there will be mistakes.  Yes, even I will make mistakes.  I cannot control everything.

I need to be less of a control freak.  Let’s see how that goes, shall we?

Walrus Poop

I did write a few posts into my blog that not every entry would be about new experiences or for my gratitude for new opportunities, that not every post would be a declaration of the wonder of baby giggles, the smell of fresh bread and unicorn farts.  I explained my blog would be warts and all about my immigrant experience.  That it would be honest and not just highlight all the good parts.  So this is not a unicorn fart entry; this is a walrus poop entry.

Three weeks into life in the US and I’ve hit a bit of a slump.  I will get over it. I will get past it and through it (Can you tell I’ve read ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ too many times?) but for now I am in a slump.

I thrive on activity.  I don’t mean rock climbing or marathon racing, oh dear goodness no.  I mean that I like to be busy.  Even when I am physically resting, I like to be busy with at least one activity and usually more than one simultaneously.  I like to have a plan of action for the day.  I have a brain that requires constant stimulation.  I don’t wear boredom well.  It weighs heavily on me and drags me down.  I also thrive on routine.  I’m a control freak so I need order in my life.  I need lists and plans and routines to follow.  Multiple lists are preferable.  With colour-coding.

I have none of that right now.

Actually I have a daily list of housework chores I created, printed out in a spectrum of colours and stuck with magnets to the fridge.  That’s my routine right now.  Just that.  Not very stimulating or rewarding but, hey, at least the house is clean and tidy.  I have a structure to my day of sorts that is dictated by the kids’ routine, of course, but during school hours my time is just too elastic.  I have the littlest Pict at home with me, of course, and homeschooling him gives me something to do in a day but there is only so much education, formal or through play, that a 4 year old can take.

The crux of the problem is this: back in Scotland, I had a wide circle of friends including a small group of close friends.  I had people to chat to and hang out with.  People I could natter with on a daily basis and chew the fat with.  I did voluntary work that I found to be rewarding and stimulating even when it was demanding and, at times, draining.  I had clubs I went along to in order to share my hobbies and interests with other like-minded people, learning from and being inspired by them.  All four of my kids were in school or preschool so I had a proportion of every day to myself and that allowed me to get through chores without having small people and the mess they inevitably generate under my feet.  Some days I would even be able to eke out a bit of time to spend on one of my hobbies, a bit of family history research, for instance, or knocking out a drawing or print over the course of a morning.  Latterly I had a part-time job that, while frustrating at times, was challenging in a positive way and allowed me to feel productive and gave me a sense of achievement.  Here I know no one.  I have no regular adult contact, beyond the school crossing lady and my husband.  I have no free time in which to indulge my hobbies and interests, even when my materials and equipment arrive from Scotland.

It’s hard to go from being someone with a life that ambled along quite nicely to being back at square one with knowing no one and feeling pretty aimless.   And that is why I am in my slump.

I need structure and I need routine.  Phase One of obtaining that is to try and find a viable preschool option for the littlest Pict.  That is my mission.  Let’s hope I succeed so that I don’t have to write and you don’t have to read many more Walrus Poop entries.