Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Concentric Circles

I have moved enough times now to know how to approach each piece.  I know moving, and I know myself well enough to see that I am in that Concentric Circles stage.  The more frequently I have moved, the more firmly I need the Concentric Circles stage.

In this stage, which begins upon arrival in a strange land, I get comfortable with one thing at a time.  The first circle is my home - getting everyone's beds made and making sure we have comforting food in the cabinets helps me to get comfortable in that first circle.  We hand-carried both bedding and peanut butter in our luggage, which made the first few days feel cozy and warm.

The second circle could be my neighborhood.  Just going for a simple walk around the block, or to the nearest something cool.  On our walk through the neighborhood last week, we discovered a very cool antique market.  We also discovered that the garbage and the motorbikes made the girls uncomfortable, so we scaled back.  Back to a smaller circle.  We spent a lot of time exploring our building - its pool, its basketball court, its paths for biking, the little shop downstairs.  We stayed comfortable in this little circle.  Happily, as we drive more, I am noticing the girls identifying nearby places they want to explore.  They recognize that little antique market as something cool.  And they noticed new things as well - There's a Dunkin' Donuts down the street?  We should go find it!  We will dive back into this circle soon.

That next circle would be the school or the embassy - a close community.  Both of these institutions will be communities for us here.  My first visit to the embassy last week left me intimidated and overwhelmed.  I pulled back.  Seriously, y'all.  We have spent a lot of time in this apartment.

But today we returned to the embassy.  I had a few briefings I needed to attend, so we joined Dave for lunch and the girls hung out with him while I took notes in various board rooms.  The meetings were helpful - I learned interesting things;  also, many other people looked lost and jet lagged, and that made me feel better.  Really, that made me feel way better.  And during this afternoon, we met a few other families with kids the same age as ours.  We ended our day at the pool with two other families, each of the kids splashing in the pool with a friend and all of the grown-ups gathered in groups chatting.

I used to enter a new social setting and feel the need to make friends with everyone immediately.  Because without friends, I am extremely lonely.  A day without talking to anyone is a bad day for me.  But having moved a few times, I have come to relax and allow the whole process to happen more organically.  Well, organically for an expat - which means that when I'm in the same room as someone else with kids, I purposefully talk to them and arrange another time to meet up.  Soon.  This counts as organic in my world.

Over the last few days, my circles kept falling in on each other.  It seemed like venturing out met challenges that someone did not want to face, and so the girls and I stayed in.  And this became daunting, because we will only live in this apartment for another 7 weeks or so.  That is a long time in many ways.  But as far as building my concentric circles, it is only a few weeks.  I have very little energy for challenging explorations and hard-work friendships in a neighborhood I am going to leave in a few months.  That is to say, if getting to know this neighborhood was going to be challenging and time consuming, how much harder would it be to move and have to start all over again?

Today I feel buoyed.  I think we have three circles now - first our apartment, then our building with our neighbors, and now the embassy.  Tomorrow we will visit the older girls' school, adding another circle.  And soon we will explore the neighborhood on foot, buoyed by our successes and confident that something good lies around the corner.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say, I really enjoyed this post and your concentric circles visual. I think it's a great way of breaking down the trauma of picking up and changing just about every aspect of your life in a short period of time-- focus on the little things first, then conquer outward from there. I'm going to remember that the next time I feel overwhelmed at the prospect!