This feeling comes most often after an exhausting "vacation" back to my home country. Living in someone else's home, eating meals with countless numbers of people, having no space to call your own for weeks on end, the days of packing and preparation, the sleep deprivation of transatlantic flying, the hours of stressful travel in and out of airports and airplanes, the dragging of exhausted children from gate to gate, the waiting in lines, for check-in, security, food, boarding, for seat exchanges, for take-off, for weather delays, for gates, for baggage. The jet-lag. The culture shock. The exhaustion.
That's when I break.
You know, I say about life in the Foreign Service, "Everyday is an adventure." It's an exciting, motivating prospect. The reality, though, is that adventuring is tiring. I just think of my 12 years being part of Foreign Service life, that's about 4380 days of adventure. That's a long time. That's exhausting. I'm just plum tired so much of the time. A compatriot of ours, Kathy Heinrich, who has moved 13 times in more than 16 years, hit the nail on the head when she said during her most recent move, "I'm a transient who feels like an itinerant. . . . just when I think I'm veteran status, I find out once again, that each move is unique and challenging in ways that test my confidence!" I hear you, Kathy!
It's now been long enough that my native country is foreign. I have trouble navigating the technological advances that have taken place in America over the last few years. For example, I distinctly remember the first time I signed a computer screen at check-out in Target in 2006. I had no idea what I was supposed to do. The cashier looked at me as though I was from outer space. Most days I feel that way. Most days that's okay.
It's just when I'm tired that it's not okay.
So, what do I do? I don't have a successful antidote yet. I've tried several different tactics over my years living the Foreign Service life, from immediately trying to return to my normal routine, to walking around in my pjs all day. The key seems to be sleep. At least it is for me. Like 9-10 hours a night upon return. Try doing that when you have babies. Boy, were those arrivals a mess for me. Now that my kids are older and they can get up and occupy themselves in the morning, if by chance, they wake up before I do, the transition time of exhausted-sobbing, "I can't do this anymore," to matter-of-fact, "Okay, Steph, this is your life, now get back to it," to giddy, "OOO, where are we going next?" takes less and less time. I reached the matter-of-fact stage after I was back home for 6 days this time. I haven't reached the "giddy" stage yet. It'll come. I like to believe that life for most folks in the world is in the "matter-of-fact" stage. I feel fortunate to be here. This is my life, my Foreign Service life. I can't imagine it any other way.