After 9 years and 3 countries, I’m making the transition from expatriate to repatriate. It’s a brand new chapter with new stories to tell! I now come to you from the home of baseball and birthplace of Frank Sinatra— Hoboken, New Jersey.
If you looked at my calendar, you’d see that I like to schedule my life in great detail and as far in advance as possible. Within my digital calendar, I differentiate types of appointments, color coding them by categories including Home, Work, Vacation, and Visitors. I then sync these events in the Cloud so no matter where I am or which of our 7 devices I am using, I will know exactly what is happening and when. For me, almost obsessive scheduling and organization is a way of life. I have always preferred planning and preparation to carefree and spontaneous because I think it makes for an overall improved quality of living.
It is no surprise that by the time February 2014 rolled around, my husband and I had already researched and booked our vacations through August. By May, we had planned and paid for all of our trips through the end of the year. With our detailed and organized master schedule complete (and despite the fact that Singapore doesn’t have the traditional four seasons), this summer was destined to be my “Summer of All Summers.” During the months of June-September, I was going to travel to 7 countries (including reaching a personal, lifetime stat of having visited 40 different countries). Interspersed with extensive travel, I would welcome a house full of visitors with whom I would also serve as both gracious hostess and knowledgeable tour guide. During these months, I was especially looking forward to spending quality time with my 85-year old aunt who lives in Greece as well as with my sister, Christina, who I have not seen in more than a year. If things worked out just the right way, I might have been able to attend my brother’s wedding to a lovely woman, whom I played a role in setting him up with a few years back.
Really, how else could you describe it?
But all my scheduling fell victim to an unplanned moment when one fateful night I slipped and fell down two steps. Those few seconds ended up erasing weeks of plans and months filled with fun, friends, and family. I suffered a Lisfranc dislocation in my left foot which required surgery, an additional future surgery followed by physical therapy, and several months of recovery. Unable to walk for the next three months, I now spend the vast majority of my day in bed with my foot propped up on pillows to reduce swelling and promote healing. Mostly wheelchair bound, I watch the hours waste away along with any muscle tone I once had.
My summer of all summers turned out to be anything but. I have humbly and painfully been reminded that despite best laid plans, we do not control a single minute of our lives. As I follow the realization of my friends’ travel itineraries on Facebook, I have to dig deep to make sure these hard months ahead do not morph into my Summer of Discontent. While I could not control what happened, I can take ownership of my reactions to that which did not go my way.
Trying to stay positive isn’t as hard as it sounds. Far from that which I had planned, these days I experience spontaneous acts of kindness which remind me how lucky I am. I have amazing friends in Singapore who continue to help in very practical ways from taking me to doctors appointment, picking up my prescriptions, and surprising me with books, flowers, and sweets. I receive positive messages from a global contingent of well wishers, who assure me I am not going through a single hour of this experience alone.
My wings have been clipped, but my spirit still sores. While I will still diligently schedule (and reschedule) days, weeks, and months ahead, I have learned to find comfort in that which is not always planned. A stumble in the road does not have to end a marvelous journey so long as you have friends.