It’s Friday, and the perfect day for a bit of a brain dump. Or, randomness, as I like to call it.
One thing I’ve been thinking about a lot these days is relationships. I think relationships are already complicated enough as it is when you’re in the same country. We’ve all either had experience with long-distance relationships, or know someone who has, and we know those get even more complicated. But, we tend to think about those in the sense of romantic relationships, not the every day relationships we have with friends and family.
When I moved to Haiti almost 12 years ago (!) I knew it would affect relationships, but I don’t think I had any idea just how much. The truth is, everyone moves on. We all go about doing our daily lives, and the longer we go about doing that, the easier it is to drift apart. We get used to not telling people things and filling them in on the day to day stuff, to the point where doing so feels different to us and something that we have to work at. None of it is ever intentional, it just happens. And, sometimes we think we’ve talked about something and find out that we haven’t. I still remember the time I was talking to my mom and she was running through the list of news and let me know that my Grandad was out of the hospital. I didn’t know that he had been in the hospital simply because she thought she had told me, but hadn’t. My point in all this is that over the years we all move and flow with life, and that’s healthy, but it changes relationships.
I’ve just been thinking about how much effort relationships take in general just to make them work. When you aren’t together or able to be physically present it gets even harder. I don’t know what the answer is, other than everyone just keeps trying and you appreciate the time you do have together.
This time of year is also when we get to see what our social outlook might be for the coming year. Most of our expat friends tend to leave in the summer, to take a break, or because they’re finished their term commitment with the organizations that they’re working with. Our friend group has some constants and then a new influx of people each year. I feel like after the earthquake we saw a new wave of people come in. Before that we would savor every chance we had to be social with other expats, even to the point where we would regularly drive upwards of an hour to go visit. With more people around it became much easier to have an active social life. Now, 7+ years out I think we’re seeing that wave finish, and the people that are still here are the ones that will be here long term. It means that some of the more convenient relationships aren’t there anymore, and that we need to remember how we did things old-school, and be more active and intentional about getting out to see people, even if that means driving longer distances. Again, relationships require investment and work to make it all happen.
Thoughts on social media & the internet.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I use the internet and my time. How often I spend mindless minutes or hours scrolling through Facebook or Pinterest, and wondering what, exactly, I’m trying to achieve. I read a great article the other day about how often the drive with scrolling and consuming things online isn’t even about the content, it’s about looking for something new. What happened since I was last on or last refreshed my feed? Did something or someone do or say something even remotely interesting? Am I missing the next big thing?
Living abroad means that we have to look for news in other places, and the easiest place is online. And once you’re there it’s so easy to get sucked in. Before you know it, you’ve spent an hour scrolling through Facebook and reading people’s rants or stuff that you would never take the time to seek out if you didn’t have a device in your hands or at your fingertips. I do this so much. It’s sad really. What could I be doing with that time? And the bigger question, would I be happier doing other things?
I’m pretty sure that the answer to the last question is yes. I think I would be happier doing other things. But it’s so hard to break myself away from the internet. I have work to do? How much of my work is reliant on being online or connected to the internet in some way? Honestly, probably about 50% or more. And when I’m there, rather than being able to be really focused and use the internet as a tool, I use it as a way of filling something.
I’ve been thinking back to the days before I got sucked in so badly, and try to remember how I filled my days. I feel like a big turning point for me was actually the earthquake. Up until that time I was on Facebook occasionally, not obsessively. I wrote long emails to friends and family. I wrote regularly on my blog. Yes, that’s still online, but it was an exercise of creativity and I wrote because it was fun, not because I was keeping tabs on stats. I just needed a place to share. I was diligent about writing monthly email updates to friends and family. I still clearly remember the days following the earthquake when our phones weren’t working, and because we had satellite we actually had a way of communicating out of Haiti. Facebook became the easiest way to send out news updates to let friends and family know what was going on. I posted on the blog every day or so to keep people informed and to process, and in one day we saw 15,000 hits because people were so anxious for info. Later on those blog posts were published in the Russian version of Esquire magazine. I was also asked to write a special piece for the Esquire US website. That was amazing because it validated my writing beyond friends and family telling me that they enjoyed it. The thing I remember the most about those days though, is sitting at my desk for the entire day, and into the night, for days on end, answering emails and Facebook posts. Something that had been a tool became all consuming, and I think it stuck. Eventually I got a smart phone, and that made it even easier to be connected all the time.
So how do we go backwards? Do we? Do we want to? I think I do, to an extent. I also have to face reality though, and admit that times have changed. Do you know what the number one work stressor is for me these days, and has been for the past two years or so? Keeping up with Clean Water for Haiti’s online presence, and feeling like it’s never enough. Trying to balance Facebook and other social media posts, email updates to our supporters, writing blog posts that actually feel interesting, keeping our website updated, and all the while being keenly aware that at least half of our support comes from those online connections. Things change so fast in the tech and multi-media world that it feels impossible to keep up, especially when you’re living overseas away from resources to help. Did you know that in order to barely keep my head above water I need to have a person in Canada help me with social media posts, and because our internet is less than stellar I struggle to even keep the updates done on our website, because they need to be done all. the. time. To be honest, the work of being online has taken the fun out of it, and I’ve realized that it’s a big contributing factor to why I stopped writing so frequently. I’ve felt tapped out and not creative, and like I’m always running behind.
And the struggle is how to balance all that, while still stepping away from all of that and having a life that’s not online. That doesn’t involved likes and consuming information that I probably wouldn’t care about if it wasn’t there in my feed. I’ve lost track of the number of times that I’ve clicked on a link recently, and as the page is loading I find myself thinking, “Do I even really care about this enough to sit here and wait for a page to load???” Most of the time the answer is no and I go back and find something else. I know this is an ongoing process that needs work, so we’ll see where it goes.
I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned in my years of living in Haiti is flexibility. You have no choice. Either you learn to roll with things more, or you go crazy and need to leave. There really isn’t a middle ground. This is especially hard for type A personalities :)
I remember in years past where situations would come up and it felt like a crisis, then something else would come up and we had to make decisions and take care of that. Things would pile up and feel really overwhelming and we would feel exhausted just trying to manage everything. Over the years we’ve gotten so good at rolling with things, and making quick decisions. I mean, we’re rock stars at this. To the point where when we travel home and are in those situations where a lot of people are trying to make plans together it drives us crazy because we’ve gotten used to just deciding and doing.
On a daily or weekly basis we have situations thrown at us and need to just decide, then do it. Sometimes these are big things, and sometimes they’re just things like adjusting plans or schedules and going with the most pressing thing right now. This week was just another classic example of rolling with things.
As I’m typing I’m listening to the repetitive noise of hoes hitting the ground out in the yard. The guys are in the process of clearing almost the entire yard of all the weeds that we’ve been mowing and pretending were a lawn. Compared to last year, what we had going on looked so much better, but it wasn’t our final game plan. Before we ever moved in we knew that we wanted fruit trees planted all over the property (check!) and this one particular kind of grass growing everywhere. It’s called zoysia and is all over this one resort we go to for drinks and meals out every once in a while. You hardly ever have to mow it and it grows really dense. It’s a dream to walk on because it’s like spongy golf turf. The best part though is the low maintenance. And it’s beautiful.
We had this plan that during the dry season we would set up a sprinkler system, kill all the weeds/grass that were growing, and plant the new grass in plugs or sod chunks. We asked around to our expat community to see if anyone knew where to get the sod chunks. A couple weeks ago we adjusted the plan and instead of doing the whole yard later in the year, we would do a section of it now. Chris started weed killing at the end of last week, but it takes a few days to start seeing any kind of results, if not longer. This week he had to go get friends at the airport, so he stopped by the grass place and got a quote on a truck of grass and made arrangements for one of our guys to pick up a load on Wednesday. On Wednesday while the truck was in Port au Prince getting the grass, Chris got some guys working on clearing the now dying weeds in the section that we wanted to start with. Then the truck came home…
When they quoted Chris on the price of grass, he thought a full load would be up to the edges of the box. Um, no. It was piled on the truck…
So, change of plans. What was to be a section became the entire yard. So rather than having this process drag on for the next 6 months, by the middle of next week we’ll have grass plugs planted all over the yard.
This grass sends out runners and fills in, so in an unknown period of time we’ll have an entire yard of beautiful grass. At our old place we used the same kind of grass and it grows really well in full sun, which we have a lot of, so we’re taking bets on how long it’ll take to fill things in. The advantage right now is that we’re still in the rainy season so we won’t have to work as hard at watering until we get the sprinklers all set up. So, the moral of the story is that it pays to be flexible because it might mean you get a whole lawn faster than you thought you would.
This year has been a year where Chris and I have been intentional about focusing on our health. We’ve changed a lot about what we eat after doing Whole 30 earlier this year. That process was so good for me in many ways that I’ve already shared. While we were away on vacation and had opportunity to eat all the things, I realized that I had some food issues that I hadn’t been aware of before because they were buried under all of the other things. Dairy, in most forms, isn’t my friend. This one thing, and some recommendations from friends had me checking out Eat Right for Your Blood Type. So far everything I’ve found in there about food tolerances has run true, and through changing what I’m eating a bit more I’ve been feeling pretty good and have started losing weight. It feels good.
It has me thinking a lot about how everyone is different and that there’s no one size fits all plan for food or exercise. Chris and I are a perfect example of that. Whole 30 was great for him, if you go by his blood type recommendations he should be eating exactly what Whole 30/Paleo says he should, and getting high intensity exercise. Me? Totally the opposite. My body doesn’t produce enough insulin on it’s own and it struggles to digest animal proteins, so I need to limit those. Dairy is right up there, so I have to be careful about what types of dairy I consume. I’ve been making changes and seeing how those affect everything from my mood to my waistline and it’s interesting and encouraging. My body needs a different kind of exercise, and it deals with stress differently than a lot of other people. I’m enjoying learning how to care for myself better and being reminded that God has created each of us to be unique.
Well, the weekend is almost here, so I’m going to sign off. Do something fun!