So I know that I've been absolutely nowhere online during our almost-a-month-long R&R. I've not been blogging, I've not been on Facebook, I've not been on Twitter. Thank you to those of you who have emailed asking if we're okay.
Quite frankly, for us "R&R" has stood for Reconnecting and Reevaluating.
We've been reconnecting with each other. With our families. With our friends. Each day has been packed. We've been busy soaking in 'MERCUH and everything it has to offer. Blue skies! Puffy clouds! Green grass! Clean air! Fattening food!
We haven't even gotten all the way through the list of things we were hoping to accomplish while on R&R. Sadly, we won't even be able to see everyone we were hoping to see or do everything we were hoping to do. Tomorrow, James and Zachary are leaving to head back to Chengdu and Matthew and I are leaving my Mom and Dad's house in Florida to visit family in Indiana/Illinois prior to also heading back to China. So this is James' and Zachary's last day in the U.S. and it is very difficult to leave.
Here's the truth. The truth that I always write. That gets my husband in trouble and gets me in trouble and makes waves and causes problems, etc. But the truth is that we are dreading going back to Chengdu. I can't sugar coat it and I can't dance around it.
James and I have taken this time during our R&R to try to detox from our first year in Chengdu. To detox literally (as in: our lungs/ears/throats/respiratory systems, which have not taken kindly to the air/environment in Chengdu) and figuratively (as in: our spirits/souls/marriage/family). Our first year in Chengdu has been, in short, the most difficult and painful year of our entire married lives. And seeing as that we've been married for time that is measured in decades, that's a pretty strong statement.
It has literally taken this entire month of R&R to try to get our feet back underneath us. The member of our family with a perpetual walking lung infection in Chengdu is finally breathing easier. The member of our family with a permanent cough in Chengdu is no longer coughing. The member of our family with permanent ear infections is just now (as in yesterday and today) feeling improvement. And, of course, it's now time to be heading back to China. Isn't that just the way it goes?
As I said, we've also taken this time over our R&R to try to recover emotionally and relationally from our time in Chengdu. It's been an uphill battle, but we're walking toward success. We've had to basically do a post-mortem on the first half of our assignment and try to evaluate how we are going to respond differently to the stressors that have/will come our way so that our second year is nothing like our first.
We're going to hedge our family better. This job is insanely stressful and it bleeds into literally every crack and crevice of the family. We had neither expected nor anticipated how all-encompassing it is. This next year, we are going to do a better job of putting up boundaries so that our family is less impacted by what comes our way. Boundaries are very, very hard to draw in the Foreign Service while overseas (or, at least, that's our experience), and while we may see some growing pains from this, we hope to see some benefits for our family.
We have also been re-evaluating. Re-thinking what we want for our lives and how to get there. Reconsidering what is important to us and why. Things that used to be very important to us will be slowly taking a backseat. Things that we only used to be dabbling in will be coming to the forefront. Changes will be made.
As such, I will be continuing to take (online) classes this next year. We are also very strongly considering bidding domestic for our next tour. I mean, let's be honest, being domestic is always the default in DS, but we're thinking of actually embracing it rather than fighting it. We'll see. The bidlist comes out in August. It won't be James' actual bidlist, though, in reality, until the folks in AIP have bid and been paneled. (Which is how it should be - I agree totally with giving AIP bidders priority.) Which means that the bid list won't be James' actual bid list until maybe October. So... we'll see what we decide to do and why. But, mercifully, this R&R has given us time to reevaluate and think and plan and that makes all the difference.
So that's the update.
This next year is Matthew's senior year. Between him taking a gazillion AP classes, taking the SAT, applying for college, getting ready to graduate, etc... between my taking (harder and harder) classes, working through what I want to be when I grow up.... between Zachary coming into his own at school each day as my formerly only-homeschooled children grow their wings... and between James going back to work in Chengdu with a renewed vision for his second year at post... our second year in Chengdu should be an interesting year, to say the least!
Normal blogging to resume when internet connections and time allow.
And again, thank you to those of you who have emailed and messaged me because I've been silent so long. It's been a while since I've said it, so I will say it again - if my blog comes under official threat, you will read about it on Diplopundit, as well as in other places. I don't shy away from those things. This quiet time that I have taken has been so that we could use every minute possible for our family. It has been time well spent. I wish it didn't have to end.