To say I’ve had a crappy week is an understatement. It began with a dog bite (just to clarify, a dog bit me, I didn’t bite it), moved onto a series of 8 shots for rabies, a subsequent dog injury caused by my dog (he wanted to play with a rather grumpy old dog who was less than interested), and finding out that my old ayi left us for another job all the while telling me she had to leave Shanghai to help her mother who had a stroke. All this and the sad thing is, it’s only Thursday.
Sometimes living abroad is really hard. Everything here is more difficult than back home. Need something from the store? You have to wait 45 minutes for your driver, finally get to the store, just to find out they no longer carry the item you are looking for. Three stores later, you return home empty-handed and in search of another meal idea you can use for dinner. Need a doctor? Sure, no problem. First, call your international SOS agency. Wait for a doctor to call you back to tell you to go to the hospital. Wait another hour for a subsequent call back with which hospital to go to. Arrange your driver to pick you up and drive to the hospital (which, by the way, takes an hour because traffic is so bad). So, you get my point. Many aspects of living abroad are pretty awesome, but others are just plain awful.
So if you are having a “Shang-lo” day (a.k.a. a really crappy day), I’ve come up with a few tips to keep you going. To help get you over that hump of self-pity and back on your way to loving your ex-pat (or non-ex-pat) life.
1. Get on your knees.
Ok, so I know this may sound cliche, but the power of prayer is a real thing. I could not have got through many difficult times without my faith. It is so freeing to give your issues to God and let Him clean up your mess. And trust me, He has had to clean up quite a few doozies of mine!
Don’t be afraid to cry. It’s ok. We all need to let out a few tears from time to time. Crying doesn’t make you weak. It’s cleansing and (besides the puffy eyes and runny nose), can be quite therapeutic. Honestly, after this week, I don’t know how many tears I have left. Perhaps that means I’ve lost a pound or two?! Yeah, we’ll go with that.
3. Lean on your community.
Someone told me, “you’re all desperate here together,” and she’s right. Ex-pats have a bond. We become each other’s family, and it’s ok to get real with each other. Living this life can be hard, and we really need to have someone who will help you get through your crappy feelings. Honestly, they have most likely felt the same way or gone through the same thing as you so don’t be afraid to let your guard down and open up.
4. Be honest.
Don’t put on a happy face and pretend like everything is fine. It’s not and if you bottle it all up inside it will just grow and fester. Honestly, what good will that do you? You have people in your life who care about you and would like nothing more than to help you work through your stuff. So be honest. Let it all out.
5. Seek out the right council.
Ok, I know I’ve told you to be free and talk about your problems, but it may not be best to tell them to the most gossipy person around. Yes, we have gossipy people overseas too. Instead, seek wise counsel. Someone who will lead you down a positive road, who will honestly tell you if you are being ridiculous, and someone who will offer you good advice.
6. Attitude is everything.
I’ll be honest, this is the most difficult for me. I tend to wallow in my unfortunate situations. Poor me. Why me? But I always need to remind myself that someone always has it worse than me, or the situation could have been worse for this reason or that reason. Whatever. Our attitude really will affect how we react to a situation. If we are in the right mind no matter what the issue, we will be able to deal with things that come our way in a much more effective and healthy way.
7. Hug it out.
There is great healing power in a hug. I’m pretty sure there is scientific evidence to back me up on this one. Trust me, getting a big bear hug makes everything better.
8. Play music.
There’s something very therapeutic about music. Find a playlist that you love and crank it up LOUD. Sing along at the top of your lungs and don’t be afraid to rage dance. Just leave it all on the floor. Sure, some people may find this kind of release in going to the gym or going for a run, but I seriously think they are a little twisted and should never be trusted. Juuuuust kidding. One word of caution, if you are cutting loose in your living room, you may want to close your blinds. I was getting down to some Ed Sheeran…like big-time dancing (for anyone who knows me, this may seem hilarious since you know I don’t dance). When the song ended, I looked up to see one of the gardeners staring at me through my window. Oops, my bad!
9. Eat brownies.
Ok, don’t go scarf down an entire pan or else you will have to go join the crazies out on a run. But don’t be afraid to treat yourself. I know brownies can’t solve world hunger (or can they?!), elect a different president, or really make your problems go away, but they are really tasty and can put a little smile back on your face. And hey, while you’re at it, add a scoop of ice cream. You deserve it!
10. Laugh at yourself.
So things are pretty terrible. I know at times like these the last thing you want to do is laugh, but finding humor in the situation always makes it a little bit easier to deal with. After all, you can either laugh or cry, right? Maybe a little bit of both. Last year I was having one of the worst days. Like, just crawl into your bed and shut out the world kind of a day. But I had an errand to run, so I tearfully dragged myself into the car only to discover right before I got in, my driver farted and stunk up the entire car. As I sat there trapped in the noxious gas, I busted out laughing and silently thanked him for helping me get past my wallowing.
So there you go. Your definitive list of how to make lemonade out of lemons. How to live a life of sunshine and lollipops. How to put on a happy smile, and all that other cliche business that is easier said than done. Really though, life is hard. It’s messy. I’ve had a week from hell. Still, I am strong. I can get through this, and so can you. Just take it one step at a time and remember that every day is a new beginning. This too shall pass, and you will be stronger and wiser as a result.
So go take on the world. You’ve got this, and so do I. Now bring on Friday!!