Culture Shock and Homesickness

When I moved to Europe it was like I was completing a piece of me. I moved here with my son to join the new man in my life and create a family. Everything about Holland captured my heart. I enjoyed the history, the culture, the language...riding a bike and learning to be a wife. It took me four or five months to really fall into a stage of homesickness and culture shock. And when I did, it didn't even hit me very hard. I missed my family in America, I become a more patriotic person to my home country, and I treasured those special packages from home with little goodies and treats I missed. But I was also enjoying my new life and fell easily into the role of stay at home om and wife, of a student in language classes.

When we moved to Belgium three years after my big move to Europe, the culture shock and homesickness and pity party began. I think moving to yet another country with another language, another culture within such a short time was just too much. The first year I lived in Belgium was the hardest since my move to Europe. I was overwhelmed by everything, fell into depression, and never left the house unless it was absolutely necessary. I felt miserable, and our situation with Kaeden had accelerated, adding to my discomfort. I called my mom nearly daily in sobs.

Then, after that first year, things started falling into place a bit more. Belgium has never quite given me that easy comfortable feeling of home like I had when moving to Holland. However, the country has grown on me, I have learned to understand the people, and all the little societal rules have fallen into a pattern in my brain. Belgium is home, though it has taken a lot of effort getting it to this point. I have created a few friendships, gotten involved in the village, as well as found a comfort level with the mothers of Jari's friends. Soccer has given me another common activity with members of our community. I know what the different foods are, I can use my bank cards, and have deciphered the medical and insurance systems in place. Yet, even now, I find myself being sucked into the confines of home, having to force myself to open up the windows and head out into the fresh air.

Lately, I have been going through a different kind of feeling, something I can almost describe as a second round of culture shock. This time, it doesn't pertain to the new country, language, and people, but in my relation to all the above mentioned. I am realizing that this is my life. It is no longer a novelty, no longer a new adventure. It is my life, and I sit smack in the middle of it. There is no escape, it isn't a temporary arrangement, and it isn't full of frills like it was when it was new. I have learned the system, I can speak the language, and I can live the life. But now, I am wondering why I made this choice. Why did I throw away a college education and a degree? A job I loved? Why did I give up the freedom of my own vehicle and hundreds of miles of space to drive or walk or camp or run, people-free? Why did I give up my closeness with my family? Why did I give up everything I have ever known and loved to take on this new life?

It has taken me ten years, and when things have finally fallen into 'place' I fall head-first into this new reality. The realization that life just isn't what you expect it to be. Choices you make plan the course of your life and future. I'm feeling resentful towards this life, my husband and my family, the people and language. Some days it feels like I just want to go home...but when I turn around and face the four walls surrounding me, I realize I am home. I chose this course of life. I didn't know at the time just how hard it would be. And never, in a million years, did I expect to be going through this 10 years further. But I am. And now I need to get over it, take in a breath of frsh air, and remind myself of all the reasons I first fell in love with Europe. That will be the first step in finding peace and comfort once again within myself.



  1. I rode hard today. As I pumped my legs, trying to get to therapy on time (I was late) I felt my muscles working. I always love that feeling. Why can't I make it a part of my every day? I mean, I even like it. Why do I need to be motivated to do something I enjoy?
  2. I had a friend call me a few days back and she put unhappiness into perspective. Using her grandmother as a role model (someone who has gracefully lived through many losses), she suggested I plaster a smile on my face until it feels like it belongs there. after I talked to her, the smile had already started to spread. I didn't want to talk to her. I didn't have the desire or energy to try to act ökay". But I didn't have to. She saw through me and pushed me to be a better me. It may take time for that plastered smile to be for real, but her talk did me good.
  3. Speaking of smiling. I recognized something weird about myself a few days ago. I was sitting on the couch watching a movie. It was strange when I heard myself laugh out loud at something funny. I tried to stop myself mid-laughter. Since when did I allow laughter to be something forbidden?
  4. Last night, Jari and I were watching Click. At one point, he suggested", "I know what that remote would be great for," said my little boy. "Every time Papa and Kaeden start fighting, we could just fast forward through the bad stuff." I told him he was onto something. I told him that was a great idea. My voice portrayed the correct emotion. But hearing him voice it made me want to cry. I asked him if he wanted to tell Papa his idea. He clearly did NOT desire that confrontation. I'm glad he feels like he can open up to me about things that bother him. I only wish I had a better solution than an imaginary remote control.
  5. Soccer. It stinks. My little champ is on a team who don't work together, but actually fight against each other. The team is not a team. Each individual player works to score, but never making plays as a team. After the last game parents were discussing how "the littlest player is the only who gave it his all". The littlest player is my son, a year younger than all his teammates. He's also much wiser. And, he wants to move back to his old team, as this one is taking away his enjoyment of the game. It's not easy, but a condition of our allowing him to play in a higher league was that if it didn't work out, he could return to his old team. He wants to return, and though I'm not one to say ÿour wish is my command', in such a situation my son and his desire comes first. He doesn't deserve to be put into this situation when all he wnats to do is play and improve his game.
  6. Kaeden has til October 17th to wear his cast, and then hopefully we're home free. If his toes are properly healed it will be a miracle. He jumps and runs and plays as if nothing is broken. I hope it all heals well and he can join in on all his activities...scouts, Judo, soccer...he has missed out on the beginning of the season and I hope he can mentally prepare for joining in.
  7. Friday both my boys are free from school. Friday my husband, who has been working extremely hard and long hours, has taken a day off. I don't know what our plans are, if we'll have a fmaily day or a mama/son...papa/son day...but I am looking forward to breaking up the routine of life. Whatever we end up doing, it will be nice to have the change.
  8. That's it for now...I'm sure there will be more tomorrow...I'm sure you can't wait!


Stress Of Autism

Is it possible to describe the great amount of stress that autism places on a family? Each family member attributes a facet of that stress, and as a whole its sometimes impossible to cut even with the sharpest of knife. We are a family of autism. And though our outer cover is that of a perfect family, the stress hiding just under the surface is enough to blow away the force of the greatest hurricane. Sometimes it surfaces.

How can a marriage survive the stress of living with autism? How can each parent bring their ideas and beliefs to the table and allow those to mesh together into one coherent idea? Because as much as a marriage should be strong enough to survive anything, autism sometimes takes a bit bite and spits out the pieces along the way. Two people can be deeply in love, sharing a true commitment to each other and their family, and it is sometimes still not enough. Those moments of fighting for a sense of normalcy, for trying to make it through another bout of autism at its finest, is sometimes just too much. Love can conquer all, I was once told, and even believed. But now that I have lived both sides, love can remain and build and join and deepen, but it can't conquer the fight of autism, the stress of being a member of an autistic family. The mariage suffers. The relationship, still filled with love, loses strength, the fight too much for already weary people to continue the hard work involved. You try to show your interst, to awaken passion, to give of yourself as a partner in life, but all this was stripped away with the last bout of fighting against the stress of autism. What is left to prove your involvement in this marriage?

A sibling, unable to understand what this stress means, how it works against this familial bond. How do I contribute? How can I gain from this ádventure'? When will I be old enough to escape? Who can I trust? Where is my security? Why is everything always about autism? About working around his needs? What about my needs? I love him, but I also hate him. Autism is so confusing. And there he goes again, another fit of anger...more stress...mom and dad fighting...where can I hide? Or should I just act naughty to try to make the anger go away...make them focus on something else?

Autism carried through this individual. Too much happening, too much going on. I can't understand what they want from me. Why are they getting louder? What did I do wrong? Now I am angry...I can't cope. I scream, I hit, I curse. Now they are mad. I know they are mad. They are coming at me. It looks like a storm cloud, coming into my existence. I want it to go away. Maybe if I hit and kick it will go away. It hurts. I have autism. Only my own scream can block out the pain of theirs. They don't understand me. They don't get it. They can't help me.

A Family of Autism. A family of stress. No place to turn. No single escape.