Today marks two months since I landed on this little island called Crete. This time last year I knew nothing about the place; it wasn't on my radar screen. Now I call it home. Strange world. Adventurous, cool, abrupt... and strange.
I'm a "where are we now?" kind of person; I have an assessment/evaluation gear that turns continually in my brain, like it or not. No surprise, then, sitting here at the two month mark, I'm looking back thinking... What have the past two months been spent on here? What's worked, in the beginning? What've we learned?
The thing about Doing New Things is that we all do them, throughout our lives, in big and small ways. We go to college or grad school. We start a job. We move. We have kids. We start another new job. And I'm not positive that the stuff I'm playing around with here applies to All The New Things, but my gut is that it does. You be the judge.
So without further ado, here are the things the first two months of the Great Crete Adventure have held for me.
1. Prioritize/be intentional. When we first moved, everything was everywhere... literally and figuratively. House full of boxes, driving to be learned, new cell phone platform to internalize, destinations to find, new school to figure out. Etc, etc, etc. It felt very overwhelming, and I felt very reactive. As much as possible I tried to live by the, "What is the most important thing for me to tackle today?" And do that thing. And also look out just a little and say, "OK, this week, what would be most important to try to accomplish?" And move toward just those things.
By pushing back the other stuff to another day or week, I get the breathing room I need to accomplish the top priority stuff - and feel good about it. And know my list will still be there, and I can rejigger it if I need to, for tomorrow. Or for next week.
Your comfort zone shrinks tremendously when you're setting off on a new venture... Though the comfort zone is small, its call is loud - disproportionately so.
2. Get outside your comfort zone. Your comfort zone shrinks tremendously when you're setting off on a new venture - I don't care if it's starting a new job, going to college, or undertaking a big move. Suddenly you feel underprepared and hesitant - sometimes downright idiotic - a good chunk of the time. Nothing feels easy. And though the comfort zone is small, its call is loud - disproportionately so. "Things are easy over here," it says. "Just hang out here; figure out a way to make it work while you stay in this safe little corner." Problem is that voice is like the lulling voices of the Sirens in ancient Greek mythology, beckoning sailors... to shipwreck. Staying in the comfort zone is wildly appealing but the end result's a broken promise; it doesn't get you where you want to go. (See what I did there, little thematic tie-in - current Greek adventure/ancient Greek mythology? You're welcome. :) )
My first step outside the comfort zone was driving my little stick-shift car, first around locally... then eventually right into the heart of "they don't drive like we do" Chania. Another early anti-comfort-zone step was starting to shop in town at Greek stores instead of just at the American base commissary. A third was beginning to use my few Greek phrases among the Greeks I encountered. (They all speak solid English, so it's awkward).
3. Push yourself. This one's closely tied to "get outside your comfort zone" - an extension of it, really. To actualize the potential of new experience, you have to force yourself do things that - in the natural - you'd rather not do. You have to take yourself by scruff of the neck and drag yourself into situations that part of you (maybe the largest part) would much rather skip. You have to remind yourself that it takes time, many repeated efforts of the same type, to reap reward. Then DO the thing, make the effort.
Example: we attend a Greek/international church several Sundays a month. The service is conducted in Greek, and there's a translator who speaks English into a microphones that gets piped into headphones for the internationals. They sing the worship songs in both English and Greek simultaneously. We like the church and find attending to be worthwhile... but going and getting something out of it requires a lot of energy. For my husband and me and our kids. Every time we've gone, we've talked through the plan, figured out how to make it work best for our crew, psyched ourselves up, gotten ourselves out the door. In a phrase: pushed ourselves.
4. Be kind to yourself. When you're adjusting to a new scenario and exerting a lot of effort in a lot of arenas, it can make you feel tired. And kind of discouraged. Some days you think to yourself, "This is hard; why are we doing this again?" Of course, there are plenty of exciting and adventure-type things mixed in too, which helps... Together the adventure/adrenaline combined with the sloggy beginning efforts make for the proverbial roller coaster experience, up and down, high and low. That can feel tiring too.
This is where self-kindness comes in - just giving yourself a break. Treating yourself with the hospitality and generosity a friend might display if she saw you bedraggled. Go for an ice cream, take a bath, watch a movie, lose yourself in a book. Regroup a little. Not so much that you fall into the Siren call of the comfort zone, but enough to re-energize and remember yourself and the bigger picture. Before long you've got a fresh dose of energy and perspective so you can get out there again.
5. Ask for encouragement from your people. The reality of new experiences is that almost by definition, they make you feel isolated. You face the thing without the built-in support and camraderie you've come to expect from whatever folks you're accustomed to doing your life with. And especially when you move, you're cut off from the community you've relied on in the past... and the new one hasn't been established yet. So it can feel lonely, and you can lose your sense of self.
This is where proactive communication saves the day. This is where you call your friend or your mom, you text your prayer partner, you email your siblings. Having a safe, welcoming place to share and offload stress or discouragement makes all the difference in the world. It reminds your heart that it's not, in fact, alone; your people are still there and for you.
Most of all, of course, it bears remembering that God is there and for you... And for the Christian, this is the reality that undergirds the whole experience. Prayer's the thing intertwined through all the steps and efforts - prayer about what to prioritize, and how to get ourself your comfort zone; prayer about where and when to push yourself and when to take a break. And prayer in the discouraging times perhaps most of all, since God is the ultimate encourager of the weak and lifter of our heads. Thank God for that. And for the examples of dozens of people in the Bible whom God led through unfamiliar and taxing situations... not randomly (as it no doubt seemed to them at times) but for something. For their good, his glory, and sovereign purposes bigger than themselves.
Well then. Them's the "findings" from the first two months. Good to have 'em down in writing, so I can check back when I need a reminder. Fascinated to see what additions to the list may come when when we hit four months!