Last month, I’ve had the delightful privilege of spending a week in Kuwait. Coming back after 15 months in Canada, I was reminded over and over of the things that I love (and don’t love) about Kuwait as I went about my business. Kuwait has changed in those months. The traffic is as bad, if not worse, than ever, and it seems that people’s tempers are shorter. The air of Kuwait is not as clean as Canada’s, and I was very aware of that as I ran along the Corniche.
Ahhhh… running along the Corniche. Life hardly gets any better than that. Everything is as it should be, only better. The stretch of sidewalk by the new restaurants is all repaired, the greenery was clipped into submission, and there were many, many people out enjoying the beautiful weather. The Avenues is still awesome (and those cranes! Does this mean MORE Avenues??) and one of my favorite places for my favorite pastime – people watching. (Oh, the people you see!) My eyes felt comforted by the steady parade of black abayas and white dishdashas, trendy adolescents, and the smoke-free environment (So great. When did that happen?) I’ve been to the Souq, to Marina Mall, and to the Soor Center. The towers have been all spiffied up and are open again to the public. How groovy is that? And that new Shaheed Park! What a gorgeous place.
I thought when I got here that I might not want to go home again. The year of transition from Kuwait to Canada has been very painful. This was made more difficult by the reality that there is nothing in common between my life in Kuwait and my life in Canada …except me. Everything else was different.
Change is painful. Even good changes. I returned to Canada to be near my daughters and grandsons. It was my choice, and I would choose it again. That this was my choice doesn’t alter the impact of the emotional and psychological pain of the change itself. I was grieving for the life I’d had in Kuwait (which I loved) and struggling to find my place in Canada.
Anytime we change something in our lives, there’s a period of transition – what is sometimes called, “living in the gray space.” Our normal equilibrium is disturbed, nothing feels familiar or comfortable, and life just isn’t smooth. Our mental supervisor has to work overtime because the environment doesn’t feel “normal” and we live with a sense of internal disconnection. It took all the way to early February this year before I had the spontaneous thought, “I’m going to be okay with this.”
The pain of change is caused by the grieving process – even if we never acknowledge it. Even good changes mean loss. Taking a new job, finding a new home, moving to a new city, or country. Even when those changes are completely by personal choice, we can’t make embrace something new without letting go of something old, and that is a loss. Here’s what I learned from my year of living in the gray space:
- Acknowledge the loss, and grieve
- Be kind to yourself
- Be patient. Time does have a way of changing things, slowly and subtly.
- Expect things to feel difficult; even ordinary things that wouldn’t ordinarily cause a second thought
- Accept that it will be difficult to totally invest in building something new while still grieving the loss of the old
All these things happen along a continuum, and the period of “living in the gray space” will vary depending on how big the changes are. Moving from Kuwait to Canada was a big change. I’m not completely settled yet, but as I contemplate getting on the plane tonight for the marathon trip home, I am more settled than I was. It was an amazing experience to live in Kuwait, and insha’allah, I will return often, but it was the right decision to go home to my family. The pain of change is very real, and the discomfort of living in the gray space is mentally and emotionally tiring. But the transition is just that – a transition – and as we invest in the new circumstances, they become the familiar, and the sense of equilibrium returns.
Wait for it.