Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Tale of Hockey, Piranhas, and Bacon

Sometimes, I forget what to communicate (always distressing for a person whose livelihood revolves around enabling communication). I forget that what is normal for me might not even cross your mind... (and there's no reason it should, unless I tell you!). So, I’m going to try to paint a picture of what it’s like to go on home assignment (and why I might find it tricky at times to explain it all!)

It all starts when a Girl (that’s me) leaves Warm-Earth Land and somehow traverses across a great and terrible crevasse to arrive in Ice Land.

Ice Land (image public domain)

Ice Land is a very different place from Warm-Earth Land. Ice Land is cold, there is no grass, the animals are different, people drink lots of hot tea, and everyone is engaged in a great and terrible game of hockey. But our Girl learns how to put on hockey pads and grab a stick and attempts to join in. She falls a lot, skidding on the ice, gets scraped up and whacked with sticks, but after a few years, soon, she’s found her niche. She has a team and plays a crucial role in this never-ending hockey game.

You can never let your guard down during the hockey game! (image public domain)

But after a while, it’s time for her to return to Warm-Earth Land. Girl is excited! It’s been years since she was last in the warm sun and felt grass under her feet. As she gets frostbite and pneumonia in Ice Land, she dreams and dreams of the sunshine, the birds, the corn-on-the-cob, the bacon and the sidewalks of Warm-Earth Land. Warm-Earth Land is built up in her mind as Paradise, where she can finally see her family and feel at home again.

Ahhh, but Paradise! It's time to go! (image public domain)

But, in addition to her happy, fuzzy feelings, Girl is nervous. She remembers from the last time she visited Warm-Earth Land after living in Ice Land that it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. She remembers that hard ground can be muddy and have landslides and sinkholes. There can be poison-ivy hidden between the daffodils. And lots of people have never even seen a hockey stick!

But, the dream beckons, and so she presses on. But, she’s still in the middle of the hockey game! THWACK! Whack! She skates and parries and tries to keep up with the flinging puck and dodging body checks from the other team as she considers how she must get to Warm Earth Land...because she must cross The Crevasse of Doom.

The Crevasse is so wide and deep, there’s no bridge. Instead, it’s filled with rushing water, teeming with hordes of Piranhas and Great White Sharks.

Flesh-eating piranhas! (image public domain)

Flames shoot from the surface of the water hundreds of feet in the area—the only way to get across is to zip line through the flames and the snapping jaws until she reaches solid ground on the other side.

zipline through that! (image public domain)

So as Girl skates and whirls and slides and tumbles on the ice, she tries to put on her flame-retardant suit and get together (whack! hit!) some piranha bait and shark-bags (slam! zing! skate!) while attempting to get to the side of the ice rink and send some quick texts to (Whack! Flames!)  her friends over in Warm-Earth Land...with all it’s (hit! piranhas! jaws! puck!) mudslides and it’s bacon.

Watch out! (image public domain)

Unfortunately, sometimes Girl doesn’t always communicate the whole story. Some people only hear about the current hockey game. Some people only hear about the piranhas and flames. Some people hear her excitement about finally reaching Warm-Earth Land and others hear about how much she’s scared of poison-ivy and walking on solid ground again. Some people might not hear from her at all. And Girl often forgets (whack! thwak! sharks! family!) who over in far off Warm-Earth Land hears what and knows what, since everyone else on her hockey team has made this journey before and understands what it’s like to leap from Ice Land (goal! ouch! water! crash! chocolate! hypothermia!) onto that zip line and cross the Crevasse of Doom back to Warm-Earth Land.

And that’s what it’s like, folks. In a few weeks, I’m getting ready to make the transition (or leap on the zip-line of the Crevasse of Doom) from Papua New Guinea back to the US, and I’m a rather conflicted soul. I’m thrilled and terrified and excited and happy and nervous and exhausted and sick and eager and anxious and ready, and I know I’m not sharing all those emotions equally with all of you (and I’m sorry for those get to keep hearing about the number of teeth the Great Whites have!). Please bear with me. Remember I’m playing hockey and counting piranhas and dreaming of sunshine and dreading mosquitoes all at the same time. :)

Not all global workers necessarily follow this story. A big part of how you deal with transition is when you grieve. Are you a pre-griever or a post-griever? I wrote about that year or so ago when I was musing on transition and loss.