Plastic Bags, Culture Shock, and a Pandemic

I was cleaning my house yesterday.  I gathered plastic grocery bags -the ones we use as trashcan liners at school - and put them in my school bag.  And the grief welled up like nausea with the reality that I will not see my students again.

I didn't even get to say goodbye.

We are not going to hatch a butterfly.  We are not going to learn about Pompeii.  We are not going to grow the garden with the seeds we've already sown.

So much loss.  So much stolen.  I didn't even get to say goodbye.  Not the real kind.  Not the, "I'll see you in August kind."

We were so close to the end of "The Hobbit."  And like a thousand other things, the Pevensie children and their magic wardrobe will have to wait until next year.  And I didn't even get to say good-bye.

This new life has been a rush of change. I have jumped in to a new form of work: how to minister to and serve our students and families long-distance.  My husband I re-arranged our house so he could work from home.  We are conscience of what we do and where (and if) we go, of washing hands and of being careful.  Like everyone else, we are envisioning the germs on everything we touch.

And the process, I have felt, well... lost.  Uprooted.  And misplaced.

This is not what was supposed to be.

There is so much grief and loss and where-in-the-world are my good scissors.  And why is it I'm having a hard time focusing when I pray?

And then, I remembered that I have felt this before.  A few times, in fact.  I know what this is.

It's culture shock.  It's being abruptly taken out of my culture and set in another.  But this one I didn't choose.  And this one, I didn't plan for...

And that got me to thinking about how I have prepared for changes in the past: moving from one country to another and then another... even getting married.  For each of these, I took time to think, to pray, to celebrate, and to mourn. I worked diligently to help the transitions I was facing.  I wrote out tasks to help me process my changing life.  You can read that list here.  

Once I realized this discombobulated feeling was part of culture shock, I sat down to re-make that list, specifically geared towards this strange season of "flattening the curve" and "social distancing"... words, that were sprung upon us - a life that was sprung upon us - without much advance notice.

So, here's my plan to help me live well during this season:

*Journal about how you have changed over this time and through this experience.
*Write a list of things you’ve learned how to do during this experience.
*Make a list of the blessings.
*Keep a list of the fun things you do.
*Write farewell letter to your life before the pandemic.
*Recruit people to pray for you.
*Make a list of hopes for this next season.
*Clean Out/Arrange one really good work space on a counter or desk.
*Make a list of the people you regularly saw.  Call or video-call them.
*Make a loss/gain chart.
*Write letters (with a paper and pen) to long-distance loved ones.
*Make a list of "all the things I wish I could do to my house if I had time."  This is not a "I am going to do these things during this season.  But, you might get a few of them done.  Check back in with that list each week.
*As you study the Word, jot down characteristics of God - and his promises.
Click here for the Processing This Season Workbook . 
But, here's what I know about changing cultures: the most important thing is to give yourself grace.

Even if you've lived in multiple countries and have gone through culture shock before, you've never done THIS before.  Yes, give yourself a little room to breathe.  The Lord has not abandoned you in a far country.  And I hope that we both come to find Him as our real Home.

Click here for a list of the journal prompts.

We will walk in and among these "Culture Shock" stages,
and will even double back a few times as we figure out this new normal.


Unknown said…
This was lovely and the workbook looks so helpful. Thank you for sharing this. I had not thought of this as a season of culture shock but it most certainly is. Bless you!

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