Sunday, January 2, 2011

123 Days of Life

Well, it has been 123 days since returning from Mexico and even longer since I last blogged. So, I thought it would be a good idea to update you all on what I am up to and how life in the States has been.

Since 4 days after returning from Mexico, I have been working at my home church (Elim Gospel Church) as the office manager and administrative assistant to the lead and executive pastors. I am also taking classes online to finish my BA in business administration. If all goes well I will be done in the summer. So that is what I am "doing."

Emotionally, though, the transition has not been so simple. When I went to Mexico, I experienced virtually no culture shock of any kind. Sure there were things that were different, but I did not notice it effecting me. Returning has been very interesting, because I have felt reverse culture stress or re-entry shock more than I anticipated.

Let me explain it this way. Everyone has an emotional bandwidth. This is the amount of emotional energy that each one of us have that allows us to respond to the highs and lows of our day in an appropriate manner. We obviously sometimes encounter situations that require more emotional energy than we have, either because it is a very demanding situation or we have already used up our emotional energy on other things without refilling it, and we thus feel taxed and stressed.

Since returning, I feel that I have a very small emotional bandwidth with very little emotional energy. I have contributed this to the idea that my emotional bandwidth has not shrunk, but rather that I am subconsciously using my emotional energy to readjust back to life in America in ways that I am not even aware of. This results in me being much more stressed and emotional than I have ever been in my life. It seems, especially when I first returned, but even still at times, that I do not even have a sufficient emotional bandwidth to handle the everyday normal small spikes and dips on the emotional radar. For example, when I first returned, you could have told me, "Good work Traci, I appreciate you" and I would have burst into tears with an overwhelming since of appreciation. While "words of appreciation" ranks last in my 5 love languages, this would obviously not be a typical response for me, but yet I would find myself fighting back tears all day long. Or for example, one of my bosses asked me to do a very simple calendar planning task a few weeks after returning. A task that would normally take 15 minutes and very little brain power. And for reasons that I still cannot grasp or understand, it totally stressed me out. It stressed me out to the point where I took a half day and went home and watched 4 straight hours of The Cake Boss. Now that is not normal activity for anyone, and even less normal for someone who's favorite week of the year just 2 years ago was the should-be-stressful week of the 1000+ person conference she organized and was responsible for.

This uncharacteristic emotionalism has been the hardest part of my re-entry stress. Obviously there are other things like readjusting to the English language, being away from close friends in Mexico, just being away from everything I love about Morelia, not being able to walk 2 blocks to eat $2 quesadilla meal for dinner, etc. There is a bunch to readjust to, but not having the emotional energy to adequately readjust makes everything harder. It makes the effort to reconnect with old friends or even make new ones a battle, because when you don't have enough emotional energy to deal with the little things, it means the energy that is exerted to connect with others is non existent. It also means getting frustrated at the little things which brings added friction into relationships. It means not knowing what to do with yourself when you don't fit in where you did when you left.

But, it also means some other things that are just little stresses that add onto the pile, which sometimes tip the scale. A lot of this has to do with information overload. If my work email inbox doesn't all fit in one screen without scrolling, I start to get anxious and quite often will just have to walk away until I can muster up enough emotional energy to tackle it. And while a minor stress like this should only take 5-10 minutes to get the energy to accomplish, it will sometimes take me days. Restaurant menus whether sit down or fast-food overwhelm me. The thought of browsing through each item is a daunting task and so I order whatever the giant picture tells me to. Large groups of people, or any size group of people including someone I do not know or do not know well now cause this outgoing extrovert to socially shut down and sit quiet until called upon. And the list could go on.

The hard part is, I don't know how to make it better. I have found some relief in running. What I used to despise has become a good release/relaxer for me. (So much so, I signed up for a triathlon that will take place in August). But aside from that, I think I just have to wait this out. Which is not easy.

There are some definite positives of being back as well. I love my job and my co-workers. My bosses (Pastor Josh Finley and Pastor Wayne Hedlund) have been particularly awesome in helping me adjust. (For proof of my emotionalism, I will confess that tears are rolling down my cheeks just thinking about how awesome and supportive they are. They really are the best. Which is probably why I love my job so much.) I have also been able to spend time with my family, which has been awesome. It had been 10 years since we have all been together for an extended time. And my 6-month-old niece is adorable and just makes everything better.

Many people ask me, "What are your plans for the future?" or "Do you plan on going back to Mexico?"
My answer is: When I felt the Lord telling me to come back to NY for a season, I also felt very strongly that my time in Mexico was not yet completed. I admit that I do not know what that means - perhaps it will look like me leading short term teams a few weeks each year or spending my summers there or maybe it means going down more permanently. So while having a complete peace in knowing that this is the right place for me right now helps a ton with not feeling regret, it still doesn't tell me the future nor console me when I miss Mexico. So I guess the answer is for this season I am here. And well, when this season will end, I am not sure. I am committed at my job until Sept 2011, but honestly, I think I will stay at least another year after that. I have thought about considering the possibility of starting a master's program in the Fall, but still don't have a complete peace about that. So, I am just waiting for the Lord to make the future clear, while leaning on the peace that He has me here.

I know this was a long post, but thanks for reading. Hopefully that helps clear up some answers and give you a little peek into what is going on with me. Please be patient with me during this time, but please also lift me up in prayer.


  1. oops I lied, it has only been 109 days.... Oh well, 123 just looks better.

  2. Nice post Traci. Sorry about the culture stress. It's impossible to prepare for and always catches us off guard. I can relate a little.

  3. i love you!!! :) i'm praying for you. you should come over sometime. also, nate and i love cake boss!! ;) hehe