Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Hostess with the Most-ess?

A friend came with her husband and son for a visit at the house yesterday. It was nice to have friends of my own here at our home here in Japan, but hard too. It doesn’t feel like “my” space despite my husband's assertions that I should think of it as such. It feels like I have to displace his parents and that feels very uncomfortable. And it was weird when my father-in-law showed up at the house briefly, basically ignored my friends, sort of grunted at my husband (this is typical - he's a man of few words and a grumpy disposition outwardly), then excused himself and my husband, they talked for a couple of minutes and then my father-in-law left the house as quickly as he arrived. My friend wanted to introduce herself and observe the usual niceties (typical in both American and perhaps even more so in Japanese culture), but I had no idea what to say or do given my father-in-law's usual demeanor, and the whole thing felt incredibly awkward to me.

I miss having my own house and space. My mother-in-law had very kindly purchased a few things at the store that we could serve at lunch. I hate feeling conflicted but honestly, on the one hand I was frustrated because I felt as though she was trying to do my job as hostess, but on the other hand, I appreciate that she truly wants to help. I think she understands that my hesitancy to use "her" kitchen makes living here (and hosting friends) a significant challenge for me. And that sense of an obstacle in my way makes me lonely. We host a lot of friends at our house in Seattle and when we're here in Japan, it's generally just family and one close friend of my husband's.

I miss being closer to friends so that it’s not always such a production to have a visit. I miss having my own kitchen to cook in. I hate that I feel as though I'm whining about this all the time and I just don't have a good solution for any of it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Split Personality

Sometimes I feel like that's how I have to live - with two different personalities. In order to essentially live in two places at once, I must only be half-involved in each place. The other day was Peanut's nyuenshiki or "entry ceremony" for her preschool here in Japan. I love that she gets to create this memory for herself - something so quintessentially Japanese. But as I sat through the PTA meeting following the ceremony, I became sad. As I watched the other mothers preparing for a new school year filled with playdates, field trips and the like, I was a little relieved that I wouldn't be pressured to be in charge of some distasteful task for the PTA, but I was sad that I won't have the chance to be really involved either. It's not so much that I want to be in charge of all things PTA, it's more that this signifies an opportunity to get to know people in a more lasting and meaningful way. And given our current lifestyle, I have to repeatedly suspend friendships and relationships with people while we travel to the other side of the globe.

Yay for world travel and bringing up our kids multiculturally and bilingually! Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled to be this fortunate. But I keep wondering, "How do you know when you've sacrificed too much?" I think this is a particularly thorny issue when kids are involved. I want to offer my girls the world (literally) at times, but I don't want to sublimate my own needs to the point that I end up regretting my/our decision years later.

I'm happy to think that we head back to Seattle in just a couple of months where I can renew some friendships, but we're already thinking about preschool for Peanut and that means contemplating how long she could reasonably be enrolled before we leave again. And this raises all these questions again, and again and again. How long can we keep this up? Can we really be this nomadic and still satisfy the needs of the girls? And what about my needs? Gboy is very adaptable and doesn't really mind either way. Having lived half his life in Japan and half his life in the U.S. I think he feels we've pretty much achieved the perfect balance by living in both places half-time. I wish I could feel the same, but it's not that easy for me. I need people. I need friendships. I need community. I need to be involved in my community.

I'm just not sure how to unify the two halves of my personality and existence in two places.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Promise of Spring

We're back in Osaka after an incredibly relaxing and restful vacation in Hawaii. The circumstances under which we left were not ideal, but I'm very glad that we went. Having some physical and psychological distance from all the trauma and disaster here has been beneficial. While Gboy continued to read all the news from Japan religiously while we were on vacation, I read almost no news about Japan's many disasters. It's nice not to feel an almost strangling sense of fear and anxiety. It was truly the break that I needed to gain some perspective. I confess I felt guilty about being there and enjoying life immensely, but it was also one of the best birthdays I can remember celebrating.

Now that we're back, and the cherry blossoms as always, are blossoming at this time of year, it feels like spring is truly on its way. And it's almost harder, in light of the promise of spring and all the rebirth that comes with it, to imagine that part of this country continues to languish without sufficient supplies, housing and even electricity. That feels like such a different experience from what we have here in Osaka. Here there are no shortages. Here the weather is lovely. Here, there is no sign of radiation. It's almost incomprehensible.

And as I watch Sweet Pea starting to really cruise and use a push toy to walk all over the house, I see that life goes on and moments of innocence still abound.