Loosing Control

I discovered a few months ago that I'm a bit of a control freak.  We may have talked about this before, but who can remember?

When we moved to Morocco I became seriously obsessed with tracking and recording the many airlines that flew in and out of Casa.  Which airlines  flew to which European countries from Casablanca?  Marrakesh?  Which ones were cheapest?  Which left on Friday and returned Sunday night?  It got to the point where I couldn't go to sleep until I'd checked just one more flight, just one more website.  I don't remember the day it happened, but I was taking a moment to contemplate our latest overseas move and how we were coping or not coping and it occurred to me that my sudden loss of control over, well, almost everything in my entire life, had led me to become an obsessed flight checking list making lunatic.  But what kind of control was that really giving me?  I made a conscious effort to stop being a crazy face and I'm happy to say that I've almost kicked the habit entirely.  (Easyjet did stop their leg from Casa to Madrid which sucks, but helped me fight the urge to check it once a day...)

Living abroad means that you loose control over a lot of things - especially in less developed countries.  Grocery lists and carefully planned menus?  Forget about it.  You'll bring home what the grocery store decides to sell that day.  Accurately planning how much time it will take you to get across town?  Nope.  You'll be lucky if you're within 60 minutes of what you thought it would take.  Want to make friends with your neighbors?  Ah, but they speak Arabic and you've only learned the names of the letters of the alphabet.*  The myriad of different customs encountered while living in another country require people to completely re-think the way they do almost everything.  Dinner out on the town before 8:00?  Not in Casablanca.  Being in the Foreign Service comes with an additional set of control related challenges.  At least in the beginning, many people do not have much input as to where they serve or where they live.  Driving personal vehicles is not allowed at some posts and many times the nature of the job requires officers and their family to behave differently in the community than perhaps a student or someone working for a private company would.  (And boy have we felt that one!)

So you do things like get an international flight tracking addiction.

But it's good to have the illusion of control stripped from you.  That's what it is anyway.  We trick ourselves that we are completely in control because we craft carefully written grocery lists and come home with exactly what we wanted or we slap together swimming and then shopping and then painting and then yoga and then dinner and then family time back to back to back each day without a sliver of daylight in between  - but we've chosen it and so we must be in control of our lives, right?  But then you move away and all of the ways to spend your time, the things you had to choose from go away.  I can't pick up the latest adult education program from my local community college and plan my Thursday nights for the coming months.  I can't even rely on the shop around the corner to stay open from one day to the next.   And so I get to focus on the things that I actually can control - the things that really matter.  The atmosphere inside my home, the effort I put into my marriage, the order of my mind and the health of my body.  Without any of the familiar cultural markers I find at home I'm both more powerless and much more in control of my life.  It's a strange pardox that I really enjoy about living overseas.

So it's good.

But then it's bad.  Like when your doctor, who is very technically skilled but interpersonally challenged, tells you first that you might have a serious problem after doing an invasive procedure, but doesn't write it down and tells you weeks later that he doesn't know what you are talking about.

But we are trying to to be calm about that, aren't we Brooke?  ...and not revert to flight tracking, it's  a dirty habit.  I'll keep everyone posted as to whether or not I use the only French swear word I know when I see him next week.  (But I probably should learn some more in preparation, huh?)

*I'm actually a bit farther than that in my Arabic studies - very exciting! There are ways to take back control of your life overseas!


  1. What enlightening observations. So true and so frustrating! I love what you said about those things you can control. We put so many structures in place in everyday life that sometimes separate us from those truly important things. You've really got me thinking. Good luck with the doctor!

  2. What a great post. Good luck with the control issues.
    I am glad you are making adjustments, even though we were inTijuana, and it wasn't particularly exotic, but there were still things that were difficult. Being here in DC has been extremely liberating, and has given me the opportunity to gear up for letting go of control. I know that it is going to be an even bigger adjustment when we get toSri Lanka. Oh there are so many good things, but so many challenges.

  3. don't worry. I think we are all in the same boat. At least I am there with you. i check instagram likes it's really important. it's not. I'm impressed by all the ways you've really embraced where you are and the ways in which your life is unpredictable. go girl!

  4. Loved this, Brookie! Hope you guys are well. Miss you!