Everyone is sick. Everyone is coughing. The oxygen level in the air is low, so we are all tired and cranky. I get migraines from this pseudo-air. Five air purifiers in our house and everything is still caked with dust - evidence of the state of our lungs.
We're also in a holding pattern right now, in our family. Since we are military and getting ready to move, there is a lot of the ol' "Hurry & Wait" happening. For super-planner me, it's a tough time.
I feel like stamping my feet.
I can't breathe! I can't plan! My head is killing me!
At these times, I choose gratitude. I attempt grace. I make a considered effort at self-care. I try to remind myself that we have food on the table, shoes on our feet, and I have the hands of two children to hold, and the strength of my husband to guide me through this.
I chose those words carefully.
It's not easy to be thankful. It's much easier to complain and get stuck in the mire of martyrdom. Yes, there are days like today, when my head hurts, and I just want to sit on my couch with my hoodie up, wrapped in a fleece blanket, alone. I can do that. The kids are at school. I messaged all my buddies that I feel like crap and I'm cancelling the day. Self-care. I need a down day. I need to wallow.
I have a wonderful friend here who has kind of inadvertently launched me into this amazing path of self-reflection and discovery. We spoke yesterday about Egypt and how it has changed us. What we are glad to have experienced.
I'm grateful that we lived here. I'm grateful that it changed me. I feel like it accelerated my growth and development by about five years. I feel so much wiser, and somehow younger and more vivacious. Certainly more self-assure.
So, today, while I sit here with an aching head, covered in dust, and looking for sunlight in the dark skies, here's what I wish pre-Egypt Regan would have known going into this endless adventure.
1. I have learned that I can do it. Anything. I can make a home anywhere in the world. I can make friends. Perhaps a silly revelation at nearly 37, but for someone who always wrestled with her self-esteem, it's huge.
2. I am thankful that I learned how to say No. It's harder than it sounds, and I have mastered it here. When you are constantly bombarded by volunteer requests, and attempts at being volun-told, I used to be over-extended constantly. Now, I can say no. It feels awesome.
3. I've learned that I miss my kids all day when they are at school. It feels good to miss them. It also feels good to collect them from school every day. I love our afternoons and evenings together, even when we are dealing with homework, and dinner refusals. I love them more than I can say.
4. I've found some awesome things here. Cool mementos that I've uncovered in my two year treasure hunt. For the rest of my life, I will have little pieces around my house that tell the story of my life here.
5. I never gave up on friendship. It's no secret that my best friend left here after my first year and that I was devastated. For the first couple months after, I didn't want to meet anyone else. I wanted to hunker down and make it through my remaining time alone. But instead, I met some of the most amazing women. I have been able to share my Cairo with them as they explored for the first time, and we have really built wonderfully supportive and caring friendships that I believe will last many years. Living mementos of our life here. Can we say Annual Girl's Trip?
6. Fear not thy neighbor. We have had some crazy neighbors over the years, so much so that I have now taken to ignoring all people that are within 20 feet of my living space. Until Egypt. One of my dearest friends here is my neighbor. She inspires me. We also consistently provide the proverbial cup of sugar to each other, and laugh over stupid movies with our hubs. Yes, I'm still sorry I made you guys watch Jurassic World. My bad.
7. Egypt is wild and weird. It's like the Old West, with it's dusty lawlessness and chaos. But I love it. The spirit here is unbreakable and that is something to behold. You consistently see really crazy things that make you laugh, scare you out of your britches, and then make you shake your head and laugh again. Plus, you see the pyramids when you are driving down the highway. You constantly feel lucky to be alive (especially on the highway), and extremely fortunate for the "things" you have. But you also feel satisfied. You learn that experiences trump a shiny BMW every time. I like it.
8. I've learned to be content alone. Another tough one. I always equated alone with lonely. And it's just not so. Perhaps that is wisdom that comes with age, but perhaps it is Egypt. Silence is beautiful. I'm enjoying it as I type.
9. You can choose to be happy or not. My Mom always taught me that happiness is a choice, and nowhere was that more obvious that here. It's not Egypt, per say, but living overseas and being consistently out of your element for years. You can wallow. You can complain. You can hate it. But you can also love it. You can explore it. You can find beauty in the most mundane. It's possible. It's just a choice you make. But you mustn't be Pollyanna. There are days that just suck, and I've learned to allow those to wash over me so that I can wake up renewed and happy in the morning. No more shoving everything inside.
10. You will travel. You will get to do some incredible things here. You will stand at the feet of Michelangelo's David, pose as if you are holding up the leaning tower of Pisa, float down the Grand Canal in Venice, experience vertigo at the top of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, sit in absolute silence at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, trip over the uneven cobbles in the Colosseum, walk through the Temple of Karnak in Luxor. You will drive through Bavaria in the Springtime when it's green, so green it hurts your eyes, and see castles peppering the mountains. Your heart will soar as you hear the glockenspiel in Munich. Your lifelong dream of seeing the Great Pyramids and Sphinx will be made even more special by the little hands you hold as you walk up the path and see them for the first time in all their glory. Your dusty face will be streaked with tears as you live your dreams. You will watch your wanderlust be transplanted into your children, who will never settle for less than seeing the whole world. And you'll try to show them. All of it.
Sometimes you just need to see how far you've come to appreciate where you are. I'm also thankful to share my experiences here. Where I hope to inspire other families to travel, to take a chance at living abroad, however briefly. There is nothing so beautiful as your own country when you see it from afar. And the road taken is really something.