Just because I am a list maker doesn’t mean I always have it all together. And just because I check things off the list, on-time, and double-check each list, doesn’t mean I’m able to feel calm and confident. Not when it comes to moving my whole life and family half way around the world it doesn’t. No. Last week, I satisfactorily ticked off items on my list for moving to Vientiane, Laos from Washington DC, USA. This week, I feel nervous and uncertain about every single aspect of our lives that will change.

It’s the things that you can’t tick off of lists, uncontrollable unpredictable things, that throw you out of your comfort zone and force you to surrender to new and different ways of going about the business of everyday life. It all works out in the end, sometimes even for the better. Yet you end up feeling off kilter having to tilt your head sideways to feel balanced while it’s happening. Eventually, life is normalized again and your posture corrects itself. But this takes time.

So what do I do to stay grounded during this period of high anxiety? I try to accomplish the things I CAN do, focus on the things that I have control over. Like my lists. Read on if you’d like to get a sense of my world at the moment, in all it’s wanderlust and jet-setting glamor.

Here’s an update on the status of the most important things to get done within the next four weeks:

  • Lao visa applications submitted – in progress (held up by Lao government bureaucracy)
  • DC-Vientiane tickets purchased – check!
  • Upgrade tickets to business class – praying to our mileage account gods as I type
  • Extra carry-on wheelie bag purchased – check! (also doubles as stroller w/ car seat)
  • Transit hotel in Bangkok booked – check!
  • Movers scheduled for pack out – check!
  • Divide up belongings for: sea, air, and consumables shipments, check-in luggage,
    carry-on luggage – this never gets completely done before movers arrive
  • Purchase consumable goods for shipment – on going
  • Insurance for shipping belongings – big ? (did we do this already in Mexico?)
  • Schedule pick up date for car shipment – check!
  • Insurance for car shipment – check!
  • Last visit to dentist for everyone – check! (no cavities, yay!)
  • Vaccination shots for everyone – two more to go
  • Change healthcare coverage – pending
  • Housing assignment in Vientiane confirmed – check!

You realize that embedded within this list are sub-lists for each item, right? Yup. Sometimes I think my lists are three-dimensional, not on paper but in my mind. Like a list-sphere that spins around in my head keeping me up at night or causing me to forget to validate my parking ticket at the grocery store or render me incomprehensible in my Lao language class despite ten months of study.

The other thing I try to do to not get lost in the clouds of anxious anticipation is LETTING GO. Most things about moving are really not essential but rather an attempt to preserve our home life and life-style, which I agree is a very important need when living in a foreign country. But when I look really hard at all the little things that need to get done, they all have a lot to do with our material belongings and creature comforts, which, if something goes wrong or doesn’t get done, it will not be the end of the world.

Do I need to pre-purchase everything my children will need for the next two years? No. There are children all over the world surviving on whatever is at hand – but I’ll pack the lead-free crayons and paints if I can for peace of mind.

Do I need to buy all the food stuffs and ingredients that won’t be available in Vientiane to send in our consumables shipment? No. Lao food is absolutely delicious and plentiful – but I’ll buy Chipotle chilies in Adobo sauce and other Mexican flavors that we are sure to miss, as well as holiday and birthday stuff so we can maintain family traditions.

I also need to let go of needing to know or predict everything from how the new preschool will discipline the kids, how I’ll be able to navigate the driving norms of an Asian city, how working with household help always stresses me out at first, how we can stay healthy from tropical diseases and how… and how… and how… ? Stop. Inhale… exhale… and let it go…

Lastly, I take care of the family’s immediate needs and come back down to earth. Yes, those mundane practical things like picking up the house, returning library books, making tonight’s dinner, hanging up the kid’s latest art work. It all grounds me in our life here and now. And it’s all good.

See you all on the other side in July!

How about you? How do you stay grounded during times of major life upheavals?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by our mother of twins writer, Dee Harlow in Virginia, USA. Later this year, Dee will be writing from Laos. But now and then, can always find her writing on her blog, Wanderlustress.

The photograph used in this post is attributed to the author.

Dee Harlow (Laos)

One of Dee’s earliest memories was flying on a trans-Pacific flight from her birthplace in Bangkok, Thailand, to the United States when she was six years old. Ever since then, it has always felt natural for her to criss-cross the globe. So after growing up in the northeast of the US, her life, her work and her curiosity have taken her to over 32 countries. And it was in the 30th country while serving in the Peace Corps in Uzbekistan that she met her husband. Together they embarked on a career in international humanitarian aid working in refugee camps in Darfur, Sudan, and the tsunami torn coast of Aceh, Indonesia. Dee is now a full-time mother of three-year old twins and continues to criss-cross the globe every two years with her husband who is in the US Foreign Service. They currently live in Vientiane, Laos, and are loving it! You can read about their adventures at Wanderlustress.

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