It was 5:15 a.m. and my hands felt like doorknobs stapled to my wrists.

My fingers had been absorbing the bulk of rain-wind-early-morning-wintery-chill combo, and I had to garner support from at least three of them to shift the gears on my bike. I’d long since forgotten I possessed toes.

I was biking to Il Forno, the Italian bakery at which I play brunch chef on the weekends, and wearing as many layers as I can zip a puffer jacket around. My core was nice and toasty, but the appendages dangling off my body were suffering. My face, too. The wind seemed to harbor vendetta against me, and was shifting with me every bend I took. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t raining; the wind fashioned the drops into torpedo pellets and drove them into my eyeballs.

Then, into my mind popped a warm nugget of electric thought:

My god! We are biking in the rain in New Zealand! How cool is that!

I shook myself, and replied: No, damn you! This is not an appropriate time for perspective thinking. Can’t you see we’re suffering, here?

Subconscious Josie took a step back, raised an eyebrow.

Yeah, of course I see that. But we’re biking to work as a chef in—

Stop! Just stop! Opportunities to wallow in suffering don’t come around every day, do they?

But did you ever think you would be biking like this in New

The next week, something similar.

I was on au pair-duty, had picked up Samuele from school and was hanging out with him before his parents were to come home. I said something wrong—or smiled too long, or laughed too loudly, or something—and set him off, storming to his room. For the next twenty minutes he furiously crafted a sign, coming out only to ask how to spell various words, and posted it on his door.

“Leave me alone Josie I’m not in the mood.”

I had to admire the creativity and sass on the sign, which I had helped to create by use of my linguistic skills. I was more amused than hurt, and more confused than anything. He’s a good kid but, like most 7-year-olds, has these moments of outburst which are triggered by things deeper than how it appears. Most of the time he’s tired, over-stimulated, and he’s still learning how to deal with these emotions appropriately.

While I was staring at the sign that he had made in his anger towards me, Subconscious Josie knocked on the door. I sighed. She won’t go away, not even if I ignore her, I thought, and opened the door.

My god! How cool is it that a Kiwi child has made a sign with your name on it! Did you ever think that would happen?

What’s wrong with you? You’re the annoying friend who tries to make problems seem better by spinning them into fashionable and attractive light. But most of the time it just makes me want to flash you the middle finger and bite you on the arm.

But how cool is it that you’re on relational-enough terms with Samuele to get into arguments and have spats and disagreements like this! Siblings and friends feel comfortable enough to confront each other, to argue with each other, to take it out on each other. But not strangers. You’re not a stranger! How cool!

I think in this fashion frequently (and engage myself in arguments more than is probably appropriate). Especially when I am in a country I’ve carted myself off to. It’s normal to find yourself caught in the rain once in a while, to get into arguments with people you are close with, to get bored or want to go to bed early. It seems, in these moments, I almost applaud myself for reaching normality.

How cool is it that you feel comfortable enough to go to bed early! That’s awesome!

These normal situations are heightened—or can be heightened—by the reminder that I’m in a foreign country. That I’ve taken myself out of comfort and injected me into something strange. Therefore normal, frustrating, typical situations can’t actually be normal, frustrating, or typical.

How cool is it that you’ve forgotten to charge your phone and you’re in New Zealand! Did you ever think this would happen? Ever? Ever!?

It’s an alternative way to go about my life business, as opposed to being caught in the rain and caught in frustration, but sometimes I do want to flash myself the middle finger and bite myself on the arm. You know? Wallowing can be fun, too.

Peace and blessings,
Josie

 

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