Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Short nights, long days

Willem I Locket

Although it looks like a watch, this is actually a locket, created by the second wife of Willem I in the 1800’s and containing a lock of his blond hair.  It was recently auctioned in Middelburg, reported in Spits, and is the only known remnant of the king.  I used it for my ‘three-sentence’ Dutch assignment today,  a rare break from a busy and stressful period, one that hopefully leaves more than a lock of my ash-blond hair  at the end of it.

I’m determinedly moving forward to solve issues that have plagued me since last November, personal and professional, planning and coordinating discussions and events between the UK, Netherlands, and US.  Resolution will be welcome, but the process is taxing.

After the end of the week I’ll be doing fewer things better, but right now I’m struggling with mental restlessness, overthinking events and filling imaginary holes.  I haven’t gone to bed until well past 1, up again at 5, for too many days.  Things remain fragile.

I the late hours, I‘m reading The Expats,  a cat-and-mouse thriller about expatriates with pasts, none of whom are who they seem.  The little touches describing ordinary life overseas are true: how unfamiliar cobblestones can feel beneath shoes, the distinctive flavor of expat conversations, and the difficulty of finishing simple shopping errands.  I can relate…

My phone has taken to dialing itself, flipping through my address book and calling interesting people.  O2 said that they would re-image the phone, but would lose data, people, and messages.  We tried to back up the contacts, but the automated cloud service blocked, the phone couldn’t write to the SIM, the computer couldn’t connect.  I finally solved it with an app that e-mails a .CSV of my contacts.  The phone went off for a 14-day repair, I got a loaner with half my contacts pre-loaded,  and two hours vanished from my afternoon

The story would likely be the same at any phone store in any country.  But living locally, success further depends on reaching a psychological accommodation with the people and setting, matching my attitudes and behaviors to fit their culture.  Researchers cite the Big Five Traits  (Extroversion, Emotional stability, Agreeableness, Openness, and Conscientiousness) as necessary for the everyday adjustments.

I think that the principles are similarly true for bigger situations (global business transactions like the ones we’ll be doing in the next few days), and for smaller ones (casual conversation like I’ll be having at the village supper this Saturday). 

The difficulty, on weeks like this one, days when I’m tired and stressed,  is in applying them.  I can be my own worst enemy at navigating unfamiliar words and procedures, finding local alternatives, and just having patience with the process.  It’s a matter of ‘step and check’ to get things right.

And I know, too, that I’m not necessarily my own best judge of whether I’m succeeding.  So every day I consult a trusted friend, just to look at the what, why, and how, making sure that I’m not veering off.

(Note: This is a rewrite of  previous draft, posted in ill-considered haste. ‘sorry for the error.)

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