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Leaving Well – When a bad day gives back more than it takes

We moved from China to Germany this summer. Such a simple sentence. But it wasn’t simple.

In Beijing we were in the very fortunate position to have a comfortable assignment package, including complete moving services. Packing up and shipping, temporary housing, the works. No complaints. But the devil is in the detail.

After a fabulous summer holiday in Malaysia we returned to Beijing to pack up our house for the move to Germany. As is often the case, my husband had to travel ahead to get things settled at work and sort out other details. To support me and the kids during what would be a busy time, my Dad scheduled his last trip to Beijing to be with us during the packing out. He’s always been a huge help and is one of our greatest supporters. But this time it didn’t work out that way.

Grandpa had been having trouble with his back for weeks leading up to his trip but figured it would sort itself out soon enough – it always had in the past. It didn’t. I collected my pain riddled Dad at the airport and it quickly became clear this wasn’t going away anytime soon. I felt awful for him. We added trips to Chinese doctors for acupuncture and moxibustion to the sorting and packing and last-visit-to… Usually with three kids in tow during a hot Beijing summer. But there was no improvement.

On the first day of packing, everyone was at the house, watching the movers dismantle our life. It’s always a day of excitement and lots of nervous energy. A long day of supervising but not actually doing much. The kids were brilliant. The movers gave them full access to all packing materials and they made the most of it! Grandpa spent the day on the couch (thankfully it was staying behind), trying not to be too miserable. OMG I felt bad for him. The day passed in a blur of paper, cardboard, and tape. But it wasn’t over yet.

After the movers left for the day – with our beds packed up – we still had to move to our temporary accommodation. Downtown Beijing. We chose an apartment in the city because we wanted to experience a bit more of Beijing city life in our last weeks – and we did. But tonight it felt like a very bad decision.

We loaded up what we could and I drove us to the city. After registering (a process worthy of it’s own blog), everyone helped unload our stuff, carry it down the looooong hallway to the elevator, take the small elevator to the 8th floor in turns, and move it into the apartment. We had arrived in our home for the next four weeks. But we hadn’t, not really – there were still piles of things left at the house.

Leaving Gramps to find a somewhat comfortable spot to rest, the kids and I headed down to street level in search of dinner. Luckily this isn’t a problem in Beijing and we were soon tucking in to jianbing and dumplings. We packed up enough for Grandpa’s dinner and returned to put everyone to bed. But not me.

Once things were quiet, I drove back to the house to get the rest of our stuff. Suitcases, birthday party preparations, all the perishables & food, farewell gifts for friends, I’m not even sure what all was there. Multiple trips from house to car and back. Returned to the city. Unpacked alone. Long hallway. Small elevator. Into the apartment quietly. Back down for more stuff. The night guard watching me all the time. But did he offer to help?

It was a long, hot, exhausting day. I was bone tired, sore, emotionally wrung out, worried about my Dad, resentful of my husband and angry at the guard. And then I caught sight of my Wild Woman bracelet. A symbol of strength and sisterhood and a reminder that I was strong and had the resilience and resources to get through – relatively speaking – small thing. In that moment my attitude shifted – I felt proud of what I had accomplished that day, excited about the next weeks in downtown Beijing and what our future in Germany would be like. My Dad would get better. My husband wasn’t on a holiday, he was working for our future, too. And we had the most amazing children that had also been through a tough day and had shown just how creative and resilient they were. A bit of perspective can work wonders for attitude.

We have all survived 100% of our worst days. Remind yourself of that when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Take a deep breath, rest, take care of yourself and celebrate your success. You are strong.

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