Since I have come back to Ghana and I find that I am in full blown curmudgeon mode. I thought at first that I was having some culture shock/re-adjustment issues but I have been back here for 5 weeks now and that is not it. My fellow students and I were given both a lecture and reading material on what culture shock is and how to deal with it when we first arrived here. I know I experienced some culture shock when I first came to Ghana last August, so know what it feels like. Right now, however, I am grumpy, I am irritated, I am hot and sweaty, I am in a constant state of hot flash hell and I miss home, my family, my dog and especially my bathroom. I get that looks a lot like culture shock but it could also be menopause… an especially fun combination.
I don’t know if you have seen the movie Fried Green Tomatoes but there is a scene where Kathy Bates goes nuclear in a parking lot of a grocery store when a young and snarky fellow customer steals the parking spot she had been patiently waiting for and then tells her “Face it lady we are younger and faster”. Kathy Bates character takes her car and rams the rude girl’s car repeatedly and says, “Face it girls I am older and I have more insurance”. I remember watching that scene some 15 years ago or so and thinking how amusing it was in a kind of abstract and disconnected way…..I totally get it now. I find myself feeling that way all of the time. I am irritated by the girls who do not understand that we all share the communal toilet and should treat it as such. It drives me crazy that there is somebody who parks their car not far from my window whose alarm goes off 10-30 times every single day, I have counted, it goes off at all hours.
When did I become the iconic old man version of myself screaming “Get off of my lawn!”?——–I think I need some paradigm shifting here. I choose to view this from a different angle, one much more empowering. To be fair, I am 50 and I find myself with a decreasing patience for BS in my life. I want my life and the people I choose to share it with to be a positive experience. I am shedding toxic relationships in my life for a good reason. Which to be honest is a healthy thing. I am also in the final semester of my bachelor’s degree and am doing so 8000 miles away from home. It is like having a major case of senior-itis on steroids. I think it is hilarious that as I achieve my life goal of getting my BS, I have little tolerance for BS……Ha!
I read a book over the 6-week break while I was home in California between semesters called Love Warrior by Glynnon Doyal. There were some aspects of the book that really annoyed me (not difficult to do these days) but there was one thing I really liked. She described herself as being really tired of having what she called JAFGO’s. Which stands for Just Another F****ing Growth Opportunity. That girl is speaking my language on that point.
I have had my fair share of JAFGO’s in the past 5 years. My dad passed away. I lost my job. I have been re-negotiating my marriage. I am at a major life transition in the work that I do. I have been diagnosed with MS. I turned 50. I am in Ghana thousands of miles away from home. As much as I would like to say that I am so done with that kind of change and upheaval, I realize that is not how life works. I can choose to live in a constant state of annoyance at every challenge in my life…or I can breathe in the water of what is a natural and normal part of life, change. I find that change is the one constant you can always count on in life. So I embrace the lessons I am learning along the way. In the best sense of the word change is growth, and if I am not growing, what is the point?
So, in the spirit of looking at the glass half full, I am embracing the remaining 3 months that I have here in Ghana. This time will fly by and I am fairly certain that my time here will leave an indelible mark on me. A spiritual tattoo of sorts. One that I will proudly bear. I imagine it will be kind of like giving birth…with time you forget how really uncomfortable the whole experience is and you see the beauty of it all and want to do it again. That is probably a good analogy because in going through this whole cultural immersion I have given birth to a whole new me…at least a whole new aspect of me. A good thing for sure.
Peace to you,