Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Negotiations Continue - by, Christopher

I'm feeling much better this week. I have more energy and a general sense of well-being. I think my undesired passenger has departed.

Life continues here unabated. I took my first final exam last night, and after writing a four-page handwritten essay my hand felt like a steel claw and I was ready to eat dinner and go to sleep.

I came home to find Sarah preparing chicken soup with one of the soup mixes we picked up in the states. It was very tasty, indeed. Then we started talking about living in Turkey and our individual opinions on it.

As everyone can probably tell from the post I wrote, I am of the opinion that we are both experiencing difficulty right now due largely to the effects of a well-known phase of transition that all expats go through at or around the 6 month mark. My understanding of Sarah's opinion (I'm sure she'll correct me if I get it wrong) is that she doesn't agree that her current opinions are the result of a 'phase.'

The more we talked about it, the clearer our opinions became. And the clearer it became how different our respective opinions are.

We're really getting to the heart issues that we have been grappling with individually for months. How best can we maximize our ability to travel and see the world before we have children? How best can we leverage advantages to maximize long-term savings? How important is my free master's degree? How important is the time we are losing with family and friends while we are here? When do decisions need to be made? Which factors are more important than others? Which factors are our most important priorities in terms of time and money? And so on and so forth.

Sarah and I aren't answering these questions the same. We're not even weighting the importance of the questions in the same way. We are discovering a little more each day that we are two individual people who have sometimes radically divergent identities and motivations. Which we've really known all along, except now, our future depends on how effectively can we find mutually agreeable answers with the clock ticking steadily in the background.

Director Elia Kazan offered, "What's called a difficult decision is a difficult decision because either way you go there are penalties." We face steep opportunity costs with whatever decision we will make. I think Sarah and I both recognize that all we can do is make the very best decision that we can, both for us as individuals and for our marriage.

That's a really simple thing to say but a really difficult thing to make happen.

Especially because our primary modes of decision making are diametrically opposed. Sarah starts by making a grocery list. Then she orders the list by the most efficient path around the store. Then she knocks it out as fast as she can.

I start by asking myself, "Why can't we just go to the grocery store tomorrow?"

Then I decide that we could go to the grocery store tomorrow. Then I completely forget about going to the grocery store alltogether and start wondering about what the grocery store of tomorrow will be like, why current grocery stores are laid out the way they are, why shopping carts are all primarily made of heavy metal and not durable plastics or wood, why all the grocery stores in Turkey don't have baggers, and so on until I've really managed to interest myself in something completely unrelated to me buying groceries.

Then, after a few days, when the cereal is all gone, usually on a whim, I will go to the store and buy groceries. And hand puppets. And some new kind of sauce I've never seen before. And while breezing through the housewares department looking at whatever, I will witness some little kid call another little kid a 'fart head' at the top of his lungs, and I will store that anecdote for later, and that little jewel will make the whole long trip worthwhile.

For further examples please see figure 7, my 7 year undergraduate degree.

When Sarah and I discuss living in Turkey, she typically starts the discussion by declaring that we've got to figure it out soon. And I typically reply that all we've got to 'figure out soon' is what's for dinner because we're out of cereal.

Of course the truth is in the middle somewhere and we're working towards discovering that together. Fortunately, we both have a good sense of humor to fall back on when the thicket gets thickest.

Which reminds me of a good story, but I'll save that for next time.

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