About five years ago I found myself on a Scottish summer’s day, inside a grocery store, and in tears over dryer sheets.
You heard me right. Dryer sheets.
I think I need to back up a bit. I had just moved to Edinburgh a few weeks before and getting started in a new country brought a plethora of challenges to my dinner plate, including: Getting denied bank accounts and walking home in the rain. Getting denied a mobile phone contract and walking home in the rain. Getting on the wrong bus, then seeing the bus change numbers in preparation to change routes, and worrying I might not find my way home…ever. Fortunately after a while I learned to carry an umbrella, and to stand on the correct side of the street so that the bus would be going in the direction I wanted to go. It sometimes felt like SeÃ±or challenge found me around every corner with a big Â¡Hola! Â¡I yam heer to trouble you!
Anywho, this was the first time I was doing laundry in Scotland. My clothes were at the laundromat down the street, happily swirling in an industrial-sized washing machine, and Iâ€™d scurried down the way to the grocery store because Iâ€™d forgotten dryer sheets.
There I stood, struggling to calculate and recalculate the exchange rate in my mind before finally deciding that dryer sheets were prohibitively expensive, and I was no longer going to be able to afford them. In a culmination of weeks of rainy moments and culture shock, expensive dryer sheets set me over the edge.
Could I make it? Could I actually live here?
I returned to the laundromat empty-handed and discouraged, wondering what clothes dryed without dryer sheets would feel like, how I was going to survive the static electricity onset, and whether I was going to survive the transition to a new country.
Days and weeks and months went by, and I eventually began to adapt. By the time I left four years later, I was hanging my clothes on a drying rack like most of the UK, and my duds hadnâ€™t seen the inside of a tumble dryer since I donâ€™t know when. Except when I was home in North Carolina for visits. If there is a body of evidence that a person can be bi-cultural, this might prove a significant contribution.
Just the other day Hero Hubs mentioned that some friends visiting from the US had brought some friends of ours here in South Africa Bounce dryer sheets. We had a dryer in the first place we rented here in SA, and after last month’s move we just bought our own from some friends who moved back to the UK. (Because weâ€™re not allowed to hang our laundry outside in this complex, and weâ€™ve got a new wee one on the way…meaning lots of laundry is on the way!)
The mention of dryer sheets brought back the clean smells of fresh-cotton-flowery meadows and warm images of cuddly-soft, friendly teddy bears from commercials back in the States. I smiled and realised I had hardly thought twice about dryer sheets even though Iâ€™d been back to using a dryer for the last year.
It also brought back the reminder that life is always changing. Things are never going to be the same. There are important things in life that we need to try to hold on to, but there are a lot more things we might do well to hold a little more loosely. We can focus on what we don’t have, or can’t afford, or we can be thankful for what we do have…like an industrial-sized washer-full of clothing just down the street.
As the dryer buzzes, in the end I think the lesson is that learning to relax and let go of things youâ€™d rather â€œclingâ€ to brings healthy growth and healthy change into your life. As you begin to embrace the changes life brings, you may find that a gentler, fresher, bouncier you is just around the corner.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, I have a good inheritance.
Our dryer broke a few months ago. It was only a condensor dryer but made life so much easier. Thankfully someone gave us a special donation towards a new one. I loved this blog. In tears b/c I can so relate! Timely message for me friend.
Renea, I was thinking of you and wondering how things were going as I wrote this! You’ve experienced the re-culturization a couple of times now and you know what it’s like! We’re stronger on the other side but dern, it’s hard! 🙂 Love you.
Oh I needed to read this today. I was up for hours last night, laying in bed, silently crying over things that I want to cling to, for myself and also my kids, but realizing that I need to start letting go. We told our kids our plans to move to South Africa, and while they seem mostly ok with things, our 6 year old has already realized many of the things he will have to let go of, and it is about breaking this mom’s heart. I know I need to be able to release things in a way that shows my kids it is ok to let go and that the only thing we need to hang on to right now is God alone.
Hi Jonna! Hope you can keep hanging on to the Lord who will be with you wherever you go! Know that walking in His will is the best for you and your kids — and sometimes I think giving up a lot of the things we take for granted as “needs” in the States is good for our kids, too! xCC
Hi Caroline – Laura Ann pointed me to your blog thinking I might enjoy it – and I really do! I’m coming towards the end of a year in Jamaica with my husband volunteering with the Jamaica Baptist Union. Your description of moving to another culture here resonated so clearly with me! The challenges as well as the eventual joys and acceptance. Thanks – and keep up the great writing.
Hi Tara! Isn’t Laura Anne awesome? Glad to “meet” you. The volunteering in Jamaica sounds awesome, and perhaps very challenging at the same time! Blessings for the adventure ahead of you! xCC