Part of our decision to stay in Australia till January rather than attempt to return earlier was to prepare ourselves for the long term in Cambodia, in view of the disruption that COVID has been. Part of our rationale was giving our family stability for a little bit. During that time of stability we (Sam and I) were able to use that time to ‘grow ourselves up’ (the title from a book by Jenny Brown that we both love) or more specifically, work on ourselves in different ways.
The result of that working was that during the Term 3 holidays I reflected that I was ready to return. We were both rested and had grown in self-awareness. Both of these will help us as we start back in our second time around in Cambodia, and help us stay in the long term. Below are some of the things we’ve done and the way we’ve found them helpful.
Resilience insights: I was involved in a resilience training study. It was helpful to see that we can grow in resilience and that we often rely on previous forms of resilience that may or may not be helpful in new situations. I was able to see that resilience is related to our beliefs, practices and resources. For me it was particularly this third category, in how I spent my time and energy that provided me with insights about how best to grow my resilience. In the past I would normally just try and rise to the task (when massive things came along). While that’s needed in some ways, now I need to work much smarter as mission and family life mean that I can’t just up-my game, because I have been maxing out.
Marriage enrichment: Sam and I were enabled to participate in the Condie online marriage enrichment course (we’ve been able to be a part of their in person seminars twice before). This was helpful for us both, particularly in the very ordinary but profound insight of doing little things every day as the way to grow a marriage. Grand gestures are fine, but it’s about cultivating friendship and gentleness and staying connected with each other (particularly in stressful times like this year or when living in other cultures).
Family systems: I first came across Bowen’s Family System thinking at Moore college about 10 years ago. Since then I’ve dabbled a little (see the book I mentioned above). During this period we were able to put these insights to greater use as we delved into some situations more particularly with the help of a Family Systems counsellor. We picked up insights about how we function individually, but more importantly how our family functions as one ’emotional unit’. To quote Dr Robert Creech, from an online conference that I was enabled to participate in, the aim is to be the calmest person in the room. Now, while we can’t always be calm, the result of working on ourselves and our responses has effects on the units we are a part of (our families, staff teams or similar). In understanding ourselves more we can reduce the emotion that inevitably gets passed around in the groups we inhabit.
Those are just a taster of the insights we’ve gained from this time. These insights will set us up, not just for the long term in Cambodia, but the long term in life.
This post rounds off the series. Hope you’ve found it helpful. For me it provides a place for my consolidated thoughts, if I want to access them later. And in consolidating I’ve learnt and been reminded of a great many things that I have learnt already. It’ll be interesting to see what the next blog post series is from our second term in Cambodia.