Building a RAFT
Affirmation of Relationships. . . I wrote the first of this Building a Raft When We Move series in early May, and thought I’d have a post up each week. Haha! Reality is, we’ve been living out rather than writing about the “logs” of Reconciliation, Affirmation, Farewells, and Transition/Think Destination. “Building a RAFT” is a tool developed by TCK pioneer and sociologist David Pollack to help people making big transitions. I first came across this idea about two decades ago in the book Raising Resilient MKs (p. 77, aff). You can get a free e-version here!
Jean Larson describes Affirmation as “telling people what they mean to you and thanking them.” I’ve found this to be so important in my relationships and leaving process. Yet as I’ve implemented Affirmation in my transitions, it has grown to include not just the affirmation of relationships, but also an affirmation of the internal growth I’ve experienced in a place.
Hard Goodbyes are Good
No matter how complex the logistics of moving may be, the hardest part of moving is the changes in relationships. My first major move was from New Orleans to San Diego. It was the late ‘70s and I was only five. The hardest part of that move was saying good-bye to my grandparents, Maw Maw and Grampie. The loss was acute, and the tears flowed — and no goodbye has been as poignantly hard as that first one.
Hard goodbyes are good — they show us how dear are the people God has put in our lives.
It’s risky to make friends, when you know you’ll be saying goodbye. At one point in my life, I saw myself become a bit callous to new relationships, and I have seen it at times in my teens — why bother getting close, when we’re only going to leave soon? I don’t need friends. I have friends (long distance) and that is good enough for now.
I’ve even had friends tell me, “We usually don’t bother making friends with embassy families — we know they are going to be leaving soon and it is too hard.”
Even though I didn’t ever fully embraced that attitude of “not bothering” with friendships, at one point it did become my default setting. Friendships are hard. Goodbyes are hard. Let me keep the good friendships I have going through email and online groups — and just be satisfied with local acquaintances. I don’t need more friends.
Then Hubby was hired by the Department of State. While our lives had been transient before with our own adventures, the military, and as missionaries, we were entering a new phase of life that required international moves every two to three years. During our initial training in DC, one of the people God brought into my life was another FS homeschool mom, Anne. She quickly became a dear friend during that short time of six months. Something about her friendship broke through, and I realized that IRL friendships were worth the vulnerability, even when we know they will be short term.
Good relationships are never guaranteed. I totally didn’t expect the significantly close friendships I’ve had in Nassau — and they have been a gift from God.
Affirmation of the important people in your life makes the hard goodbyes more doable. For some people, I’ve written an email or a card — especially people who I don’t see frequently or have been important to my kids. But for most of my friends, it is important to me to spend one-on-one time before we go and verbally tell them what they have meant to me. The easiest way for me to do this is to invite someone to lunch or coffee, or set up time to walk together and talk. Sometimes these are “goodbye” dates as well, but primarily I focus on the affirmation of what this friend has meant to me and how God has used them in my life.
While the affirmation of key relationships is a priority, during the last few months I also purpose to affirm the people who are regular parts of my life rhythm. . . I express thanks to the cashier I see multiple times a week at my local grocery store. I tell my doctor and his staff how much I appreciate them at my final appointments. My hair stylist. The gate guards. The mail room staff. People at church. Teachers. The bank cashier. I express my thanks, convey the good things of having lived in the host country, and share what I will miss.
Affirmation, Not Just Relationships
When we move, I have the opportunity to reflect and affirm the growth God has brought in this place. Our tour in The Bahamas has been a crazy mix of stress, with the opportunities to let go and rest in the Lord.
Seriously, I’m thankful for the liquid xanax of seeing the clear blue water every day. I’m thankful for the slower pace of life. I’m thankful that Hubby isn’t getting middle of the night urgent phone calls from DC that need to be addressed right away.
At the same time, we’ve had significant health issues and stresses this past few years. I’ve had more external stresses and internal struggles with anxiety than just about any time in my life. It’s been an ongoing practice in releasing my anxiety to the Lord, and trusting Him. The Bahamas has been a weird dichotomy of peaceful and stressful. I’m still pondering the areas of growth from this time in life.
While goodbyes don’t really get easier with time, I’m more prepared to say goodbye now than I used to be. Just as importantly, I feel more prepared to welcome friendships that I know will be for a limited time.
If you are facing a big transition. . .
Have you considered what friends God has brought into your life during this time?
What ways can you affirm your friendships? How can you plan to have meaningful times before you leave?
What ways can you facilitate good good-byes for your children? Have you encouraged them to talk to or write notes to people important to them?
Have you thought about how your friendships may change when you leave, and how you can continue them?
In what areas can you affirm growth in your life?
Building A RAFT When We Move Series
The Beginning of Goodbyes
Reconciliation: Building a RAFT When We Move
Affirmation: Building a RAFT When We Move
Farewells: Building a RAFT When We Move
Think Ahead / Transitions: Building a RAFT When We Move