I have posted before on what makes the return to Jamaica so much of a challenge, and that it has little or nothing to do with the crime, the poverty or the moribund economy.
Instead, I argued that in my case it was more of an inner journey than anything else.
I have noticed however, that compared to the life in Hollywood, Florida that I left, a life lived in Jamaica is astonishing in its sheer volume of (possibly) upsetting incidents.
I remember once when I lived in Florida and there was a short power-cut that was talked about for days. In Jamaica, we had our second island-wide power-cut in a year and it wasn't even worth blogging about. It came and went, and by the time the next day was over there were ten other things that happened that pushed it to he background.
Although Jamaica is a small country, the way in which life is lived for me has changed a great deal, from focusing on days to focusing on minutes.
In my mind I compare it to that scene from "Saving Private Ryan" when the armies of the Allied Forces are storming the beaches of Normandy. The action was chaotic and happening so quickly, that a soldier just needed to live until the next moment, and the next moment, and the next moment, until they either made it to a safe bunker or received a bullet in the head.
Such is life in Jamaica, and there are some real bullets to contend with at times. The sense I have had is of always waiting for something to happen, and sure enough, something comes along and well... happens! By contrast, life in Florida was marked for me by not too much happening, because life there had a certain kind of steady reliability due to the degree of safety, security, consistency and an abundant supply of just about everything one could hope for.
A returnee or an expat moving to live in Jamaica, may find that they need very different coping skills than they have ever possessed. For example, if they are used to thinking about problems for long stretches of time, they may find that they are unable to have that luxury.
If they used to talk through their problems in a weekly phone call with their best friend, or in a weekly therapy session, they may find that a weekly conversation is just too infrequent to deal with all that typically happens in seven days.
As my wife and I say to each other: "We have got to up our game."
And that is what many who move to Jamaica are unable to do, and why returnees and expats alike fail to make the transition, and are unable to deal with the fears, stress, aggression, breakdowns and threats that are presented each day, hour and minute.
What can one do about all this?
1. Be Prepared
This involves more than just packing the right stuff. It means preparing oneself mentally (and spiritually) for a challenge, and gearing oneself for a big change in the way life is lived
2. Be Accepting
The worst thing to do is the resist the facts about living in Jamaica, and to continuously complain that things should be any different than the way there are. Funnily enough, accepting them wholeheartedly and completely as they are is the key to adapting and even changing them.
3. Be Open
After coming, one needs to be extremely flexible in order to keep moving when the daily crises occur. The mind and spirit must be facile enough to deal with the unexpected, and also brave enough to imagine being caught in a gun-battle a mile away from one's home.
4. Be Tough
There is a certain tough-mindedness that is needed to live and work effectively in Jamaica, and expats in particular talk about how they had to learn to develop a demanding tone of voice, a no-nonsense style and even a brusque physical manner. This is not about bullying, or using force to scare people, but instead about standing firm for what is right, and for a certain kind of personal justice.
5. Be Aggressively Learning
This involves not only seeking out new experiences in Jamaica, but also travelling abroad to learn new skills to bring back to deal more effectively with life here. The time away is invaluable -- even if it is spent in a mall. Many women attest to the fact that "retail therapy" does provide a welcome break, even if new skills are not learned. There are many opportunities for personal development and training, also, that are more specifically designed to develop new skills and I recommend that both returnees and expats include time away to help themselves to "up their game" when they return home to Jamaica.
I recently had the opportunity to attend Byron Katie's "School for the Work"
in Connecticut, and it fit the bill in my case. It involved 9 days of ongoing practice in using a technique that I have found to be useful in dealing with upsetting, angry or otherwise stressful thoughts and feelings. In the vast periods of silence around which the course was built, I was able to take many a deep breath and practice working with hundreds of stressful thoughts as they arose in my mind.
After returning home, I have found a definite peace that comes from dealing with these thoughts as they arise on an ongoing basis. The technique is very simple, and is amply demonstrated on Katie's website in numerous videos and audios.
This is not the only course of its kind that is offered to the public, and in Jamaica programmes such as the internationally available Landmark Forum are offered also.
The point here is that these resources are available, and they offer the kind of training that might not make sense to do when living abroad, but are absolutely vital to "upping our game" once we return or move to live in Jamaica.