Stockholm

Expat /trailing spouses are everything!  Ok, Ok – I swear the next post will be about a scrumptious bakery or intriguing museum- but in the meantime, I have to give a shout out to expats everywhere, especially my fellow trailing spouses*!  Why you may ask?  Because they are simply amazing.  Not only are they the glue for their families, but frequently they are the glue for their community, rallying friends and newcomers to make a new post seem less daunting.

This past weekend, a group of expats invited me on their weekly walk around Djurgården, one of Stockholm’s many, and perhaps most scenic, islands.  Walking and talking with these expats – mostly women who, like me, have moved here because of their husbands’ jobs – was a breath of fresh air literally and figuratively.  These trailing spouses reminded me of how extraordinary, and difficult, and beautiful it is to lead the life we do.  Here was a group of friendly, outgoing, intelligent, accomplished, and caring women who had once or twice or five times picked up and moved their families to a new place.  Not only had they settled their family and created a new life and home, they had also formed friendships, made walking buddies, traveling buddies, cooking buddies, everything buddies – and they were doing it in style!  I have encountered many women like this over the years whether in Paris or Zimbabwe – and they all have a few things in common – resilience and an ability to connect.

On a recent episode of Girls, Shoshanna, who recently moved to Japan and is enamored with the sights and sounds of a new culture, says, “”I’m great….My life is really perfect.” Only to end up in tears saying, “I’m really sad and I’m really fucking lonely. I’m so homesick and I swear to God  if one more person that I bump into bows and says they are sorry, I am going to fucking cut somebody.”  This made me cry/ laugh.  I have been in her shoes – everything’s going great until it isn’t and then all of a sudden you are crying in your ramen feeling lonely and alone and miserable.  But what trailing spouses have figured out is that although not everything will always be perfect,  if you start connecting and in turn help others connect,  you’ll move through that loneliness – and that is when the good times start!

All of these thoughts were going through my head during the walk, when we passed a wooden pier where a couple was hugging and posing for a photograph. It felt like a perfect metaphor for the trailing spouse phenomenon.  Sometimes you get dropped of at the pier, looking at where you have come from, standing on the edge of the island, waiting for a hug and someone to enjoy the view with you until you are brought onto land.  Trailing spouses do this for each other time and again, and that is why they are my heroes!

 

*For those of you who have not heard the expression trailing spouse – it is a phrase commonly used to describe a spouse, typically the wife, who picks up and trails after their spouse, usually the husband, for career moves.

An homage to my girlfriends …

SocratesAn homage to my girlfriends …
Last month, I was able to take a few weeks off from work and go back to the US, my first trip back in over a year.  I had a big chunk of leave  – and I was going to spend it in a big way – some fabulous yoga retreat or kayaking in the Everglades, something worthy of “Travel and Leisure” magazine! None of that happened, but in the end, what I did do was 100 times better.  I nourished my soul visiting friends and family.  I decided not to make any formal plans to see sights or do “things.” Instead, I wanted to reconnect.  And boy was it the best thing ever.  I was on 9 planes, 4 car trips, and a round trip bus ride before my journey was over.  And even though it was tiring, it was such food for my soul!!  So much food for the soul that I gained 5 pounds, but I felt 10 pounds lighter.  Whether reliving old times with friends, sharing current struggles, losses, joys, or accomplishments – there is nothing like the comfort of friends that “get” you.

All of this made me reflect on my current move/transition to a new country, and the slow settling-in process.  I have had two conversations over the past two days about how making new friends (especially if you are in the lifestyle of moving often) becomes harder and harder as you age.  With this new move it is absolutely ringing true for me. There are tons of fantastic, warm, interesting people here at my new post. However, as I age, the opening up and letting people into my life process is slowing down.

This new phase has given me time to really contemplate the old friendships – and how lucky am I to have tried and true friendships in my life.  And I have also come to realize, these relationships need care and cherishing.  They don’t just happen by themselves, and if I want something out of them, then I need to make sure and put something in, too. Visiting with old friends made me feel so connected to my roots, to past experiences, while knowing I can look forward to new shared experiences with these people. They will be there for me when I need them and vice versa.  I felt so connected, loved, and rewarded by these wonderful people I am lucky to call friends.  And as is often the case, the more I put in, the more I got back.

So –  to all of you who have moved to a new place and just can’t find your groove with a new crew – reach out to your old crew, often.  Go see them if you can.  I am sure they are there, ready to support you and send encouragement, share ideas, or just hear you out until you can visit them and have a glass of wine.   And to all the friends I connected with on this past trip,  I love you!!