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.