Friday, March 12, 2010

Paradise feels lost

Sometimes it's hard to pinpoint why one is feeling so depressed, though I do always look for logical explanations. Maybe it's the incessant rain we've had this winter; for days on end it rains. I bike everywhere because parking is a nightmare, so when it rains I don't go out. Or maybe it's that like last yr at almost exactly the same time, we have, again, had a rash of friends falling seriously ill. One good friend has discovered he has an AVM, (after a routine MRI before an ear op), a cerebral arteriovenous malformation (an abnormal mass of veins in the left side of his brain) which could cause a stroke at any time, or could continue having no effect as it has done for the last 46 yrs. Surgery is too risky, radiation treatment takes 5 yrs & is also risky. But now he lives with the Leontes syndrome ("I have drunk & seen the spider"- Winter's Tale) He knows it's there.

Another friend's father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer & a month later he was dead.

The 31 yr old Albanian who tries faithfully to improve my tennis, has got thyroid cancer & is awaiting further tests & prognosis.

All this has the knock on effect of making me once again (though I hardly ever seem to forget it) mindful of the fragility of life; it also makes me feel that here I am alive yet doing so little with my life. I constantly feel I should be 'doing more' I want to be doing more, but what? Especially with the children at school all day now, particularly living amongst so many needs, being more useful would probbaly make me feel better. People alway say, but look at what you're doing, where you live, your life etc, but actually what they mean is my husband. look at what he's doing. I'm just tagging alone behind, being the (not very) supportive wife.

I teach 2 mornings a week. The card project (Mangava), largely runs itself on a weekly basis. I'm more of a non-executive director; the women's group I organise hardly ever meets, because everyone (except me) is too busy. My Albanian teacher is at college this year & has home life complications, so we hardly ever meet either, & my tennis partner is out of action with her health.

Sudddenly it seems the few pegs that I hang the tapestry of my week on, are snapping off one by one (& let's face it there aren't many holding it up in the 1st place) - 2 weekly fixtures & 1 fortnightly fixture disappear & suddenly I have these yawning spaces in my week. And the community I know are all working or are much older than me & leading a 'ladies who lunch' life style which is just not me. Sure I can go running, to the gym, fiddle around sewing, like this I made for my niece, do the washing, shopping, I bake a lot; but all those things are on my own. God seems to have made me gregarious, a people person yet I spend 70% of my time alone I reckon. I STILL have days when I speak to no one till my children get home. And my husband gets home late & is too tired to talk much. Of course my closest friend here is away this wk, which doesn't help, but is a foretaste of what it will be like when she leaves in June.

This feeling of listlessness, & lack of direction or purpose, is exacerbated by the fact that my husband is SO busy & preoccupied & is doing such a worthwhile job, whilst I twiddle my thumbs. I love the job he does & so believe in what he is doing & what his organisation is about, but I stil find it hard, even 4 years on, being the trailing spouse, dealing with loneliness, lack of things to do, people to do them with etc. I want a role! Then there's the compounding effect that when I get really down, I lose motivation & just want to retreat into my shell & not go anywhere or make an effort. I am SO glad for an acquaintance who is a clinical pyschologist who tells me that I'm normal & that being told to 'snap out of it' & just 'get out there & join in' is a.) not that easy & b.) not helpful or necessarily a solution.

The other compounding effect is the sense that my children have really moved into a much more independent phase &, even when they come home from school, are quite happy doing their own thing, not being with me. So I don't even feel as needed by them & that's not my role in the same way anymore either.

Maybe I'm just having 'one of those "Bad Ex-pat Days", or maybe it's my "early menopause" hormones, which are wreaking havoc, or my thyroid. I wish there was a simple answer to why I burst into tears for absolutely no reason, why I feel so lacking in motivation & feel so useless most of the time.

Well, maybe the sun will come out tomorrow.


London City Mum said...

Hey - not like you to be so depressed!

Occasionally I have similar 'down' days: typically when I stand back and look at the stupid industry I work in and ask myself "Fine, but what true value is it giving back? Does what I do actually make a difference for the better to the lives of others?"

The simplest answer is no. But the real truth is that what we give is far more valuable than what we receive.

Do not underestimate how important you are to these other people, even if the daily routine wanes or they cannot keep up with the meetings and chit-chat. Just being there sometimes is far more important than physical presence.

The fact that you have written about them and voiced your concerns speaks volumes about the type of person you are: generous and caring.

And that is certainly something worth being cheerful about.


Nappy Valley Housewife said...

I have walked in your shoes and I understand exactly how you're feeling. I was a trailing spouse in Japan for the past few years. Now I'm back in London and feel like a flailing spouse. But I've been doing a lot of reading about the pursuit of happiness and here are a few things that I've come up with.

We need quality relationships. People are much happier if they get out in the world more and not keep to themselves. So find a way to make new friends and build a strong support system. Maybe start a book club?

The other thing I figured out is that having a project is really important. You need to have something to do, something you believe in, something you are good at (or can get good at) and something that is meaningful to you. Set up a foundation. Write a book.

I'm reading a book called 'The Happiness Project' and the author also has a website She is not the most adventurous lady and a bit too rah-rah, goody-two-shoes but it is a happiness project so maybe that's okay, right? Anyway, it has given me a few good ideas and maybe it will help you out too. Good luck.

Nappy Valley Housewife said...

In my recent comment, when I kept saying 'you' need to do this and 'you' need to do that, I was really talking about myself. I give myself these pep talks and pointers all the time and thought maybe it would help . . .or maybe not.

Andrea said...

Hello PLiT,
Quick confession – I have lurked on your blog for awhile now (and read through your archives) and this is my first comment! Bad lurker! I couldn’t let this last post go by without trying to cheer you up. As a child growing up in various developing countries – thank you for providing me with a name for that by the way; TCK is very appropriate – I cannot stress to you how important my mother was (and still is although we have all settled in the US of A now). Even when my brother and I entered into the more “independent” phases of childhood she was always our rock. I look back now, as an adult, and marvel at how she managed. My father was the one with the high-powered career and she was left alone. A lot. Also, this was twenty+ years ago so there was no internet and very little ability to connect with the outside world. I never saw it as a child but she did confess to me, when I was older, that at times she was desperately lonely and bored particularly when her children were at school. Not very helpful for you now I’m sure but just remember you are NOT alone and of course, “this too shall pass.” Also, once you retire whenever your husband or children whine about…oh anything really you can pull out all sorts of, “do-you-remember-when” stories. Guaranteed to stop the whining dead in its tracks!

Potty Mummy said...

Wish I could throw some sunshine your way Paradise. Not that we have that much of it right now (if I see ANY MORE SNOW...), but if it turns up, I'll send it on down. PM x

Almost American said...

Even when you can pinpoint why you are feeling down, it still doesn't make it any easier to 'snap out of it', but I know for me it does at least make it a little more bearable when I know that there is a reason.

There are days when I would give anything to have some alone time - but I know that if I had no choice and was forced into it I would be miserable!

Hang in there! I wish there was something profound I could say that would help. Know at least that we are listening!

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

Thank you everybody for yr comments, it means a lot. And for all yr helpful advice & empathy. I realise too, I have a MUCH easier time nowadays & am so fortunate in having internet, email, skype, means I can have much more immediate contact than being a boat ride (or expensive airfare) away & waiting for airmail letters. But I am always so aware of how busy friends back home are so I feel loathe to skype in case it's inconvenient. I also have realised I have to make a life here & 'live' where I live, not back home in the UK or over the internet, which I do mostly, but I still have v bad days. And I find it's much easier to 'knock me back'/I feel more fragile living abroad. And anyway being depressed can't always be rationalised!

Miss Welcome said...

Aw shucks, I felt pain for you when reading this. It sounds too much like my own trials and tribulations (in various degrees and in a variety of aspects). Everyone made some great comments here and I know you will eventually "snap out of it."

But in the meantime your life means things to people in ways you don't even understand yet, even when you're in a funk! :o) And I do enjoy reading your blog.

nappy valley girl said...

I'm really sorry to hear you're feeling slow - and I can sympathise with much of what you say. I also feel that I am lacking a role at the moment, while my husband is really enhancing his career by being out in the US. It doesn't always feel enough just to be "mummy". But think of the flipside - you could be in a job you hate, and have no kids. I think that would be worse. That's what I comfort myself with, anyway, on days when I feel like that. Sending positive vibes wafting your way.....

Iota said...

It really resonated with me when you said about your children coming home from school and not really needing you. I've felt that over and over. Then I feel "hey, I'm meant to be a Stay At Home Mum, doing good stuff with them, and adding some kind of extra to their lives that they wouldn't get at an after school club, but I wonder if at an after school club they'd be having more fun - friends to play with, and organised activities, and a chance to hang out. Here, they're just getting the chance to hang out bit of that."

Life as a trailing spouse is hard. Cyber sympathy to you.

I'm sorry for your friend, too. The "surgery too risky" thing is horrid. It's now the worst of all worlds for him.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Ooo, what a toughie. Everything seems to be happening at once. The children going to school thing is a difficult one to work through when everything else is in place. But this expat life, particularly one where the culture is so different is downright tough. Even tougher if you don't have a job or other obvious role.

I have to say that I have found doing my own research to be an real life saver. Partly because once I'd sorted out some translators and had embarked on doing interviews etc. I found a whole different side of Bosnia, and I loved it. Gave me such a different perspective and the times when I was out doing research gave me such a break from being a Mummy. Could you do something similar?

Really thinking of you. It is hard, and lonely. Can't wait to see you in July. Big hugs. xxx