Recently we took leave for a mental health vacation from the hustle and bustle of the city. Diving and snorkelling in the ocean that offered shades turquoise and inky blue waters that invited you to venture in and surrender to the gentle waves and warm sea breeze.
Upon a lunch date with friends posted to Malaysia, I chatted with a veteran trailing spouse who offered such kind, comforting and generous words of wisdom and support. But her words didn’t ‘get to me’ as much as the way she hugged me when parted ways. Her hug was a ‘mum hug’. She had told me that her adult children, all in their mid to late 20s where back home in Australia and that she missed not seeing them as regularly as she would if she were back home. Coming from a close-knit family myself, I could relate as she enquired about how I deal with my own homesickness and missing loved ones back home. She sensed how much I miss my family and close friends, hence the ‘mum hug’.
Like other trailing spouses, sometimes I hate being here. I hate the fact that I have no control over where my partner is posted and how long it is between going home (real home) and physically being with loved ones. These days are rare, but they are valid and they help us to recognise the great days we have while away and even allow us to truly realise the true value of loved ones. Back to the ‘mum hug’..
The hug brought me to tears, which I expertly hid from my partner, and alerted me to the fact that homesickness had indeed creeped back in. Fortunately for me, my own mum is visiting next week and her timing could not be better. And sometime Skype doesn’t cut it.
Only yesterday I attended an official ‘spouse brunch’ where many new faces discussed their experiences and frustrations of moving to post. They asked me how I fill my time and keep busy so to counter homesickness, the feeling of being dependent on their working partner, making friends and the questions continued. During these conversations, I realised just how resilient trailing spouses really are and the many strategies we use to thrive during our time overseas. Below a just a few of mine.
1. We have all heard the expression she would “attend the opening of an envelope”, well here is your chance to be that person. Say “yes!” to every invitation whether it’s for a quick coffee and chat, a book signing, a lecture a visit to the bank. Don’t think about how boring it may seem, just go. You meet new people at the most random places and the beauty is, you don’t need to go again if you did not enjoy the experience or the people.
2. Get involved. The internet and social media are wonderful tools for researching community groups, volunteer opportunities and upcoming events around your town or city. Make a time to go check them out and see if you like what they have to offer. Many groups such as ANZA, AWA, BWA are not just for women and allow nonmembers to engage in social functions and events. There are many newsletters found online that yo stumble across as you “surf” away. Join, you can always unsubscribe!
3. Learn something new. If you are unable to work or are enjoying the downtime make time to figure out what you’re passions or interests are. Study something, anything! Enrol in a course, art classes, language classes, cooking, yoga, book club. You are limited by your own imagination and willingness to explore.
4. Self promotion. Don’t be shy and offer you number, email, Facebook to people who you feel that you connect with. You never know where this may lead. Remember that down the track, it is ok to decide that this friendship is not a good fit for you BUT you may just find that someone who becomes a real friend.
5. Work if you can and want to. This may be a vehicle for fulfilling your intellectual, emotional, financial and social needs.
6. Talk to trusted friends and family about how you’re feeling to gain a true perspective. “This too shall pass” reminds me that it is ok to have a low day and to miss home, but nothing lasts forever.
How do you manage?