Recently I posted a plea for assistance from expat friends to help me pad out research for my writing assignment this semester. I asked people to tell me how being a trailing spouse has impacted on their sense of identity. As the weeks have gone by, I have mulled over this topic and listened for hints of the answer in the conversations around me. I have received some responses and undertaken a few informal interviews. I have taken to reading the works of Robin Pascoe as she helps expats navigate the new world they have fallen into and found myself regularly asking of myself the questions my mind continues to pose.
It’s amazing really that I decided on this topic to explore as I feel I may have been living in a little bubble of my own making. I am not one who enjoys naval gazing and consciously take people at their word when they tell me they are fine. Now that I have peeped into what appears to be a Pandora’s Box, I find that I can no longer shy away from asking the questions of myself and observing the answers in the eyes of others.
Over the weekend I was reading an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal by Alan Paul entitled “The Marital Strain of a Life Abroad.” Now I don’t think I will touch on this in my little piece but did think that it might be useful to read. He attempted to do some research of his own and was rewarded with a response which hit a little too close to home. “Are you nuts? I wouldn’t touch this with a 10-foot pole.”
While I do not think that my chosen topic is nearly as explosive as the one chosen by Alan Paul, I am beginning to feel that it is one that many of us do not wish to linger over. I find the common assumptions of what it is to be an expat wife annoying and belittling yet they are easier to accept than some of the realities which can include low self esteem and episodes of depression. In my years overseas I have managed to avoid any close introspection of my own feelings. I am quite happy to explode during periods of frustration (I actually require very little encouragement) and equally comfortable with disappearing for a few days or so until I am socially acceptable again. Further analysis, I don’t do.
I also find that I am unable to ask my friends to lay bare their own realities in my quest for research. It’s akin to standing in the change room of a Danish gym and the naked lady near you bends over to pick up something she dropped. I don’t know where to look. So I choose not to look. Consequently I have decided not to seek out responses but to welcome them if they come. To go back over my memories of my girlfriends and remember the words that were spoken and those that were left unsaid. I know that there were many occasions that while I chose not to look I saw all too well.