Sometimes I feel like my life is like the water in the ocean. Waves lap at the shore and retreat with the tides, a palette of colors and motion that stays basically the same, unchanging from day to day. But once in a while a storm blows in, and suddenly the breakers are huge and scary and the dash of spray against the cliffs is drenching everything, and things break up and float away, and it's hard to see where the lines in the sand once were, and if I'm not careful, the undertow will grab me and pull me down.
If I have a boat ready, it doesn't matter, because I know that I'm prepared and can sail through the storm and arrive safely at the other side, but I'm not a good sailor to begin with, and tend to seasickness, and this metaphor is breaking down completely because I'm not familiar enough with the necessary nautical terms to continue.
I was out with 3 of my girlfriends here in Sweden last night, the ones that I've known the longest, come the closest to, brought nearest to my heart. One of them confirmed to us all that she and her family are making plans to move. They're not moving all that far, distance-wise...only 4 hours away, but realistically I know that in Sweden, 4 hours is often equivalent to "other side of the moon."
She's not the first friend to leave me here, and I'm sure she won't be the last, but because she was one of my first friends in Sweden, and one of a core group that I am closest to, it's hitting me harder than I would like. I know that abandonment issues often translate to control issues: I can't control that the people I love and care about don't move nearby and stay nearby, and it upsets me much more than I would like to admit when they leave. I also know that it could be temporary, and that it doesn't mean we won't see them again, since he has family down here and they both have friends, and chances are we'll see them whenever they're in town. I can rationalize all that until the cows come home, but the fact remains that I'm sad because of the change that I know is coming.
And change seems to be blowing up a storm around here in lots of ways. The boat is definitely rocking.
We had sushi (yes! again! I know!!) and ended up blowing off the movie we had intended to go see, sitting in the restaurant until it was empty of everyone but the 4 of us, laughing and talking and learning more about each other. Every time I meet these women I hand over little pieces of my heart to them, and I take in replacement pieces from them for my own. We ended up back at Angie's house, wrapped in blankets and curled up on the sofas, still talking, until way after midnight. We talked about how precious our friendship in this group is to each of us, and how much we mean to each other. We talked about what we are doing here, and why, and what we would do if something happened to our first and foremost reasons for being here: would we stay? would we go home? WAS it home? One of us declared that THIS was home, that she could never go back "home," no matter what. One wasn't 100% sure but thought she'd leave, and return to her country of origin. One was quiet and didn't really commit, but told me later that there were several reasons for staying here if anything happened. I don't know what I would do, to be honest. I don't like thinking about it.
The woman who said she would probably return home also said that she didn't feel like she had built anything here...that all her achievements were basically superficial and unimportant. She doesn't really feel she belongs in Sweden, and it made me sad, because I disagree...not that she belongs in Sweden or not, but because I think the things she has accomplished here are very concrete and that she is selling herself short, and belittling victories and accomplishments and the network that surrounds her.
I know that I have built something here, but I don't think of it as something necessarily outside of myself. Together, Anders and I have made a life in Sweden; we've built a house, made friends, joined a community, had children, gotten jobs...but it's not even so much those things, but rather the contentment that I feel inside mySELF that matters. I don't think it matters where I am, because my confidence in myself and my self-esteem is not tied to a place, it is only tied to ME.
There might be other expats that consider that an incredibly naive or insensitive way to look at it, because to be honest, I HAVEN'T struggled much to make a life here. I've had my down times and my frustrations and exasperations and depressions, but overall, I am well aware that it's been relatively easy for me to fit in, to learn the language, to get a job, to make a life here in Sweden. I'm grateful for that fact, but not just grateful, because deep down I am convinced that I have no one to be grateful to except MYSELF. I am not talking about anyone else's struggles or decisions or choices. I am only talking about my own. I don't even really know how to talk about this without feeling like others will perceive it as bragging, and that is not what I am trying to do or how I want to come across.
Being myself no matter where I am is tied so deeply to my personal philosophy that it's often a shock to realize that it isn't the same for others. And even when the boat is rocking, and I am gripping the rails and turning green, it's MY boat, and I know I'll bring it safely in to port once more.
*throws the anchor overboard with the metaphor*