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ALL HANDS ON DECK
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*
 contemplative
mood: contemplative
music: REM—Around the Sun


Comments

I think becoming acclimatized in a new place is very much a matter of who you are and how you deal with what life throws at you. Maintaining one's sense of self is probably the hardest part. You should be proud!

It IS hard, and I suspect my upbringing had a lot to do with it, but I am proud, despite my seasickness at times :)

Despite the fact that there are drawbacks to living far away from familar people and places I am also very settled in a way that I thought would not happen, especially as I was quite old when I moved here. In many ways it feels like a dream come true.

I also feel antsy when friends I have become close to decide to move away. In my case, that is often back to Australia and now I "protect" myself by not getting too close to people as I'm not sure how many more goings away I can tolerate without feeling like a jilted bride left at the altar. See, I can be a drama queen, too!

I find that the main trouble with living somewhere that isn't where you are from is that you are always missing things. You miss people's birthdays, weddings, funerals and babies being born. You miss spending ordinary time with people too. Sometimes your friends forget about you. Life goes on in both places whether you are there or not.

Don't get me wrong, I love living here and I love both of my homes. I love that my life is unusual and that I followed my heart. Sometimes I just wish I could twiddle my nose and be "home" for just a minute or two.

As an aside, I was highly amused that you used a boat analogy, remembering how seasick you get on a boat :)

Sometimes I just wish I could twiddle my nose and be "home" for just a minute or two

Oh, me too! Why hasn't anyone invented that matter transmitter yet??

Ditto that. Adaptability is really the key. That, and a strong sense of self. Even if things come not so easily, being able to roll with the punches until they do is a big advantage. Rolling on that boat in rough seas when you lose a friend to a move is sooooooo hard under any circumstances.

It is, and I never get used to it.

I actually felt at home in Sweden. I would have been happy there forever. I could be happy here forever...I am weird in that I always feel at home.

It's a nice feeling, isn't it?

I think your ability to be yourself no matter where you are comes from your military brat childhood. When we moved shortly before I turned 16, we moved to a town that was home to a naval air station. The people I met there were so much more welcoming and easy to get along with because they were so used to having people around for only a year or two. Such a contrast to where I had grown up where there were hardly ever any new kids and the place was clique-y to the extreme. Having those two years of high school in that new town gave me confidence that I didn't have before. Part of that is just growing up but I learned a lot about how to be comfortable with myself and by myself and that wouldn't have happened without that move. You're not bragging, you've just had way more experience in adapting to new places than most people out there.

I agree. I see the evidence of that in my own siblings, and my old friends from those days. For the most part, they are all equally adaptable. I hope I can give MY children something of that.

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."

I know what that's like. Anything longer than 2 hours requires an overnight stay to make it worth the while. With having a lot of my friends in Stockholm's län (3 hours away), makes things a bit tough.

Of course, having friends move away is a hard thing, but at least you can keep in touch with them, even if it has to be through the internet. It's a harder thing if you had one of your first friends that you met in Sweden change feelings and decide not to be your friend. This is a devastating feeling, but as long as one can remain strong, it's possible to recover from it.

Anchors away.

I think it's great you have the self-confidence to know you can make it no matter where you find yourself - I wish I had a little more of that!
I empathize with your sadness at your friend moving - that's always a hard change to weather.
Sending you warm thoughts across the internets...
Tinker

(Anonymous)

"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"--this was a beautiful line. And this post made me sigh, deeply, because I feel that tug too--wishing I could control where my friends live. But I can't.... I feel your sadness at losing a friend who lives nearby. I agree that YOU are the reason you've adapted. You strike me as being someone who is deeply balanced, true to herself, and happy in her life. That is pretty much the recipie for happiness anywhere. Hugs across the internet!

It's a huge fantasy of mine to be able to gather all my loved ones in one place where we could all live together happily forever after. It's a nice fantasy, for sure! :D

That was me in the last comment--don't know why it called me anonymous.grrr.

LJ has been logging people out like crazy the past few weeks.

I have that problem a lot too these days (being logged out without warning). I read on one of the lj forums that there's a bug in the system that affects those of us with underscores in our logins. Like yours'. Like mine.

:)

your belt size has nothing to do with it.

THIS is why i think you're a gorgeous woman. ;-)

THAT made my day. Thanks, sweetie!

"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."

OH don't I know about this one! Zoe moved about five hours away. We see her when she travels to see her family. And Gwendolyn has now moved about an hour and a half away, slightly less. I miss her sooooo much. She used to live thirty minutes away out in the country but worked in town three days. I could drop over and see her on a whim.
It's very different not having ones good friends close at hand. It is life changing and there is grief.

I applaud you for taking your sense of home with you. I wish I could soften your transition as your girlfriend gets farther away.
Well, on another note, when Zoe comes to town it is a delight to see her and it seems like she's just left. We pick up right where we left off. And we have fun emails and letters, sometimes. I wish we did it more though. We've only one life and this is it.

There IS grief! I feel almost as if I'm already grieving and they're not even moving yet, and it could be months before they do. I'm mourning the CHANGE right now, though.

On another note, you and your girlfriends all have such pretty names!


and the boat must know its sea, recognise the currents, and note the landmarks, else the boat might while being whole, become lost in the rumblings of others.

enjoyable read :)

I've come to love my life living abroad, holding on tight as the tide changes. No matter where we all live, it's the comfort in your self that matters.

(Anonymous)

Such an interesting discussion and thought process. You are home in yourself - I know you've expressed that to me before - and that's a wonderful thing. I was a military brat as well but we didn't move EVERY year, more like every three years. And I've been home so long in Mississippi that I get panicky thinking about living anywhere else, the idea of all new people and things - exhilirating and scary all at the same time. And no matter where you are, it's difficult to have friends move away.

I love that you had this special time with your girls! It sounds like an amazing group of ladies.

~Samiam

(Anonymous)

wow. You really hit the nail on the head there, Liz. That's exactly how I feel, firmly seated within myself, within my own little green boat... but it's only been in the last couple years that I've felt that way. I don't know if it's a confidence born of age or experience, but I feel my own contentment is firmly rooted in my tough little nut of self now and that nothing changes that. Maybe it's a feeling born of moving sooo much, so often throughout my lifetime (the same one you know), maybe it's something more. And you know, just maybe it's the fact that you have that attitude that makes it so much easier to adjust and make a life somewhere completely new, and know how to be content in it.

Bravo! Yours is the prettiest little boat in the harbor!!!
xo Wee

Lovely post, and makes sense to me :)

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