My Big Bossy Opinion – Expat Limbo
The answer to the question, “Are you moving???”
I don’t sleep well. I haven’t really had a good night’s sleep in a few months, unless it’s preempted with a glass of red wine and some melatonin. Well, I sleep (eventually), but it’s fitful and I really don’t feel rested when the alarm goes off at 5:45 AM… oh wait, I don’t wake up to an alarm because I’ve turned into one of those people that wakes before the damn things goes off (Saturday’s and Sunday’s included just for added fucking fun).
I feel sleepy in the evenings when I’m trying to stay awake till the end of whatever show I am binge watching with my husband… I may even be known to doze off now and then. I go through my nightly routine of washing my face and applying the plethora of face saving creams and serums I have purchased from the dermatologist in hopes of a miracle over night and hop in to my bed. Then, I lay there with my eyes wide shut, my feet restless and I’m full of resent for anyone in the house who is sleeping… including the two snoring dogs on the floor… and think, “WTF?”.
I have tried instituting things to help alleviate my shitty sleep patterns. I don’t drink caffeine after 2PM, I exercise daily (to the point of exhaustion), I eat a balanced diet, I try not to be on a screen after 9PM and I try to keep it sober for the better part of the week (I do attempt to keep Sunday through Thursday as my dry days… but if I’m being honest it rarely works out that way because let’s be honest life can be a bit crazy and I have really fun friends).
Sometimes my insomnia is cyclical… I am a woman after all… but most of the time it’s just pure anxiety. I worry about falling asleep before my husband because if I don’t get to sleep before him… he snores and runs a high risk of being smothered in his sleep. Sometimes it’s just an intense day ahead of stupid crap on the calendar and I don’t want to forget any last detail. Or, it might be my brain on overdrive and I can’t turn the engine off… so I live out scenario after scenario in my head… what if I paint it blue, I should organize that cabinet, spaghetti sounds good for dinner tomorrow… blah, blah, blah.
But, lately the demon bastard that has been keeping me awake at night is something called Expat Limbo. It’s when your time is drawing to a close wherever you are currently living, but the next step is not finalized… Could it be home? Maybe. Could it be to another country? Possibly. Could it be another trip around the sun in your current country? Hell – Why the fuck not?! There are only a few people who are privy to this answer — and you are not popular enough to be in that crowd. But, hey… It’s only your life and your sanity, so why the hell should you care?
I am 100% a team player — I’m being serious. I am an accompanying spouse who supports the decisions my husband and I have collectively made in order to further his career. My husband cannot do his job without me doing mine. And, my job is fucking hard work. The blood, sweat and tears that goes into transitioning your family from one country to another is unreal. But, when you have no idea IF or WHEN you will actually pack your shit up and move to Country X… it is even worse.
A lot of these type of situations often end in a time crunch. Even though I know the end of the school year is fast approaching and our visas expire in 6 months (but have to be renewed in our home country and can take up to eight weeks to approve) and I am leaving to go “home” for the holidays for two months… I feel like I’m living behind the iron curtain and information flow down to the family level is like a daily stipend of bread and water for survival. The unknown space in time can make you strung so tight your knickers will be in a permanent twist.
I am totally on board with collecting the paperwork for visas, applying to schools and selling off various shit to the local expat Facebook group because I just can’t bare to bring it to my next house and I love selling things for pennies on the dollar. I’m cool with taking a whirlwind trip to the new host country to find a place to live (chances are I’m not going to be happy with my decision because we are under the gun and couldn’t plan properly), as well as planning the logistics for leaving the children with friends and depending on others for help. I will happily pack up our house into a container (crossing every limb, finger and toe in hopes that the swinging doors shut), unpack the container 6-12 weeks later and start our family’s lives all over again.
But, for fuck’s sake… COME ON! It just sucks being in the spacial void of wondering whether or not I should ask the nice woman I met at the gym to coffee and start a friendship or slowly fly under the radar and hope she’ll still be interested in me when I return from my two months of holiday and not think I am a total dick. I can’t commiserate with my friends and acquaintances about the excitement and red tape of moving. My kids can’t get the closure they will surely need when school closes up for the holidays since they literally have no idea they might not be returning for the start of the next school year. I stress about where I might live, whether or not we will be able to afford the house we want and if all of my furniture (that you haven’t sold off yet) will fit in my new house. I worry if I have made the right school choices. I worry the company won’t get their shit together in time and we will have to return to our current host country and cross our fingers our visas can be extended for a few extra months.
All of this blows.
But, it is the life I signed up for when we decided to leave the US and start this amazing journey over 10 years ago. I will suck it up. I will begrudgingly act like nothing is wrong. I will try to live in the moment. I will not be perfect each day. I will drink extra coffee to make up for my lack of sleep. I will top up the botox to calm my RBF (AKA Resting Bitch Face). And, last… I will not stop being me.
That being said… I am not a wishy-washy person. I am a planner. I adore order and organization. I used to plan things for a living before I began drinking G&T’s for breakfast while wearing my activewear to brunch. So, limbo is a difficult space for me to live in. You know what I do when I’m in limbo that helps me the most? I purge, organize and purge again. The move is inevitable… might be this week, might be next year… but why are you hanging on to that frayed bathmat from 10 years ago? You don’t need it. And, you sure as hell don’t want to move it to another place where you won’t need it. If you are prepped a la doomsday style… ushering those movers in will be a breeze. Control what you can control — the rest is up to the universe.
If you are going through this terrible stage in the expat experience, you gotta know you are not alone. There are tons of other people who are launching scud missiles at their spouses the minute they walk in the door for any shred of news they can claw out of them. It’s okay to be pissed off and annoyed, but you’ve got to keep it in perspective. We also can’t always blame our spouse… although it’s most definitely always their fault! (kidding)
Here’s my theory… We can’t worry about what we don’t know and we can’t worry about what we can’t change. So, stop worrying!