Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Ambitions Derailed

I would like to report that since December 13th, I have been productive and busy. I would like to, but one of the basic tenets of my blog is to provide an honest account of my life, so I can’t. Instead of making excuses, I shall ineloquently attempt to provide a post that will get everyone up to speed.

Late fall I had stoked my ambition engine full of coal, and was beginning to make some exciting progress in my personal and professional goals.  The pinnacle being, successfully pitching some blog posts for my favorite celiac charitable organization in the States. Unfortunately, as American Thanksgiving arrived, we also reached the culmination of my Father-in-law’s battle with pancreatic cancer. For those who have not experienced the loss of a parent yet, may I say, that there is nothing quite like it, to derail life’s forward motion for a spell.  So instead of gathering research, and diving into my writing as planned, I have found myself, sitting quietly observing the ripples of loss on its glassy surface. 

In December, we made two trips home to the states. The first to say our bedside good-byes, and attend the funeral, the second to spend 3 weeks with family for the holidays that were supposed to be my father-in-law’s last, but alas, we forgot to reserve that time with his cancer, so he was already departed.  January came and we returned to Sweden, with jet lag, fatigue, and heavy hearts aching for home. Only, after a year and a half abroad, I, and my family, could no longer name a place that felt like home. A brief trip to our old neighborhood while we were in the States was awkward, and unsettling.  There were many factors that contributed, but it was mostly because our international experience has changed us, and the dynamics of small suburban life has not changed at all. Sweden is my current home, and I love our international life here, but because I’m a temporary resident, I can’t fully claim Sweden as home either.  So where do we belong?

Since I was powerless to intellectualize, and research my way through the grief of loosing my Father-in-law, I focused instead on finding a place to call home.  My first response to this expat paradox was an ardent, and urgent, search for the place to that would soothe my displacement angst for our eventual return to the states.  I spent two and half weeks on, Trulia, Great Schools, and School Digger researching housing markets and schools in various parts of the United States, searching for the location that would provide us with the aspects of our Swedish life that we have come to love.  Easy access to outdoors, trails, biking, fresh air, clean water, greater reverence for nature, healthy work life balance, and populated with physically fit, attractive residents who are progressive, intelligent, and maintain a certain level of magazine ad coif and style at all times.

Of course, that was slightly ridiculous, trying to replicate Sweden in the US.  Anyway, we had been informed that a third year in Sweden was definite, so my musings were at best premature.  After the third or fourth potential new home listing I forwarded to Finance Guy, he patiently told me that he was going to focus on our life in Sweden, and making the most of our time here.  Well, I suppose that’s one approach.  After a few days, I begrudgingly accepted his wisdom, and went cold turkey off my apps.

The Hunger Games movie hit iTunes and after re-watching it, I launched into re-reading the entire series. Loosing myself in the revolutionary adolescent angst of the Panem youth was delicious therapy for the week it took me to read them.  Then I found myself, once again facing loss.  This time it was Peeta and Katniss, who abruptly exited my life as I finished the final chapter. I hit the Teen’s bookcase like a junkie needing a fix, and found Divergent and Insurgent.  Another week gone, and still my insatiable desire to transport myself away from my grief continued. The last book I remember reading, in that three-week period, was The Penderwicks.  It is a lovely book about 4 sisters and their summer adventure, and reminded me of all the fun my daughters used to have in our old neighborhood with the girl next door, and suddenly BAM! Longing again for the home that isn’t there.  Must. Find. Something. Else.

It was at that point I began accessing American Netflixs from Sweden, and in mid February I unintentionally discovered their Korean drama section. Honestly, I didn’t go looking for it, it just appeared…I have a long and sordid history with Korean Dramas, which could be a blog post in itself. For the next few weeks, they served as my media drug of choice and transported me to an unfamiliar culture, and landscape, that helped in my continued avoidance of the unpleasant emotions simmering just below my surface. This continued through most of March and April till my children asking me exactly how many dramas I had watched.  I had lost count. Oh the shame.

Even though I have been mostly placating my grief, I did spend time exploring my losses with words, so there exists a written record. I have accepted that sometimes emotions are too messy for mainstream public consumption.  This is especially true when you are wading knee deep in them. I am hoping that time will give me the perspective and wisdom to edit them more effectively. I don’t think that will be any time soon, since with April came news of another loss of sorts.  A change, that I am not currently at liberty to discuss, but has privately kept us busy seeking it's meaning in our larger life plan.  When one goes seeking change, they really can’t be surprised when it sneaks up and bites one on the arse.

While I am certain the last few months could have been more constructively spent, experience has shown me it isn’t good to trifle with grief. Respect, patience, and a letting go of previous expectations for a time are needed until the equilibrium returns.  Until then, I guess it’s good to sit back, observe the ripples and practice breathing till I am ready to dive in again.  


  1. What a rough year. I'm so sorry for your loss and sense of displacement. I can relate to some of this and empathize completely. Thinking of you from Hong Kong...

    1. Thanks Jen! Some years are like this I guess. I keep telling myself it's great material to fuel my writing, because really, I couldn't make this stuff up! I have been enjoying your posts, about your adventures in Hong Kong. I'm a big fan of your writing! Cheers Karen