Frequently I see clients in my practice who are ESWKs (pronounced ‘eswik’) or Expat Spouses Without Kids. Although they are in an enviable position by some standards, they often tell me that their spouse is working all the time, they are lonely, and are fighting, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, the tendency to hide out at home. One client mentioned that she sometimes felt like curling up and hiding in a box in her closet.
There are two sides to the coin of being an ESWK. On one side you have the freedom to do almost anything you want to do, and on the other side is an almost complete lack of structure which at times can seem overwhelming and even despairing. In addition, when you have young children it is much easier to bond with other parents, as you have a built in reason for doing so.Exhilaration vs. Despair:
So the question becomes, how do we turn the despair into excitement and exhilaration that freedom can bring? I have spoken before of the importance of finding something we feel passionate about, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I repeat myself here.
Tip # 1: Find Something You Feel Passionate About Doing:
Usually when we feel overwhelmed, or depressed or isolated, we have a tendency to, as my client mentioned, want to hide. I use the metaphor of climbing into bed and turning the electric blanket up to 10, which in Delhi where I live, would not be a practical thing to do! We want to hide because we are not feeling good about ourselves and might be feeling that we have nothing to offer anyone else. The one sure cure for this is to find something you feel passionate about doing.
You might notice that I say, ‘something you feel passionate about’ instead of ‘find your passion’. I do not believe that there is any one thing that is our passion. This can be different at different stages of our lives, and of course can change according to where we live. When we’re doing something we feel passionate about, we tend not to notice the passage of time. We become lost in what we’re doing.
Tip # 2: Kiss a lot of Frogs:
“Great,” you might say, “but what if there’s nothing I feel passionate about?” Just as you may have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince, you might have to try on different activities before you find something you feel passionate about doing.
To begin with, find something that sparks your interest, even a little. It doesn’t have to be something big. It might be learning a language, volunteering to teach English, painting or swimming. And if the first thing you try doesn’t do it for you, please don’t be shy about quitting and trying something new. I liken this period to ‘kissing frogs’ and its nothing to judge yourself about. See it more as an exploration by trial and error. That is really the only way we get to know ourselves better, and it is only by knowing ourselves better that we can truly find what we feel passionate about.
Tip # 3: Involve Others:
Just make sure that what you’re doing involves being around other people. This is a key point when living abroad, as another sure cure for wanting to hide is to make new friends. There is nothing like sharing a passion with someone to help you bond quickly.
So the next time you’re feeling like going into the closet to hide, make a plan instead to get involved in something that strikes your fancy. You might just meet someone who you can call up and meet for coffee instead.