Lone in Santiago .... from a Cavewoman
How many of you have been fortunate enough to have seen the play "Defending the Caveman"? Absolutely brilliant and in fact, it should be prescribed by your marriage therapist at least once a year but this is not about the man / woman thing - it's what is said about woman that I can so relate to ..... woman are gatherers!
That is their most important job! Not only do they go out there and gather food to feed their families but to gather information as well to best integrate their families into the tribe and give them a sense of belonging.
For an expat wife, this can prove to be quite challenging especially if you don't speak the language. But sometimes it's not just the language but the culture of your host country as well that could prevent you from being accepted into your tribe as quickly as you would like!
Unfortunately, just like Edison with the light bulb - your need to try many, many, many times and finally there is that connection with a group or with a person and you finally start feeling the sense of belonging you've been longing for! Many of us give up before this happens and tend to then start avoiding being "brushed off again" (by the way, this is just negative mind clutter - read my previous blog) and start isolating ourselves. We start creating what we think is a warm comfortable cave that will protect us from those bee's with itches out there and their cliques! "If that's how they are going to treat me, I don't want to be part of their tribe anyway!".
So you try and start to fill the "empty space" by watching endless soapies, starting all sorts of craft or art projects, eating (gain 10 kgs like I did), drinking an extra glass of wine or two or three, etc. The only thing is the loneliness intensifies. Not even your caveman wants to talk to you in the evening because he is being the typical caveman after a long, hard day of hunting! He wants to gaze into the fire / TV and that damn remote - you wish you could flush it down the toilet (the only thing stopping you is that you can't even flush toilet paper down the toilet here in Santiago as it blocks the system - UGH!)
So what to do .....? Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I'm going to eat some worms! Yes - I went through this stage of wallowing in self-pity and it's not pretty!
Maybe you have a good friend somewhere in the world, or your caveman finally notices your distressed mental state and says "I think you need to get out more ... staying in the confines of these 4 walls is not good for you ......" "But I tried" you say but not hard enough - ask me I know!
Martha Beck has introduced us to "taking Turtle Steps" or breaking things down into small, manageable steps that you can actually do! Rome wasn't built in a day now was it.
Step one : start gathering information eg via Facebook (thank heavens for FB) the internet, school newsletters, local newspaper articles, about groups, events, gyms, etc that you might be interested in. You could even start doing some charity work or start a Feral Cat Foundation or Save the Strays of Santiago like some fellow expats have done. Contact your Consulate and ask if they have any groups that meet on a regular basis!
Step two : Choose one activity that you could "test" for a month and then attend at least 4 times in a row. For example in Santiago we have The South African Association and The International Association of Chile (IAC). I was introduced to the SA Association by our Relocation Agent (another source of information). She gave my name to one of the members who called me and I started attending on a regular basis and eventually became Chairperson of this wonderful group for 2 years. I also joined the IAC and was secretary for a year (this definitely kept me busy and out of mischief - felt like I had a full time job).
Step three : Start trying to understand your host country's culture! Learn the language (apparently learning a new language actually prevents Altzheimers as well!). Find out about cultural centres close to you that offer all sorts of different programmes like photography, dance classes, art history, etc. There is always one kind soul who is willing to help you integrate. Or just buy a book on the Kindle - there are so many out there. In my last year, I signed up to do my Martha Beck Life Coach Training! You could study anything ......!
Step four : become vulnerable and invite people round for a coffee morning. The one time I did this (expected 10 people) - only one pitched but hey, don't take it personally! Try again in a month's time! If you receive an invite - accept! Even if you don't know anyone - put yourself out there. Pretend you are going on a fact-finding mission.
Step Five : If you think you are in a deep state of depression and you can't even get yourself out of bed to do steps 1 - 4. Go to the nearest Clinic, find a therapist - there are always therapist who can speak your language - ask me, I found one! If you require anti-depressants, for heavens sake, get them! You don't need to be on them forever! Read up on depression and how the chemical make-up of your brain changes!
If you need help ... and you don't want to post on a public forum ... email me directly at ADDvocate4Coaching@gmail.com! As cavewomen, we can gather the information we need to help you become part of a tribe! All you need to do is to commit to yourself that you really do want to start making an effort and stop eating those squishy, squashy, bitter tasting worms!