Travelling or Moving - Which is it?
After moving from place to place in rapid succession for over 10 years, my peripatetic life has come to a close. The area in which I have settled is crawling with people just like me with families just like mine. Fragmented, disoriented at times, with adult children spread from one end of the continent to the other like a bread crumb trail left along the way. Even though the kids stayed with us through the sojourn, they are now striking out on their own headed to faraway lands of their own choosing. After all, that’s what they’ve become accustomed to. There is no real sense of home, only a longing for such a place. When I was younger, I loved to travel but the only thing travelling and moving have in common are that they both involve suitcases.
Are You a Sojourner?
How many times have you moved?
Esprit de corp - Sometimes
As I recently joined a new friend for coffee we began comparing notes about what it is like to live similar lives, lives as the trailing spouse. Even though this term is typically used for Americans living in other countries, the description suits those of us who move constantly, from state to state, even within the same continent. It’s fairly routine for us to deftly navigate new doctors, schools, grocery stores, insurance agencies, and make new friends. You know, the things we do when completely awake and coherent. It’s what happens in a semi-conscientious state that rattles us. “Do you ever get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and forget what side the toilet paper roll is on,” I asked her, “or, wake up in a panic wondering where you are because nothing looks familiar, again.” “I thought I was the only one that did that,” she said. Although our lives somewhat resemble the lives of military families, we lack the luxury of esprit de corp and because of it, we face constant isolation. Throughout our brief time together, we realized that due to our husband’s career choices we have lived a life of complete instability and, more significantly at middle age, complete emotional and financial insecurity. Our careers, family, friends, and a measure of independence were sacrificed on the altar of matrimony. She and her husband were experiencing trying times due to her bout with cancer but they were persevering. Mine, however, was a different story.
How to Beat Burnout
The Lonely Path
After eighteen moves in twenty-five years, financial strife, the death of all our parents and the trials of raising 5 children, my husband returned from a 6 month assignment overseas and filed for divorce. “I am happier alone,” he told the children and me. Every principle I lived by, the choices made for the greater good of the family, and sacrifices made for husband’s career advancements hung as a temporary noose around my neck as I could only stand by and watch as my life became unrecognizable. My previous other half soon boarded a plane for a third-world country, not to be seen for another 2 years. I was left to pick up the pieces of my life in a place that was not home and provide some sense of stability for what remained of my family. I had now joined the ranks of the grey divorce. We had spent our entire married life with friends who had long, stable marriages and I naively thought we were immune.
Gray Divorce - An Epidemic
Grey divorce, a term with which I was completely unfamiliar. We now seem to have an epidemic of grey divorce in the US. While the rate of divorce in America overall has declined since 1990, it has doubled for people over fifty. Jay Lebow, a psychologist at the Family Institute at Northwestern University, says, "If late-life divorce were a disease, it would be an epidemic." My perspective on divorce has been radically altered; I never realized that it could so one sided and that family law varied drastically from state to state. That this trend is taking place among baby boomers – the ME generation - should be no surprise, at least among those who aren’t professing Christians. But what about those who are? For this group, there seems to be a disparity between their professed faith and their lives. I came across a blog called Surrendered Marriage that sheds some light. So, what’s a girl to do? I’ll do what I’ve always done. Love God, pray a lot, cry because there is something healing in tears, get back on my feet and put one foot in front of the other, taking one moment at a time and then do it again the next day.
Farewell Trailing Spouse
Although I’m no longer a “trailing spouse,” I am living the consequences of one which for me means finding a job in a new place again. But something is very different in that I won’t be moving any time soon. We had promised our children we would stay put until they were done with school and I’m here to keep that promise. My last job lasted just over a year before the entire department was let go so I've got my eyes open for a great opportunity. A while back I wrote a tongue-in-cheek resume after moving from Canada back to the US. One would think I’d be an expert at this and maybe on one level I am. I know what to expect and what needs to be done but it never gets easier, particularly on the heels of divorce.
I recently came across an article that caught my attention because of its title. The article wasn’t much help to me other than serving as a reminder that job hunting takes time and requires patience. But it did encourage me in the sense that this relocation for the sake of a spouse’s career thing that I’d lived for so long actually has a name. I’d been too busy packing and unpacking to catch up on the latest catch phrases. Trailing spouse and grey divorce, terms which I hope will be short lived when studied by future sociologists and historians, are just terms after all and don’t define who we are in the grand scheme of things. Thank God!