It’s been raining cats, dogs and rhinos lately and somehow this has temporarily pulled my attention away from my crocheting to cooking.
I am not a particularly good cook. I didn’t even know how until 2015 when I moved to Batam & became a SAHM (thank God for Google). Now I’m decent enough but the fact remains that it is not an activity I’ll ever volunteer for.
So the rain made me want to exert a little more effort than usual in the kitchen last night. Nothing fancy, I just added soup when I already had the meat & vegetable viands ready (my maximum is 2). But even though it was really nothing fancy, apparently I was expecting my “customers” to be pleased and satiated.
They were satiated alright but a wee little comment came from the husband about the soup having a “weird aftertaste”. I felt shot. And although my 11 year old responded that the soup tasted fine to her, my evening was ruined.
I’m such a drama-queen. It was just a ready mix of cream of mushroom soup that came from a packet. Yeah, the kind to which you add water and stir while boiling. 3 minutes is all it takes. Exactly! Not even my own recipe or something I slaved over.
And yet I obsessed about it in my head last night.
Which led me to thinking about life in general and about exploring and continuing to learn. I do it to please myself, to grow and to have fun. And, while certainly nice to have, the approval of others is purely optional (well, maybe a little when it comes to feeding others and only if it’s something that didn’t come from a packet).
Sometimes I forget.
(But there was really nothing wrong with the soup. I tasted it! 🤨)
So now that my friends are following me on my IG, I am reminded of one of the major reasons I quit Facebook many years ago – the feeling that I have to respond (at the very least “like”) their posts. (Which can be a total time-suck by the way, well, you know how it is).
Now I am in no way saying that my friends are requiring this of me, or at the very least, expecting this of me. The feeling of obligation is entirely mine. And I am quite good at dismissing it, actually. But then another niggling thought surfaces: will my silence cost me likes and comments as well?
Aye, there’s the rub!
Because who among us doesn’t want that kind of support, encouragement and show of interest that comes from their likes & comments? It’s a wonderful feeling. Why deny yourself of that?
But the thing is, some of my friends like to stalk themselves (i.e. make a running commentary of their daily lives). There is nothing wrong with this, they are having fun and are not hurting anyone. But now, instead of seeing and being inspired by beautiful crochet masterpieces from the lovely creative people that I follow, I now see trivial, mundane photos of ordinary daily life. (Which, after a series of similar posts, ceases to be interesting to me, if I am to be completely honest).
To me this is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it feels wonderful to be among friends, on the other, it is a distraction. I find myself at times wanting to unfollow and feeling guilty (a bad friend) for having that thought. I yearn for the blissful peace that I once experienced when I was just putting myself out there to strangers – no expectations, no obligations. (I also kept myself distanced from the occasional skirmish that seems to be normal among housewives/girlfriends. They’re thankfully temporary, we get back to wearing identical tops soon enough 🤭)
I guess I am just weird / naive / stuck-up / stick-up-her-arse / being a snob like that 🤭😄
What are your thoughts about this kind of dilemma? Any tips for me?
Blame it on the ambivalent & un-inspiring goals I set for myself in 2018 (though I can’t be too hard on myself, I had recently given birth you know 😊), but my brain’s been abuzz with goals for 2019.
My episode of painful gastritis really did help me clarify things, one of them was realizing that I can’t really do “loose weight” as a goal again. I mean, yes, I could do with some weight loss, but I want this to be a side-effect of something bigger (and healthier!). Like fasting, because weight-loss is just one of the many effects of it and it isn’t even the best or most noteworthy.
Anyhow, I realized that I am galvanized into action by level-up goals that are fun and exciting but are also a bit scary and outside my comfort zone. I mean, I guess all of us are like this, no? In my case the more thought I gave to it the more it started to look like this:
goal: make life in Batam fun & engaging <- learn Indonesian <- make local friends (I only have fellow expat wives as friends so far) <- use my craft as a springboard <- sell my creations for fun <- learn all about social & online selling
Now this is really starting to look like a decent party 🤩
Already, because these goals are that exciting to me, I’ve taken some relevant action. I got friendly with my next-door neighbor. Now at least I’m friendly with someone local and hopefully she knows of a church that has English service (next action item).
I also made good on something I’ve wanted for some time, a dedicated craft site (fifiandriri.com). I also opened an IG account to serve as a portfolio of my creations. I’m finishing up all my crochet/knitting WIP’s at the moment so that I can start clean asap, with an eye on social selling this time.
I’m reading up about the handmade business, and my brain is lit with ideas and more to-do’s like learning product photography and opening up an FB for biz account.
So exciting! 🤪
How is all this going to help me with learning Indonesian? Simple, language is best learned though interaction & immersion. I’ve tried cooping myself up indoors facing my computer, the results are minimal and I’m not having any fun at all while at it. So I need to be out there and talk!
And how is this gonna force me into loosing weight? Well, lemme tell ya: I love to crochet lacy pieces of clothing. Clothing need to be modeled by a real person. You do the rest of the math 😁 😁
Hello my beautiful, awesome friends! It’s been a while. How ya’ll doin’? 😀
I’m here to share with you that I’ve done and am doing something I find truly exciting.
But before that, a backstory in the briefest way I can do it:
The last time we “talked” I was going on about these goals I had, right? And that I was working on them, but it was all feeling like an uphill climb. I knew something was amiss since I was really struggling with them.
So I had to stop and take stock. I dove into motivational material, listened to Jim Rohn, Jack Canfield, Lisa Nichols and a bunch of life coaches on Podcasts and I realized the problem was that my goals just weren’t exciting. There was no thunder and lightning at all. And they didn’t pull me out of my comfort zone in ways that energized me.
At about the same time I realized this I experienced gastritis along with the worst period pains E-VERR. It was absolute torture! But all the doctor said was …and you’re not gonna believe this, he said “just be happy”. Literally. I’m serious.
Now I totally believe in the mind-body connection, so I didn’t need to be told twice. I immediately improved the quality of the food I was eating, shifted to the kind of exercise my body truly enjoyed, tackled a couple of small but annoying things in my life, continued to feed my brain with motivational material, and allowed myself to just forget “those effing goals” for a while.
Just a few days into this routine I noticed that I could see better. I’m like “why is the TV so much clearer all of a sudden?!”. I also felt physically lighter. I can’t quite explain it but I was moving with more ease and fluidity and as though I had lost a ton of weight. I was also in a more positive mindset. My brain chatter was just … better…? It’s like I gained some maturity, resilience, confidence & purposefulness all in one. So yes, improving your diet, exercising better and filling your brain with positive stuff makes all the difference in the world.
But the biggest take-away for me is really this: I created new goals and I made them genuinely relevant and scary-exciting. I will be sharing more about them with you in upcoming posts but for now I would L❤️VE for you to head on over to fifiandriri.com and tell me what you think 🙂
When I was still climbing the career ladder I was a very goal oriented employee. I would reverse engineer the annual performance review by picking out in advance the areas I wanted to stand out in, and proceeded to take on the shiniest projects that would showcase my excellence in those areas.
I had this system so well down pat that when I became a housewife I experienced some sort of crisis. It felt like I was let loose all of a sudden and all that freedom was just confusing, I didn’t know what to do with it.
For maybe a year or two I had a notebook and pen and wrote down monthly goals such as “learn to cook 2 new recipes”, or “learn to knit beginner’s level”, or “lose X number of lbs”.
But there was no annual review to prepare for, no boss to wow, no gold stars to earn & show-off on my imaginary wall of fame that I slipped into nonchalance. I set vague goals that I forgot the following week. Or, I didn’t follow through, or I list so many that I overwhelm myself into catatonia all the while thinking that I have all the time in world to do them anyway.
Lately though I have become conscious of it and I do not like it. The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that I’m not even showing up for myself. I say I will do something but I don’t even honor my word.
So I went back to my notebook, looked at the goals I set for this year and decided to re-commit. It’s not yet too late, I can still hunker down and make a dash for the finish line.
My goals for this year were/are:
lose post-pregnancy weight – but I didn’t specify how much and how to do it (because, who cares except me, right?)
learn Indonesian – I bought an online course & some books that are now just gathering dust in some nondescript drawer
start a separate blog dedicated to crafting – I did partially discuss this here, but I failed to clarify that I wanted a separate, topic specific blog because I want to do something with it later
I still wrote down a couple or 3 more but that’s just my sneaky brain trying to overwhelm me again and disperse my focus.
I am deciding to take deliberate action on these goals for the remaining 6 months so that at the end of 2018 I will have finished the things I set out to do. This matters because I don’t want to have to do them again next year, I want to create space for new goals in 2019.
And perhaps, even more importantly, I don’t want to excel at quitting, I want to excel at staying committed.
Prior to coming back to Indonesia, I was reading a lot of expat blogs focusing on feelings of displacement, homesickness, sadness and other such expat woes. It helped a lot in bringing the size of the problem down to ordinary proportions. Knowing that what I was going through is normal for expats, and reading stories of those who have gone before me and flourished despite the homesickness & displacement put me in my place, so to speak.
I was also surprised to find out that even those who’ve moved from one Western country to another (for example, US to Australia) would still feel depressed! Truly, I couldn’t relate to this because my ‘problems’ seemed bigger in comparison. For instance, the language, the lack of things to do outside the home, the sleepy nature of this whole place, and quirky things such as still having to eat with your hands at the local KFC outlet, finding squat-type toilet bowls in the malls (scary if you’re pregnant and not used to it), wait staff at restaurants forgetting your order or delivering the dessert before everything else (annoying if you order ice cream or lava cake like we do), and people freely jumping queues at an international ferry port without regard for others or authority.
At this time though, I’m over it. It’s old news. My eyes have glazed over. This hot momma is moving on ….
I’ve since come to a peaceful acceptance of all these things as simply part and parcel of my environment. Getting irked over them is choosing to be ignorant. Besides, focusing on things you have no control over is a recipe for misery. Sure, I’m still homesick, I still feel uprooted and have even come to accept that I might never find belonging in this country. That’s okay too. All the more reason to find ways to foster happiness any way possible.
Here’s what I’ve learned from all those blogs I was reading
In order to help cope with expat depression, we need to focus on these 3 things that are within our control –
create the future
create new routines
create happiness within
Did you notice that they all start with “create”? There’s so much power to that word, so much authority. And it doesn’t mince words, the ball is in our court.
Create the future
I read somewhere – again, I should’ve bookmarked it! 😕- that the future is not something you step into, it is something you create. And if all we have, honey, is an internet connection, then we’re ready to play ball.
Is there something you want to learn? Do you want to become something in the future? Chances are, there’s an online course or video tutorials for that and an online community too. If you’re fortunate to be in a country that offers live classes (in a language you speak), then use that as a platform to socialize and make new friends as well. Let’s get busy learnin’ and let’s amaze ourselves a year from now!
I keep a list of things I want to get into. Here’s a short version of it. I also have becoming IELTS certified, becoming a book editor and becoming a daycare owner – and I just keep adding more (I’ll narrow the choices down later). I’ve put all the major ones on hold though because of the (coming) new baby but once conditions become conducive, I’m going to tackle that list with gusto 👍😃
Create New Routines
Something about having routines that involve as much of our new environment as possible helps to anchor us to the new place.
I have to admit though that this is somewhat of a challenge for me because I haven’t found anything worthwhile outside of the home to ‘latch’ onto. But examples would include identifying a new favorite coffee shop you could visit every morning or twice a week for some ‘me time’, a restaurant you go to for dinners with your husband every Friday night, maybe a park to jog in, a church to hear service at, a library or hobby outlet to lift your spirits … Go out and explore. Let’s find those nooks and claim them!
Create Happiness Within
This one is what I’m all about at the moment 🤗 This is very easy to do and has the most impact, in my opinion. Simply ask yourself what would make you happy and do that. Or buy it. Like in my case, it’s real books that I can hold and inhale the smell of. I have to buy them online because there are no English books here, so buy them online I do.
It could just be as simple as creating a mood boosting morning routine. A personal treat every month to look forward to. Dance exercise videos. Throw pillows & curtains in favorite colors. Blogging. Starting a new hobby.
I’ve begun a project at home of surrounding myself with things that, in the words of Marie Kondo, spark joy. I tend to plants and see them bloom (or not!) under my care. I’ve begun buying stuff that help me cook better because -and this is new to me- there is satisfaction in preparing a good, well-thought out meal.
My goal at the moment is to make my my house a place I’d never want to leave 😀 I don’t know if I’ll ever achieve that but the process sure is fun and worthwhile.
~~ oOo ~~
Give me some advice: Are you an expat suffering or have suffered from expat blues? What one or two things can you do right now to lift your spirits up? What have you done to create happiness away from your home country?