As a military member and then spouse moving should come second nature to me. For the most part, it hasn’t been that bad. However, our posting to Canada took me by surprise. Our first stop on our Maple Leaf Adventure was an 11 month stint in Toronto. This move was HARD on me. I mean, gut wrenching hard on me. Now that I am happily settled in Ottawa and have time for reflection I see areas where I failed myself. I want to share the two most glaring mistakes I made which contributed to my unhappiness. It was cathartic to do this as I know we have many moves left in our future. Hopefully someone out there can avoid these same pitfalls.
NOT REACHING OUT TO THE NETWORK I LEFT BEHIND
My family grew by two tiny humans in Colorado. We were there for FOUR whole years, which was the longest we had stayed anywhere. I had a wonderful and supportive group of ladies surrounding me. I had a workout class that was a great mommy village, I had neighbors we knew by first names and to top it off, I had a grandparent living 10 minutes away from the kids. I had a community for the first time in 9 years and the feeling of belonging and contentment was glorious. Moving stripped this comfort from me, forcing me to try and seamlessly transition to a new country without any of that emotional support I had grown so accustomed to. So, I internalized a lot of my anguish allowing it to fester. News flash: that’s not good. First, I encourage anyone who is moving away from a support network to truly mourn the loss before you leave. I never let myself be sad that I was losing all these great things around me. I tried to just stay positive and excited. Set time aside for yourself to be sad and to vocalize these feelings to others. It’s okay to not feel optimistic all the time and to feel like “it’s not fair”. Just don’t wallow in it. Second, promise yourself and your support network that you will stay in contact and keep the promise. I know for a fact on the hard days in Toronto I could have called any one of the ladies in Colorado and a sympathetic ear would have been waiting for me. I am sure using this support system would have given me permission to show grace to myself. Or, it would have been a quick kick in the pants and some tough love to motivate me. All I know is that I failed myself by not utilizing this resource. Good friends want to help. They want to be there for you. Don’t repeat my mistake and think you are burdening them by calling. MAKE THE DAMN CALL. I promise you will feel more like yourself and get back on track after a pep talk, good cry or belly laugh with a close friend.
NOT TAKING CARE OF MYSELF
I mean this in a myriad of ways. The entire focus when we moved was to build this life in Toronto for my family, which was admirable and worthy. However, I did it at the expense of things I enjoyed. I allowed myself to “forget” to workout or mindlessly watch TV at night while I ate takeout because “I deserved it”. NO! The things that made me happy at our last residence had not changed, my mindset had changed. I now felt entitled to emotional eat and forget about my health because, well, I was not happy. Looking back, this makes me slap my forehead. I didn’t allow myself to continue doing the things I enjoyed in a period where I needed them most. In the same vane, I happened to find activities for everyone in the family to pursue except myself. I could have looked much harder to find positive outlets that would have fostered more social connections for myself. I found myself giving up way too easily if there was even the slightest resistance when pursuing something I was interested in (ie: learning French). Usually I would say there “wasn’t time” because of everyone else’s activities. Make sure to adjust the family schedule to include room for yourself. The pouring from an empty glass cliche is true. Do things that take care of you in mental, physical and spiritual ways so you can be your best first. Everyone else will still survive.
FIND A BABYSITTER AND SCHEDULE ALONE TIME
Once we found a trusted babysitter (about 4 months in) my world changed. I felt like I had options again. My husband, through no fault of his own, could not be relied on to provide me some alone time, but the sitter could. I had the option of claiming a couple hours window of time just for myself. Just knowing this was an option freed me from feelings of isolation and provided an instant morale boost. Date night possibilities were icing on the cake.
Please, do not think that I hated our time in Toronto. The experience was one of a kind and provided my family with invaluable memories that I cherish. I wrote this post as I grossly miscalculated how damaging moving from somewhere with a sense of community to, in this case quite literally, foreign territory could be emotionally and socially. It was a lesson that I don’t take for granted and am actually quite grateful I experienced. I am now better equipped to handle such situations in the future and have a better understanding of what I need to feel successfully integrated into a new living area.
Leave a comment below if you have experience with moving and what helped you cope with losing your sense of community