The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

The displaced life and the quest for spiritual enlightenment — welcome to January

Back in 1996, when I handed in my notice at work and announced my intention to become a trailing spouse by moving with my husband to America, my boss first gave me a disappointed look, and then some advice.

“Make sure you do something for yourself while you’re there,” he said.

At the time, it was enough that I would no longer have to get up before the sun to take our toddler to childcare, or that checking my watch as a meeting ran into costly overtime with the childminder would soon be a thing of the past. Become a full time 1950s housewife instead of career mom? Yes, please.

As time went by, however, and my husband and I added to our collection of toddlers, I thought more about my boss’s advice and realized that what he had been talking about was not just the practical side of life but, in effect, the topic for this month’s theme: spiritual enlightenment.

In other words, finding another dimension to oneself — something that might not be easy if you’re a 1950s housewife attending to the needs of your family.

You don’t have to live on a kibbutz to be enlightened — a little

As it turned out, I was lucky. I have a sympathetic husband who has supported my writing addiction, which manifested itself shortly after the birth of our second child. I suspect this manifestation wouldn’t have happened in my former, British life. Being in a new country, among different people, gives you a different perspective on life, which in turn taps into another seam of your psyche – one that you perhaps didn’t know was there.

OK, so maybe my weekly epistle of “Libby’s Life” isn’t exactly enlightened. It’s never going to be up there with the homilies of Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama. But I’m absolutely positive that Libby would not exist if my husband, daughter and I hadn’t displaced ourselves fifteen years ago – and by writing about her, and by writing posts for this site, I learn more about myself and others each week.

Even though I’m no Elizabeth Gilbert, who traveled to Italy, India, and Indonesia to discover herself, but coincidentally hails from the US state where I now live — I think it’s fair to call that a form of enlightenment.

Looking forward…

Still, this being January and a time when most people are making resolutions for a better life and lower number on the bathroom scales, we will try to inspire your good intentions.

During the next three weeks, you can look forward to interviews with more authors from our “Best of 2011” lists; lively debates on whether travel can lead to a healthier lifestyle; and discover which are the destinations and — naturally — footwear most likely to inspire a gap-year student.

First, though, STAY TUNED, for tough love and spiritual advice from our Tulsa Agony Aunt, Mary-Sue Wallace.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!


12 responses to “The displaced life and the quest for spiritual enlightenment — welcome to January

  1. Tony James Slater January 10, 2012 at 1:06 am

    Sometimes it’s hard to get ‘spiritual’ at home – there’s just too many distractions and too much likelihood of giving up early due to feeling silly or something more important coming up.
    Holidays or trips away I find are the best for kick=starting something – it’s so much easier in a holiday cabin by the sea, to decide to meditate an hour a day, or just to take long, searching walks. It’s that old thing of wanting ‘me’ time – spiritual development is quite heavy on the ‘me time’, and in a life where there’s barely any of that as it is – well, it’s easy to let your inner self take a back seat. Pity really!
    Guess that’s why the best yogi’s lived alone in caves – at least that way they can’t hear X-Factor coming through the walls…

    • Kate Allison January 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm

      Well, yes. X-Factor anywhere is going to destroy all hope of spiritual development.

    • ML Awanohara January 11, 2012 at 7:06 pm

      You’re right, it really is interesting the extent to which we associate spiritual growth with removing ourselves from our daily routines — the ultimate being to take oneself off to Buddhist boot camp in the Himalayas, where alcohol, email and talking are all forbidden. That was precisely the experience war reporter Matthew Green sought out, as recounted in his Jan 7/8 article for the FT, entitled “Meditation Vacation.”

      • Tony James Slater January 11, 2012 at 10:48 pm

        I’ve always fancied trying that. I wonder which would give first; the desperate need to say ‘Thanks!’ to someone, the uncontrollable desire to check your iPhone for messages or the urge to belt back a scotch…
        I reckon I could last a week.

  2. Miss Footloose | Life in the Expat Lane January 10, 2012 at 7:30 am

    I agree with Tony that it is not easy to get “spiritual” at home, but that is where you need it most, as part of your daily life. I expect it is like everything else, you take/make time for it if you consider it a priority. Still, it always seems other things are more of a priority . . .

    Making time for yourself, to devote to something purely for your own enjoyment and entertainment may not necessarily be a “spiritual” exercise, but it’s good for your personal identity and sanity. In earlier decades, and maybe even now, many women (at home or in the work force) thought it was their “duty” to devote their lives totally to the benefit of their families and felt/feel guilty doing something for themselves. It’s time to get over it.

    • Kate Allison January 11, 2012 at 2:18 pm

      I think it depends where you’re coming from. At the time, the luxury of being able to spend all day with my toddler instead of handing her off to the babysitter for 9 hours every day *was* doing something for myself. Of course, as time went on and that became the norm, I looked for something else. Grass is always greener, etc…

  3. January 10, 2012 at 8:21 am

    The phrase ‘tapping into another seam of your psyche’ is very apt. At its core, growth comes from getting outside your comfort zone, being stretched/pushed/pulled in ways you don’t expect. Not surprising that living abroad fits the bill, but one can definitely do so in your home country. The key is being open to growth and new experiences, and not merely going along with whatever ‘stage’ you happen to be in (e.g., carefree and single, workplace and career years, raising children, contributing to your local community, being concerned about global issues, seeking enlightenment, mid-life revamping, etc.). We only go around once in life, after all.

    • Kate Allison January 11, 2012 at 2:09 pm

      It’s all about getting pulled out of the predictable rut, isn’t it? And yet, here I am still, making a new rut for myself…

      • ML Awanohara January 11, 2012 at 6:57 pm

        You mean that writing for The Displaced Nation isn’t stretching, pushing and pulling you in ways you don’t expect?

        I like Linda’s prescription about being open to growth and new experiences. And I think Miss Footloose is right that it’s jolly hard for some women to enable themselves to grow, when all they’ve been doing is helping others to grow (up, in most cases). They simply aren’t used to putting themselves first…

  4. Tracy January 12, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Hi Kate, Thank you for sharing this – I have been in Cyprus for nearly 9 years now and I have done things that maybe I would not had done in other situations…the situation has allowed me to be pro-active in ways that would not have been necessary if I had stayed at “home”. it has allowed me to create artwork that is very different than artwork I had produced previously and I have created opportunites to share my experiences with others through sharing my studio online and mentoring people who may want to do the something similar. I am very glad to have found “the displaced nation”Best wishes for a creative New Year everyone.

  5. E. February 6, 2012 at 4:18 am

    On the other hand, now that I’m retired and at home much of the time, I am doing things I never thought of doing when I was working and child-rearing. You don’t have to be away from home, just aim to look at things from a different perspective wherever you happen to be. But then, I’m not a Displaced Person, so maybe I don’t really understand.

    • Kate Allison February 7, 2012 at 5:16 pm

      It’s the change in situation, isn’t it? Now that ours are gradually moving away, there’s that shift in perspective you’re talking about. But it helps to have a different backdrop too 🙂

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