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Creating a Life for Yourself – with Margaret Ghielmetti
Episode 120th April 2022 • Holding the Fort Abroad • Rhoda Bangerter
00:00:00 00:36:47

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Synopsis:

Margaret Ghielmetti knows what it is like to be home alone when she thought she was moving abroad with her husband and not moving abroad waiting for her husband to come home. She talks about her journey from thinking she would be fine to the reality she encountered to finally being open about needing help and creating a life for herself on her own terms.

In this Episode:  

  • The metaphorical life handbook we receive from our families.
  • Why Margaret was surprised by the effect of her husband’s travelling although she (thought she) knew what she had signed up for.
  • Supporting each other when not in the same place. Expressing your needs.
  • Sharing the blessing of allowing others to help us.
  • Stop saying ‘I’m fine’.
  • Deciding non-negotiables for you! Keeping soft boundaries.
  • Casting a wide net.
  • Feeling lonely when you feel you should be feeling lucky.

Resources Mentioned in the Podcast:     

Contact Margaret:

‘Bravi(ish): A Memoir of a Recovering Perfectionist’

www.margaretghielmetti.com

Transcripts

Rhoda Bangerter:

Hello and welcome to Holding the Fort Abroad, the podcast for expats with travelling partners. My name is Rhoda Bangerter, I am a certified coach and the author of the book Holding the Fort Abroad. In this podcast, I interview men and women who live abroad and have travelling partners, so that we can all benefit from their wisdom and experience. I also invite family and marriage therapists to apply their expertise to this topic. Today my guest is Marguerite Ghielmetti. Margaret is an award-winning storyteller, the author of Brave(ish), a Memoir of a Recovering Perfectionist and she was an accompanying spouse for many years. Margaret, welcome to the show !

Margaret Ghielmetti:

Thank you so much, Rhoda. I'm a big fan of yours and of your book and I, I am so, so grateful to be here. I think it's a blessing what you're bringing to the world. And so thank you for having me in this conversation.

Rhoda Bangerter:

Thank you so much. I'm excited to get started. Tell us a little bit about where you come from and who you're married to.

Margaret Ghielmetti:

I come from Evanston, the first city north of Chicago, we live in Chicago now primarily, and I am married to a Swiss man who was born in Bern. And together we have lived on four continents and have visited almost 50 countries. So we have some really fixed points, Chicago and Lausanne, and in between just love the world.

Rhoda Bangerter:

Brilliant. I love the title of your book. Brave(ish). You do need to be brave to be in accompanying spouse. Tell us a little bit, well you've said a little bit where you've lived, tell us a little bit about your book.

Margaret Ghielmetti:

Oh, thank you for asking Rhoda. That means a lot to me because the book really grew out of, I won't go into politics here, but a certain residential election in the United States, not the most recent one, but the one before that, where I felt that we were being told that the other is bad. And having lived all around the world and really having learned from the world, what I feel I would not have learned living, you know, without those experiences, the other for me is not bad. The other is, I mean, the world to me is an amazing place and I've learned so much from each culture I've lived within. So I started to write, I had already done a lot of, I do a lot of live, lit storytelling. I had already done a solo show and I thought I'll do another solo show about my travel adventures and mis-adventures, because doesn't everyone love to hear our travel mis-adventures, right?!

Margaret Ghielmetti:

So that's what I started to write, my travel adventures and mis-adventures over a few decades. And as I wrote, I realized, ah, I'm not just writing my literal journey. I'm writing my emotional journey, starting out having left my career behind to become what we all know is affectionately called the trailing spouse. And I really wanted to share my journey, from being, to use a word that comes up in your book a lot, completely lost, without an identity, or at least so I thought. And growing into myself, our marriage changing and growing into my creative expression. So that's how the book evolved. I did not set out to write a memoir and that's what it ended up being. And I do love sharing the world with people, but I also really love to empower and encourage women and men to their own best lives. And I love to be in marriage. I love to be in partnership, but it's been quite a journey to come into my own within a partnership.

Rhoda Bangerter:

Yeah. And that's maybe, well, maybe it's, it's something that happens anyway. When two people get married, it's hard to create that line between two identities and one marriage, you know?

Margaret Ghielmetti:

Exactly.

Rhoda Bangerter:

But being the accompanying spouse it’s maybe even more compounded. I love the way you structure your book around the handbook though, that you were given. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Margaret Ghielmetti:

Oh, I'm grateful that you mentioned that because as someone who does love to write and now I work with other people who are writing their memoirs, but you know, in any great story, we want to see the hero or the heroin's journey and we want to see them changed. And so as I'm writing my book, I'm thinking what's sort of the umbrella, what's the thing that's going to hold a book together. And I just couldn't see what was gonna hold it together.

And then I had one of these magical muse moments where in the middle of the night, literally I sat bolt upright, and I thought, oh, you know what? I think we all get a handbook, not a literal handbook, but a metaphorical handbook at birth that our parents hand onto us, and that sets down some rules. And in my case, there are really good rules. I mean, there are the rules that anyone I think wants to pass on their children, but when used in excess, they don't work so well. So it's a strength overuse.

So that really helped me to see what I was going into on our first expatriate assignment, overusing some of these really valuable lessons that I learned. And so that was another part of the book, watching the narrator's journey as she learns to revise the family handbook, keeping the things that are really, you know, the values that keep us together as a society and caring for one another, but also revising them to allow me a bigger version of myself, and to try to do what I hope I'm put on this earth to do.

Rhoda Bangerter:

Yeah. Thank you. As soon as I read your book, I realized that you were an accompanying spouse with a traveling partner, and there are lots of things that I picked out from it, and that I would love to cover with you. One of the sentences you used, which I love, is you say ‘his travels read like an Atlas’. That, that was, that is so true for me as well when my husband travels. And he was away a lot at one point, you moved to Singapore, and you write ‘He's off again, and I'm left to settle in’. Can you describe a bit what his traveling was like for you and what were the challenges?

Margaret Ghielmetti:

Yeah, I know you understand. I think a lot of your listeners will too, to a greater or lesser extent. Luckily the good news here is I've always been a traveler. Even when I was a little girl, my mother would say that I was born with one foot in my hometown and one foot out exploring the world, which is a very odd visual, but it is really true for me. I'm very rooted and yet I really, really love to travel. So I always appreciated the fact that Patrick's job took us to these amazing places and meant that sometimes I could go with him, but yes, he was gone a lot. And by the time we get to Singapore, which is, was the end of our expatriate assignments, I was in a very different place. But at the very beginning, it was very, very hard for me because it's true, I think, and Patrick's the first person to admit it, that most often the spouse who is moving for a job, the first day, you know, they go into an office and they have a support staff (or they don't), but they have something to do.

Margaret Ghielmetti:

Whereas those of us who are ‘trailing’, we're doing everything else and trying to figure it out. So that was very hard for me at the beginning. To use another line that comes up in your book, Rhoda, I signed up for it and I mean, my family handbook said ‘Do it yourself, do it right, without any help, be strong, be stoic, don't ask for anything’. And so at the very beginning, that was very hard for me because I didn't have a voice. Patrick would've loved for me to speak up, but I didn't have a voice around that. I just thought, well, this is how it works. And so he'd get to the hotel in Paris. And with the general manager then said, I'll see you in an hour. And I thought an hour, you know, we, we don't get one day to settle in, but that's just the nature, certainly of a hotelier's life.

Margaret Ghielmetti:

And so it was very, very hard for me at the beginning, because of what, you know, we've already touched on - the sense of not having an identity. I did not know what I was doing, but I thought I did. A and that's the rub for me, I spoke a few languages already. I already loved to travel and had traveled a lot. So I thought ‘Oh, I've got this’. I did not have it. So it was really hard at the beginning, that disconnect between feeling ‘This is gonna be great! I'm gonna be the most culturally sensitive expatriate ever known to man! I'm gonna, you know, it's gonna be amazing!’ It was really lonely and really hard. And so his traveling or being at work all the time, compounded it, it was always me not living my life.

Rhoda Bangerter:

Yeah. But I think it's super important for people to hear that, you know, it's okay to think that we had it and then not have it, you know?

Margaret Ghielmetti:

Amen. It's wish that for anyone!

Rhoda Bangerter:

It's, nothing to be ashamed about to think ‘Oh, we've got this in the bag. It's fine. I'll be fine. It's gonna be so exciting. I know what I'm letting myself into’, and then be surprised along the way that maybe it's harder than what we expected, or that the reality of what we're living is different.

Margaret Ghielmetti:

So true. I really wish you'd written your book 22 years ago. I just wish we could time machine, so I could read that now. So I wish that for anyone, exactly what you're saying that.

Rhoda Bangerter:

You knew what it was like to work in a hotel because you were working in one too? You knew he would be traveling. So how did that end up surprising you?

Margaret Ghielmetti:

Right. That's true.

Rhoda Bangerter:

I'm asking you directly! I also knew what I was getting myself into and it, and it still surprised me.

Margaret Ghielmetti:

Right. Thank you! Well, it is funny that you say that because at a certain point, I said to my mother before we moved abroad, that Patrick was working all the time. I mean, he's a really responsible, amazing hard worker. And I love that about him. But I said to my mom, and I'm a very hard working responsible person too, but it was different when I had my own career, I knew what I was doing. I was working hard, probably too hard as well, but at least we were working too hard together.

And then all of a sudden, I kind of felt like I fell off a cliff, where I was, I knew what I was doing and I have a job to do. And all of a sudden, it's like, and as you know Rhoda, Patrick and I were not blessed with children. I'm not saying it's easier to move with children or without, I think both present their own unique challenges, but I didn't have that circle of parents immediately. And I'm, I'm not saying it's easier with children, please don't misunderstand me, but I didn't have that immediate connection.

I was, every place we moved to, creating a new life, which is very exciting, but really hard. And so you're right. I always knew Patrick would be traveling. I love it when he's traveling. He's so happy. I want him to be happy, but I had to learn, oh, okay. I wanna be happy too. And I wanna create my own life. So yes, back to, I started to say, when my mom, I told her long ago, oh my gosh, Patrick is working all the time. And my mom who's loved Patrick so much. She just chuckled and said ‘Now, what is it that we didn't know about Patrick before we married him?’. So, you're right. I always knew, I always knew he's a really dedicated professional, but it was different when I was also super busy all the time with my stuff. And then when he was traveling all the time, when I didn't even know what I was doing, that really hit me hard.

Rhoda Bangerter:

Yeah. Yeah. And you didn't necessarily know anybody, even if you knew people from the hotel industry. Right.

Margaret Ghielmetti:

Exactly. Exactly. And that's a great point. I did talk about it in the book, my guardian angel, there was a woman who absolutely took me under her wing. I mean, she saw me and she would kind of hold my hand and feed me cookies and, you know, sit me down and take me on excursions and kind of really shepherded me through the loneliest time, which was a wonderful gift to me to, to be in a place of surrender and not in control. I mean, I love to be in control, and I was not in control and I'm ever grateful for the people who see us and let us be ourselves at our most vulnerable. And as you said, early in the conversation, the people who let us say ‘I thought I had it. I don't have it’.

Rhoda Bangerter:

Yeah. Yeah. And it's okay. It's okay to be surprised by something you signed up for and thought you knew, you know? But I'm gonna bring something up that I didn't forwarn you of.

Margaret Ghielmetti:

Oh, good. How exciting!

Rhoda Bangerter:

But at one point you mentioned that you need him to have your back.

One of the things I experienced with my husband as well, and I think a lot of non-traveling spouses experience, that their partners are away when you need them. How do you navigate that?

Margaret Ghielmetti:

That's hard. I think that's really hard. I love again, in your book, you really, in the end, give a, essentially a workbook for people to negotiate that, to figure out how are each of us going to get the support we need, even when we're not in the same place. It can be hard enough sometimes when we're in the same place.

But we had to learn to communicate a lot more honestly than when we came into the marriage. We both come from this really kind of stoic, ‘just do it’ kind of family. And we really needed to learn it!

I mean, I'm not grateful that we weren't able to have children, but our many years of struggling with infertility compelled us to get counseling around that. And I love every therapist I've ever met because, God bless therapists who help us through! And that really was a turning point in our marriage because it was so crushing, but we needed to learn how to communicate differently.

Margaret Ghielmetti:

So that's definitely a part of, I think, any marriage's journey. Or that's what I would wish for, for any partnership, is to learn to be more honest and to say ‘this is what I need’. I mean, Patrick laughs, but sometimes I will literally say to him, ‘these are the exact words I need you to say’. And I have friends who are like ‘Don't you wish your husband knew what to say?’. I'm like, ‘of course I wish my husband knew what to say, but I don't wanna risk him not getting it right sometimes!’

Rhoda Bangerter:

That is so wise.

Margaret Ghielmetti:

It's, you know, that's what any partnership is, is compromising and learning, learning each other's styles and learning to… We try to meet kind of in the middle, but you're right, there are times when we're apart, it's really hard when we need the other person. So that's honestly when I've learned: to cast my net a lot wider. I rely on a big network of fan family and friends because sometimes Patrick just literally physically cannot give me what I need and that's okay. I sometimes can't give him what he needs. That's not a fairytale kind of answer to that, but that's been our experience. Sometimes I really need to be honest and tell someone else, ‘My husband isn't here, I need you help me’. I mean, I'm really good at throwing myself on the mercy of people. I had to learn that the hard way!

Rhoda Bangerter:

Ah so you've had to learn that hard way!

I think help is one of the biggest things that I've learned personally as well. I'm still learning and it's something that I'm working on as a resource. You know, I've prepared a guidebook, but it's always evolving as a guidebook. You know, how do you ask for help as expat? And a lot of people say, you know, that it's because they feel indebted to the person who's helped them, and if they feel they're not in a position to help back. And I always say, for me, it's more like a pay it forward. So you help me now. I can't help you back, but I will help someone else further along the line. But what was your sort of journey with asking for help? Because it is hard when you arrive in a new place, you don't necessarily know people.

Margaret Ghielmetti:

Absolutely. I just want to take a second to pause on that. I love that ‘paying it forward’ concept and at a much, much later stage in life when my parents were at the end of life and I was still trying to do everything, do everything to care for them. I have three older brothers and someone said to me, Margaret, you need to give the blessing of caring for your parents to other people too. You need to share that blessing. And it really reframed for me, the notion of ‘I love to people’. I'm sure you love to help people, Rhoda, other people love to help me. It just took overcoming the family handbook. One of the rules: if you want it done right, do it yourself. Another one is always put others first. Above all, just do it. Don't air your dirty laundry in public. All of these things that a lot of us, I had to set that all aside and say, let me give someone else the blessing of being caring of me. And yes, I will pay it forward and I will do something nice for them. You know, that whole concept of the emotional bank account that someone taught me long ago. I love to put into the bank account, my emotional bank account with everyone else. And you're right. I really, really have to struggle to withdraw. And that irritates the heck out of my friends. My friends are like ‘Would you please make a withdrawal, please!?’ It's so frustrating for other people when all I do is feel like ‘Oh, just let me give, let me give!’ And other people are like ‘Let me give too!’. I mean, I really have found that it really has deepened my relationship with people to allow them to help, because it's not my first instinct, but people really, really want it. And something you mentioned in the book (or one of your resources) says ‘be specific’. And that's been super helpful because people will say, you know, ‘I want to help you. I'm here to help you.’ And I have learned ‘Thank you - this is exactly what you can do for me’. As opposed to just taking that in, it feels warm and fuzzy for a second, and then I don't take advantage of it. When they offer help, most people are genuine. So I tried to be super specific with people.

I've also really learned to stop saying ‘I'm fine’. When someone asks me ‘How are you?’, because for many years when I said ‘I'm fine’, that is not what I felt, and I was looking for people to dig deeper. Patrick knows by now, when I say ‘I'm fine’, I am just flat out lying to him. And I'm really like begging for him to ask me the next question ‘No. How are you really?’.

So when I, when someone asks me in an uncomfortable situation, how are you? I try really hard not to say I'm fine because that's the old handbook. That's the old story. But to say, if I say, ‘I'm fine’, then say ‘Wait, what does that mean?’, and then be specific and accept help. And sometimes, it isn't from Patrick, and I know he wants to help, but sometimes he can't, he can't.

Rhoda Bangerter:

That is super, super good advice. And leaving them the responsibility of saying yes or no. That's something I've learned is they're adults, if they want, if they're not able to, then they will say No.

Margaret Ghielmetti:

That's also wonderful to give people agency. And thank you for reminding me that, because as a lifelong people-pleaser, I'm always trying to live everyone else's life for them. And you're right - I need to remind myself, ‘Let people have their own experience’ and sometimes trust that they will say yes, or no, which is hard for me! I'm assuming that I have to figure it out for them, and I don't!

Rhoda Bangerter:

Exactly, exactly. Brené Brown, she says, it's a sign of trust when you ask people for help.

Margaret Ghielmetti:

Mm.

Rhoda Bangerter:

That changed things for me a bit too. To actually show them that I'm trusting them by let adding them in. And that's something that Emily Rogers, I don't know if you know her, she's an expat coach and I put the question in one of the groups about asking for help. And she said that she has learned to trust people very quickly. She's had to decide very quickly who she's gonna trust and trust them quickly, because otherwise it takes longer to create a network.

Margaret Ghielmetti:

Wow. That's wonderful advice. That's really wonderful advice. And I think I probably have learned to trust people quickly, but don't look to any one human being to be everything for me. So if someone can be helpful to me and I can be helpful to them, it may be in a smaller scale than I would've previously imagined, but I love that advice. And I mean, I'm a huge Brené Brown fan, with the concept of vulnerability being courage and being bravery related, to let people see how we're really doing. That feels very brave, I think.

Rhoda Bangerter:

Totally. And I've had to be in situations where I've had to ask and accept help to actually get to that place. Did you have any non-negotiables? Did you develop any non-negotiables with Patrick over the years?

Margaret Ghielmetti:

I love the word develop. Because at the beginning, I really thought there were, again, for me, it's a matter of communication, I thought there were some non-negotiables that I thought were understood!

Rhoda Bangerter:

Like, like what, for example?

Margaret Ghielmetti:

Well, the one, one that we laugh about now, because it's many, many years ago. But when we first moved to Cairo, and this friend who took me under her wing invited us over for an American Thanksgiving. And for anyone who knows about American Thanksgiving, it's a really beautiful holiday to be together with people. And I was so grateful, and so looking forward to it, and I said to Patrick ‘Please, just this once, just this once, can you please commit to being home, you know, at this particular time’, which would've been much earlier than a normal time. And he said yes.

And he wasn't and that's okay. I'm okay by now with broken agreements. But I realized ‘Wait a minute, I'm trying to change this situation for him. He's going to do what he's going to do. And he really is a lovely person, but he's got his own journey.’ I needed to make some non-negotiables, not for him, but for me. So by the end of the book (which just traces my journey, as I've said), by the time we moved to Bangkok, what became a non-negotiable for me is I'm not a really fancy dress kind of person. And I had been to so many galas and so many cocktail parties, and I was happy to be there when I brought value, but it became really apparent to me that I didn't need to be at all of these fancy things. I wasn't adding any value. I wasn't doing anything besides doing what I thought I should be doing. And so that became a non-negotiable that Patrick was the first person to say, oh, well, of course I thought that was understood. So I had always misunderstood that I had to be there at every single ribbon cutting and this and that. And I said I'll be there anytime you need me to be there and anytime I bring value’. And that cut out a lot of stuff that I really didn't want to do. So that became a non-negotiable for me, about me, because I stopped trying to think of non-negotiables that were Patrick's and started to think about ‘Wait a minute. What's most important to me? What allows me to be the most me?’.

Rhoda Bangerter:

Wow. That is super, super important! So are you saying that you found that it worked better when you… I suppose the word is boundaries?

Margaret Ghielmetti:

Yes.

Rhoda Bangerter:

Where you said ‘This is what I'm going to be doing, and this is not what I'm going to be doing.’ And then you found out that actually it was perfectly fine, and that Patrick, that's what his expectation was anyway!

Margaret Ghielmetti:

Yes.

Rhoda Bangerter:

Rather than saying ‘Okay, Patrick, I want this to be a non-negotiable and that to be a non-negotiable’ and then him not being able to actually fulfill it, just because of the kind of life and responsibilities that he had.

Margaret Ghielmetti:

Exactly. Once I took the onus off of him - well, that's true for me in life in general - anytime I stop trying to control anything outside my teeny tiny circle of control (which is me on a good day), and my life has gotten a lot better! So I do set boundaries. I try to keep them very soft. Someone said to me, for people like me to imagine a very soft, almost a watery skin around me, which sounds a little ‘woo, woo’ - I acknowledge that, but she said that will help you stay in yourself and still be there for people, but not be…

What I tend to do is always rush into everyone else's life. Or I'll find that, not literally, I've picked someone up and I have them in my arms. They may not wanna be in my arms, but oh, I've got 'em, you know, II will be the centry and I will make sure they're okay! And I have found most adults really don't need me to do that! And the people who really, really love that, I've had to stop doing it myself. You know, some people really do like that. And I've had to grow out of that tendency myself, because it's really not living my life. It's not fair to me. It's not really respectful of, of their agency in the world. So yeah, it was me stopping saying yes to everything that I don't need to say yes to.

Rhoda Bangerter:

Yeah. What would you say to someone who has a partner who's away a lot for work and feels lonely or disconnected or unhappy about the situation?

Margaret Ghielmetti:

At the risk of really repeating myself, it's really - if I could give my younger self or anyone - ask for help, accept help. As we agreed: be specific.

I do think moving to a new place, something I really learned was to cast a very wide net. I'm a very social introvert. I'm someone who loves to be with people. And then I need to be very quiet to recharge my battery. So I kind of sometimes need to force myself out to join groups, but then I don't feel that I'm going to necessarily quote, unquote, be best friends with everyone. I really do love to find one person I can have a real conversation with over a really dark cup of espresso. That's my dream in any destination. I always join the international women's group. I don't do the things that don't interest me. The things that always interest me are book clubs, and that's where I meet like-minded people. So it's really what you said/wrote: it is acknowledging ‘I'm not fine right now. I'm not, I don't have it. It's okay for me to be lonely.’ Admit that. And then of course, I think we need to share ourselves more honestly with our partners, with our closest friends, so that they know. I mean, a lot of my closest friends in reading my book, people I've known for decades said to me ‘If I'd only known how lonely you were, I would've been there for you. Even from 7,000 kilometers awa, if I'd only known you were so sad…’

And I take responsibility for that, that was not my fault, but I didn't know that being a fuller adult was letting people in and telling people ‘I'm lonely, I'm sad. Can you hold my hand from 7,000 kilometers away? Can you chat with me for a second, can you…?’ - whatever I needed.

And I also found that the people I met, I mean, I kind of made myself go out and be with like-minded people. I even joined the international women's club when I moved back to my hometown, because it was really important for me to be with people who understood the repatriation experience and whose world didn't stop at the county line. I mean, I really love to be with people who are interested in the world. And so for me to join the international women's club of Chicago, that way I could meet some like-minded people, even though I have a lifetime of friends who are lovely, but I really think reach out to someone that we feel can allow us to be ourselves.

Rhoda Bangerter:

Yeah. Because your friends in other countries didn't know when your husband was home and when he was gone, right?

Margaret Ghielmetti:

People just assumed he was gone!

Rhoda Bangerter:

People assumed he was gone?

Margaret Ghielmetti:

Yeah. I would say everyone knew Patrick, that's just the nature of his job. So it changed by the time we moved to… it was different when he was working inside a hotel. He was there, but then he was always traveling. So I mean, people tease us about that, but we're always traveling. So it wasn't a surprise to my friends. People are just like ‘Where's Patrick now, where are you now?’ I mean, that's the nature of our marriage is we're we haven't been in one place very long.

Rhoda Bangerter:

Okay. So they knew that, that he wasn't home and that you were alone, but they didn't realize you were lonely.

Margaret Ghielmetti:

Because I kept telling them I'm fine. I absolutely take responsibility for that. I kept telling everyone I've got this. I'm fine. I signed up for it to use a line from your book. I really, the family handbook was like, just do it. You know, our first move was to Paris. And most of our friends were back in the suburbs with, you know, dragging their kids to the grocery store in a minivan. And I didn't think it was kind of me to say, I'm living inside a five star hotel in Paris and I'm lonely and sad. Now I do! Now I say, you know, I wanna know how you are doing, I genuinely want to know how people are really doing. And I really trust that the people who love us really want to know how we're doing.

So now I can say to someone, wow, I'm looking at the Matterhorn. It's beautiful. I'm not. But if I were, you know, and I it's someone just handed me chocolate and he's super handsome and the sun is out and I still, maybe I feel lonely or sad. And I trust that my friends will understand that even in what feels possibly to them like enviable circumstances, we still get to have the feelings we're having. And for me, sometimes even in five star hotels, those feelings were lonely and sad. At the time, I just didn't know to be honest about that. Now I do. So I had to learn that I had to learn to let people in.

Rhoda Bangerter:

Yes, it's so, so important. Thank you so much for sharing this with us, Margaret, because people need to hear that. I think that's one of the, the big sort of, I don't know what the word is, idiosyncrasy of this life is you can be in the most beautiful surroundings and you're like ‘I don't understand, why am I feeling this low? I shouldn't be feeling this low’ and it's, that ‘should’, isn't it? And people will understand why I'm living this supposedly dream life, but feeling so low and lonely.

So I love the way you say it, you know, that you trust that the people who love you and care for you actually want to know how you're really doing. And that it's actually possible to feel horrible in beautiful surroundings.

Margaret Ghielmetti:

Well, actually the first line of my book is ‘How lucky am I?’ I keep telling myself that whenever I feel uncertain about our move overseas. Because people kept telling me, not my close friends, but people, that's what I kept hearing was ‘Wow, how lucky are you?’ And I internalized that. I thought ‘Oh yeah. How lucky am I?’ Which I am. I mean, I'm a really, constitutionally, a very positive person and I really do know how lucky I am, but I really had to overcome being told by other people, people who, I would say, who don't love me. ‘Wow. You're so lucky.’ It just, I allowed it to shut me down and I, I don't do that anymore. I don't allow that to be shut down.

And I don't make, I try not to make those assumptions about anyone else's life, you know? ‘Oh gosh, they have this or that.’ It's like, the having is not necessarily what makes us happy. So, it's been a journey, right? Rhoda, for all of us!

Rhoda Bangerter:

But I love that we were able to talk about this journey. Yes, as an expat. Yes, as an accompanying spouse, but with this specific angle of having a partner who is a way all the time, because I think it brings a certain extra element to this life. And thank you for sharing. Thank you for being open about your journey and what you've been through and how you've, you know, processed it and what's been helpful. What's your favorite resource you would recommend?

Margaret Ghielmetti:

Well, I'm going to be honest. I really think people should get your book and this is not a plug, but I think there are so many wonderful resources, like your book, like podcasts for expatriates, which allow us to know that we're not alone. We’re not alone. I really, for a long time, thought either I had it together or everyone else had it together. We were all lying to each other, I think. And now I just, I love people who don't lie about it. It's like, this is life! This is what we're dealing with. And as you say, it is really specific when the partner is away, it's different for the person who does expatriate assignments or where the partner is there. And they're both challenging in their own ways. But I think if I had known ‘Oh, I'm not alone. There are other people who are growing and who are learning and who are struggling. We can, we can struggle together.’ I mean, it's nice for me to struggle together. We're on this path together.

Rhoda Bangerter:

Yeah. Well, thank you so much, Margaret. And I totally recommend reading your book too. There's lots of things we haven't touched on as well. How can people reach you?

Margaret Ghielmetti:

Oh, thank you so much. That means a lot to me. And I just like to say for the title, thank you for appreciating Brave(ish). That took me, it came to me and people have said ‘What does the ‘ish’ mean?’ I feel like that's another part of our journey too. It's not that I'm… I went into all of this, so brave, like so brave. And I really had to learn to only be brave-ish, that there are moments when I'm not brave. And it's OK. So people can find brave ish, they can order it through any book seller or people who use Amazon it's available on Amazon. I'm very grateful to anyone who chooses to journey with me. And I do have a website it's www.my first and last name.com. So anyone who can get that crazy spelling right can find me!

Rhoda Bangerter:

I'll put it in the show notes!

Margaret Ghielmetti:

And I'm also a really happy to talk to anyone who ever wants to write up some of their experiences or someone who is feeling alone. I do talk about infertility in the book, and I know you work with a lot of parents, but I'm happy to talk about getting through that. You know, in my book that I stopped drinking, which was a really important part of my journey and something I think is really hard for a lot of people. They turn to outside substances to make the loneliness go away. So I'm available if anyone ever needs a listening ear on the other end of the email or the phone.

Rhoda Bangerter:

Super, super! Thank you so much, Margaret.

Margaret Ghielmetti:

Thank you Rhoda! Bye bye.

Rhoda Bangerter:

Bye bye.

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