Last night there was a mix-up, a forgotten plan and a volley of phone calls, that for about two hours had me thinking with increasing seriousness that something dreadful had happened to a friend. It hadn’t. She turned up fine – just a mix up – even as we approached her flat with torches and a husband ready to do battle if any nasty types appeared.
These are the moments when you heart is beating a bit faster and you’re looking up which hospital is open for emergency services that night, and your husband is starting to use the p-word (police) and every scene from The Killing or Broen flashes before your eyes (I have to stop watching scary Danish series) and you’re suddenly aware just how fragile everything around you is.
So today I’m thankful for friends and family who are safe and well. I’m thankful that the city we live in is one of the safest in the world. I’m thankful for a husband who takes my fears seriously. I’m thankful that those fears were not realised.
Friends are precious. They are what makes life sweet – the ones who make me laugh, the ones who ask how I am and really want to know, the ones who promote my business on facebook because they believe in me, the ones who challenge me to change my mind about big decisions already made because they know me better than I know myself, the ones who encourage me every day.
The hard dimension of this expat life though, is that friends leave much more frequently than when you live in your home country. The turnover of people coming and going is high. And that means wonderful new people to meet (I’ve had coffee with one new friend this week already) but it also means that wonderful people leave. And one of the most wonderful ones just announced she’s going very soon. And I’m a little bit heartbroken.
The tendency for us expats, I think, is to try and protect our hearts. Don’t get too close so that it doesn’t heart too much when they go. Keep relationships a little more superficial because then the goodbyes won’t be as hard. But I realised early on that all that does is suck the warmth and the joy out of this life in a foreign land. Without those friends, without the meaningful relationships, the friends you know you can call day or night. Well life is a little less bright.
And so my instinct is to draw back and start protecting again but my heart says no. It is a truly brave thing to love someone. And it’s a braver thing to love someone even when it’s hard.
I’m choosing gratitude again today. Gratitude for a friend who literally jumped out in front of me in the church aisle to get to say welcome. Gratitude for a woman who is always up for discovering a new coffee shop, who gets more excited about macaroons than I do, who is willing to talk with me about just about anything, who’s generous southern hospitality puts my own attempts at welcome to shame.
I am grateful for this friend who was the first to hear I was pregnant and was so thrilled for me, who bought me peonies when it all fell apart and who cried with me over my loss. I’m grateful for the way she never wants to put another person to any trouble, grateful for the enthusiasm she has for my crafty valentines projects, grateful for her prayers, grateful for her smiles. I’m thankful for the life she has growing inside of her right now and the amazing mother I know she’ll be.
The unexpected twists and turns of expat life make friendships harder but potentially fuller. Today is a reminder to myself to keep embracing it, keep opening myself up to it, keep being brave enough to love.