Not all Godiva and Stella Artois


Let me state upfront that our posting to Brussels is a phenomenal opportunity. We realize our good fortunate to live and work in Europe. For many this is a dream, for us reality. A reality that includes access to some of the best art, food, architecture and history the world has to offer. But there’s another reality, a darker side that doesn’t compete with most people’s ideal vision of expats on the loose in Europe.

Facebook keeps us connected to over 600 of our nearest and dearest friends. We also have a precious few who avoid social media, uttering ‘Facebook’ with wrinkled nose and puckered lips as if they just ingested a fly. Monthly notes sent to our Non-Facebook Peeps are watered down versions of our FB spectacular-spectaculars. I fear this note, however, resembles the dreaded of all missives, the gag-reflexing Christmas letter. You know the one. You groan at the dense narrative softened by lovely green and red bunting. Perhaps Santa, Frosty or some other festive winter scene fill header and footer. Some are read, others abandoned, some are tossed, while still others are put to use as coasters for eggnog cups. Just how much pinch-us-cuz-we’re-livin’-the-dream stuff can you stomach on top of all that fruitcake and pumpkin pie?

Truth is, life isn’t all Christmas and candy canes. We’ve been taught to put our best foot and face forward. The ole, laugh and the world laughs with you, cry….. My monthly note is of that ilk, a “Life’s Grand” story. That’s the story people want to hear, right? And life is really, really good in so many ways–a veritable adventure.

But by ignoring my emotional bouts with isolation, loneliness, and even depression, am I distorting reality? Do friends picture our life as one of only outdoor cafes, quaint little towns and fairy book castles? And as a writer, an even worse fear grips me–am I boring our friends to death? Serves me right if my monthly note gets relegated to the digital equivalent of eggnog coaster–SPAM folder.

But what to do? Cry and you cry alone, right? People don’t want to hear that the life of an expat’s spouse isn’t all Godiva and Stella Artois, but that’s the darker reality.

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