This week I’ve been a miserable expat, the newness and adventure of living in the Nederland have worn off, to be replaced by a sharp awareness of the inconveniences and difficulties of life in a foreign land (okay so it's only the Nederlands, but it's foreign to me). The game of finding reasons to be negative became my new hobby. A hobby which I indulged and rapidly developed a talent for. But, you may not be surprised to hear, this talent didn’t make me feel any better. So, rather than share my miseries with you, (even though I want too) – I’d share a few reasons to be cheerful.
Okay need to get back to my OU studies; Pugin and St Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham. Unfortunately this isn’t the most thrilling of subjects and so, not quite, a reason to be cheerful.
|Outsized orange snow coat - in April?|
In the Nederlands the Brits are expected to be a bit eccentric, so walking Alfie in my outsized bright orange snow coat, cream knitted beanie and battered trainers in April is okay.
This reminds me of one of the things I discovered from a decade as a therapist: it’s not what you wear or how you look on the outside that’s important, but who you are beneath your clothes. Obvious really, but it’s surprising how easily we forget. My most beautiful clients were not the ones that turned up, immaculately dressed, rattling with gold jewellery and tottering on four inch heels. They were women, who’d scheduled their time with me, so it didn't clash with hospital appointments. Women, who arrived breathless and harassed, because they were looking after a demanding family and holding down a job. Women who month after month faced disappointments that would have me drowning in a barrel of Sauvignon. Women, who asked after Andy(my Mr Sunshine), remembered my son’s, or turned up with a plate of warm muffins, just because she thought I might like them. That was a very good reason to be cheerful.
|Stiletto's do not a beauty make..|
I’ve wrapped my clients up in warm blankets and sat behind them, desperately tried not to let my tears mess their hair, while listening to one describe her daughters funeral, or another the day she finally became a mummy, or a widows uncomplaining depiction of forty years of living alone. I watched little girls grow in to beautiful young women, and elegant ladies grow forgetful and unsteady on their feet. I’ve been privileged to share a small part of these beautiful women’s life and that is one, very good reason to be cheerful.
Less poignant perhaps, the result of my second assignment with the Open University came back this week. Its nudging a distinction, not quiet there but defiantly nudging – which is another reason to be cheerful.
Also, I found a wonderful expat blog this week, where I read that, whatever problems you face as an expat (and you’ll face many), always blame the situation and not each other. It’s wise advice, that I’ll remember for a long time. So, another reason to be cheerful.
Finally, I’ve been amazed by the lovely welcome we've received in Breda. Since we moved into our apartment, there hasn’t been a week go by, without us being invited out for drinks or round to someone’s home for dinner. It can be lonely as an expat partner or trailing spouse(the new politically correct name), but we've been very lucky to arrive in a community that welcomes dour Scot's and miserable ex therapist with open arms. Yet, another reason to be cheerful.
|St Chad's this month's assignment :-(|