This way to adventure!

Hi there!

I’m Emily. I’m a writer living an unexpected expat life fueled by coffee and adventure. Home is where my art is.

(Currently: Brussels)

I didn't expect this.

I didn't expect this.

{Note: In their course,“The Wisdom of Story,” Glennon Doyle Melton & Brené Brown teach that one should “write from a scar, not an open wound.” The post below takes liberty with the linear nature of timelines. Space-time seems to operate differently in grief.}

October 22, 2018. Google Hangouts.

A: I am so sorry! I should have written our phone date down! I remembered but at like 2 PM here :-(

E: Oh my goodness - don't feel bad! I'm sure things are crazy as you get ready for your move, etc. We'll find another time to connect -- Sundays are usually the best for me on the weekends.

A: Ok. :) if there wasn’t a bunch of construction and detours I would call on my way to work

E: I vote for focusing on the road ;-)

A: Jahaha. Probably a good idea.

{It’s been hard to nurture a friendship over thousands of miles and 7 timezones, but we’re trying. We keep missing each other. It’s too easy to not notice when you fall off the radar.}

November 26, 2018. Facebook.

"I knew when I left home that there would be gifts and sacrifices that would come with my new life. I was intellectually prepared for the hard stuff: for celebrations missed, for relationships to wane due to distance, for life to generally move on in my absence.

I wasn't prepared to receive the hard news that a dear friend died last week and for the grief to be compounded by the physical distance between me and the community we shared. I am OK, but my heart is heavy and it is terribly lonely to not be near those who also wish we had the chance to say "I love you" one last time.

{I got through the weekend. It is so, so lonely to be alone in my grief here. To be honest, it’s lonely here in general. Joe comforts me as best as he can but he didn’t know you. He sits next to me but can’t sit with me in my sadness. I ache to be with other mourners. I feel like I’m holding my breath until I can get on the plane back to MN. 5 days. I can do hard things. 5 days. Maybe just a few hours at a time.}

November 23, 2018.

6:00ish CET. Bed, Woluwe-Saint-Pierre.

I’ve been waking up too early lately and have gotten into the obnoxious habit of reaching for my phone. I was only going to see how much time I had left before the alarm will tell me it’s time to get up for real. The message bubble floating on the screen surprises me and I am more awake than I thought I would be. I know before I open it that its contents will shock but not surprise me: “Amy has passed away.”

Amyisdead. Amy is dead? Amy. Is. Dead.

The alarm is going to go off in twenty minutes.

I am too awake to be dreaming.

2pm CET/7am CST. Somewhere along the Avenue Orban, Woluwe-Saint-Pierre.

I have been walking on the ankle I sprained last night for an hour already. Before I left the house, I weighed the potential further harms and the potential benefits of moving. I decide to walk gingerly but with purpose. I have to keep moving. If I walk fast enough, I can catch my breath. If I walk long enough, it will be morning in MN. It hurts to walk. It hurts more to stop.

2:30pm CET/7:30am CST. Somewhere along Avenue Orban, Woluwe-Saint-Pierre.

I can start sending texts home soon. (Where is “home” these days anyways?) It’s late enough here to wake up people there with the same news that woke me up. I keep walking and wait for the texts to be received.

{Before I left for Brussels, we talked about what it was like when you lived in Ireland. You mentioned loneliness and something about riding a bike through the countryside. Or maybe it was walking? I didn’t ask enough questions. I didn’t pay attention enough to have learned from your experience. I wish I could call you now to fill in the blanks.}

November 24, 2018.

Aside from Joe, nobody here knows. Who would I tell? I sit on the couch feeling useless — friends are helping clean Amy’s apartment with her family and I’m thousands of miles away. One friend sends me updates via text and I’m thankful that she tries to include me from afar.

November 25, 2018.

Joe suggests that some exercise will help. I know he’s right and I’m thankful when he doesn’t give me time to protest and just starts loading the bikes on the trailer.

We ride around Leuven in the cold drizzle. I can’t decide where the fog ends and I begin. I’m not entirely sure there’s actually a delineation.

{Just how bad did it get for you at the end? I have a feeling I know but I don’t want to. Is the idea in my head better or worse than what it was really like? How cold and dark did it get? Wait, wait, don’t tell me.}

January 23, 2019.

It snowed here today. The tram is crowded as I make my way back home from a morning meditation group. I have my earbuds in and I’m listening to the Girl Like You playlist I made a few weeks ago. I realize it’s been two months.

{I talk to you on the metro mostly these days. Silently, of course. I’m not that weird. I wonder and maybe even worry slightly what’s “normal”? If you were still really here, I’d tell you about these imaginary conversations in my head. I feel like maybe you’d reassure me that they’re not hurting anything.

Our people are planning a celebration of life service for you. I told them I’d like to write a eulogy, even if I won’t be able to get back to MN to give it in person. I have an idea of what I’ll say at the end but I haven’t figured out how it starts. It’s like that with our friendship — I can’t remember the exact details of how it started. This time two years ago. How was it that I ended up giving you a ride home that night? How was it that we quickly became the type of friends who had the door code and didn’t have to wait to be buzzed in?

I knew our relationship would change when I moved. It had already changed before I left — the distance started growing this time last winter. But I never lost hope that somehow it wouldn’t always feel so far apart…}

Photo: @bananabear via Unsplash

City Break: A Canterbury Christmas

City Break: A Canterbury Christmas

So you’ve become a bedbug feast.

So you’ve become a bedbug feast.