So I was going to post something about picnic spots I like here, but to be honest, I’ve been so distracted lately, to the point of being overwhelmed that I can’t focus on actual things going on around me and I just don’t feel like writing about something so seemingly trivial. It’s frustrating, to say the least, since it’s getting to be summer here, finally, and I want to enjoy all that’s going on in and around the city, to write about it and share with you all. But we expats also know that with summer comes the hardest part of being in the expat community, and that is the “goodbyes”.

Despite what people from my childhood might think, I’m quite a social person as an adult most days. But this constant depressive cloud over me, the fatigue and emotional exhaustion, lack of motivation and inspiration… Well, it’s worn me out so much I’ve sort of given up on pretty much everything. My hope when I started this blog was to help bridge the gap between expats and locals. And because of the many years I’ve spent here, and the things I’ve done over those years, it seemed like such a great idea. However, the one thing about life here that I’ve not really experienced before is so overwhelming that I’ve just lost steam. Let me back up a bit and explain first. If you’ve read my bio or know me in any way, you know that I spent much of my childhood in the States moving around quite a bit – I’m talking 20+ times before coming here. While it was challenging sometimes, it was my life, so I didn’t really know any differently. In fact, sometimes it was easier because if life got too hard in one particular place, it was ok, because we would just be moving again soon. I could run away, forget events, places, people, if I wanted to.

Sure, there were some memories I did want to keep, friendships I have still to this day, and I treasure all of those. But in general, I liked letting go of places and people with each move because it was easy to leave, easy to forget, easy to give things up. I have this terrible habit to this day of rearranging my room every few months because I can’t stand things being the same for too long, of throwing things out because I’m used to getting rid of things often… I don’t see it as a bad thing, really, because it keeps me from holding on to things too tightly.

Or, at least it did. Since I moved to Luxembourg, I had this focus that I would live here for a long, long time. Something new for me, because I usually don’t hold too tightly to a place, knowing I’ll just leave in a short time. But this time, I wanted to hold on to life here. I wanted to settle down, make good friends, get involved in my church, find my favourite coffeeshop, regular dinner & movie dates with my bestie, get into a routine where even the shop keepers get tired of seeing me so often – I’d never known “being known” by people in the community until I lived here. Sometimes it scared me a bit, to be recognised by shopkeepers and bus drivers, but I know that comes with the territory.

And after almost four years here, it finally feels like home. Not just any home, but MY home. My friends, my church, my life. There have been little changes, some goodbyes before now, but it’s all changing in a big way this year. After all these years, I’m finally settled, I have a home and a community, I’m here to stay, but no one else is. As you know, Luxembourg is a transient community, something I’ve always known as well, but I’ve not felt the effects so much of it until this year. And it’s strange. And it’s so hard. As the one always leaving, I was in control of letting go; but not this time. I don’t have any control over my friends leaving, and it’s like ripping open a wound that was almost healed. Friendships are a very important part of my life, and with each goodbye, it’s like a part of me has been ripped away. The only way I’ve known to deal with it lately is to not feel anything; if I don’t have any emotions towards it, then it won’t hurt so much. If I stop caring, stop loving, stop being, then I can survive this season. C.S. Lewis has a famous quote, one which probably has more meaning for this season of my life than ever before:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

So how do I do this when it’s just easier to give up and not feel anything in the goodbyes? How do I deal with being the one left behind now, saying goodbye over and over to people I care about? Can I allow myself to be vulnerable and broken for a while? …It’s a new look at this expat life in Luxembourg, and I’m not sure I like it right now.

xx

After-summer update… checking back in here to share some helpful things I’ve learned this summer, thanks to this blog.

9 thoughts on “Expat Life: On Saying Goodbye”

  1. Phew. That was a big one. Honestly? My favorite so far. You know why. Also: you can feel exactly the same way on the other side: leaving is hard.
    But then… there’s also the choice. (This was a ‘while-driving-revelation’.) The choice is the one in your quote: empty heart or full? Safe or vulnerable? Lonely or in good company?
    We all have broken hearts. Whether we want to or not. But maybe – maybe – if we let them be soft, vulnerable, they will be healed again, too?
    A stone doesn’t close it’s cracks.

  2. I spent my whole life being the one leaving (every 2-3 years) and like you said, been fine with it. Being the one leaving is so much easier than being the one left behind. When you leave you go on to new adventures and start making a new exciting life (I loved moving on). I find it easy to say goodbye when I’m the one leaving. When you’re the one staying, well the person leaving leaves a great big hole in your life that’s harder to fill and not so easy to say goodbye. Luxembourg is almost the place I’ve lived in for the longest in my whole life …which is great in some ways, but also the goodbyes are hard, and like you I thrive on change and not routine! How to deal with this? Well, as with everything you do get used to it and the longer I’m here the more “local” or long term expat friends I make. Plus I am hugely grateful to the little family I’ve created. That definitely helps with the goodbyes! Although, this week my eldest son experienced having to say goodbye to his first “real” friend (one he made not through me if that makes sense) for the first time as this little boy moves to another country and he is struggling with that. It’ll be the first of many though…. For him celebrating the goodbye, making a big deal of it and talking helped.

    1. It’s so good to know I’m not the only one struggling with this. I’m sorry you’ve also known it, because it’s hard to get through… And poor Eddie, I hope he will soon meet a new friend to fill the void. I suppose that with saying goodbye, it gives us the chance to say hello to new friends again some day. I think you’re right, it helps to be connected to locals, make friends who will also be here long term, so that it softens the blow when it comes time to say goodbye to our expat friends. Thanks, Anneke, for the encouraging words.

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