When It’s Hardest to be Away

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Most days, I wake up and feel immediately thankful for my home, my life, and the interesting things that lie ahead. I love living in a new country, I love Europe, and I love that we are doing something very intentional and memorable  by choosing to live overseas. Sure, it hasn’t been easy to get to this point, but I think Jeff and I would do it all over again. We feel like most of the hardest parts are behind us, and now we can start relaxing into our present situation, and can breathe much easier and enjoy everything around us.

Most days, I am very glad that we chose to live unconventionally. But not today. It seems a little soon for another confession, but it helps to write it out. Tomorrow, I am going to the hospital for knee surgery (an ACL reconstruction, for those that are interested in those sorts of things.)  I have done this before– about eight years ago– and I have to say, I don’t have fond memories of the recovery. However, looking back now, I see the sweetness of going through that experience within a community. I sustained the original injury while with the a group of PTs that I was working with at the time, and they diagnosed the injury, helped me through the process of getting it taken care of, and did my rehab PT sessions. After the surgery, I stayed with close girlfriends who didn’t have stairs in their house, and they regularly stopped in to check on me, get me something to eat, etc. There were flowers, phone calls, and meals to help cheer and support me. A friend who lived nearby had gotten a terrible case of poison oak, and was in agony. He came over a few times to eat ice cream and watch movies, both of us pretty miserable, but appreciating the proverbial company. I did not enjoy that time in my life, but having friends stop in on me, bringing food or flowers, made all the difference, and I felt cared for during a tough time.

Today has been one of those days, my mind clouded with doubts about the choices we’ve made. I know this is the worst part, the anticipation– by this time tomorrow, I will be all loopy on pain meds, and I’m sure things will go fine for us once I come home on Tuesday. But from here, I can’t help but feel the absence of community. Jeff has to work after he drops me off at the hospital and Amelia off at school, so there won’t be a familiar face when I wake up after the surgery. He will take some days off during the week, and I am so glad that he can be home for me, but we are kind of on our own as a family. No meals will be delivered, no visitors, no one popping by to see if we need any laundry done. I know that sort of support system will come in time, but I wish we had those relationships and sense of belonging now, when it would make something difficult that much more bearable.

Living far away from loved ones is never really easy, but it is particularly hard around the holidays; it’s hard when people you love have babies, get married, get ill, or need help moving and you can’t be there for them; it is hard when you want to have everyone over to celebrate your new home;  it is really, really hard when you feel like you actually need them in major life events.

I have received a lot of nice comments about my life, that it is so amazing, so fun, so cool. Yes, it is all of those things. And, it is also stressful, hard, and… so lonely. I know that it won’t always be, though. And, even in this moment of weakness, I believe I would choose it all over again. But I want to tell the whole story, not just the  best parts. Being able to just tell you about it helps. So, thank you. And please send some healing thoughts and prayers over  here, OK? Movie recommendations are also welcome.

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16 Responses to When It’s Hardest to be Away

  1. Andrew October 30, 2011 at 4:12 pm #

    Hey Ariana, here are some good thoughts and prayers coming your way. 🙂 Virtual chicken soup and such?

  2. Andrew October 30, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    Ack.. forgot the movie recommendations. “Under a Tuscan Sun” is the one I always like about living abroad and how amazing and how amazingly difficult it is.

  3. Karen Kellerford October 30, 2011 at 4:53 pm #

    You are a brave soul. Thank you for being willing to share both sides of your experience; both the good and the less so. I wish I could be there right now.

  4. Nathan October 30, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

    We are praying for your bodily healing, and for the cabin-fever that comes with less mobility. We really enjoyed the Painted Veil if you haven’t seen it. Also, the BBC mini-series version of Jane Eyre might keep you busy for a while, and it’s great. Downton Abbey also.

  5. Robin October 30, 2011 at 9:53 pm #

    Hi Ariana,
    We’ll be praying for you… the surgery, the wake up moments, the meals, the loneliness, Jeff and Amelia, and for a speedy recovery. You’re experienced at recovering, so that must help. I’ll also pray for some sweet little surprises along the way, that will lift your heart. Yesterday we were visiting the Purcell’s and Patty also recommended Downton Abbey, so, even though I haven’t seen it yet, I’ll second Nathan’s suggestion. If I were there I’d be making you something yummy and a nice cup of tea, too. I’d sit and chat with Amelia (and you!) and have her walk me all around the area while you recuperate. Oh… I wish I were there!! 🙂 These are the times when it’s a pill to be spread so far apart. I’m truly there with you in spirit, if that does anything…
    Love, Aunt Robin

  6. Grandma Seelye October 30, 2011 at 11:49 pm #

    Well,you might guess I am wiping my eyes as I write this. I so wish I could be there to help! We are there with you in spirit and prayers. Could we Skype sometime? Love you!

  7. Melissa October 31, 2011 at 1:19 am #

    One of the best things about moving back to my hometown a few years ago (which I swore I would never live in again!) was being around family and old friends again. While my family often drives me absolutely crazy, the good far outweighs the bad.

    Those first few months in a new city are always hard. I can’t imagine adding surgery on top of the regular challenges. I’m clearly not as strong as you 🙂 Hope you have a speedy recovery and that you find a find a great support group soon!

    As far as movies, Bad Teacher and Bridesmaids are absolutely hilarious! These aren’t normally the types of movies that I would recommend, but lately I’ve been so overwhelmed with work, grad school, kids, and preparing for our move, I’ve been watching movies that give me a short mental vacation and few good laughs – it sounds like you could use a little bit of these too 🙂 If those movies aren’t up your alley, Old Boy is a great Korean film. The description is misleading and sounds like a bad Bruce Willis movie, but don’t let that discourage you. It won the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.

  8. Louise November 1, 2011 at 11:33 am #

    Hi, we don’t know each other but your post touched a chord with me. We’re moving back to the UK next year, in part because I feel so lonely here in the US.

    As you said, our friends and family look at our lives in New York and think it’s exciting like a movie – and sometimes it is. But it’s also hard to be away from the people who love you. And from the culture where you just fit without any effort.

    When I read your post, I just wished so much that I lived nearby so I could turn up on your doorstep with presents. I hope you make new friends really soon and I wish you all the best for your recovery.

  9. Ariana November 2, 2011 at 8:41 am #

    Thanks, everyone, for your really kind and encouraging comments– they all really helped. I’m out of the hospital now, quietly recuperating at home. Hoping to be writing a few posts as I camp out on the couch this week.

  10. Ariana November 2, 2011 at 8:42 am #

    I read your comment on my phone from the hospital, and it really touched me! Thank you so much for your genuine empathy and kind thoughts for me. The thought of a stranger showing up on my doorstep with presents almost made me cry! Thank you.

  11. Lena November 3, 2011 at 7:12 am #


    Alicia gave me the name of your blog and I seem to be catching myself every evening catching up with all your worderful stories and adventures. I am sending you warm healing thoughts and a speedy recovery. I wish we lived close by and could bring you guys some yummy meals and some fresh flowers to brighten your day but I guess a virtual thought is all I can do. I would love to get your new address to send you some goodies from trader joes or something… Email me at [email protected]

    And by the way we are still enjoying all of the kitchen things we got from you when you were moving and every day that I use my pans or pots I think of you guys and the recipe that you gave me for that delish fruit tart is so amazing I have made many versions of them and I always share the awesome recipe.

    Well I hope you get better soon and hope you guys make some amazing new friends and will feel less alone.

    Thanks for sharing all your wonderful stories and photos.

    Lena : alicia’s sister-in-law

  12. Rhonda November 4, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

    I can relate to how you’re feeling now. It is scary being away from loved ones when going through something like surgery. Good luck with it and blessings sent your way! I spent the last two years living in Asia and recently returned home to the U.S. (though I’m not sure how long I’ll stay!) I had a sickness which put me in the hospital for five days while I lived in Taiwan and I completely understand questioning if you’ve made the right decisions. But it is all worth it in the end! Keep living your dreams and having new adventures. I’ll be sure to follow your blog!:) God bless.

  13. Katie November 7, 2011 at 9:18 am #

    Hi Ariana, I don’t think we’ve ever even met, though I know your brother Luke. I don’t even remember how I came across your blog awhile back but I check in every once in awhile since I enjoy your writing. I was sad to read what you were going through before and after your surgery (anticipation and then the unexpected way things went in hospital), and could only imagine how hard that would be (I think you have a much better attitude than I in difficulties like that!). We’ve been living in Australia the last 3 months, and head home this Friday. 3 months is not really that long, relatively speaking, but I can still relate a lot to some of what you’ve written about the hard parts of living far from family, and how that part isn’t as apparent to those back home. Prior to this, we’ve tended to travel a lot more than our friends and family, and I appreciate hearing from someone else who has chosen to live “unconventionally.” Praying for a speedy and solid recovery, and for those roots to grow deep and strong in your new community, Katie

    Oh, and if you’re still racking up movie ideas, I think “Bride & Prejudice” is a fun one – a Bollywood version of the Austen classic. A bit cheesy at times but I enjoy it, and always want to eat Indian food when I watch it! (which maybe you have access to in England? Not sure – there was plenty there when I studied there 10 yrs ago, but not sure where you live… 🙂 )

  14. Ariana November 7, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    Rhonda, Thanks for introducing yourself and letting me know my experience is a familiar one for many expats. I appreciate your encouragement and love knowing you are following along with us.

  15. Ariana November 7, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    It’s nice to “meet” you here, and I always love it when readers take the time to introduce themselves a little. I know your husband Daniel (not well, but there are a few connections, going back to Biola and Faith Academy) and it’s always kind of cool to meet friends of my siblings. I totally appreciate your warm thoughts and prayers, and the empathy you have for my situation. It really helps!
    I loved Bride and Prejudice, but I haven’t seen it in years, so I think it’s time. And we have really enjoyed Indian food here. I hate to say it, but it’s much better than the standard fare… more on that later!


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