Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Bad things happen to good people. Kids get sick. Men cheat. Cars crash, and parents die.

I get that, I really do. I've seen too many people, in the Foreign Service and out, going through awful, awful things, things that would probably break me.

People ask me, is it hard to be away from your family? And the truth is, it usually isn't. Because you're so busy living your day-to-day life that it doesn't occur to you, most days, that the people who love you are all very far away.

But sometimes, just sometimes, this Foreign Service thing sucks. When bad things happen to far-away loved ones, this Foreign Service thing can seem like a Really Bad Idea.

I have a dear friend - one of my best, most lifelong friends, who went through a divorce awhile back. It was a typical story: her husband, who seemed like such a good guy, just up and decided one winter day that he didn't want to be married. So he left. He abandoned her, and he abandoned her baby. He forgot to mention at the time that he was leaving for someone else, someone he'd casually knocked up.

Up until then, they'd had the marriage that everyone else envied. They'd seemed happy, and comfortable, and loved. When he walked away, with no warning, you can imagine how she felt. I can imagine how she felt. What I didn't reckon on was how I'd feel.

Here's one of the people I love most in the world, being hurt so carelessly by one of the people she loved most in the world. And I was beyond angry. Still am. I ran into the guy when I was in the States last summer, and I wanted to drive a stake through his heart. He just chattered on as if everything was normal, as if hadn't just been unmasked for a fraud, a liar and a cheat. Oh, I was angry.

But I had to leave my friend behind. I moved here, to Jordan, and left her still reeling, still trying to clean up the mess he'd made of her life. When we talk, now, I get angry all over again. And I wish I could be there for her, not just via phone and internet, but in real life. I wish we could just hang out over coffee and talk about what a jerk he is, how much better off she is without him. I wish we could talk about other things, too - just leave him behind and talk about important stuff, fun stuff.

And I hate that I'm here and she's there, and there isn't anything I can do to help, and there isn't any stake I can drive through his heart, and there aren't any jokes I can tell, or coffees I can buy, to help her through this.

I was talking to an RSO friend over lunch today, and I mentioned this feeling of helplessness I have in this situation. My friend said something important. She said that she tries to do good things here, for her Foreign Service "family" at post, because if she can't be there for her real family, she needs be here, doing things that make a positive difference for the family she's building in Amman. She's right: overseas, we band together and make our own families, so we have someone to take care of, to bicker with, to worry over. That's the only thing that gets us through the rough patches.

All the same, it's hard to be far away when loved ones need you. I hope my friend back home knows that she isn't alone, that I pray for her every day, and wish everything good for her, every day. Still, I wish I were there with her.

Really, truly there.


Shannon said... [Reply]

Yep it sucks sometimes. I'm sorry you can't be there for your friend. I hope both of you are feeling better soon.

Sara said... [Reply]

I'm sorry!

Becky said... [Reply]

That is the absolute worst part of this life, not being able to be there. And I think the anger is normal. One of my best friends went through a similar thing and sometimes I still want to clock the guy (5 years later). I hope your friend is doing better soon and that you are able to find a way to do something that helps you both feel better.
(I always send cake or pizza gift certs. It doesn't fix it but it is something.)

Connie said... [Reply]

She's your friend, because, despite the distance, you ARE there for her, and I'm sure she knows that. After awhile, good friends become like blood family. It doesn't matter how far away you are, or the miles separating you. You know the connection is real. Being able to talk over coffee would be wonderful, but that's not the most important part of your relationship with her. Of course, it doesn't make your pain and guilt any less real :p I know how that goes too...

Please. Write your own stuff.