Something about this blog—my blog—has been bothering me for a while. I attempted to address it months ago, but had technical difficulties pulling off what I had in mind. What irritated me was this: by focusing only on those things that I love about France and Italy (and the list is long), I was somehow laying a facade, or a sheen—a sort of perfectly smiling mask—over what is often a deeply flawed and comical existence. Like any human existence. You can’t be the “foreigner” in a situation without being simultaneously the one who doesn’t get it or the one who says the wrong thing at the wrong time or, simply and most painfully, the one who sometimes doesn’t belong.
There are also, despite the countless reasons to feel that your soul has literally been saved by shifting continents, many things about your adopted country that drive you virtually mad. Sometimes, you can’t stand it. You can’t help it. You are what you are, and in some very surreal ways, you become more deeply what you are as time goes by in a strange and foreign land—no matter how much you love it, and no matter how much you feel that it is where you belong.
No honest ex-pat story is complete without this side of the affair. No rollicking tale of paté and open-air markets, Alessi design and French wines, can go for long without the—let’s be honest here—more interesting human underpinnings: confusion, alienation, fear, hilarity, and the pharmaceutical cocktail that makes it all okay in the end. One part patience/one part persistence, shaken, on the rocks.
The fairy tale has two protagonists—a fair princess named Sometimes and her awkward, pimply twin, Reality. “The Daily Cure” is my way of giving thanks for those Sometimes moments that make life amazing. “Confessions of an Ex-Patriot” is my way of putting those thanks in a context that helps them make sense. There’s a reason I love trams and bicycles so passionately, and it’s not just environmental conscientiousness. It has as much to do with never having grown comfortable navigating Italian streets in a motorized hunk of metal. I drive, yes, but I’m not a native behind the wheel. I sweat. I panic. I lose my sense of direction. I stall, freeze, break laws flagrantly. Voilà—the seeds of a story, the beginnings of a confession yet to be told in its entirety.
Some confessions will be memories of things past. Others will be “live.” In any case, I hope you’ll hang in there with me through these unavoidable aspects of Life Abroad that most certainly were not, are not, and will never be ready for their close-ups but which are nonetheless a part of this struggle called happiness.
My thanks to Ann Moore for copy-editing this post.