Life, The Universe and Everything Else.

By - January 15, 2008 (Updated: November 28, 2014)


My friend Sue always says that the universe gives you what you need (not necessarily what you want) when you need it. I’ve always believed this, even though I never articulated it as well as she does. A wise woman is Sue.

Today I got what I needed. I’ll get to what that was in a second, but first, why the universe thought I needed it…

Yesterday was one of those days. There was nothing particularly out of the ordinary. Nothing especially bad happened. In fact, its ordinariness was probably part of the problem. I’ve talked about my “I hate Belgium days” before. I don’t like to dwell on them (or anything else negative) here on the blog. The truth is most times these days don’t have much to do with Belgium at all (except for the bad drivers and the line jumpers), but rather expat life in general. I know all expats occasionally go through this and the host country takes the blame for all that is wrong in the world. In particular, yesterday was about everything I hate about being a trailing spouse.

I love my life. I love living in Europe. Even at the worst of times these statements remain true. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things that get me down. The two biggest negatives in my life as it stands right now are my lack of physical freedom and my lack of financial freedom.

The physical freedom stems from my own decision not to drive in Belgium (and no I won’t be changing my mind on that). It also stems from living outside the city and the realm of Brussels public transportation. I’ve bitched about these things before so I’ll spare you the details. We hope to rectify this problem this spring by moving to the city and I’m truly optimistic that this will be a big positive in my life.

The second problem is more complicated and may, in fact, never be solved. Whenever I need money, I have to ask for it and I feel guilty spending it on myself because I wasn’t the one who earned it. Yes, I make money through photography but at this stage I am still paying off equipment and supplies. I hope to break even this year but it is an uphill battle.

Andrew will always make more money than me. That’s just the way the world works and frankly I’m ok with that. But not contributing at all to our financial well-being for the past three years has been really difficult. Believe me, I’ve heard all of the arguments (and given them to others in the same situation): because we’re married, his money is my money too, I contribute to the family in other ways (We don’t have kids, so it’s not like I’m contributing by raising a family), I’ve sacrificed things to be here to support Andrew… blah blah blah. All true, I agree, but I guess, unless you’ve been in the situation (and I know you guys are out there so advice is welcome) it’s a hard one to identify with.

Anyway, yesterday was one of those days when this all came to a head. A few different friends have asked me to do things lately that I just haven’t been able to afford to do. Andrew is
travelling for work again and I was feeling pretty isolated. Not to mention it’s my least favourite time of year. So I was sad, frustrated and frankly pissed at myself for being sad and frustrated in the first place. Andrew and Belgium bore the brunt of it, although neither is to blame.

This morning I woke up feeling drained – physically and emotionally. I needed to get some cleaning done so instead of jumping in the shower as I would normally do first thing, I hauled
out the vacuum. Still in my pyjamas, with bed-head and no coffee in my system, the doorbell rang. Normally I would never answer it in this state. But I knew…

My mom had sent a Christmas package in November. I had given up all hope of ever seeing it. The Belgian post is definitely on my “things I hate about Belgium” list. But when the doorbell rang, I knew the universe sent me what I needed. The package doesn’t solve any of my problems but it does remind me that no matter how bad it gets, there are more important things in my life – people who love me. It was the pick-me-up I needed, exactly when I needed it.


So what was in that wonderful box? Weeeelllll, I don’t know everything (although I have some suspicions) because it was for Andrew too and he’s not back until tomorrow, but to be honest, anything that didn’t have his name on it got opened. There was popcorn(!) and KD (!!!), some jams made by my mom (mmmmm), a couple of ornaments for our tree that will have to wait until next year (we didn’t put a tree up this year anyway), some awesome socks and slippers (which were exactly what I needed as my current pair are disintegrating on my feet as I sit here), a very cute cat mug, dried cranberries and Burt’s Bees made an appearance too.

So thank you to my Mom and to the Universe. You both knew what I needed, when I needed it. (You’ve been in cahoots all along haven’t you?)

If you like this, you might like:

Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
- 1 day ago


  1. Comment by Mirka

    Mirka January 15, 2008 at 21:29

    I know very well, how you mean it with the money and not making them myself. I´ve been through that for three long years, it was driving me crazy. I had listened to the same things as Andrew tells you, and it did not help either. I felt useless and no matter how much I tried to proove otherwise, it felt only like trying to fool myself. Not to mention, comments from people like: You don´t work? And what do you do all day?” never really help. Geez.
    So, glad you there was something to lift you up, I know how much one needs this sometimes!

  2. Comment by striker

    striker January 15, 2008 at 19:16

    Hurray for the Belgium postal service!! Come fog or fog or fog or whatever, they sometimes come through!!This year we’ll send it in April..

  3. Comment by pugwash pops

    pugwash pops January 17, 2008 at 17:33

    merry christmas … so glad the glad tidings got through … if only the parcel could tell it’s own story! … on the other hand, maybe we don’t want to know! Congrats to your Mom on gettin’ it thru when its timing was best, I’ll bet it had something to do with givin’ it a good push at the start! A word on the blues … in my biz the dissatisfiers were always the gremlins despite the overwhelming weight of the satisfiers, celebrate the joy – the greatest resource we contribute to a relationship is ourself, don’t let the details skew your view … it’s all about love! … ’nuff serious stuff … until, of course, it comes time for me to find a rocking chair by a window with a spitoon within range … that might give new focus to your lives … mrhahahahahaha! … lov … pp

  4. Comment by jlutz

    jlutz January 23, 2008 at 14:12

    Being the youngest of 8 girls, I got to see the others married and raise children before I even started dating so i was able to see their successes and mistakes(not always learning from them I admit). Now that all of us are older, I have seen the two eldest sisters who, like you, managed the household and finances. While they did have children, all too soon they were off to college and married and they were at home again with just their husbands. Then the unexpected hit- and each had to look after their husbands and the home and the finances…The sisters were then the nurses, bankers, support networks for the extended families and their husbands said they never realized how much they contributed until they themselves could do nothing and they watched as their spouses managed their lives. In sickness or in health, richer poorer, sounding familiar? Ask anyone ill if their money can buy them the love and support needed when ill in order to recover-the lonliness and fear that sets in laying in a hospital bed or your own bed, unable to even get up. In the case of one poor brother in law on his deathbed said there is nothing more important in life than the wife who loved and cared for him each day of his adult life. All those times in between the first days and the last days, encouragement to try for that better job, take that promotion, make a career change, get over an injustice without destroying themselves, handle success or tragedy…Andrew didn’t wait until he was sick to tell/show you that you are appreciated, he’s wise enough to tell you/show you now so that you will believe it-so I think you are very fortunate that you are not overlooked or taken for granted. If not for you, wouldn’t take the time to enjoy the “fruits of his labour” and all his work would be for nothing and that is a waste of a life. Keep dragging him on excursions, smelling the roses and photographing them to share with all your readers-our lives are more enjoyable because of you and all that you do. -Jen

  5. Comment by Alison

    Alison January 24, 2008 at 11:28

    Jennie – You are absolutely right. Love and Family are the most important things. I do know everyday that I am so fortunate to have a wonderful, caring husband, a close and supportive family and the most wonderful friends in the world. I guess I just find it sad that society (and I include myself there)judges a person’s importance on what they do for a living. I guess this has been the plight of women forever… but the truly sad thing is often as women we do it to each other. We like to put people in ‘boxes’ and these boxes are often based around careers… Generally when you meet someone new the first question is “and what do you do?” If only everyone could realize that being a good wife/mom/friend/daughter/sister/etc was more important than being a doctor/lawyer/banker. Thank you for reminding me of that 🙂

  6. Comment by Ira

    Ira January 27, 2008 at 19:53

    Hi Alison and everyone! Funny how we can’t live without a social function when so many people would do anything in order NOT to work, isn’t it? I think we’re just the wrong breed of humans or something.
    I don’t have a regular job either, and the reason is that I’m not allowed to (by the authorities) because my man has taken me on charge so that I could come here. Not long ago I have dropped the translation job I was doing for my ex-employer back home – because the harm it causes to my back is much bigger than the benefits it brings…
    Well, the good recipe to overcome the depression is to think of what you wanted to learn\try\do when you had no time for anything. Why not use you free time to make some of your old dreams come true? In the course of this year I’ve learned such funny things as knitting socks, playing drums, having no fear of baking all sorts of pastry, some Latin (well, it was a revision), manuscripts and a little about typography and calligraphy… All of these things have made me a happy girl for a month or two, which is already not that bad if you put all those months together.
    I vote for the exhumation of old dreams!

  7. Comment by Kathryn

    Kathryn February 18, 2008 at 22:13

    Hey Alison,
    I felt this way for so long when we were in Belgium. Well in the beginning i put all my energy into learning Dutch, but once i stopped taking classes my ambition dwindled and i was often blue, or felt idle. It’s true that you can do so many fun things when you aren’t working, but that just made me feel even worse because i wasn’t doing them! I did become an excellent bogglific (now prolific) player on facebook ;-).
    In the end I got a job, and it’s been exhausting, physically and mentally (25 minute bike ride each way and the job is in dutch :P), but also rewarding. I guess I feel more integrated now, at least in the financial aspect of things. Gerrit’s verrrrrrrrry frugal, so that made it extra hard for me to spend money on myself when i wasn’t working (he certainly never encouraged it :P).
    What are the rules in Belgium for long-term expat partners? Would they ever let you get a job? Would you want that? It seems like your photography is gaining momentum, so hopefully that will provide income soon enough, then you can continue doing what you love and are good at, and lose all the feelings of guilt too :).
    Best of luck xx

Comments are closed.

Go top