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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I went on a hike this weekend, that's what I'm trying to say

I have this thing.

This perpetual thing that is hardened to me from over-use that I sometimes call "homesickness". If it is a sickness at all, it is most certainly improperly diagnosed.

Truthfully, homesickness was what I felt my first semester of college, when I had to say goodbye to the home I had finally found after having put a stop to my parents bouncing me around in a ping pong match. Homesickness was what I felt when I spent a few weeks too many in the Amazon jungle, bathing in a fucking river and trying to determine where the tribal folk took shits and had sex. Homesickness was what I felt as a study abroad student, completely out of my element and way, way, way before the assimilation of culture.

True homesickness only happens when you know for sure, beyond any doubt, that you don't belong.

Herein lies my problem. When I go home, my suspicions that I might belong here are supported. And shadows of doubt hover over my fantasies of belonging there, only there.

No, this...this is not homesickness.

Call it perpetual maladjustment (cultural or otherwise) or incessant emptiness or constant unease. Or something.

"I'm homesick". This just makes me not have to deal.

It will be eight months of not being near my organic place. Eight months in what feels like a plant pot that's way too small for me. Eight months away from my original soil, away from my familiar precipitation and that sunlight that I've been perfectly acquainted with all my life touching me just so, just the same way as always, photosynthesizing me from within just as intended, allowing me to flourish as I was meant to, as I was taught to subconsciously, through gestures and symbols, language and allegory, and place, oh, especially place.

This misnomer is an unscratchable itch-inducing bitch that doesn't hide, and whenever I hit a wall, as I am wont to do, it's often the delinquent responsible for my misfortune or discontent. Problems don't exist for me here that are separate from this one problem, see, I don't let them.

How ridiculous. How irresponsible of me to attribute everything to this misnomer. Doesn't hate exist anymore? Or pure loneliness? Or pure disappointment? Or pure wrong-doing, independent from this worn out crutch?

This thing I've mislabelled is difficult to alleviate, mostly because I am constantly concentrating on the banana skins that exacerbate it, like being hogtied by red tape. I stop on my path and pick up the stones I've tripped over despite having seen them.* Then I study them under microscope and determine their mineraloids, whether they are sedimentary or metamorphic, noting their texture and chemical composition, when all I really had to do was kick them the fuck out of my way to begin with and keep moving.

Until last weekend.

When we went for a hike.

When I left my misnomer somewhere and I left the stones I had tripped over in my fucking geology lab of doom and we sat on a rock near a waterfall and had our lunch.

Suddenly, my roots were nourished in soil that felt damn near original. The sun shone on him and me bright as ever, but it was actually raining at the same moment; one of those impossible moments in nature, one of those impossible moments that happen all the time in Arizona. And then the rain cleared away and the sky held the horizon sharply in focus from the dryness in the atmosphere so much like home. I looked out at the leaves, grateful that they moved in just the same way as I knew they would, that the water flowed just as it was supposed to, that gravity held me down on the rock like it always had before, and that the birds sang those same songs I remember from the warm spring days from long ago and far away.

And I felt my inner photosynthesis happening in it's old way, it's familiar way. For a few hours, I flourished and I knew I belonged to that place at that moment, without tripping stones or dangerous banana peels, or crutches to blame.

*this comes from something Denise sent me that says "La experiencia me sirve para reconocer la piedra con la que volver a tropezar" - Experience is good for recognizing the stone that you will continue to trip on. I think I translated that right. Thanks Denise, if you had a blog, I'd link to it.

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Denise May 27, 2009 at 1:37 PM  

So glad it worked for you too. And you've paid me back "con creces", because the Spain/Arizona conflict you describe makes me realise I need to change my attitude about my Madrid/village conflict, like yesterday.

Gwen May 27, 2009 at 2:42 PM  

A hike can cure a lot of mental ills, I think. Not that I'm saying you're mentally ill. No, that would be me. But you had that "not quite homesickness" and then you went on a hike and now you feel better. I need to walk more. I love when it rains when the sun is out.

I'm glad you feel content with the place you are. Whereever you go, that place is lucky to have you there, taking up space and breathing and thinking and writing your beautiful thoughts.

Rassles May 27, 2009 at 2:50 PM  

Have you painted your fucking walls yet?

Oh and that stone-kicking business? Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. How do you do that? I know you said it was from this "Denise" character, but wherever it came from: it resonates.

I know that I'm not going to feel home anywhere until I have a dog. Some people want families and adventure and I want a fucking dog. I'm working on it. Until then, everything is transitory and incomplete. But the painted walls help.

Mongoliangirl May 27, 2009 at 6:52 PM  

Oh Blues, you're just so lovely. Thanks for this. Today I was driving home and felt my heart break at the sight of a horse that is always alone and standing in the corner of its paddock. I wouldn't know what to do with myself if I didn't have that exact feeling every time I saw that horse. I know what you mean. I know just needing some things to remain the same.

formerly fun May 27, 2009 at 8:06 PM  

I moved from Wisconsin to California 10+ years ago all by myself, well, with two cats in tow. I was definitely homesick and it deepened as the novelty of the new city wore off. Making non-weird in a bad way friends, was difficult. I wanted friends like I had in highschool/college and that is so much harder when you're older. Then some time went by and even home didn't feel right anymore. I had changed so much, was a very different person but I wasn't native to CA so I didn't fit perfectly there either. Having a husband and a home helped, and then kids made this place their home and mine by extension--it's still odd.

This really hit the mark by the way. I love the analogies.

Gypsy May 28, 2009 at 9:13 AM  

Man, was this gorgeous. You've overwhelmed me with this one.

Blues May 28, 2009 at 10:04 AM  

@Denise - I really liked it and wanted to include the image of it but it didn't come through all that clear.

@Gwen - Don't I wish I had gone on a hike and now I feel better. I just meant that I felt better in that one moment and was able to feel right again. I guess maybe I need to spend more time outdoors where culture, language, and relationships with others really have no bearing on anything around me; it's just like hugging nature a bit and remembering it in its exact form as how it was for me back home. I've always been an outdoorsy type and sadly that's one of the things I've given up living over here, and I'm now realizing how good it would be for me to continue with it.

@ Rassles - my walls look so shitty. No I haven't painted, but it's pending, pending. I'm glad you liked the rock thing. I'll forward you the image Denise sent me, I think you'll like it cause there is a dog in the picture (even though it's in Spanish). P.S. a little dog came with us on our hiking trip and he was so wonderful and it has been so long since I've been around a dog. He always ran up ahead of us to make sure the path was clear and then once we caught up ran around behind to make sure everything was cool. He was amazing and made me want a dog so bad, but, I live in a tiny apartment and don't think that would be right. Plus my cat would never go for that, and my cat is pretty much the king of my house.

@Mongolian girl - okay, now you have to turn that comment into a blog post. Please? please?

@FF - another reason why I feel like homesickness is unacceptable is because with my hubby I am home, and if I'm homesick how can that be? My home should be wherever he is. Whereever we are together. But sometimes I can't shake the feeling of not feeling quite right and I don't know if it's this place or if I would feel this way even at home, but it's just so easy to blame it on the place.

@Gypsy - I'm glad you liked it. Thank you.

A Free Man May 28, 2009 at 10:22 PM  

I get that homesickness that's not homesickness a lot as well. And it passes in the same way it did for you, just random little events that make me feel grounded in the place I am at the time.

jen May 29, 2009 at 10:56 AM  

"perpetual maladjustment", ah i know thee well. or as i call it, square peg, round hole syndrome.

no one ever tells you that leaving changes you so fundamentally yet imperceptibly, that you never truly "fit" again. no one tells you you have to (and do) get used to always being a little bit homeless everywhere, a little bit homesick everywhere.

gorgeous writing - i'm in awe.

Ellie May 29, 2009 at 10:58 PM  

I love your fucking geology lab of doom.

My family moved a lot. It's weird that I've lived longer in my current flat in a 'foreign' city longer than I've ever lived anywhere. It's weird that I've got a British passport now, but not the accent. :)

Blues May 30, 2009 at 5:31 AM  

@Afreeman - I´m finally realizing I just need to find those moments to help me feel better instead of constantly sulking about missing home. It really is that simple.

@jen - thanks and I´m glad you stopped by. Like I said, always happy to find another expat that understands all this.

@Ellie - I know, it´s so strange because the same is becoming true for me here, that soon I will have lived longer in this city than anywhere "back home"

maggie, dammit May 30, 2009 at 9:46 AM  

Holy shit, friend. THIS is why you'd better not ever quit blogging again.

Anonymous May 30, 2009 at 10:38 AM  

So now you're home. Really, really home.

Natalie May 30, 2009 at 11:11 AM  

Dang, I wish I could write about hiking like that. You put into words what I've been feeling for several months. I live in Arizona (but come from a much different place) and it took me nearly twelve years to finally let go of where I felt I belonged and where I am now.

This was beautiful.

C.J. Koster May 30, 2009 at 5:24 PM  

Thanks for stopping by my little piece of the Inters-webs. Come back anytime. :D ~ Traveling Circus's C to the J

Blues May 31, 2009 at 5:56 AM  

@maggie - thank you, that means a lot to me you know.

@hereinfranklin - now i just need to not let myself get in a rut of not being in the outdoors for months and months.

@Natalie - thanks for stopping by. Cute picture.

@CJ - A fellow TEFL teacher - can't wait to read more.

Not Afraid to Use It June 3, 2009 at 10:07 PM  

When I was an expat I knew I had to choose between feeling like nowhere was my home, or that I was at home in many places. Sadly, too much of my time was spent feeling rootless and out of sync. That I was never at home wherever I was. I feel ya, hon. I really do. Those moments of belonging are so important to cherish. The sustain you through those darker, restless days.

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