From my journal (edited for clarity):
“Tuesday 17 July, 4:45 PM, La Barantine, Edinburgh.
“I was walking round Haymarket today — out among all the people going about their business, not making eye contact, speaking to one another in accents so unfamiliar to me that it’s not until they draw very near that I realize they’re speaking English after all, everyone so white — and got hit with the feeling I get sometimes of just being so tired of being foreign, and longing to be back someplace where I don’t stand out by my face and every time I open my mouth.
“As I walked along Morrison St I suddenly remembered my LA adult literacy student R—, who told me once during a difficult week that her ex was calling her and asking her to come back to El Salvador. ‘Oh, teacher,’ she said between tears she tried to control, ‘I know we separated for good reasons, but when I think about going home, to someone who loves me, sometimes I think it would be better to go.’ My heart broke for R— all over again when I remembered this conversation; it is exactly my own feeling about going home. It wouldn’t solve anything, and yet during my down moments it seems infinitely preferable to ache among the familiar, rather than having always to adjust to the newness of the place and the people — and later other places and other people.
“I really don’t want to go home yet. Having started this adventure, going home at this early stage would feel so boring. Anyway, it’s not the answer, because I know — I’ve blogged about it before! — that alienation and loneliness are problems that are inside my mind, and as such, will always follow me wherever I go. In some sense this is a comfort: I can go anywhere in the world, and it won’t matter. But it’s a bleak conviction, knowing the feeling is inescapable. There is nowhere I can run, no one I can meet or hug or love, who can ever truly take away the feeling which comes back to me always — because it comes from inside myself. (And the Buddhists might say, why make it go away? Sit with it. Which is I guess what I’m doing.)
“It’s hard to write about such feelings on my blog, because (a) people understandably want me to feel better, and (b) I don’t feel this way all the time — or even most of the time! — so it seems a little emo to discuss it. But as I wrote in another post, ignoring the dark side does us all a disservice. And I think it is especially important, in writing about a lifestyle that most people perceive as the most incredible of fulfilled dreams, to show what it’s like when it’s not sunshine.
“I realized, when wishing one of the passersby on the street would smile at me, that the British reserve bothers me only when I’m alone and feeling that aloneness. What I’m looking for is an acknowledgement that I exist, that I have been here in this eternity and loved and suffered and counted for something, and since I’m an extrovert, a smile and eye contact can do that for me. And this probably explains (at least in part) why I continue blogging while we travel, too, even when I wonder if my creative energies could be better spent elsewhere. When I can count on one hand the number of people in this country who even know I’m alive — it’s such a comfort to remember that elsewhere, people do.
“I also realized, while approaching a guitarist playing in a pedestrian underpass, that music helps against this depressed feeling, as does nature, and animals. It must be that these things are of the moment, whereas my troubles are about the future — a future in which I fear feeling like this again. Human lives are so short, only a moment in an eternity that is not ours to know or experience. When I’m not in the present moment, this makes me sad, because if we only get this short span, and I am spending it doing one of the best possible things, and yet still feeling lonely, then isn’t there nothing good to hope for? But when I am in the moment, such considerations cease to exist. I’m healthy and comfortable and loved (and in the moment that I write this, there is also cake!): the moment is good.
“Thank goodness I have outlets for these feelings. I think everyone must feel this way from time to time, if they’re paying attention; my traveling just makes it a little more pronounced. I’m lucky to have as much support and sympathy and diversion as anyone could ask — and I’m so glad Erik is with me on this trip.”
After I wrote this and ate a piece of carrot cake and drank a pot of white tea, I went back to the flat and asked Erik if he would come out to dinner with me. We walked to the city center and had Japanese food in a restaurant along one of Edinburgh’s cobbled, sloping streets. Then he went back home and I went to life drawing (pics tomorrow), where I met some nice fellow artists (hi Aga!), bopped to a song I haven’t heard in forever but which reminds me of college (and which makes me feel like a bad-ass, a feeling I quite like :D), and I forgot my ego for two hours, drawing.
I thought about taking the bus home but decided instead to walk, and when I heard music coming from the direction of the castle, detoured that way. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds were playing the open stadium and the songs were clearly audible from the streets. People lined the sidewalks, listening, and a few women danced tipsily around the security guards, who laughed but refused to help them take photos. As I passed Castle Rock Hostel a group of young guys was singing along and one of them saw me smiling at them and sang even louder in my direction. I grinned at him and continued home.
It is a privilege to roam the world like we’re doing, and to be temporarily sad and lonely in a beautiful city halfway around the planet. And by then I was already feeling much better, so I could enjoy the music, and the repressed eye-rolls of the young security guards at the end of Johnston Terrace who obviously had no respect for Noel Gallagher, and a nighttime walk in safety, without rain.
I think a lot of people feel that if you’re having a good life, if everything is going well and you’re happy and loved, then you’ll never feel sad. I write posts like this one because I want to say it’s not so. It is as natural to cry as to laugh, though if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll laugh more. I certainly do. If you’re reading this, thank you for being one of the people who helps me feel cared-about and alive even when I’m far from home. I hope I help do the same for you.
Life would be duller without the lows I reckon. We’re all human, no avoiding that. Welcome to the Summer of rain and highly changeable weather here in the British Isles! You are not alone 🙂
Thank you so much, Esther. 🙂 True true — we need the lows!
Lisa, thank you for sharing this. I think you are still settling on your nest, trying to find a comfortable spot in your surroundings. Everywhere you travel will be a little different. (Make sure you go to Turkey. The Turkish people will celebrate your different-ness. They will cross the street just to look at you, smile, make contact. My husband was stationed there while in the AF and was constantly treated to this scrutiny.)…….I know there are days when you just want to fit in, but on those days when you feel “bad-ass” – go for it! Celebrate your uniqueness. Be that cute Asian girl with the funny hat, bopping down High Street with a smile on her face. Consider it a gift to everyone you meet. Certainly, they may think you a bit odd, but at the end of the day, they will remember you, and probably with a smile. And you will feel wonderful being free of the constraints of self-censorship – even if for just a little while. Then go home and have tea and cake!
Thank you for the words of encouragement, Sherry! (And the wise thoughts on celebrating not-fitting-in when I’m feeling up to it!) Yes indeed, I think one of the most interesting parts of this journey is seeing how different each place feels to me (and how different I feel). We do plan to go to Istanbul in October so I am looking forward to lots of tea and sweets there as well. 😉
I’m happy (and surprised) to report that someone actually said hello to us on the street the other day, as Erik and I were walking back to the flat! And her hello sounded Scottish, too, so she wasn’t just another wandering American. Fancy that!!!
You do. ❤ I'm sorry you were down for a while, but so happy to follow along as you do those interesting things.
And that's one cool song. I bought the Soprano's soundtrack on a sale table a long time ago mostly for that cut. The mix is a little different and missing the intro from the one you linked to here, but it's good to hear it today. I used to do aerobics to it. May be able to get back to that soon. (Fourteen pounds down and wondering why I can't tell where they came from, but looking forward to a future spent with happier knees. 🙂 )
Thank you with love, Ré! I used to have this song but I must have deleted it at some point when I got tired of it — so I hadn’t heard it for years. Then when it started playing I just felt like a whole chunk of my past self was back with me and I welcomed that!
Yay for happier knees!
Such wisdom on your part, and I loved reading through as you discover the process, the reality of the sad times, the things that make you feel better. Something we all go through. You have the additional burden of feeling ‘homeless’. I think we all feel that way in one sense or another. I take a zumba class and am surrounded by shapely young women. I walk into a library and am surrounded by gray haired grandmas…what does home mean? Where do we feel like we are part of something and fit in? Is it ‘place’ or ‘person’ or even, like for me, mountains and woods? You’re moving further down the road of discovery because you are thinking this through, testing, and discovering what is important to you. Home for you sounds like it is your art, Eric, family, music. We write about these kinds of feelings not for someone to ‘fix’ but just for someone to listen. We’ll fix things ourselves as we learn. That’s what I think anyway. Could be wrong!
Thank you ever so much for the comforting comment, Lisa! Yes, the homeless feeling is a big part of it, and I do think it’s really good to get familiar with that feeling. Who am I, without the community and the security I enjoy at home? It’s not a question everyone gets to ask themselves in such a voluntary way, so I appreciate the opportunity, even though it hurts sometimes.
I’m especially grateful to you for appreciating that “We write about these kinds of feelings not for someone to ‘fix’ but just for someone to listen. We’ll fix things ourselves as we learn.” That’s exactly how I feel about it, and I’m so glad you (and everyone else who’s commented) understand that! And one more reason: I write these posts so other people won’t feel alone when it happens to them. 🙂
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Great blog Lisa! I know when I come home I want to hug the custom guy at the airport who says, “Hi, Welcome home!” I’m more aware of the cashier at Whole Foods who is asking the woman in front of me when her baby is due. They are are more reserved over there AND it has been raining for months!
You have your curiosity, Eric, your drawing, your smile and it’s ok to be sad (for awhile) And wow you are going out and doing things. That is great!
I’m getting ready to go to Belgium and Southern Fraance where I hope to blog with my grandaughter – should be fun
Hee, very true!! Sometimes when I hear other Americans — if they seem nice — I just want to jump on them and say, “YOU’RE FROM HOME!!!” But of course they could be Canadian… not that, after Toronto, that doesn’t feel like home to me too. 😉
People are more reserved with strangers here but every now and then I get a fun surprise, like when a woman said hello to us yesterday on the sidewalk near our flat, or when our upstairs neighbor was coming home and he spotted us through the window and gave us a huge grin and a wave. He’s something like 78 years old. 🙂
Can’t wait to see your travel posts with your granddaughter. How exciting!! Safe and creative travels!
This is such a traveller’s blog post, Lisa. Edinburgh is indeed beautiful. You have the homesickness and the adventuresomeness (long words !).A poignant mix. Like the song “Hallelujah”… “the minor fall and the major lift”
An excellent post giving a revealling sense of the conflict of the traveller. I hope you like the music. 🙂
It is a poignant mix, and that’s probably good — if I’m feeling something it means I’m living this life, right? 🙂 Thank you for the supportive words. And that’s a great rendition of “Hallelujah” — not as drippy as they sometimes get (though those have their place too). Thanks for sharing!
[…] nostalgia, “That was the best time of our lives.” And that’s partly why I write so openly about my days of self-doubt and loneliness and vertigo, because I want to remind that future self […]
“I think a lot of people feel that if you’re having a good life, if everything is going well and you’re happy and loved, then you’ll never feel sad. I write posts like this one because I want to say it’s not so.”
a good and needed affirmation to hear when i feel that way and then feel guilty for seeming ungrateful for my good life.
🙂 Yeah… we have good lives. Not that they don’t offer some bad moments, but overall, really good lives. 🙂