Alonesickness and the Aching of a Tender Heart

The following post I wrote in early 2016, in a particular mood resulting from a particular time and experience. It does not reflect my normal state, nor a state which I tend often to find myself in. But part of me writing this blog is striving to be genuine to myself. If this were a normal journal, it would be over because I’ve already written it. But this is a blog and, having written it, I felt like it ought to be shared. Nothing of note happened this week, and enough time has elapsed to avoid parental freak out (I hope). I mean no disparagement to the friends and family I hold very dear. I simply reflect on my personal experience as an individual often alone, rarely (but occasionally acutely) lonely. Anyway, here goes.

Who do you talk to when you’re lonely? The first people that come to mind–close friends, confidants, parents, siblings–are out. If you felt like talking to them, you wouldn’t feel lonely, would you? I’m an introvert, distinctly so, and I don’t often feel lonely. I once saw a little comic explaining introverts and one frame said, “Often alone, rarely lonely.” And that’s very much true for me. But sometimes, usually in the evenings, often when watching a show or reading a book with a particularly poignant friend moment, I’ll feel a low ache in my chest. Perhaps cry a couple tears. Sigh. Lie awake.

It’s unfair to my friends to say that I lack a solid friend relationships. Because my friends are the absolute coolest. They outshine other friends by many units of whatever scale it is that measures the brightness of stars. Sorrynotsorry to everyone else’s friends.

But still. Every once in a while I’ll get a feeling that I can’t shake. That I lack the quintessential ‘best friend.’ Or even the non-quintessential one. There are a variety of things that go on in my life and I’ll think, “Ah, I need to share this with X.” A funny quote (or a depressing one), a conversation, a feeling, complaint, or joy. Other things, though, I’ll think, “Ah, I need to share this with….” and no one fits the bill. It’s not that I need to share everything with someone, necessarily, but that I want to be able to share anything with a particular someone. Maybe that’s a byproduct of my voracious consumption of story-media. In stories, there’s so often the friend character that the main character knows is the one. Their relationship isn’t perfect, but it’s clear. And when they’re upset late at night or excited about good news or just bored and want to chat, there’s no hesitation. It’s obvious who they’re going to call. Maybe it’s my own inadequacy in not knowing who to call. Maybe the people are actually there and I just can’t see them properly.

Then there are other lonelinesses where I know who I want to talk to, but they’re thousands of miles away and electricity is an insufficient parody of real life-to-life contact. Sometimes the distance, the pixels of written words easily deleted, makes communicating hard things better, softer. But other times every mile is like another fracture in an already tender heart. And it’s not homesickness exactly, but an alonesickness that strikes, perhaps, even deeper.

I don’t know. Probably these words won’t make it to my blog. But I’m writing them all the same. Sometimes the only person I can talk to when I’m lonely is myself. And so I’m here, writing. Writing words that can’t take away the hurt, but can soften it. Make it intelligible. Baring darkness can be painful and scary, but it can also be a release. A freedom. And even if I never publish this, having real words–at least, pixels on a screen–is a way of revealing. Sometimes loneliness is crushing, paralyzing. And here, even though I’m still alone, I’ve summoned up another spirit of myself to talk to and for now, that is enough.

Things, More or Less

A thing that I said to a close friend during a conversation about general life ills: “I’m not really complaining, I’m just complaining. If you feel me.” Luckily, she did. And I’d just like to say a quick word about that.

I complain a lot. And I recognize how harmful this can sometimes be. But I don’t think of myself as a negative person. I think it’s because I find pleasant emotions simple to work through. Unpleasant ones are less so. Bemoaning petty things does truly make me feel better most of the time. It is a privilege of not truly suffering. And complaining gives me an outlet for more deeply felt emotions that isn’t really that negative.

So I will strive to complain less. But at the same time, I recognize complaining about little things as a way to process bigger things constructively. Maybe. I don’t know, but there it is.

A recent message from a different friend contained several precious pictures of Captain Kirk, featured on this blog once before. So here’s a little update for you, looking very cute in the early morning light.

So this week. On Sunday, I was happy to briefly host a friend who had an extended layover at Incheon. He was pretty wiped from the preceding week so we pretty much just hung out (which was 100% in line with things I like doing). It was great to catch up with him and just chat with a good friend for a while. I’m not what one might call a fast friend maker, so it was sort of a relief to be with someone who just already knows all sorts of things about you without you having to explain.

On Wednesday, I had a surprise day off and so went in search of flowers and, hurray, found them. I heard tell of a nice place to see cherry blossoms on the other side of town and set off. I wasn’t actually certain where I was going, but I assumed the green blotch on Google Maps was the place, and indeed it was. It was, in fact, a theme park sort of thing next to a ginormous mall (I cannot describe to you how ginormous) circling around a small lake. It was lovely and the weather was nice and it was just all sorts of good. I took a book and read a bit in between walking around and admiring.

It was truly a pleasant day. Not perfect, of course. Plenty of little things to complain about. But the little complaints enabled me to enjoy what there was to be enjoyed. I could take it all in, soak up the little things that made me smile mixed with the little things that made me frown. I didn’t get lost in the maze of deeply troubling things going on in the world about which I can do nothing.

Certainly, I still think about those things. But I don’t obsess like I know I could. These are troubling times, especially here, but I’ve done what I can to be prepared. I follow the news, but I don’t want to rehash the same conversation a million times. I’d rather complain about the breeze being too chill.

I am not sure how coherent this post sounds. I wanted to tell you about my lovely time at the lake but also include everything else. It is what it is, I guess. I’d like to leave you with this lovely tune because I like it and I think the world could use more alleluias and fewer of the other things. More gratitude and fewer complaints. More peace, less war.

Good luck with that.

Gather

So I know I’ve been a little etymology crazy on here of late, but that’s just because I’m that way in real life and it’s finally bleeding through on here. But anyway. Thank. Same origin as think. I quote, “The Old English noun [þanc–thanks] originally and chiefly meant ‘thought, reflection, sentiment; mind, will, purpose;’ also ‘grace, mercy, pardon; pleasure, satisfaction'” (from the OED). Any thinking creature should be thankful. I think therefore I am? I thank therefore I am. Gratitude is living.

The etymology of gather is pretty straightforward, it’s basically always had the same meaning. Interestingly, the very distant root is not only shared with together which has a similar sort of meaning, but also good. Things are good when they are whole and complete and together. This same root also led to an Old English word that we no longer use, gæd (fellowship, companionship) and it’s partner gædeling (companion). 

How’s that for a Thanksgiving post opener? Anyway, things that aren’t etymology.

Closed doors are not things that I typically think of being grateful for, but I am, I guess. Those closed to me rather than by me (I suppose there are some of those too). I do not think it would have been bad if I had gotten the job I applied for in Budapest or if I had stayed in Ireland to look for work or if I had started work at a private school in Santa Fe. But because none of those things happened, I am grateful that I have wound up where I am, doing what I am doing, rather than something awful. Truly, what I’m doing is not what I would call ideal but it is nowhere near awful, not at all. So I’m grateful for the closed doors that led me here.

I’m also grateful for my family. They weren’t all able to make it up to our house this year, but it’s a pleasure to see as many as I can. I’m thankful that I know my family, and know them pretty well. I don’t have many cousins, so it’s not super hard, but I’ll definitely never be one of those people who hears years later of the marriage or death or whatever of a distant cousin I’d never met. And that makes me glad. We’ll always have each other because we’re just sort of inextricably bound up together whether we’d wish it or not (and most of the time I wish it 😉 ).

My friends are also a great source of gratitude. They’re so cool. Friends old and new (though not too new because I’m real slow at making friends). Those who have stayed in touch across many miles and a variety of life changes. Those who have stayed in touch 24/7 because we need each other kind of a lot, not just because we send each other cat pictures and discuss doughnuts. Those who make a commitment to Skype or call or text or whatever because we care enough about our friendship (even when neither of us are quite organized enough to stay on schedule, it’s the thought that counts 100%).

There are many other things I’m grateful for, but I also want to take a second to think about people too far outside my circle for me to be directly grateful for. A friend recently posted on Facebook asking us to look beyond our own blessings and wish joy for someone else. So I’m grateful for those at Standing Rock peacefully hoping (and acting in that hope) for justice; I wish them success, protection, and perseverance. I’m thinking of the people in Syria and Iraq who so desperately need so much; I wish them protection, health, hope, and a peace within and without.

This strange holiday that we Americans and Canadians have has plenty of historical (and contemporary) baggage, I won’t deny  it. And it is problematic in many ways. However, the very fact that we have nationally celebrated holidays literally called thanks-giving is important, I think. We should give thanks. Lots of thanks, because we have lots to be thankful for. I have been blessed in so many ways and I pray that I can be a blessing and, perhaps more importantly, that I seek to bless others very far away and very different from myself.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends and family, hiwscipe and gædelingfar and near.

When the Rest is Dust

Happy first day of autumn! The weather here has been sunny, which is nice, but also sort of disorienting. I’m ready to get back to sweater weather but the meteorological forces of the Puget Sound don’t seem quite inclined to give up summer yet. I don’t want to say I’m tired of the sun (because that’s definitely not the case) but I don’t think I’d complain if we got back to cold and rainy real soon. Anyway, whatever your weather is (I guess it’s spring for some of my readers), I hope you’re enjoying it.

Last Friday saw some actual doings to vary the otherwise generally placid habits I’ve developed since being home. A friend was kind enough to accompany me to a so-called Chocolate Garage Sale and we treated ourselves to some discount chocolate from a fun local company clearing stock for the holiday season. We then went to see another friend in a community theater production of Little Shop of Horrors which was a lovely conclusion to the day.

I also got together with some friends for baking-based fun in the form of muffins (banana-nut) and upsidedown quince tart. Somehow, baking things with me became a thing that some of my friends believe will result in good times. Which, I mean, the times are always good. The baked goods aren’t always… But it’s the fun that matters, right? I’m going with yes. And in the cases this week, the baked goods were both delicious and pretty simple, so we’re in the clear. I had never had quince before, but I wholly approve. They’re sort of halfway between apples and pears and they’re inedible raw. When cooked, they ‘blush’ and turn red, which is kind of fun. You should give them a try.

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Isn’t she precious, enjoying her little pool of sunshine?

In other news, there’s not much other news.

Some among you may recall a post from a few months ago regarding the state of no-news. That post mostly talked about the importance of keeping up with yourself in addition to keeping up with world news. Today, I have a slightly different angle on no-newsiness.

I have decided that I have, in fact, a great deal of news. It’s just baby news. It’s still incubating. It’s all tremendously exciting: I’m moving to a new town, I’m getting a great job, I’m making cool new friends, things are working out pretty well. Or, if not pretty well, they’re at least moving ahead. I know that I have all these thrills (and more) to look forward to, as well as the darker times and the difficulties these developments may well imply. They’re just coming attractions still chugging down the track toward me.

Here’s hoping they arrive sooner rather than later. But who can say? All that I know is that they’re on their way and, one way or another, they’re going to change everything. This is big news, people.

I think I’m finding this a more pleasant way to deal with the great void of nothingness in front of me. Instead of endlessly musing on all the unknowns and the unfortunate and continued silence from potential employers, I’m focusing on the someday. I don’t have all the details, our connection’s a bit staticy, but important somethings are on their way. For now, I think, that needs to be enough. The Do-Things-With-Your-Life wagon is a-comin’ down the street and I know it’s got something for me. Whenever it arrives, at least.

Anyway, there’s that. I’ll leave you with the penultimate playlist of the month. This week has rather a lot of variety, but I think all the selections are worth a listen and several of them I’ve been playing a little obsessively. I hope you at least give it a once-through.

  1. Plain Sight – Kita Alexandra
  2. I Think We’re Alone Now – Tommy James and the Shondells
  3. Out of Mind – Magic Man
  4. Love is Blind – Låpsley
  5. Run to You – Pentatonix
  6. Life Itself – Glass Animals
  7. Two Birds – Regina Spektor
  8. Paper Hearts – Tori Kelly
  9. Penny Lane – The Beatles
  10. Love and Us – Sam Tsui

Slán

Here we are. I leave Ireland tomorrow.

I feel like my time here has been (or rather, should have been) sponsored by Tesco, so here’s a final shoutout to Tesco doughnuts (5 for €1, custard filled is my everything, if you’re lucky you get six) and Tesco Cream Crackers (1 package for 26 cents). They have been, no joke, my life support system. Without Tesco Cream Crackers, I wouldn’t still be around by this point. And I nearly wept while eating my last bag of Tesco doughnuts.

So that’s sort of a light note to start a post about leaving but it’s honest.

In all seriousness, though, my time here has been incredible. In truth, Dublin is not the loveliest city I’ve lived in, but the human element has made it indeed a precious place. I came here to learn, and learn I certainly have, but the most valuable time I spent here was not passed in the classroom or working on papers.

My coursemates are a phenomenal group of people who are passionate about important and interesting issues. Also, they’re just really cool. And I felt really cool that they let me be a part of their cool people club. I’m so appreciative of their friendship, their help, and their time. For waging our collective struggle together, and winning our eventual victories together. And for the fun. “Should time or occasion compel us to part, these days shall forever enliven our heart.”

My church family has also been wonderful. They love Jesus loads, challenge me, care for and about me, and have also welcomed me to this island, this country, and this city. I am particularly thankful for the tremendous family that literally let me live off them for two months. Thank you, City Church, I’m so grateful for having found you. And all my friends there, thanks for letting me live alongside you.

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Very close to seeing this precious one again

In many ways, it seems like a lifetime has passed since last September. Thinking back to the end of classes the first week of April, it seems like ages ago. How was I in Amsterdam a scant six months ago? That was another century, I’m certain of it. Surely it hasn’t been only a year.

It’s strange now, to have nothing in front of me. No school, no job, no plans of any kind beyond just getting home. Turning in my dissertation was not a huge rush and I don’t really feel any different, but (pending the final mark in November and graduation in April) I’m a Master now. Like, a capital M Master. What? Who thought that was a good idea? How did that happen? But here I am. As my sister recently reminded me, the road goes ever on and on.

This year has been… I don’t even know what to say about it. It’s been a year. I’ve had times of fun and excitement and wonder. I’ve also had times of doubt and anxiety and self-loathing. In the final estimation, there is no doubt in my mind that it has been an incredible adventure and one which I’m very glad to have undertaken. What more can be asked?

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My last look down O’Connell Street

I’ll finish with another playlist, one that will hopefully get me through my flights back home. The final song, The Parting Glass, is a traditional folk song which, though I believe Scottish in origin, is also well-loved in Ireland. And while UCD isn’t Trinity, I’m willing to set aside the rivalry and just appreciate the song.

Anyway, thanks to Ireland and everyone here who made it so much more than just worthwhile. I cannot even say.

Slán agus go raibh maith agat.

  1. The 59th Street Bridge Song – Simon and Garfunkel
  2. The John Wayne – Little Green Cars
  3. Bruised – Jack’s Mannequin
  4. Outta Here – Papa Ya feat. Con Bro Chill
  5. Closing Time – Semisonic
  6. Ghost of a Chance – The Blades
  7. Spirit Cold – Tall Heights
  8. Accidentally in Love – Counting Crows
  9. Let’s Go Home – Best Coast
  10. The Parting Glass – UCD Choral Scholars

This Post is Thrilling

Entering the final few days at home, I find that it’s been a lovely balance of enjoying my time here and the urge to go back. People keep asking me about my dissertation and that in and of itself is reason enough to flee the country, I think. But it honestly has been a really good break. It’s been so important to me to keep up with certain people who (without naming names) are easiest to talk with in person rather than any virtual or written communication. One way or another, I think I’ve pretty well made the rounds of friends and family. There are a few I’ve missed just because life is hard, but I feel pretty good overall.

Of course, now I have to start thinking about school again. I do still have that one paper to write, though I have a week back in Ireland before classes start so it should be okay. It’s been particularly pleasant knowing that people are back at work and school already and I’m just hanging out, very much enjoying that. It does mean,  though, that I haven’t really much to write about this week. Like actually. I struggle to recall specific events of the past week, I just sort of have a general impression, mixed with a few details. I caught up with some friends, hung out with some family, watched some Netflix…

I have this unreasoning fear that they’re not going to let me back into Ireland because I don’t have all the necessary documentation or something’s wrong with my card or something. After all the nonsense that went into registering with the GNIB, I think I’m just paranoid that somehow it didn’t work, it’s all a sham, and I’m going to be stranded. Don’t worry, I’m like 97% certain that it should be fine, but there you have it. I’m also perpetually paranoid when I travel that I’ve forgotten something(s). I don’t actually mind the traveling bit at all, even planes and really long layovers generally, it’s the stress of remembering everything that makes me freak out. But there it is. Wherever you go, there you are. It’ll be grand.

Anyway, I really don’t have anything else for you this week. So obviously this post’s title was an outright lie. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, titles are hard and it simply couldn’t be helped. I trust that next week I’ll have at least a bit more to say, maybe I’ll finally get around to museuming in Dublin since the weather should be okay and there’s no school. We’ll see. Here’s to crossing a continent and an ocean. I’ll next be writing here from several time zones over.