Monday, May 8, 2017

Reflections on Return #1

I’m back – semi-recovered from 10 hours of time zone change and 14 hours of flights – and I’m reflecting. What did this month in London do for me in my Third Third?

First off, it was harder than I’d expected. One friend says, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” and I hovered at my edge for quite a while. Life may begin at the end, but self-awareness comes from the edge.

I learned I’m not a hermit.
Mostly, when you’re a writer or artist, you spend time alone. After a while, you can think you’re not very social, you’re pretty autonomous, you’re a loner. So you think you can spend time in a new city all by yourself and still thrive.


My loner life at home includes a husband who comes home every day, friends in the same time zone and on the same phone system I can call whenever. I may work quietly by myself, but it isn’t endless quiet. During my month in Manhattan, I had a mother every weekend, a daughter and sister visiting, cousins and friends sprinkled all over. I may have traveled solo, but I wasn’t living solo.

London was solo. Tim was unreachable on the Grand Canyon, and my only phone was British. The people sitting next to me in theaters and at lectures were British.

I re-learned I’m an Alaskan American with ethnic roots. Very not-British.
Yes, I cringed at the American who kept whining during a lecture, “I can’t understand what he’s saying.” I didn’t learn that I was a rude American or an insensitive one. I’m just an American who talks to strangers …

… and that is not done. This is an ad to sell newspapers:

The connections I made with strangers – the ones that were warm, engaging, sharing, and acknowledging – were made with Indians, Middle Easterners, other Jews, and a guy married to an American. So mostly, I was rebuffed until I learned to just sit there by myself.

I learned self-confidence is not a permanent human characteristic.
Given social isolation, unfamiliar geographic features, a different currency, and inexplicable cultural habits; and the formerly self-confident become scared little rabbits.

I became a scared little rabbit. Worries swam relentlessly in my head, unrelieved by human interaction. Worries compounded till they were just free-floating anxiety. Free-floating anxiety only stopped when it turned into outright panic. I diagnosed myself as a basket case. I worried for my mental health.
I re-learned that I get up.
Little by little, things improved. I learned my way around, connected with my three friends in London, was welcomed at a Passover seder. Tim became Skype-accessible; my sister visited. Going to a play with her meant I had someone to laugh with.
Every time I walked outside, I’d feel the flush of wellbeing as London’s spring drove out my Alaskan winter seasonal affective disorder. My runs got longer. The flowers got more colorful.

I went back to talking to strangers, but I picked them better. Besides, I had friends to spend time with now, to have real conversations with.

When I got hopelessly lost getting both in and out of the Barbican Centre, I only escaped because I saw some funny lines on a map and discovered the skywalks and ended up at the Guildhall. Weeks later, in a conversation with the director of The City Centre, he said, “Everyone gets lost in the Barbican,” there are design issues. Oh, it’s like surviving Kincaid Park here in Anchorage! I am not a total nincompoop; it’s a confusing place!

I’m still processing all this. (It’s what I do.) Learning that I get back up hasn’t overshadowed the surprise to my psyche that I crashed, but there were also so many wonderful things that intrigued and enriched me. Those are the next post.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post, loved the way you wrote it and explained everything. Going to bookmark your blog to read more interesting blogs in future from you


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