Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Don't Worry, I'm A Stranger Here Myself or Down The Rabbit Hole

Listening to a little Nina Simone and trying to collect my thoughts, which like every day, have wandered like a flock of schizophrenic sheep.  A week or so ago, I was in Korea on vacation. I went thinking that it would be easy to handle - after all, I already live abroad, right? I went without knowing the itinerary, having the correct money, or speaking Korean. Sounds familiar- when did I do that recently? Oh, yeah, when I moved to Japan. It appears that some risks bear repeating.  So I went to Korea, and promptly found myself engulfed in madness, unable to communicate, at times feeling both older and more tired, and younger and more stupid than I had in - well, okay- that's how I usually feel. But usually, I have a hidey hole to escape to. This time, I was in Korea, in the middle of a market, surrounded by little old ladies with faces like wrinkled walnuts, unfortunate squids, screaming bargainers, and vendors who knew only two American phrases- "You buy?" and when I didn't want their merchandise, "Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye!"- accompanied with a shooing motion. (to be fair, I did buy a perfectly beautiful kimono- it only cost me about 20 bucks more on the market than it would have in the store. Oh well, it  was a good experience anyway.  But,) I really missed Japan. Then I got back to Japan and realized...I really miss America. Then I realized that it wasn't any place in particular I missed so much as a state of mind. Of knowing that I can communicate and be understood. And that hadn't happened in America, which was why I came to Japan....where didn't happen....again.  At some point, I realized that I was like a rat in a maze chasing it's own tail.  What I want most in the world is to  understand and be understood- by myself and others. What I'm most afraid of is that I do understand myself... and there really isn't all that much  to me, after all.   I get tired of acting old and wise, and I'm definitely tired of feeling young and stupid- but have come to the inevitable conclusion, that for most people, that is the definition of the human condition.  It's so odd the connections our minds make, how disparate thoughts come together and create our beliefs, and our personalities, and yet, how little do we understand how those neurons work. What sparks the sparks that carry the impulses and thoughts that make us, us? In the crowded spaces of my mind, I wander, picking up memories like knick knacks on the shelf of an antique store. And only occasionally do I find a mirror that shows me darkly who I am, or depending on how warped the glass is, who I could have been, still could be, could never have been, but wished desperately I was. I'm a stranger to myself and that is both frightening and strangely exhilarating. If I don't know who I am- then I can still change. I can still see myself differently. I can be free of even my own preconceived notions. If my thoughts are not in order, I can be free of them, free to think new ones. So, in a way, Korea taught me that it's okay to be a stranger, to not know the "lingo" as it were, to get caught up in the frenzy and give up any hope of understanding and to give in to feeling, to live the experience. So, thanks little old Korean ladies, (but not the one who pulled my hair).   Maybe, today, and every day,  I'll be a stranger to myself.... but instead of feeling frustrated with my unorganized thoughts, I'll spend my time getting to know myself anew all over again

            Happiness is not being pained in body or troubled in mind.
                                                                  Thomas Jefferson 


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