Thursday, August 14, 2014

Summertime

I had the best intentions of writing profusely this summer, not just here on my navel gazing blog, but mostly for a personal project, an actual goal, something that might be Something. Before I left Vientiane, I got all jacked up on great literature (finally read A Farewell To Arms and felt both reborn as a reader and awkwardly in love with Hemingway's brain) as well as inspirational quotes and essays and advice about writing/the writing process and making "time for the craft" and all sorts of bullshit like that. I was motivated, inspired, and excited to start.

So, of course I went to America and promptly made less than the "time for the craft". Instead, I went home and made a tiny bomb out of sloth and apathy, which I planted inside the craft in order to explode it into a million pieces that scattered ash and "LOL, nice try" all over my summer. And to be totally honest, I suffered from it. My brain was as scattered as that condescending craft ash, I was losing sleep spending hours staring at the ceiling mulling over pretty much every decision I've made in my life thus far, which left my body in a constant state of screw you, and in general I felt overwhelmed with all the junk I had to lug around inside of me since I wasn't dumping it all out on the keyboard almost every day like I had grown accustomed to.

I had plenty to write about; I just didn't make the time, and I paid for it. A big part of it was all the terrible awful that was returning to Dallas, which was the only thing I could muster the energy to write about, because it hurt so bad it forced me to talk about it because I was so angry and sad about my sister. I think a lot of it was sensory overload of what I was experiencing by being back home, and I couldn't even wiggle out a small, external space from which to write about it objectively. Some of it was my confusion and culture shock and frustration with how damned hard it is to do anything in America without transportation, which left me feeling unproductive in general. 

But mostly? I just flat out didn't even know how to talk about what I was feeling, because even I didn't know how to categorize and explain it. I felt like I was in a surreal dream this summer- on the one hand, it was amazing and felt like I had never left. My family and friends welcomed me back with open arms and homes and help and support and love and it was incredible to have lazy days hanging out for no particular reason other than it was a Tuesday and I was there and so were they and the kids were playing all over the place all around us. Impromptu lunch dates, nights out, slow burn afternoons by the pool that turned into up all night conversations- it was an easy and pleasurable transition, in that regard. On the other hand, feeling like I had never left also felt strange- like those two years just didn't happen in the alternate reality of Texas, in the timeline of my life. It felt like I was in a holding cell, a suspended time moment, a little break off to the side, as though Albania and Laos, two countries who held a portion of my life equal to half of my college career, were mere footnotes, offhanded obscure references. But by the same token, Texas this summer didn't feel like my real life, either, even though it was filled with people who have been in my life the longest. I felt disconnected a lot, which was exacerbated by frustration that what I had been up to the past two years felt like something distant and "over there" instead of my actual, day to day, life. I live overseas and travel a lot and have a pretty foot loose and fancy free lifestyle, yes, but that is not the same thing as a vacation- it's my life, the only one I have, and it's how I've been living it for more than 24 months. It sometimes felt like it was just easier to shove all those days and months and experiences and life under the bed like a suitcase of winter clothes- I didn't need those, it's summer time, why bring them out and wear them? Trying to bring up stories of Albania or Laos, in an effort to connect with those around me by commiserating about experiences, often felt clunky and awkward, in some way I couldn't put my finger on. I wanted to punch myself in the face when I heard myself starting a sentence with "In Albania_______" or "In Laos__________", because it felt like I said it a lot, but in retrospect, why did I find it problematic? That's what I've been doing, it's where I've been, it's where I was returning- it is who I am. It's no more strange than someone talking about their kids, or their own jobs, or life plans, or routines. But for some reason, it felt stilted and forced and strange, because Albania and Laos seemed like distant planets from where I was in Texas, even to me, although I had lived there. Shoving it all under the bed and going about my business and fully immersing myself in Texas seemed the best bet, and, in the end, when I did that, I began to enjoy my time there much more and felt more connected. I knew my time in Texas was finite, but in that time, I pretended like it was the only thing that existed. I guess that's a long way of saying "live in the moment".

I failed spectacularly at the complement to my writing goal- reading heaps of books- but I did manage to get it together and read The Fault in Our Stars right before I left Texas. I was reluctant and skeptical due to the hyperbolic love it induces in people, but it was an incredibly cathartic way to end my time there. I spent my last few days in the states reading my way through the jagged familiarity of the kind of grief that comes from days, weeks, months, or even years of nestling your head against a death living in front of you inside a person you love. It motivated me to start writing again and cramming my "Journal" folder full of random Word document scraps of thoughts and sentences and rambles of ideas. There is a quote about maximizing time within externally imposed limits that I found beautiful (and which most people who have read the book are fond of quoting, judging by all the pinterest images about it). Here it is, edited a bit to avoid any spoilers.

“There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There's .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I'm likely to get... but I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn't trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I'm grateful.” 
― John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars


At first, I felt like I had to make my life in Albania and Laos understood within the context of my life back in Texas: to explain, to overlay it, to make them relevant to one another, to expand them all by combining them, but I was losing time on both sides. When I let that go and just fell back into the time I had stateside, without worrying about the time that was running by me as my return to Laos came ever closer, I was able to make a little infinity within the confines of my two months in Texas. I'm much the better for that choice.