22 April 2016
I have so much I want to say. Too much. I’ve been trying to write to you for ages. Email drafts. Bits of letters everywhere. I’m sorry I missed your birthday. I saw it coming, I kept writing. It passed. I tore up letters, misplaced others. The email drafts grow longer and longer. I watch time passing. It passes.
But you’re here. You found me again, and you have stories to share. And so do I, I suppose. Except the only way I can start to unpack those stories right now are holding them up against your words. Can I borrow some of yours for a while? To jumpstart my own?
What are your anchors now, I wonder. Has living in another country finally become another piece of your life falling into place, or is it still something you’re trying to figure out?
I’ve been asking myself the exact same thing. I went to go see Brooklyn with my friend G., and sat scribbling in my book the whole time. I’m not Irish. I haven’t moved to Brooklyn. I don’t have the same struggles as an immigrant unused to certain cultures, or being someone unable to go home again. I’m too able to go home again. And yet, I’ve been thinking: doesn’t the idea of being an ex-pat, an immigrant, require you to have a home you’ve departed from? I think I have many homes, and none, simultaneously. And I’m always leaving them.
We walked down the street last week and I said to A: “We fucking live here. Sometimes I forget to be amazed that we live at the bottom of the world, half a globe away from anything we’ve known.” Sometimes it gets too normal. I tell people we haven’t lived here long, but last night someone asked me when we arrived. “A year ago,” I said. He said, “Ah, so it’s not an entirely recent move then.”
I wanted to say: It is. It’s so recent. I don’t know anything about how to live here. There are seeds of familiarity and normality and everydayness, but they crop up where I don’t want them to be. And they don’t take root where I need them. And a year is never long enough to get over missing what we left. I wasn’t here for that entire year. Not really here. Sometimes I still don’t think I am.
I just nodded, “Yes, I guess you’re right.”
I don’t know whether anything is really falling into place right now. And at the same time, a lot of things are coming together. It’s like finding the right puzzle pieces, but not going so far as to connect them to each other.
We’ve been mostly quiet, too, and I am hoping, with all my heart, that your silence means you are having the time of your life, that you are outside and meeting the world.
Most of the time, my silence is a failure of finding the right words to say. I know this should make me more empathetic towards the other people in my life who are showing up like this, in silence. It’s not. Sometimes I think it’s making me less patient. If I’m struggling with this, I damn well want to see other people struggling with it too.
I have no idea how you do this—constantly pack your bags and decide what to take with you and what to leave behind.
How do I do this? Terribly. So ineffectively. We moved 25 boxes to Australia. Half of that stuff, we shouldn’t have paid to bring with us. It would have been cheaper to throw it out of the window, not pay to ship it, and just buy new things down under.
I asked A. what percentage of my books he thinks I’ve read. He answered with a question: “20%?” The truth is: I don’t know, but I want to count them. I want to make graphs with statistics, and I want to hold myself accountable. I want to use the things I have and give away the things I don’t use.
Always, this wanting. Looking around at the things surrounding me, and the wanting to purge. To let it all go. And then I start to sort, I start to hold these things in my hands again, and I’m reminded: I love them.
If I love them, why am I ignoring them? This question poses itself a lot these days. And not just in reference to me.
Off to another adventure it seems. Here’s to our attempts at making our world bigger.
I went back to Scotland in January because my grandfather died. The funeral was down south, in a village church outside of Bath in the town where he lived. But I wanted to get back to Scotland on that trip, and I had to make it by January 5th, which would have been his birthday. He hadn’t been back to Scotland in years, and I know it broke his heart. He talked about it a lot when we spoke on the phone in the last few months. He wrote about it after the Scottish referendum (in which I voted Yes, for him, and for myself):
“What I fear now is that, unless my health improves, I won’t see and feel Scotland again. That thought makes me quite sad.
I just wanted to share that with you.”
I have a lot of emails from him in my inbox. I’ve wanted to read through them since he died. I haven’t been able to. It’s a place I’m having a hard time meeting myself.
When I went back to Scotland, I met up with a lot of friends. I obviously hadn’t seen any of them since we moved to Sydney. It was a complex week: to come to back in the middle of a Scottish winter. To allow the rain and desolate scenery to be a backdrop for my grief. To know my grief was not just for Granddad, but for all the people I’ve spent the better part of a year missing. To come back to all of them, and in my grief, to not be able to hold all of the feelings properly. To withdraw. To try to recenter. To try to make sense of what the fuck is holding my life together, when everything feels like it’s spinning apart.
I’ve had a certain journey with R. since I left. It’s been difficult for both of us, I think, for many distinct reasons. I don’t know why I thought coming back would make it better, but I was disappointed when it seemed to make it worse.
The day before I left Edinburgh, I went back to sing at St. Giles. R. asked me whether it was strange to be back in Scotland. I thought about saying, “No, I’ve missed it so much, it feels like coming back and regrowing my whole skeleton.” Which would have been true. But there are other things that are equally true, so I said: “Yes. It feels strange.”
He said, “I feel like your world is smaller than mine.” At face value, I almost took it like an insult, and I think he knew that. He added, “What I mean is: you know people all over the world, and you are used to travel, and you live in different places, and all of those connections shrink your world so that it’s easier to cross it. To bridge the distance. My world feels so vast. And really far away.”
I have been feeling so many things about this small and vast world. Like a microscope oscillating in and out of focus.
But I really understood what he meant. I think you’re making your world smaller. In a very good way. Strengthening the muscle tissue that bridges the distance.