a little east of reality

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

an introspective reply

I took a long time today to reply to Rev's email. (I wish he had a blog!) It helped me to articulate a lot of things I've been thinking about in the last couple of days. Here’s most of what I wrote (sorry it’s pretty long):

Thanks again for being a listening ear. I just felt so overwhelmed that day and couldn’t find anything in my life to be happy about. But don’t worry. I don’t feel that kind of terrible low often and it doesn’t last – it’s too intense to last. It’s like a storm that gathers and breaks the heat. By yesterday I was more down than devastated, and today I just feel a bit tired and introspective.

I really appreciate you not trying to just assure me that everything is going to be okay. You know, even if that is 100% true, it doesn’t help when you’re in the middle of it. But in the end it’s surprising how quickly these things can turn around, and I’ve already had some cause to feel positive.

Firstly, the boarder guy contacted me to apologise for not calling and to say he’ll be moving in a week later (this Sunday). So that looks like it might happen after all. Secondly, my supervisor brought up the promotion issue today at a meeting and was hopeful about that going ahead in a few weeks. In spite of the fact that it’s not certain, her timing couldn’t have been better. And I have to say, I think Fate is trying to cut me a break all round, because I accidentally parked my car in a two hour park all day, yet got no parking ticket!!

As for the rest, I don’t know what will happen there (though I do think it’s easier to deal with one aspect of life going wrong, if EVERY aspect isn’t). I can’t beg people to spend time with me or be my friend. I guess I just have to get more creative about meeting people and persevere. It still sucks.

You know, I never felt this sense of alienation in Adelaide or Osaka. I’ve been mulling it all over and realising how different living in Canberra has been and why. In Adelaide I always had a multitude of roles to fulfill. My parents live there, as do many of my close friends. As you’d know, I played quasi-parent to Saffo’s daughter during the years when they were on their own. After teaching for four years I felt like a fixture in seminary and I’d been part of the same church ward for almost 20 years. I’d known a lot of my friends since we were teenagers.

In Japan the dynamic in my group of friends was very much like a family. This is really common when none of you have family in the country – what starts as a simple social network becomes much more tightly knit and important. We were as disparate in personality as any family tends to be, and in another context might not have even realised we could be friends, but in that context you take more chances and so does everyone else. I still met lots of people before I found a few that I really clicked with, but the process moved so fast compared to say, when I started university. There was a certain amount of alienation as a foreigner, but the very fact that we ALL experienced that was enough to lessen any impact it had on me individually.

But at the same time as I was living in Japan and fooling myself that I was maintaining close friendships via email, what was actually happening was that I was absenting myself from everyone’s lives, and they were all discovering (consciously or subconsciously) that they could get along just fine without me. Life, quite literally, went on. And since I came back to Australia, I don’t think that anyone has ever seen me as ‘necessary in their lives’ again. That’s not an invitation to my own little pity party – it’s just an observation. I think we all want to believe that somebody somewhere can’t survive without us, but for the most part it just isn’t so.

I guess the point is that it’s been a long time since I had to meet people and make new friends, and an even longer time since it was such a difficult thing for me to do. In Canberra no-one has any reason to step out of their comfort zone and give me a chance. This is where they live and they already have friends. The onus falls almost wholly on me to create situations where a friendship can develop. Now that I’m less upset I am more prepared to accept that I really just have to suck it up and move ahead anyway.

You asked me not to see myself as insignificant. I don’t think I see my whole life that way, just my life right now. If I dropped off the face of the earth right now, I'm not sure many people would notice the difference. In some respects that’s okay - I don’t need to be indispensable. But what I also don’t need is to be reminded constantly that no-one is under even the mistaken impression that I am. :)

As to ‘the answer’, I don’t know what it is either. I know that for me it includes control. I need to feel like I have some control over my circumstances, and that I can successfully effect change through my own efforts. Helplessness is a terrible feeling. I also know that part of it is feeling a connection with people. You might not realise how often I have tried since I got here to make friends, but I have, and every time it doesn’t work out I feel lonelier and more shut off. The third thing I thought of is that I need to contribute something. I don’t think I’ve done a great job of that since coming here. I suppose it boils down to this thing of wanting to feel needed, but it’s also that I need to focus my attention on something other than me and my woes. These ‘answers’ are a little light on the specifics, but they’re a starting point. Is it really that big an ask to want the meaning of life delivered to my doorstep this afternoon? Which section of the Yellow Pages should I consult? :)

Thanks again for your email. It really helped.