Monday, October 13, 2008

Hyperbolic Sentiment

One of the things that I discuss a lot with my friend Perplexus, a fellow expat, is how living abroad seems to intensify feelings because your usual frame of reference vanishes. Suddenly, the diluting familiarity of surroundings is gone and you exist as if in a lonely contextual vacuum where sensitivities become exaggerated.

The black bile of sadness seems more steadfast;

Fear more hysterical;

Loss more penetrating;

Indecision more weighted;

Dissatisfaction more frustrating;

A falling out with a friend more dispiriting;

A fight with a spouse more turbulent;

An argument with a sibling or parent more significant.

You can have a bad day, or a bad couple of weeks, and...fuck...all you can think about is being on a flight back through the looking glass where the strata of context fit together like the most perfectly matching puzzle pieces. You want to be anywhere but in this wonderland where everything feels slightly off and the layers of environment that surround you do not comfort you or anchor you.

But you also recall that you´ve felt here more than you´ve felt anywhere.

More alive.

More humbled.

More ignited.

More open.

The spectrum of human emotion more extensive.

The repertoire of human experience more complete.

The panopticon of your mind less foggy. Maybe.

Or maybe all of this added junk of another universe has just bifurcated your mind into two incomplete parts.

Sometimes I envy people who have never left home.

Ok, maybe a lot.


"The Uncertain Stability of Two Subjects in a Catastrophe" and "The Modern Goddess of Satirical Mutilations" from Flickr by DerrikT


Florida Girl In Sydney said...

All I have to say is...
You complete me.

Florida Girl In Sydney said...

Ok that's wasn't all I had to say.

You sure know how to say everything that I feel much more eloquently than I ever could. Thanks for that.

J and J Acres said...

I felt a little bit this way just being abroad for a week, so I can't imagine being away indefinitely. It felt like Mr. C was SO far away and that our two minute (damn time difference!) conversations were never long enough.

Emily said...

This is so well put. We've all felt it, and it's hard to explain to our foreign halves - who don't see any reason for you to be crying hysterically over nothing - and friends and family at home - who you can sometimes hear biting their tongues to avoid saying "then come home!" I had actually had a very bad Chile week for no apparent reason, and I just posted about how finding my new supermarket to be unexpectedly good made me ecstatic.

Captain Steve said...

I have never really left home. And I envy desperately you folk who have. It would be hard and sometimes devastating, but yet so eye-opening and wonderful that I can't even imagine.

Dirty Pirate Hooker said...

Yeah...I don't know that I could do it.

Xbox4NappyRash said...


Living among these ingrates has taught me more than I could have imagined, honestly.
I've 'grown up' here in Holland.

But I can not wait for the day I get to leave for good.

Bluestreak said...

Floridagirl - thanks, girl.

J and J - oooooooh i'm so bad at the long distance phone thing. Luis and I were long distance for a year and a half. It sucked.

Emily - yeah, it's funny how something like finding peanut butter can make me so hysterically happy here, and silly things can piss me off so much. you said it all.

captain steve - really, i think my life would be a lot easier if i had never got the travel bug in me. but i would have missed out on a lot too, and i never would have met my husband. who knows, maybe I would have converted to mormonism or something.

DHP - it ain't for everyone.

Xbox - hahahah, ingrates. i feel that way sometimes too, but my husband in Spanish so spain's not going anywhere. You on the other hand, your wife being Irish, you can kick Holland to the curb someday and just have it as a great past experience and go back from whence you came.

mongoliangirl said...

I "came off the road" in 2003. Haven't been out of the country since. Thought "it" would go away. It has not. I travel every day in my mind. And yet...and so glad to be planted right where I am. Perhaps the bifurcation is not caused by travel or living outside of the the US, but was present all the time? I could "chicken? egg?" myself about that forEVER.

perplexus said...

Rock on. Blue Streak. At least the booze is cheap here.

Rassles said...

It's funny, because it's not just like that being in a foreign country. It's when you hang out with a group of people who have been together forever, and they have their own jokes and asides and phrasing...and you're overwhelmed with their closeness, and how well they fit together. So you overcompensate, and then you can't stop.

Like that?

Almost American said...

I found it was sometimes really easy easy to blame bad days on being HERE as opposed to THERE. "If only I was back home, I'd be OK." Well, the reality is I had bad days at 'home' too. I think eventually if you spend long enough in a 'foreign' place it can become home enough that you can lose that sense of it being somewhere different. It's just home, and the other place is too, and although they're not the same, that's OK.

And I never envy people who've never left home! How much they've missed out on!!!

Bluestreak said...

Mongoliangirl - you´re right. I was never quite right at home. That´s what brought me here.

Perplexus - It is? Last time I checked a copa was like 5 euros, anywhere where they don´t serve you moonshine. That´s like 8 bucks for a cocktail. Beer is still a bargain though.

Rassles - hmmmm, i never thought about that, but yeah, it would be the same cause any new group has their own little mini-subculture.

Almost American - you seem much better adjusted than I am. Maybe having children makes you solidify your feeling of home wherever your family is.

Almost American said...

I suppose after 23 years in the US, I HAVE to feel pretty well adjusted about being here! (OTOH, should McCain win, I will seriously reconsider moving back to the UK!)

Florida Girl In Sydney said...

Almost American,
Same for us, only opposite.
If McCain wins we'll probably stay in Australia longer :).

neil wykes said...

Um, well here's something I didn't know I did / felt until you pointed it out.
which has upset me much more than it should, which proves your point doesn't it?

Blue said...

I´m with Floridagirl on this. I might not go home either. Go OBAMA.

Neil - hahahaha. Now I´m hysterically laughing a little too hard.

carrie said...

wonderful discussion!

karey m. said...

this was stunning. just perfect. just exactly right.

i loved it.

even printed it out.

Bluestreak said...

aaaah, karey. I knew you´d get it.

Gypsy said...

God, this was so true. When I was living abroad, everything was just more. I often miss that rawness.