Look, I left the house today. I didn’t want to do it (not true) but I did it (true). It was looking like a whole three-day weekend spent hiding inside (except for nature) and despite expecting myself to do something social (like making at least two seconds of eye contact with another human being) I was enjoying days and days of writing and watching Netflix and cooking weird recipes and having unsatisfying conversations with the cat. I really was. Does that make me an introvert? I am finally at the age where I can say YES IT DOES proudly (sort of) and not worry about what anyone thinks of me (not true) and feel confident that my friends won’t wander off (definitely so very not true).

But I left the house today and it was really good. I recommend it. I especially recommend it if you, like me, have been on an introversion binge and yet miss seeing your friends in the Real Life and not just in the Instagram World because even if they are photogenic (disgustingly so) they are so much better in 3D. The LOLs are more realistic, too.

There is even tea in the Real Life. And random craft fairs and charcuterie and clothing stores that are surprisingly interesting for clothing stores. And friends.

And friends.

And tea.

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Writing from: the safety of home. Listening to: “Living” by Sebastian Plano.

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Processed with VSCOcam with q5 preset

Tonight our farewell to some friends at our local pub ended with FunkyPlaid and I giving away most of our (UK-wired) lamps. Watching them file out the door, toting lamps and shades and bulbs, gave us a serious case of the giggles.

If you have to say goodbye to people you adore, which in this world appears to be unavoidable, I highly recommend giving them lamps. Lamps are the best sort of consolation prize. Lamps say, “Here, I know I won’t be around as much anymore, but I care about your eyesight.”

(Also, having the giggles makes the goodbye a little more manageable.)

I should have seen the signs present even in this photo: the giant red shade lurking above our heads, the stern line of black pendants above the bar, the fairy-lights peeking out the window. Lamps: they’re everywhere once you start looking for them.

Writing from: a mostly-dark bedroom in Edinburgh. Listening to: FunkyPlaid playing “The Silent Age”.

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Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

At dinner with dear friends tonight the subject of friendship came up, and I was startled to realise that I have no definition for it. Maybe I never did. I know a lot less about life than I thought I did when I started keeping this journal. That fascinates me: I’ve lived for eighteen years longer than the me who started doing this, and I have barely figured anything out.

At least I have much nicer pens. (Right, and I have terrific friends. I meant to mention the friends first. Obviously.)

What is your definition of friendship?

Writing from: a soon-to-be dishevelled lounge in Edinburgh. Listening to: “Coastal Love” by HONNE.

2016-01-12

When I eat, I am present. Thoughts do not intrude in this space, reverent as they are in the church of Savour. Tonight’s service was Highland venison loin, shredded beef cheek, smoked celeriac, and parsnips.

I wonder if someday I’ll have the resolve to try a vegetarian diet. Then I have dishes like this one and put it off for another day.

There are particular foods (sushi) I miss from the States, and I look forward to having some of them (burritos) soon. But I’ve had some stellar meals in Scotland, and this one at 63 Tay Street was high up there. If you are near or passing through Perth, go there. They’ll take care of you. What a joy it is to be handed a menu and told, “Whatever you choose, we’ll adjust it to be gluten-free for you.” The vegetarian in our party did not lack for mouth-watering options, either.

The dining companions, not pictured, are also highly recommended, but probably wouldn’t appreciate me offering their conversational services. Your meal at 63 Tay Street will be BYOFOIE (Bring Your Own Friends Or Intriguing Enemies).

We won’t call this a goodbye meal, either. Thinking is for later, maybe for the plane ride, or even later. Just look at the food. Focus on the food. It was delicious.

Writing from: a cold and mostly-dark lounge in Edinburgh. Listening to: “Awake” by Tycho from Spotify.

2016-01-10

Choosing today’s photo was more difficult than usual but I settled on one of an ancient yew tree that John Knox purportedly preached under because … well … that. Knox is not pictured, but I did leave in a human and a wee dachshund for scale.

This is the magical Ormiston Yew Tree. It is difficult to find, so I am glad that I had a local guide in the aforementioned human, my friend Juliana. Accompanied by her two darling dachshunds, Juliana and I have gone on a number of East Lothian adventures over the past few years, always followed by delicious home-cooked meals. While tromping through the sopping undergrowth today, my heart ached to think that this outing would be our last one for a while. Saying goodbye to dear friends is part of this whole moving-away process, but I still haven’t gotten used to it.

State of the expat: not-quite-new.

The second phase of adjustment to expat life has been harder. Little things, differences I once found charming, irritate me or depress me. Turns of phrase I’ve picked up sound fake wrapped in my accent. Running, once a joy, has become a chore. My creative life is clogged, hunched around a few untidy drafts that shake off revisions like a damp dog.

This is all exacerbated by the end of winter, which is going out not with a bang or a whimper but a fifty-foot billboard, a white-tie gala, an open-heart surgery, a not-to-be missed affair attended by its starkest clouds holding something more final than snow.

I am tired of you, not-quite-new life, and I am tired of me too. So it is time for a gratitude exercise, and some hasty snaps from the Royal Botanic Garden.

  1. I am feeling positive about the job-searching front, especially because I have such excellent friends sending me job announcements and offering advice.
  2. Speaking of friends, my garden-viewing companion today was another expat. She is turning out to be quite a kindred spirit, and not only because we have the expat thing in common. Though I won’t lie: it is really nice not to be the newest newbie sometimes.
  3. For my first 10K race next month, I am fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support, and we’re already a third of the way there. Well done, generous readers!

Friendly friends of friendliness.

As we entered the chippy, Angie was leaning a little on the counter, in intense conversation with the owner. I was startled to see her, and pleased, because here was someone I had met in Edinburgh who wasn’t part of my volunteer work or introduced to me by FunkyPlaid! Someone I met on my very own. She was a captive audience in a grocery store, but I’ll take it.

I greeted her and we had a nice conversation — of which I got about 70%, “nae” and “tae” being the least of my difficulties — and then as we parted, she hugged me, and she hugged and kissed FunkyPlaid.

We left, and I was exhilarated.

._.-.

On a whim, I logged into a mush I hadn’t visited in a while, and met someone new. That is uncommon, since the same people have been in the same places for at least a decade, if not two. What is even more uncommon is our intersection of experiences and interests. And she lives … about a hundred miles away from where I grew up.

._.-.

Living five to eight hours ahead of my closest friends and family is inconvenient when it comes to connecting in real-time. Right about the time most people are free for a video chat is when I’m headed to bed, or at least hesitant to chat online out of respect for our neighbors.

(As I wrote that yesterday evening, Hawk appeared online and we had a nice, albeit brief, chat.)

Thinking about this, I remembered how useful I found webcams when I just wanted to peek in on how a friend was doing. We have Twitter for sharing little snippets and snaps, but oftentimes while I’m at the computer I am immersed in something I don’t want to narrate. And there are times when it is enough to glance over instead of engaging someone in a conversation. So I decided to turn on the nestcam, and will have it on when I think of it.

A throwback to 1999 that maybe makes the world a little smaller.

grateful for friendship

Simply put: I would not be the person I am without the support and love of my friends. I have been blessed my entire life with excellent friendships.  The only thing I struggle with, friendship-wise, is the occasional feeling of being left out or excluded. This feeling is entirely a fabrication of my fear, as I have no evidence to support it.

Aside from my parents, my longest contiguous friendships are with Adam (22 years) and Lara (16 years).  They each live thousands of miles away, but I know we can pick up right where we leave off, whenever that happens to be.  I also know that we know each other very well, and accept each other for exactly what we are.  I can’t ask for more from a friend.

A difficult lesson I am learning is how to cultivate friendships with a limited amount of free time. I will have to work even harder when I am in graduate school and have even less free time.  Lately I have spent more time fiddling with social software than I have actually being social.  Is that a function of the area or the times, or is it just me coddling my own introversion?

(This entry is part of one month of gratitude.)

far away

It occurred to me, again, that my closest friends, with the exception of Chad, are all far, far away from me. Most are over a thousand miles away; one is even five thousand miles. Five thousand miles. It’s possible I will never meet him face to face, although I don’t like to think that way.

What amazes me is that it doesn’t amaze me anymore: I need a computer to keep in daily contact with the people who matter most.

._.-.

That must be lonely, the Dr. Doctor inside my head says. Do you feel lonely? No, I reply. I don’t really have any idea about my physical presence anymore anyway.

Sometimes I look at the insides of my arms. Running one palm gently up and down the sallow skin, I inspect my veins, which are quite visible, almost greenish. There’s blood in there, I think to myself, lots of it, and it’s keeping me alive. My skin is keeping me alive. This machine is keeping me alive and I don’t know the first thing about it.

But I shower every day; I put on makeup; I blow-dry my hair; I choose my clothes hurriedly but cautiously, still matching the solid, subdued hues of everything I own; I take my meds and I take my vitamins. I do care for this machine somewhat.

Then again, I forget to eat until my stomach growls so loudly it echoes through the library. I forget to go to the bathroom until my abdomen aches when I shift in my chair. I forget to be sexy, to want touch, to need hugs and to love the pieces of people you really only see when they are right in front of you.

._.-.

I’m not lonely, I say. I’m not lonely because I’m existing in-between right now. I would be lonely if I didn’t have this computer, this tin can and this string that reaches over oceans.

._.-.

Chad held my hand the other day, walking from the car into the store, and I didn’t ever want to let go, once I remembered how good it felt. How good it feels to be physically connected to another person, even through tangled fingers, even through a squeeze of the arm or a brush of the cheek.

._.-.

The sky was the blue of comic-book mirrors today, not dingy but not full-tilt blue, and everything’s budding and springing and greening and raining down here in the hot, wet city. I saw the sun, made sure to take my breaks early so I could smoke and pace in it. But it’s the sun, it’s far away too, and no matter how much I think about it, its spiky rays in children’s paintings, its spots, its gases, its centering of our own small universe, I can’t seem to feel it on me.

._.-.

Kite will arrive soon and I’ll want to hug her, hug her and crush her and say, don’t go back to Wisconsin, stay here with me, you can sleep on the old mattress and when it gets warm, we’ll drag it out to the patio and you can teach me the stars. We’ll go to boardgamers every week and I won’t feel so alien, so unfamiliar in a familiar setting. Lazy afternoons we’ll go to the botanical gardens and write, each in our separate notebooks, not saying anything for hours, until we get hungry or until the sun sets over the delicate irises in the Japanese peace garden, whichever comes last.

But she’ll go. It will be god-awful early that Monday morning and I’ll drive her to the airport and she’ll go. I won’t resent her for it, either. Driving back in the mouse-grey dawn, I’ll go over everything I said and did, and worry about if she had a good time or not, and clutch the steering wheel and the gearshift the whole way because I hate that bloody expressway and I hate letting go. Holding on to anything at all.

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