Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Where Have All the Outlets Gone?

I think I've partially solved the mystery of my increased headaches (besides the two health issues):  it's the lack of outlets for my stress and emotions.  While I have always been a person who actually thrives, to an extent, on stress, here I have encountered a situation never previously dealt with:  my primary outlets for stress are completely gone.  Additionally, I have dealt with a considerable amount of emotion here, something I am not generally comfortable with or welcoming to (I generally completely avoid anger, and I have a similar response to sadness and grief).

My biggest outlet was always the presence of a pet, usually a dog.  In fact, I have only spent two years out of my entire life NOT having a dog (not including this almost-a-year in China).  I never realized just how much that meant to me until now.  I wondered recently how I coped with loneliness in Korea, since I was so isolated in Gyeongju.  The answer is Jasper.  That furry darling got me through a lot; I don't know that I would have made it through grad school without him and, later, Eowyn.  But here, I've had to give that up.  I dream at night about Jasper and Eowyn, and I often wake up feeling a sense of emptiness at their absence.  In the past, empty apartments never felt so empty as this one does now.  Some days I almost dread the apartment, knowing that no one furry is waiting with wagging tail to greet me.  During the difficult emotional times, such as now, the apartment almost feels like a prison at some moments.

I also have greatly missed my jewelry-making, though not nearly to the extent that I miss having a dog.  When I was packing for China, I wanted to bring my supplies, but since I had no idea what situation I would be entering, I was afraid to bring too many things that would have to be carted back to America if things didn't work out (clothes can easily be disposed of, but not all belongings are so easy to part with -- a lot of money went into my jewelry supplies!).  On the bright side, I'll at least have these things when my parents come to visit in two months.

My third missing outlet is a bike -- what a difference that made in Korea!  Riding past the tombs, the rice paddies, the temples . . . it was rejuvenating.  I have thought about buying a bike here, but being more in a city than ever before in my life, I am uncertain about the quality of rides that I would have.  Somehow I can't imagine gaining quite as much relaxation from back alley streets as I found pedaling past cornfields in Michigan, the river in Gyeongju, the flowering dogwoods and Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.

I've made studying Chinese an outlet here, and it does honestly help, but I think I really need to find another outlet as well, one that perhaps uses my mind a bit less.  My writing, at present, just adds stress -- the more I read through and edit Sídhe Eyes, the more I grow to hate what I have written.  At present, I am thoroughly convinced that my novel is the most uninspired and nauseating piece of drivel ever written.  I'd love to step away from it, but I can't let down the rest of Lantern Hollow Press.  And honestly, I do want to publish the thing . . . I just kind of want to burn it first.  I keep hoping that it will turn out like my thesis -- I spent the whole time convinced I had written something completely bush-league and pathetic, but when I recently reread it, I was actually a bit impressed (I even, I will admit, briefly again entertained the thought of expanding it into a book -- delusions of grandeur, I know).

I guess I'll just have to keep searching until I find that perfect outlet for life in China.

Any suggestions?

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"