Well, what a summer it has been. I can’t quite believe I’m sitting here on my last night in the States. I’ve been sporadically bursting into tears throughout the day. Every face I have to kiss goodbye to takes a little piece of my heart to keep in Texas.
Jesus, that sounds so slushy. Why am I so slushy over here? I’m much more of a hard ass at home. I can go cold at home, or at least, colder than I seem ever to be here. Why is that? Why am I so much more open to people and experiences here? It can’t be just the insane heat melting the permafrost around me. There has to be more to it than that.
I am wary of romanticising this place, this lovely town and all its lovely, smiley, have-a-nice-day-people who really do care that you go off about your business, take their order seriously and have yourself that nice day. There’s a lot to do. There’s a lot of choice. There is an infinite number of inexpensive (not that I’ve paid for anything) nice, casual restaurants with healthy food choices (it’s not all chicken fried steak and Dairy Queen), workouts, games, days out, pools and good old Southern hospitality welcoming you into homes filled with the belly rumbling scent of cinnamon rolls fresh from the oven and ready to set you up for another day of wholesome craic, involving shooting assault rifles. Just don’t overuse the word “craic’ here or you’ll be suspected of being up to something that one day put a galloping halt to that Visa application for more than a ninety day visitors’ stay.
This State isn’t perfect; this county isn’t, but nowhere is. Texas is not utopia just as Ireland is not hell. Ireland isn’t warm enough to be hell. But for me, what makes this place feel like home is being part of a big family here. Being an only child can suck sometimes.
I’ve learned a lot this summer, not just about US politics, race relations and soy allergies but also about myself – forcing yourself out of your comfort zone can reintroduce you to some of the most basic characteristics, learned behaviourial maladroitness, insecurities and, ccasionally, the strengths of your character.
What have I rediscovered about myself then? I’ve been trying to mull it over to make sense of who or what I am but to be honest, there are many things I’ve said and done and felt in this very different environment to the one in which I normally live which have taken me surprise, irritated me, embarrassed me and given rise to a mental note to change that behaviour. Like what? Little things – finish my sentences; don’t be such a bitch; giving out about people or places or things; don’t always add on a qualifying sentence like “…and I know that I’m in no position to complain…” or “I’m hardly one to talk but…” Like when I first started at Pieta and PietaLady told me not to rely on apologising so much and to quit with the repeats of “I know this is terrible but…”; it’s ok to be the quiet one some days; stop trying to micromanage Scandi -she’s 15, she won’t starve and all her teeth won’t fall out, she won’t suddenly forget how to read; I can live without every non-living thing in my apartment back home; I am not a homebird and that’s ok; there are lots of places I want to travel to; I do remember how to have fun; I can be included in activities and I am still wired to enjoy things despite previous interruptions to my fun receptor network; I am loved.
I imagine that I will be writing at frequently intermittent points of transit tomorrow and on into Friday morning Irish time. I have a sensation that all the happiness, joy (there’s a subtle difference between the two, FYI), hesitation, love, laughter, sweat, blood (I stabbed myself in the foot with a steak knife and got my first non-Pill period today – ugh), baby snuggles, cookies, American Civil War history and and gratitude have distilled together to create a clearer version of myself.
There isn’t going to be much of a tidy conclusion to this post other than to say that sometimes, when you need it most, love finds you in the place you never would have dreamed of ten years ago.