Wednesday, September 29, 2010

grrrr rip snarl

You all know very well that I'm not one to accuse people of being too observant. But really, after I've been communicating in good Spanish with you for 5 months, and conspicuously improving, is it really that surprising when I understand the gist of the conversation? Apparently so.

So in addition to not listening to me when I talk, people also seem to assume I don't understand what they're saying. Being dismissed from both ends is pretty rough, and I think this inner tension I feel--and the occasional snapping at people and raising my voice--is the long-forgotten feeling of being past the end of my considerable patience, off the reservation into Irritation, with forays into Anger. Not being heard is a particular raw nerve for me: there are a handful of people at home that I keep at arm's length because they're so wrapped up in the stories in their heads that I can't get enough of a genuine response (to my actions or speech) to feel like we're dealing with the same reality. It's really draining when people don't respond to who you are.

One of my teacher friends was further pushing me by insisting that I play and sing a song on the guitar at some gathering in 10 days. That's something that is hard for me even with a lot of practice, and (at least the way I received it) she not only refused to respect my unwillingness to do it, but she was making it out to be something that a "real friend" would do. She may just have been doing a standard Chilean thing that a Chilean would receive differently, but as I keep having to explain to people, and it should be pretty obvious at this point, I'm not Chilean. Sensing that I was about to raise my voice and get snarly to get my point across--and knowing that while she was pushing pretty hard, she surely wasn't doing anything mean-spirited--I took a breath, smiled, and said I'd see her later.

I'm home right now, writing about this, and listening to some sweet songs by the Wailin' Jennies, and suddenly I can see and feel how hard and spiky and tense I am right now, compared to how I am at home. It turns out that being open, patient, and gentle is completely unsustainable without a safe space to rest, open up, and be heard by other people.

We need each other. Who knew?

I still have patience for my kids: they need that from me, and I feel like they respond more clearly to the person I am, through the language barrier. But I've been shutting out the adults for the past several weeks, because I don't have any energy to meet them where they are, when I'm the only one trying to cover the distance.

This will pass. Everything does.

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