a wandering woman writes

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

*Expat=Instant Awesome or How Cool Was I, Huh?

It's not that I don't like to blog.

It's not that I couldn't make space in my "new" American life for this text box, if I set my mind to it.

It's that I didn't know what I had to say to you anymore.

What does a no longer wandering woman living in the country of her birth and working, heaven help us, a 40-hour a week job running a small business, have to say?

I used to have a lot to say. To be more precise, I used to have a lot I thought you'd like to hear. Just check that Essential Wandering Woman category in the right column out. (Seriously, please do check it out. It's quite good.)

So you want to be cool, Punky? Endlessly interesting? Instantly awesome?

Move abroad.

Move abroad! Meet strangers! Bridge cultures! Eat fabulous food! Live in a new language! Be surprised, daily, by the beauty of that language and its sense of humor, by its wisdom and its contradictions. By the way it's brush seems to paint the textured mural of life more richly, more poignantly, more wholly, than your own. Dive headfirst into your new love; follow your bliss right into the bosom of amazing people not born where you were, not born speaking the language you were, yet in many ways, just like you. Dive into their exquisite culture and wake one day, to find yourself at home, away from home. Newly at home in a gorgeously well worn culture. A culture old, old, yet every day new to you.

Once, I wandered. I went to Spain. And I wrote.

I wrote! And every day, a few of you and a lot of folks who haven't stopped round here in years, lapped it up. I learned from reading myself, from watching what my fingers strung across this little text box. I made wonderful, real friends, many of them still among my most cherished people. (I do still have plenty to say to them, but online?)

While those friendships sparked and grew, I got, as I say, cool. Everybody loves an expat, especially an expat with a good tale, and I had a whopper. Old boyfriends suddenly appeared out of the pages of this blog, newly smitten, having read me start to finish. Relatives, childhood friends, Spaniards, fellow expats, former expats, future expats, folks dreaming of becoming expats, adventurers and wanderers. All declared me interesting. Inspiring. Courageous. Heck, a coach published my tale in a book about living the life of your dreams.

I, my friends, was cool. I was different.

Don't get me wrong. I am not at all sure that some of those folks weren't attracted to what I was really writing about, and chipping away at, day by day, though I didn't know it: me. As place has become less and less of my life and my journey has turned inward, as my lust for breadth has been replaced by a pull to depth, I have seen how little place had to do with what I was writing about - at its core. Spain taught me things that were far larger than the stories, photos and wanders through which I learned them. But until a few days ago I still saw place - Spain, expatness, travel - at the heart of what made me "blogworthy".

You see, I followed my heart - and my intuition- to Salamanca. And from there I followed that same intrepid pair on countless wanders, and back to this text box, again and again. I couldn't see enough new places, or write enough blog posts.

Then, one day this cool expat took a long walk across my adopted country. As it had almost 5 years earlier when it sent me to Spain, my heart sang. With intuition wailing on back-up. This time they sent me home - sweet home Chicago home. And once again, I am convinced that they were dead on. This was next, and I was ready, for all that I miss Spain, the people I love there and the language that brought me to them.

But back to this blog...

A little more than 3 years after my last post from Spain, this wandering woman doesn't write. And I certainly don't write from Spain. Where I don't write from, in fact, is a 1990s-built brick condo in a northside neighborhood in Chicago.

See any romance in that? Me either, as I figured out when I headed back here to catch you up.

As I had when I first listened to my heart, I got exactly what I asked for on this return trip to the motherland. I decided I wanted to learn to stay, to commit, to throw down roots and to be around - for whatever befell the people I love, most of them here in the States. Since I made that decision, I've been handed more situations that set me a-quake with raw fear than in any part of my leap to Spain. Those relationships and roots and illnesses and deaths and yes, courage - not all that much of it mine, but some, some... filled my days and left me with little room for a blog.

Meanwhile, new visitors - and long term readers - have written to express surprise and often disappointment, at my return to the States. Boggles the mind, they say but, I guess it's your life.

I won't deny I would have liked a path that ended in Spain, that settled in with loved ones there, and learned all that I am learning- en castellano. I thrill reading the stories of other expats and visitors and catching up on the lives of mis españoles queridos. I thought I would be in Spain for the rest of my life.

But for some odd reason, my road leads to a 1990s built condo in Chicago -- and to a joyous if challenging (and tardy) discovery of roots. I love to read of friends' wanders....and yet my own wanderlust has ceased. And a whole new chapter - a second half where the Erins who sat out the first half are determined to play - is rolling out around me.

I don't pretend to understand my life. I'm just determined to live it. I'm determined to listen. And what I've figured out in the last 3 years is that as much as the cliché annoys me, I have my own drummer. For all I know you do, too. I can't speak for your rhythm section but mine....my drummer lives to surprise.

My drummer, you see, is a damn good improviser. My drummer is unconventional. My next dance is right back here in this messy, divided, tear your hair and heart out US of A. My drummer marched me through a corporate career only to rhumba me to Salamanca...fandango me down the Camino and swing me back to Chi town, to a nice 12 bar blues.

And oh, the singing along the way.

En fin. I don't know why you read me before, and I don't know what you want to hear, or read, now. What I do know is what I have to say. I have me, here. I have for you, my friends, an unconventional tale of unexpected rhythms. A wanderer seemingly cured of wanderlust. A powerful lust for depth where once the heroine craved breadth. A wanderer suddenly enchanted by sameness. The same city I loved before I fell for Salamanca. The same oft-tortured country into which I was born. The sameness of a Monday to Friday job, albeit an enjoyable, and autonomous new one. The same gorgeous, textured, multilayered relationships that called my heart back to the States.

The wanderer has settled in, and drilled down. Wanderer has turned root-thrower, student potter, neighbor, mentor, dogsitter, gardener, pianist, citizen, burgeoning ukulele player. Boss.

I spend these days wandering through a new Renaissance city ...of the everyday and the ordinary. Not all of it familiar. Not all of it pleasant.

But all of it ordinary. Oddly recognizable.

I have traded the stuff I once thought blogs were made of- - travel blogs, at least - for the stuff I believe life is made of. I warn you in advance. I am far better at traveling. If I always seemed incredulous when commenters called me courageous for moving to Spain, I was. Leaping to Spain was easy. Wandering and shedding and tossing away everything for a new page has always been safe for me.

Now staying, being right here with my people, as life unfolds in all of its bittersweet beauty, that's another story.

And if you'll come by now and then, I hope to tell it.

Postscript: I'm working on a new title, by the way, with all suggestions welcomed. "A wandering woman stays put" is currently in the lead: a tantalizing tale of tardily thrown roots.

*Title compliments of the indomitable Laura Young, who wisely used it to get me typing....