One of the most surprising things about living in a foreign country is how lonely it is.
I know, everyone says this. But I don’t think they said it to me. They told me how beautiful it is. It’s an adventure of a lifetime. They just want to go back, back to ancient cathedrals, castles of stone, café con leche. Wine.
And all that’s true, I’ve found. They weren’t lying.
But they don’t tell you that often you wonder what you did to get stuck in solitary.
That’s not really an appropriate thought when reporting on one’s travels abroad. You’ll have to excuse me.
Let me try again.
I love Spain. I love it deeply. I’ve finally found a home here, and each day I carve my niche deeper. I’ve begun hanging letters and postcards, photos and paintings from friends on the wall of my room. I found a fellow bibliophile/all-around-eccentric-nerd. She’s a kindred spirit and slowly we are forming a very genuine friendship. And I finally have a family here who laughs.
And I’m so angry at my country right now. I couldn’t wait to escape it to Spain. And I’m really glad I did.
But I miss my home every day, in a way I never did before. I often wonder about those who did this before the age of technology. I know I sound melodramatic, but I’m not sure I’d survive without the ability to message my mom and my best friends back in the US every day at all hours. I miss then intensely.
One of them just messaged me, “Yeahhh like you should teleport over so we can drink booze and watch movies and talk.”
That about sums it up.
In the past I used to tell friends far away, “I’ll see you in the Eucharist.” It’s odd to be the farthest away I’ve ever been, both from my friends and my faith. I no longer tell them that. I think I still believe it’s true, but I don’t receive the Eucharist these days.
Last Sunday I went to Mass with my Host Family and I wrote my way through it:
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
I avoid Him because I can’t receive Him. I can’t receive Him because I avoid Him.
One of the things that I find most lonely here is that everyone is always so happy. And that makes me sound emo and ridiculous, I know. Here, I’ll laugh with you. Maybe that will fix it. I’m ridiculous, I know.
But it’s true. Spaniards don’t seem to struggle with depression. If they do, it’s not apparent. They don’t mention it. People are generally social, welcoming, friendly, and sanguine here. And that’s lovely. It’s one of my favorite things about this new home of mine.
But as we enter this somber season, I notice that the Catholics surrounding me haven’t mentioned Advent. That’s so foreign to my youth that it’s refreshing. Maybe they have a more joyful God in this country.
So I’m shocked to find I crave some note of penitence. Someone joining me in grieving joy this autumn, as the year dies and we prepare our souls for Christ.
Spare me, oh Lord. Send me a friend who knows grief. One who can sorrow with me.
Image credit: www.flickr.com/photos/dskley/15729426467