Friday, August 26, 2011

Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny day in Helsinki.. As I was walking through my favorite neighborhood in the city; along the shore; sitting on the rocks, watching the sea, it really dawned on me what a special place this is. Why then, have I been so out of sorts all week? I have been struggling through my days, with enormous anxiety.... And I totally knew I would, even before I came here.

I believe that the answer to my question has dawned on me now, with a little help from a new friend, who crystallized it to me earlier today: I've been associating Finland with many of the negative experiences of my past. It is no coincidence that I've lived abroad for the last 15 years. One of the reasons is that I've been trying to run away.

In my twenties, I used to come here, get all shit-faced and then leave after a couple of weeks. Finland was a place for FUN!, i.e. hanging out in bars and not much else... Most of my experiences here were covered in a haze: either drunken, or hungover. In that way, I didn't really have to face the fact that I had a complicated relationship with my home country.... Now, the sober me has been dreading coming here like the plague. My demons were all here, waiting as soon as I landed at the airport, attacking me with full force.

It is a healing thought to me, that none of my problems have anything to do with the city itself, or the country. The truth is, it has less to do with the people here too... Instead, it has everything to do with me. The demons are within me, not in my surroundings. It just so happens that I have issues, heightened here, that I haven't learned to deal with yet. I believe that in being more understanding, and kinder to myself, lies the key. It will set me free.
It is a beautiful city, and a beautiful country.

Friday, August 19, 2011

As I write this, I am 'sitting back, relaxing and enjoying' my flight from New York to Helsinki.... The cab driver who dropped me off at the airport, asked me if my trip is for business or for pleasure, to which I quickly replied that it is for both. Later, I thought to myself: wow--that's a bit of an over-simplification, isn't it..? I hardly think of concerts as business, and "pleasure" does not come close to describing the rest of my planned trip, which I'm expecting to be as emotionally challenging as I'm hoping it will be fulfilling...

Last summer I wrote in my blog about building a renewed personal relationship with New York; connecting to the city through its nature; through museums, streets, parks... Now, I find myself also wanting to connect to Finland and Helsinki, the country and the city where I'm from, in a new way.

I have lived abroad for over 15 years now, (almost half my life(!)) yet in some ways, to me it feels like I haven't been away at all. In many aspects, I feel so utterly Finnish! Though I'm sure that once again, in a few hours, I will be confronted also by those aspects in which I no longer fit in at all.... Even though it pains me, I can't change the fact that in Finland I am often treated like an outsider these days.. What is in my power though, is to control my own perspective and my own relationship with the country and my heritage.

I can easily name a thousand extraordinary people, things, places and foods right now, which one is only able to only experience in my home country. Some of them can only truly be appreciated by a Finn, (due to language barrier, cultural barrier, taste barrier, etc.) That said, I AM a Finn, and I CAN truly appreciate those things! On this trip, among other things, I am reclaiming my emotional and spiritual citizenship, and can't nobody do anything about it! Perkele!

Friday, August 12, 2011

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another. -Anatole France, novelist, essayist, Nobel laureate (1844-1924)

I received the above quote this morning in an email from the New York Times, and it struck me how fitting it felt to where I'm at in my life right now. For a long time, my life was extremely unhealthy, and ultimately unsustainable. Yet I had learned to navigate that universe; I had learned to find whatever relief, happiness and passion was to be found in it. The new universe I inhabit is simpler, more bare bones, more honest, more raw.... But it is also excruciatingly, gratingly painful at times. The realities of this world are plain to me now. The truths of our existence get under my skin in a real way. I am no longer running to a bottle of any sort for solace; I'm facing the shit head on. And it's fucking hard, man.

Echoing the quote--leaving behind even unhealthy behavior has its melancholy. I find myself wondering sometimes, that perhaps it was easier in the past,
not being so aware of my emotions... It was certainly easier to socialize indiscriminately; to get into relationships, to do various things that are expected
of us in this society... Now, I find myself resisting and resenting, kicking and screaming at every turn. Even though I'm more at peace with myself, I am by no means peaceful.

I'm saying goodbye to a lot of dark times, but there were bright and shiny moments scattered throughout. Perhaps that is indeed the hardest thing to come to terms with; that with almost everything in life, there is a distinct 'both are true.'
The light and the dark coexist, always, in varying degrees. Though I desperately want to, I can't label things and people, and put them in a box, because reality is more complicated than that. The only thing I know for sure is that I can't go back. And however much I reflect on it, in the end, my present looks a whole lot better anyway.

Friday, August 5, 2011

I am in absorption mode right now, and find my head a bit scattered.
Therefore, instead of rambling about something I have not entirely grasped,
I will again share with you a passage from Diane Dreher's book, The Tao of Inner Peace, which I have been immersing myself in.

There's an old story of a man who approached the Buddha, asking the secret of happiness.
"Did you eat breakfast?" asked the Buddha.
"Yes, master," answered the young man, wondering if the answer was so simple.
"Did you wash your bowl?" the Buddha continued.
"Yes, master," the young man answered again.
"Did you do a good job?" the Buddha asked.
Then the man realized the answer was in the present moment. Happiness comes from attending to whatever we're doing, knowing that in our smallest action we affirm our beliefs.

Finding value in the everyday requires self-discipline. Moving in harmony, sitting
up straight, listening intently, speaking honestly and being present in all we do, takes consistent concentration...
Man, I'm so not there yet. But it's something I aspire to, and will work toward, one day at a time... I mean, what's the alternative?