Weltschmerz of a migrant

Weltschmerz is one of my favourite words. It literally means “pain from living in the world”. You can find more about it here.

I’m a migrant. When I was 21 I moved from one European country to another. There was no fear or drama driving my decision. I simply wanted to build a life somewhere else and went, and did it.

Looking like a statistical inhabitant of my newly chosen land and already speaking the language, I was lucky (or trained?) enough to only rarely experience xenophobia (it did get worse after Brexit).

At first, my efforts were concentrated on setting up a new life. Once I got settled in, I changed my job for a better one, then that one for another one, and so forth a couple of times. I was comfortable, adopted cats, met new friends.

Although followed the same steps that most of the people my age around me did, I found myself in an interestingly different position. I could not find the feeling of belonging. I was not yet here, but at the same time not there anymore. Both legs in the (not so) new country, and still somehow not truly “in”. Not in the motherland anymore, but still tied to it with invisible strings. Those strings will pull at my emotions every now and then, reminding me that I am a woman that left one place, to live in another, and still will never feel truly at home. Not here, not back there.

Many times I thought of going back. Especially when the strings attached to my heart would keep on pulling. Would it work? Being back, could I just slip into the familiarity of the nation I grew up in? I have my doubts. I am changed. Changed through both, the there and the here. Belonging to neither.

I have two different lives (although politically and societally they are not that different). I feel like I have no roots in my past, and I feel unable to grow new ones here. Rootless. What does that make me?

This is a problem many people in my generation face. Life is good but it’s also lacking. What is missing is not tangible. It’s a feeling of belonging that you can’t fill with things or surface encounters.

It sounds dramatic, I know. But it’s much subtler than drama. Being always in between makes you a bit on the edge, a bit sad, a bit worried, a bit second guessing, but also a lot more open to new experiences, a lot more grateful, and a lot more bold. I’ve slowly become the type of person that wants to understand herself and others more. I’ve allowed myself, and pushed myself to become more vulnerable. I’ve pushed myself to be more open, more caring and more “here” (have you tried mindfulness yet?).

There is nothing that I’ve found can help with the constant feeling of fitting nowhere fully. Maybe the answer is to move into one of the big, multicultural cities? Would living in one of the world’s melting pots, amongst people with similar experiences help reduce the Weltschmerz that keeps on following this migrant?

I’m not sure if there’s even a good answer to those questions.

NB. Published after midnight, after fruitless efforts to fall asleep. The sort of night where your thoughts prohibit you from getting any rest.

Contentment, Meditation, Rinse & Repeat

Being mindful is hard work. It’s not just about the ten minutes you’ve decided to meditate each day. That’s just the beginning. It’s like being a sculptor for your soul. You have to keep on chiseling at it, be methodical, be patient and keep reengaging with the process.

There are plenty of tools and techniques you can try. But as with all of the tools, you gotta keep at it, otherwise it’s like watching open heart surgery on YouTube. If you don’t practice something yourself, you’re not likely to learn.

Society (and advertisers, rooted in the capitalist set up) tells us we need to fit in. We know it’s not sustainable. We see depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues on the rise. Its easier to fit in. Easier to buy another object to pacify ourselves with. We are not taught any better when we grow up. The cogs are running smoothly only if we consume and numb ourselves. Which in time pulls us away from each other and away from ourselves.

The answer is most likely perseverance. Continuing with the uncomfortable. Letting yourself get bored. Spending time alone. Away from pacifiers. Learning how to be alone.

We are wired to be social creatures, yet we can’t fulfil our lives through others. We need to first work on understanding and loving ourselves without relying on our tribe. It’s counterintuitive. To survive we need others. To feel safe we need others. But we shouldn’t give others power over our happiness.

And we have to remind ourselves to pay attention, put in work and appreciate what’s already there.

Those loose thoughts are brought to you by three books I’ve recently read (and which at many angles contradict one another):

How do I manage to keep my sh*t together?!?

I ask myself this question frequently. Every time I do, it’s because although I have a good track record of keeping my sh*t together (as in, I always do), I am always surprised I manage to pull things off.

When facing a task (an event, an issue, even a pleasant one – like going on holiday), my brain triggers anxiety. Whatever this task is, however many times I have done this “thing” before – it does not matter.

You now when people tell you need to “get out of your comfort zone” – well I am constantly out of my comfort zone.

Now, this does not mean that I sit in secluded place, faraway from everyone and everything. Sometimes I think it would be nice, but then I remember that I also like being surrounded by people, and I like learning new things. See my issue here? 🙂

It means that I am putting myself out there all the time. In my mind I’m exposed, but to others I’m not different from someone who is comfortable most of the time.
It means that I can get overwhelmed, and that sometimes my ambivert ass needs some “alone time” to replenish the energy I need to get up, put my shields up and do this thing again the next day.
It means I keep learning about who I am, why I get anxious, and see what self care I need to invest my time in.
It means I need to learn the patterns, triggers and also the people  and situations that help.

That’s why it is important (for me) to invest time in understanding self and others.
This is the reason I got interested in psychology and sociology.
First to understand myself.
Second to see how different and the same we all are.
And following that rabbit hole has been very interesting…

Level-Hearted

I use the http://www.leavelhearted.com as an address for this blog because, just like the level-headed people, I aim to keep my heart level.

What do I mean by that? I mean that I want to keep my feet on the ground, remember my values, appreciate what I’ve got, even then being deeply hurt by things that are happening around me.

I am an empath. You know what that means. I can empathise with other people’s emotions and states. I can understand them at a deep level, rather than just logical, cold, calculated, information and facts only way. Being an empath can be exhausting. Everything you care about takes so much of energy of your soul/heart/brain. You need to learn to prioritise self-care, especially at times when you’re being bombarded with awful things from all directions.

I am a feminist. You know what that means. I believe that women are people. That people of colour are people. That trans people are people… That we should treat this planet as a place where each of us can feel safe and loved. Being a feminist can be exhausting. And as a feminist you need to learn to prioritise self-care too.

Level-Hearted symbolises a state where I feel I have enough internal resources to care and support the causes that are dear to me. It is a state I strive to spend most of my time in. I want to be able to have enough energy, knowledge and ability in me to help others in finding their best way forward. And I want to feel safe and secure myself.

 

The walk… unfinished

So I walked. For five Days. And then I had to stop. Somehow I got a cold/flu that was so bad, that I could not continue and had to cut the planned Camino half way through.

I walked from Porto (well, from Povoa Varzim – the furthest point to the north that Porto’s metro system will take you) to Tui. I did just over 120 km in five days (not counting the “got lost somehow” detours and the evening walks, as that took me to almost 140km!).

What’s the experience of doing Camino like? Well… it’s many things!

Every day I felt I was stripped to the primary parts. This is in the sense of my body. Aching and blistered feet. Heaviness of the 7.5kg backpack on 20km days. Mosquito bites in places that rub, like backpack straps…

Also in the sense of my mind. Every morning I was up to the challenge. Feeling the energy to bounce out of the hostel I was staying in, and just walk. But then towards the noon, I’d get to first of many crises, thinking I will not be able to complete the walk, that it’s too hard, that my body is too weak. And towards the evening, when I was refreshed, clean and fed, without the heavy backpack to bear, I found myself in the most meditative mood. Emotions would come and go. Sometimes I’d cry. Sometimes I’d be so knackered, I’d fall asleep and wake up in the evening. And in the morning it would all start again.

The experience is very raw. The energy you expend during the walk is vast enough to make you stop worrying about the petty things and pressures that are really not worth your emotional labour. You are tired and cannot concentrate, and at the same time you see and feel things clearer.

I only did half of my walk. I am now back home ahead of schedule, still feverish, still coughing. Still disappointed.

I went through the initial stage. My blisters were finally healing. I finally got used to the weight of my backpack on my shoulders. And I had to stop.

I got a few people suggesting to soldier through (which I did for two days (both over 20km walks). But those people were not in my shoes and I learnt that I have to stand up for me and my wellbeing over the expectancies of others.

Talking of lessons:

  • There are arrows everywhere, showing you which way to go. There’s no need to try and outsmart the path. And if you do, you’re highly likely to get get lost, and have to retract your steps. Trust the arrows. They are there to keep you on track and to free your mind from thinking about the route. They are there to help you concentrate on BEING on the route.
  • You find out who and what is important for you. At the end of a long day you won’t be agonising about things that don’t really matter. You will think about people and things that do. You will count your blessings.
  • You will (likely) cry. Cry from exhaustion if you walked a long strip in full sunshine for five hours and finally got to your hostel, which is cool and has a shower and a bed waiting for you. You will cry in the evening, sometimes unsure about what.
  • You’ll meet a lot of nice people. Some of which you will not be able to verbally communicate with. And you will have great, meaningful conversations with them (even if you have a problem understanding each other there is always another soul that will help you both out).
  • You will learn that there is not much you really need to get by. Some food, a shower, a place to stay and recuperate, blister plasters. Suddenly all else becomes luxury.
  • You learn that you can be self sufficient (providing minimum resources of course!) and that you can find solutions to problems by yourself, without waiting for others to “save you”. You don’t want others to save you. You feel empowered to keep on going and rely on yourself
  • You learn your body is strong. You learn to appreciate it for what it is capable of doing for you.

I am a stubborn person, thoughts going through my head now are concentrated mostly on how and when I can finish my Camino, to get to Santiago and accomplish this achievement.

If I return, I think I’d take someone with me. I’ve experienced it solo, next time I’d like to experience it with a friendly soul.

Meditation

200 days ago I started meditating daily. Not to prove anything – I am not even consciously aware of my reason, but given that meditating helps me calm my frazzled mind, I figured I don’t need to bother myself with official reasons.

Something that I’ve never expected happened. I thought, as time goes by, each sitting will be easier. Oh girl, was I mistaken! For me, the longer I go, the harder it gets. The less sustained concentration I am able to muster. Or at least it feels like it.

Regardless of this (hopefully temporary) hurdle, I keep going, as now my day feels incomplete if I don’t sit and meditate for at least ten minutes.

Have you tried meditation? How did you find it? Do you have any tips?

PS. If you haven’t yet tried meditation/mindfulness, there are plenty of apps there that will help you with it (Calm, Headspace, 10% Happier to name a few). I strongly recommend it. Please don’t be discouraged by my current plateau/dip. Even though I feel I’m not making progress at the moment, the benefits are truly great. Try it and let me know how you’re doing!

I’m going for a walk

In a week I will land in Porto and start walking. I have about 230 kilometres to walk, and I’ve given myself two weeks to walk them.

What the hell, you ask? Not a problem, I am here to explain.

For years now, my focus has been fairly fluid, but in general I’ve been concentrating either on putting all my energy into work, or going through fertility treatment. And now, I find myself in a point where (due to unsuccessful treatment and a ceiling at work) I am left with no focal point.

I might write tons of essays on the fertility subject, and just as many explaining struggles trying to pivot ones career, to keep on learning. But maybe I’ll attempt that next time.

So… I decided I need a break.

I find myself going through life on mindless repeat, home-work-(hospital). Every day being the same. Never going anywhere. Yet still growing older. I figured that I need to shake things up. So, I am removing myself from my life for two weeks. Leaving the cats and the husband at home. I hope walking (and walking, and walking… we’re talking at least 20k a day!) will help me re-set. Maybe it will be like a giant mindfulness session?

Santiago de Compostela is where I will be walking to. It’s a well known Christian pilgrimage destination, with excellent framework of hostels on the way. As my body is still recuperating from the treatment (my core muscles have moved away, with little notice – I figured this pilgrimage gives me both, a safety net, and enough push to the outsides of my fluffy comfort zone.

I want this trip to help me re-set and re-establish what I need and want to concentrate on (if anything at all – who’s to say one needs to focus?).

I leave next week. I am scared!