Foreign dialogue

I come to Madrid to get lost. Walking through El Rastro – the Sunday flea market – is a crush of people. It isn’t always possible to stop and peruse the stalls you want to, the movement of people doesn’t always permit it. So I gave myself up to the ebb & flow of it and let myself be carried. An insignificant one in a tide of many. It is liberating to blend in with a crowd in Madrid and I’ve never felt lonely doing so.

The language barrier leads me to feel lonely, but the people, the city and the feel of Madrid don’t. The language thing is really all about my own insecurity and embarassment at not being able to step into someone else’s world with speech. This makes me feel very vulnerable and I have a hard time dealing with that.

The other side, however, is that every communication is a gift, for which I feel immense gratitute. I’ve tried a lot harder to communicate with people this time in Madrid and it has paid off. A potted mixture of Spanish words (badly pronounced), a wryly confessed “no hablo Espanol”, some patient English and well thought gesture have relieved my isolation. Every time I pluck up the courage to wear my ineptitude (rather than clumsily hide it or hide behind it) I get an unrepeatable, precious sharing, a rush of deeply felt gratitude for the moment/kindness/humanity and a ridiculous sense of achievement. It is really difficult for me to be so vulnerable, but it is also really important.

After years of thinking being strong meant holding on to everything so, so tightly, I’m finally learning about the courage needed to let things go.

Note: trying to explain what ‘bugger’, my favourite swear word, meant to a Spanish friend was particularly entertaining … !


Death disrupts the fabric of our stories

I am reminded again, in the most unavoidable way, of the fragility of life. How is it that after a death the world can never possibly be the same, yet life carries on?

The irretrievability of death feels absolute. A person can never be replaced, what someone means to us is totally unrepeatable. Everything is turned upside down when the death of a loved one occurs – the landscape is at once subjectively alien and unfamiliar, but with the entities therein being objectively remarkably similar to the way they’ve always been.

Of course I’m grateful to have known people whose absence leaves such a void in my life. I am blessed to have people to weave my stories around, to anchor them in place as I make sense of the everything around me. I’m glad to have collaborated and to continue to collaborate with some wonderful, wonderful people in narrating a path through the world in all its painfully fragile beauty. Even if that also means feeling the loss of these dear people soul numbingly keenly.

But I do wish my eyes were not heavy and sore from crying.