Why the disquiet? What is wrong? In order to get to the root of the malaise the problem must be analyzed.
I have returned to the United States of America with some of my sons. We have fled west to escape the quagmire of the Greek economy. Now here we are in the new world, and my boys prosper, the ones that were already here as well as the ones I brought with me. In Greece they were becalmed in a sea of torpor. Here they are active, exuberant, hopeful. In Greece their future was a sea of fog behind which was a blank impenetrable wall; here the future, for them, is blue skies and a clear horizon. I am happy for them. I rejoice with them. Their new country has welcomed them with open arms, as long-lost relatives, and they are in the honeymoon stage of the relationship. There will be problems down the road, of course; there always are even in the best of relationships. But for now, everything is okay. They have found jobs; they have income. The younger one has a good school which will start soon, and has begun football practice. The U.S.A. has taken in and accepted the innocents from abroad.
But it has not been so with me. I do not feel the peace that they feel. I do not feel accepted, as they have been accepted. I stand apart, and I wonder why. Try as I might I have not been able to find work. Sometimes I wish I had never left Greece, but the feeling does not last long. After all, I did not leave for me but for them. There was no alternative. Yet they have the simple joy of discovery of a new land, and I have… What? I don’t know what I have.
Thirty-five years ago I left my homeland. I wasn’t happy here, but then again, at the time I wasn’t happy anywhere. I wanted to live life, seek adventure, find myself as a writer. But there was more to it than that. I didn’t like what America had become. I didn’t like the greed, the selfishness, the violence. I didn’t seem to fit in anywhere, so I went abroad to search for a place where I fit in, where I could call home. I didn’t realize at the time I wasn’t searching for an actual physical place. I was searching for an ideal, a philosophy, a state of mind, a condition of inner peace. I roamed from this land to that, and as I roamed life went on: I married; we had one child after another, we settled here and there for various periods of time. Never, however, did I feel that I had found home, at least as far as it refers to a physical place. My family is home, yes, and I still consider it so, though we are scattered around in diverse parts of the globe. But a house or a plot of land where I could kick back and say yes, I have arrived, this is the homestead? No, never. We moved here and there as circumstance and necessity dictated; we acquired housing as opportunities presented themselves.
We ended up in Greece for many years. Somehow I conceived the idea that that might be the end of the road. Why? Simply because I was aging and it seemed that I didn’t have so many more journeys left in me. But then I saw the need for another move, for the sake of my sons, and that it would require starting from scratch yet again. Not only that, it would entail going back to the homeland I had left so many years before, and coming to grips with it.
Now here I am. We have just begun in the new land, but my boys thrive and with that I am pleased. However, I myself do not thrive and about that I am puzzled. It is as if the land that I rejected many years ago continues to reject me. What overtures must I offer that I might once again be accepted, as I was accepted when I was born here, and as my sons have been accepted having come here for the first time?
I want to clarify something. I speak anthropomorphically, as if the United States were a person and had the capacity to accept or reject. It has no separate existence, of course, except that which its people have given it. It is the same with any country. A country exists as a conglomeration of souls, that is, the bodies, minds, and spirits of those who live there. Humans have put up artificial constructions to codify and limit and define the boundaries of which souls belong where, such as politics, economics, religions, genealogies, and so on. But these are, as I said, imposed limitations. Nevertheless, they exist, and they have, over millennia, become so strongly fixed in the minds of those who dwell on this Earth that they have taken on spirits of their own. For example: the United States. Every man, woman and child who lives here or considers himself or herself attached to the country is a part of the spirit of America. Despite the fact that these constructs are artificial they are powerful, as they have been lodged in the collective psyche for so long. In addition, they have acquired the nature of a belief. People believe that their countries exist, and therefore they do. And they then build an elaborate physical network to support the belief.
I digress, perhaps, but I want to make my point. I myself am creating psychic illusions so you can grasp what I have been experiencing. My boys have entered into whatever psychic entity comprises the United States, but I myself feel confronted with some sort of obstacle, membrane, hindrance, doorkeeper, whatever you want to call it or imagine it as, which will not let me in. Now before you think I have gone round the bend and become delusional, let me emphasize that the concept of a newcomer being an outsider in alien territory is time-honored in the creative arts. And I have lived more of my life outside of the United States than in. I feel myself as a stranger in a strange land, a land I thought I might never return to live in, and somehow I must reconcile the fact that I have returned, and that I find it inhospitable and difficult to get a foothold in.
What overtures must I make? That is the question I ask myself. Or… How must I adjust to harmonize with the rhythm or pulse of this land? Or… What must I do to survive in this seemingly hostile environment? In a previous post I mentioned writers I know of who adjusted much more easily than I have. Why? Because they didn’t have to start from scratch. They were well-established; they had incomes; they simply transplanted a fully-functioning social entity (a family) from one location to another. My transfer has been more elemental. I am groping in the dark, so to speak, taking one step at a time.
America has changed, and I have changed. We are like two people who knew one another long ago and have brought that past knowledge to the reunion. What I need to understand is that it is not a reunion, not for me at least. It is a totally new experience. It is as if I am coming to this land for the first time. I must learn to cope as any immigrant must. I cannot claim privilege of birth; I have been gone too long. It is a unique situation for which I myself have no precedent. That’s why I flounder; that’s why I feel like I’m drowning. I have to learn to swim all over again. Not only that, but land is a long way away, as far as I can see at least; there is no end to the struggle in sight so I must pace myself in order to survive. I long for terra firma under my feet once again; I long for the chance to establish routines. Until then, I face the battle afresh every day, not knowing what unexpected obstacles may arise like monsters, or at least windmills that look like monsters, in my path.