Moving on

by Suw on July 15, 2005

Almost every American I have met since last Thursday has asked me about the London bombings, or drawn parallels between 7/7 and 9/11 (they never care that we think of dates as 7 July and 11 September, they just assume that we do it the way they do it).
I've kept in touch with the news in the UK via BBCi in a way I never have done before whilst abroad.
I don't know how to react to all this.
I don't know what reactions I should have. I can't let it go, can't just put it out of my mind. I haven't reached that media saturation point that people at home probably have reached. I haven't had the opportunity to mourn through silence the way everyone else has. I haven't laid flowers, although I shall when I get back to London despite the fact that I have never felt the need to before and I've lived through plenty of terrorist atrocities committed in my country. Hell, I've even heard the bombs go off.
And I still don't know how to react. I'm still thrashing about in the emotional dark, wondering what the fuck I feel. I feel homesick when I never did before. I feel disconnected. I feel like I want to crawl into a small corner and not talk to a soul for a goodly long time. What can I say about it that doesn't sound trite and pointless?
UPDATE: Thank you all, for such lovely supportive comments. This morning I do feel like I've regained some equilibrium – I read Tom's post about the two minute silence last night, and it made me cry, which was rather therapeutic as tears often are.
I do very much appreciate all the kindness and insight shown. You lot are just the best.

Anonymous July 15, 2005 at 6:48 am

I am sorry Suw. I have a similar paradox with my country. ninety-nine percent of the time I want nothing but get out of here. I don't feel Dutch, people say I don't act Dutch. But when something terrible or wonderful happens to “The Netherlands” – all of a sudden I feel patriotic.
I suppose you're in unfamiliar situations and getting adjusted. Things aren't what they're usually like. I guess you're not carrying home with you on your notebook after all. Home is also in habits and routines.

Anonymous July 15, 2005 at 7:47 am

What you're missing is the thoroughly British, thoroughly non-PC, sick joke. All that concern and empathy is getting to you. Think Shaun of the Dead not Independence Day.

Anonymous July 15, 2005 at 8:49 am

jbond is right.
The problem is, you're out of your depth socially. The people around you are, however much they speak English, from a different country, and have their own ways of dealing with things that you don't really understand, and vice versa, because you've not been brought up the same way as them.
The result of this is that you're being forced into a corner. People don't react the way you expect, and this can be the most jarring thing when you're abroad. They're expressing their concern in the only way they know how, which you find difficult to accept. You, instead of reacting the way they expect, react in a totally different way. This is stressing you out, and so you're longing for an environment where you're not having to consciously override expressing your feelings the way you're used to.
Believe me, I've been here for six years, and i'm still finding ways to accidentally upset germans (apart from the Basil impressions, the choruses of “Springtime for Hitler”, “don't mention the war” etc) and sometimes the homesickness is unbearable – which usually results in an expensive trip to the English shop. ;->

Anonymous July 15, 2005 at 9:48 am

Yeah, perhaps this will help a little:
You'll feel different when you get home and get out of that Californian vibe.
Btw, this is kind of what I was talking about when I saw you last – about the difficulty of dealing with people from subtly different cultures – they don't really understand us, and we don't really understand them, but because we have so much in common, we assume that we're absolutely the same. Sorry, still not explaining it well enough.

Anonymous July 15, 2005 at 11:00 am

Well, I've just come into London from Cardiff, and as far as I can tell, the city is the same as it usually is. People are looking more suspiciously at my big bag, but otherwise people seem to be getting on with it.
On the scale of terrorist disasters, it's *not* a 9/11 or Madrid. Unless you happened to be on a tube or bus line that goes thru Kings Cross – and not as many do as you'd think, it wouldn't affect you at all.
Come back home, go into yer local pub, have a pint with your homies and chill. Or pop into an English pub in California 😉
Americans are great, but they are wont to be oversentimental at the best/worst of times.

Anonymous July 15, 2005 at 4:12 pm

I second (and third, I expect) the comments from Steve and Lloyd. Here's my additional take on it though:
First, there is nothing wrong with you. You are fine. Don't worry about it. Just breathe in, smile, and move forward with life. You are just fine, right now. Don't let yourself tell yourself stories to the contrary.
Second, the point about it being stressful when people in other cultures don't respond quite the way you expect, is valid. They are operating from different paradigms depending on the culture. And the nature of a paradigm is that they can't see beyond their own. But that's okay. Because,
Third, the secret to rising above the problem of cultural paradigm conflict is simply to expand your own paradigm. So that you are aware of both cultures as smaller parts of a larger whole. Then within your own perspective you *expect* the people of one country to respond one way, and the people of another to respond another. Just like you expect when you go to the theatre that comedies will follow a diferent pattern from tragedies, but both are valid and both are theatre.
Fourth. Suw, you are one of the most connected people in the world. Your home is not only where you are, but whom you embrace. And you have friends far flung, yet friends that are close to you and in touch with you wherever you are in the world. Someone who connects with her support group only by chatting across the garden fence and speaking whilst at the market might feel disconnected from her support folk when she travels from the village. But not you. Because wherever you go you are a few clicks from knowing understanding and communication with those you love and respect, the same as if you were connecting with them at home at your kitchen table. It is the same set of keys and the same feedback from others. Regardless whether you read your screen overlooking the Thames or the Bay Bridge.
Fifth. Cheer up. Re-read point no. 1. You are fine. Smile. Connect. Rejoice. Move forward. And your world will move forward supportively right along with you.

Anonymous July 15, 2005 at 4:31 pm

I felt the same when I was stuck in France through all this too, Suw. No telly, no news, just very poor reception of Radio 4 sometimes, so I felt really disconnected from home. It's the first time I really felt like that, and I think it was because we were away from England when something really major was happening. Something where you want to be there for your friends and be amongst people who understands what it all means to one another. It's all very comforting having people expressing sympathy, but it's different when it's a shared grief.
Gotta agree with badlydubbedboy too. London seems just the same as always, apart from a hell of a lot of armed soldiers around the airport. People look a bit more aware than usual on the trains, but life's just going on as normal, which is as it should be. And hey, you'll be home soon, and probably wishing you were back in exciting SF within a week 🙂

Anonymous July 15, 2005 at 4:52 pm

Hrm damn, nobody agrees with me. Looks like you should listen to the elder folk, Suw.

Anonymous July 15, 2005 at 10:51 pm

After 9/11 I was numb for two weeks. I don't know why. I didn't know how I should be feeling so I think I decided not to feel anything. I was disconnected.
I feel disconnected in a different way this time and I think it's because of how I've been following the story. Perhaps because I want to stay away from the horrors, I can't bare to read the newspaper reports or anything in depth online. So my whole grasp of what's happening has been from news headlines either on BBC Breakfast or Radio 4's PM. The bullet points.
Which isn't to say I haven't cried …

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