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Friday Feelings: Getting Real In Spain

heart bleed virus

I’m gonna get personal here and talk about feelings. (Oh, the dreaded F word!)  It’s Friday night, the day that school has been released for spring break; therefore, I feel relaxed and a little more open than usual.

So, here goes. I’m a Myers-Briggs INFJ, meaning that feelings are very important to me. I use them and rely on them to fuel my intuition and my gut reactions. Some people would dismiss this as silly and trivial, that emotions are fickle and shouldn’t be relied on. To a degree, I agree with that idea – logic should also be used in making decisions. (And if you think I don’t use logic, you haven’t seen my detailed spreadsheets and pro/con lists!) But if I feel strongly about something, for good or for bad, I try to pay attention to it, even though sometimes these feelings go against the opinions or beliefs of others. This quality has served me well most of my life, despite making me seem odd when I don’t just agree with everyone.

Being an introverted thinker/feeler person, I spend a lot of time not only feeling, but THINKING about my feelings. Geez, I’m ridiculous. For example, lately, when I’m in a deep-thought moment, I’ll think about how different my feelings are here in Spain versus the US:

1) A more laid-back lady

Here, things that normally would bother me in the US don’t tend to agitate me as much. Here, I wouldn’t go ballistic over a stranger leaving a half-eaten watermelon on my front step the way I did in San Francisco. (Hi Sara and Ashley, you haven’t forgotten that have you?) I’d laugh it off and say, “oh, Spain!” People’s cigarette smoke doesn’t irritate me. Good thing, or I’d be a giant walking blob of anger all the time. I move a little slower, exercise more patience, and pay attention to people around me. I LIKE this version of myself and hope I can transport this back with me!

2) Less direct and candid

This is one I don’t like as much. I’d chalk it up to living my life in a second language, but I just don’t feel like I can whip out witty remarks the same way in Spanish. Sometimes I feel verbally paralyzed, at the moments I need to be direct at communicating how I feel, I just can’t. Or I say the nice version instead of the truth. I think the truth in my head, translate it, but can’t always get it out.

3) More open, romantically speaking (ish)

That was a breath of fresh air for me. After years of unsuccessful half-attempts at dating, I met someone right away that I was interested in and who was interested in me. Whoa, sweet. I was open and ready, and high off my recent arrival to Spain. It took off rather quickly, propelled by the excitement of a new relationship in a new country. A couple of months in, however, I noticed how silent I was becoming. How little I was speaking up for myself and sharing my feelings, and how many times I wouldn’t even know what my feelings were! I was letting myself be taken over by the relationship, and I was increasingly isolating myself. Having a relationship in 75% Spanish just added to the difficulty. (Hmm, see #2.) Miscommunication, exhaustion, on top of an overwhelming job. On a trip once, I was so exhausted from Spanish and so desperate to share my feelings, but so “constipated” and unable to verbalize them, that I held back tears and hid in the bathroom for a while. Another date night at home, I just cried for hours, unable to say what was wrong. In the end, I realized that I couldn’t continue in a relationship where I felt unable to communicate, it was unhealthy. The relationship unraveled and I was back to square one. All in all, it was a learning experience and I hope to continue being open to romance.

Sweeping it under the rug

Part of my problem is that here in Bilbao, while adopting a “no pasa nada” attitude, I’ve unconsciously put a blanket over my heart. The last few weeks I’ve been attempting to take a hard, honest look at ways I’ve tried to deflect my true feelings this year. Truth be told, I really expected to feel more cheerful and upbeat this year because, hey, SPAIN! So at the times when I’ve felt angry, confused, frustrated, or sad, I mentally slap myself out of it and tell myself, “Stop it! You live in Spain! This is amazing! What have you got to be angry/sad/upset about?!” (Um, you broke up with your partner. You don’t know a lot of people. You’re far away from home. Your teenage students are crazy difficult some days. You don’t really love Bilbao that much. You’re having doubts about your entire life.) After a lot of journaling and speculation, I realize just how okay it is to not be okay all the time, despite being more laid-back. I’ve noticed that Spanish people are able to strike a beautiful balance between laid-back and emotionally passionate/open that I’d love to emulate.

I’ve got some work ahead of me. Like preparing for the inevitable mix of emotions that leaving the Basque Country will stir up. I’m going to miss (most of) my students. I’ll never be able to hear the following song – Anne Etchegoyen – Hegoak – without thinking of my darling 4th years practicing their song for the school trip.

I have anticipation for next year in Cantabria, mixed with the fear that it will be the wrong choice or that my school won’t treat me well. And the excitement that comes with the school year ending and spending the summer in the US.

I’ll leave you with a brilliant conversation I heard on Downton Abbey:

Lady Edith: “I sometimes think we should make more scenes about things that really matter to us.”

Tony Gilliam: “That wouldn’t be very English.”

Lady Edith: “No, but I envy it, all those Latins screaming and shouting and hurling themselves into graves. I bet they feel much better afterwards.”

Lady Mary: “I wonder, I think once you’ve let it out, it must be hard to get it back in.”