Thursday, September 22, 2016

Pills and Rage and Perspective

Sometimes, as some of you know, the pills I take with my lunch screw with me a little bit. They are so, so good at helping me not want to die every second, and preventing me from convulsing all over the place, and smoothing me enough to function...but they are very sensitive to changes in my physiological landscape. Especially impulse stresses, but also periodic hormonal influxes. 

So, I am a giant stereotypical cliché every month whenever my body realizes that it isn't pregnant yet. Even so, I'm convinced that it'll take me at least a full calendar year to realize and quantify the patterns that emerge from this interface between my meds and my hormones, especially since I can't ever stay put, but it seems to me that around this time I at least feel something too much. Sometimes it's sadness, in the sense that I pick some random colloquially sad thing and grieve over it for an entire day, regardless of its impact on my actual present day life. Or my life at all. 

This time, though, it's rage. And rage that I know has a very real foundation even if it may be enhanced by my neurochemistry. Bubbling, boiling, face-reddening rage and frustration with the fact that I can't put things into a perspective that fits anymore. Rage that comes from a source ingrained so deep that I didn't even recognize it as an anomaly until now. Because where I come from, it isn't an anomaly. It's normal.

But it's not normal, here. The only things that come close to mirroring this rage are the things that occur naturally here; specifically, the intense sources of powerful geothermal energy. It's almost like the land is so restless that it balances everything; there is so little social unrest here because the land has taken care of it. Laying in a thermal river, there are hot and cold currents that run down your body, one after another, the perfect grounding body scan. Everything that churns and burns is underground. It doesn't have to be inside of anybody's heart. 

I love living in Iceland. I love it fiercely. I am happy here; I don't think that I've ever been so consistently happy across the board. But, it is weird living here.

It's weird living in a peaceful country. It's weird when the expectation is that you will be just fine walking around town at night, that people generally mind their own business and respect your personal space. It's weird that Icelanders usually don't expect catcalls or street harassment. There is no police violence; in fact, there is very little systematic violence at all. Of course there are episodes of violence in any society and Iceland's history is incredibly violent, but it's just not the case today. It's not this constant thing. And I didn't realize that American violence is absolutely a constant continuum until I moved to a place where it is not.

I should be thankful. I am, so thankful. But I have spent the past month trying to reconcile this newfound peace with a hurricane I apparently have inside; the kind of hurricane that astronomers find on planets much bigger than ours. The kind of hurricane that lasts for decades, centuries. You can't just introduce a restoring force and expect the storm to quiet itself just like that. These storms have to run their courses.

They have to. They have to move, somehow. This energy has to be conserved, but here, there are few people with whom to share this rage; there is no reason to be so angry in the first place. So as my hometown and my home country continue to infuriate me with a constant stream of senseless violence and abuse that has has been so normalized that it all but runs through my American veins, there is nowhere to reasonably bleed it out. Honesty almost feels like an aggressive act here, but I know that it isn't; for example if I share some of my life's experiences or provide a glimpse into some of the stories that grew me and strengthened me, it almost sounds as if I came from a much tougher neighborhood than the suburban farm town from whence I actually came. Comparatively, I mean. Icelanders think we're crazy, and we are.

I didn't realize, until now, how violent America is. 

That lack of realization comes from the fact that we normalize this violence, but of course, it also comes in part from my privilege. I was spending time with friends this weekend and telling stories, funny stories about traveling and getting into shenanigans and narrowly escaping tickets from police officers and I laughed about it, never really having thought about the fact that I could have been narrowly escaping bullets instead. My adviser actually asked me about this; she asked me if it was really very scary being pulled over because "they will shoot you." I hadn't considered this, because they probably won't shoot me. I'm white. I'm a woman. The worst form of police violence available to me is likely to be gender-based, and the majority of the gender-based violence that has touched my life has not come from the police. But then again, I caught myself; I just said "the majority." It still exists. It's real, and even if I haven't witnessed police violence first-hand, there is only one tiny degree of separation between myself the next person who has experienced brutal police violence. And to be fair, there are no degrees of separation between myself and violence itself, but I write it off and I minimize it because I'm from the US and it's normal. Nothing separates me from violence except, so far, living in Iceland. And it's weird.

I was talking with Laura about this because I needed to find a fellow American with whom to rage. She suggested that it would probably take me about six months to calm myself down and get used to the absolute chill that is Iceland, but then I'll come home to be "enraged once more." This is absolutely true, and it's culture shock met with reverse culture shock. So for now, I'm approaching Iceland's chill with skepticism until I find out about some horrifying, deeply-rooted Icelandic social problem akin to those in the US, or until I give up and accept the fact that there are actually safe spaces in the world, peaceful pockets for such a time as this.

Make no mistake, I'm over-the-moon happy here. I'm more productive and more calm and more safe and more active than I've been able to be in a while. And however I end up channeling this rage, I am growing. 

Growth in any direction is growth nonetheless, and there is certainly enough grace for that.