"gradually I've come to realise that my house is haunted by the ghost of a dead astronaut"

Sunday, 3 January 2010

29. Untitled 3

"It’s not called ‘Nicole Kidman stars in: The Astronaut Dropped’ for nothing, you know! It's about time we started to solve this mystery of the dead astronaut"
I’m American. But sometimes I have to remind myself of that fact. Although others are quick to.

I don’t parade my national identity in any outward way that I know of. Loudness and brashness are not part of how I engage with people. When I speak aloud, it is not as if the world around me is very small but the people in it are all far away. And when I write, I've adopted the British spelling of words, with all the extra letters put back in, the stuff we Americans like to take out or smooth over.

But we’re a cursed people, in so many respects and it’s not something that can be escaped. Curses follow you wherever you go; in our case, all the way to Iraq, the Middle East, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and to the gates of every embassy in every country in the world.

Whether I like it or not, I carry the curse with me, too. I see it in others' eyes. They can smell the curse upon me as soon as they hear my voice. I see it in the tiny recoil of their muscles; the facial pores that visibly slam shut against my nation’s particular toxin; the eyelids that turn down like great clanking shutters; the internal rebellion that rises and topples common sense in an instant. This fog of preconception masks and befuddles us both. I can’t be seen or heard; they can’t see or hear me.

It’s as well then that, in so many ways, we’re an empty people. Nobody sees inside us, so it’s as well that there’s nothing much there other than commercialism, empty statements about freedom, and a hanging on to physical symbols of identity and status.

It cuts the other way also. The bravura of being American will never allow us to really look inside ourselves to see truth. We try to make truth where it cannot be made: in how we shape, adulterate and transform the world around us. We see no soul in this world around us that we trammel and mould, because we have no soul other than the flat image of one that we seek to make real. We pursue perfection that we wish to exist only in what the eye can see.

So there’s another element where I can never be anything other than an American. I’m always in a land that’s alien, one that will never quite be home.

"They can smell the curse upon me as soon as they hear my voice. I see it in the tiny recoil of their muscles; the facial pores that visibly slam shut against my nation’s particular toxin; the eyelids that turn down like great clanking shutters; the internal rebellion that rises and topples common sense in an instant. This fog of preconception masks and befuddles us both"

For me, being in another land emphasises this. Scotland isn’t home either. Never really could be. The only home is inside. So Americans are lost. Cursed to look for salvation where it doesn’t exist. Creating endless damage and hurt because we attempt to build perfection upon a foundation that will never accept it, that can do nothing but reject the lie.

And this is oh so clear to me when I’m in a land that’s blessed – blessed because it knows itself quietly and without gaudy drama or trampling ambition. The people of our land aspire to carry our mountains, our trees, our rivers, to other lands and watch them take root there. This land gives birth to people who are entirely of this land. The best ideal is to simply be, and this country called Scotland simply is. The people here are like the land’s mountains: there’s a strength, but also a confidence that doesn’t need to be proved or demonstrated, yet if you respect the mountains then they will show you respect in return. It’s a sweet bargain, and an identity not based upon dreams of paradise, of promised lands, of heaven on Earth.

Why am I thinking about all of this now? Well, there’s an Australian in the house now, for a start!

"Oh, me! You’re thinking about me! In a wayward kind of sense, for sure! But, yes. You Americans live in a land founded upon unreal expectations. Our nation started out from low expectations, from making the best of a bad lot. So we’re comfortable. We’re free to accept life or to improve life. The choice is ours."

I wish I was you.

"Unlucky you that you’re not! But lucky you to dream such a noble dream!"

I wish. I wish. I wish. How long have I had this wish? Just since I split up with Philip?

"Can you get back to your story now? Tell it from when I first appeared! You haven’t concluded that bit yet. It’s not called ‘Nicole Kidman stars in: The Astronaut Dropped’ for nothing, you know! It's about time we started to solve this mystery of the dead astronaut. You're too damned useless to solve it alone!"

Solve it? There's nothing to solve! It's all just a part of me. Part of what I've been through. Part of what I'm going through. I need to focus on getting well and stop hallucinating! 

"Then get well. By solving it! So says Kidman. Ignore me if you so choose!"

Okay, okay. Enter Nicole Kidman, to help unravel the apparent mystery of the ghost of the dead astronaut. Camera. Lights. Action!


Anonymous said...

I am following your blog now, thanks for following mine too!

The mystery of the astronaut, I'm not familiar with it, but you have my interest now!


Stephanie Fey said...

For God's sake, woman, cover yourself up!

Oh, on second thoughts, just leave it. About time this blog was sexed up a bit!

Happy to have you on board and I look forward to your future posts.

Steph Fey x

Dulce said...

You are really cute!
Thank you so much for coming by... and your double comment... (I am just joking as wellas dreaming- hope you know that)

Sp pleased to find you...a nd follow you!

Stephanie Fey said...

Thank you, my new little friend. Oh, and I rarely ask myself what's real and what's not. Pointless question in my predicament!

Keep in touch.

Steph x

Nevine said...

Oh, Stephanie. So much food for thought, here. I'm new to life in America - just moved here two years ago with my American husband who has lived overseas for 20 years. And I'm Egyptian and a newly naturalized American and lived overseas for 25 years of my life, and now I'm on the go again. Life has taken me all over the globe, and I'm still in search of some kind of identity; I think they call people like me third culture children. But now that I live in the States, I do see much of what you're talking about. And I'm trying to be the optimist. I'm trying... and we'll see where it goes.

BTW, thank you for joining me. I was on somewhat of a break for a while, but I'm plunging back into the blogosphere. And so pleased to have been led back this way.

Anonymous said...

Food for thought. I hope the feeling of the "curse" turns into a "blessing" for you. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Betty Manousos:cutand-dry.blogspot.com said...

I came across you site by accident and I just love your blog.
Just wanted to say Happy New Year and wow as i can see in the comment section we share some friends.
Glad to have met you!
I'm following!

Stephanie Fey said...

You step away from the computer for a while and look what happens!

Thanks to Betty and Medeia for peering in through the windows of Mordan House, and for your kind words.

Nevine, I hope you find something that works for you in your newly adopted country. Sometimes I think that having 'no fixed abode' can mean that you have the greatest opportunity to be yourself, other than being something dictated by any one culture. Having said that, in a new land, it's the preconceptions of others that can then become a different kind of straightjacket, especially when those preconceptions are based on myth and stereotype.

But, as you may have noticed, I would choose myth over cultural reality any day! Culture can only really be changed by the complicity of many. It only takes one person to make a myth.

I look forward to keeping up with your progress.

Steph x

Yet said...

I've been blogging for close to a year and I haven't heard one foreigner make one positive post about Americans ever. However, I've never seen a people so slammed on by different cultures. Even their own people. Not to say that you do so. It's just to say that after traveling abroad and interning with cultures from all over the world, I've decided that I love my country...and the people in it. Like your family, you cannot choose the country you are born in but you can choose to believe in it. And I do.

I hope your new year is wonderful!

Stephanie Fey said...

Dear Yet,

You're very kind to me in that you stepped away from saying that I'm critical of my own country. But I believe I am. In a way that is similar to how we can interrogate and be critical of ourselves as individuals - but, at the same time, still express love for ourselves.

I respect the fact that you love our country, and, it seems to me, that you have come to that realisation through analysis and honesty.

If that is the case then I can't find fault with your position.

We're a mixture of ourselves and our cultures, and we each have to come to terms with both in our own way. Find the balance. Find the point of comfort.

I haven't found peace with either myself or my country. But that's not through want of trying. And I'll continue to try. At the same time, I'll continue to be honest. Hopefully I'll square the circle.

Thank you for stopping by. I'm pleased that you did. Maybe you're showing me the mental and emotional position where I'd like to end up.

Steph Fey x

Claire Marie said...

Thanks for the comment and the follow! Glad you like my blog; yours has caught my eye as well so I'm following you too :)

Claire Marie x

IndigoWrath said...

Hey Steph! Finally, I've returned! There's some brave sentiments here, and I salute them. I share them about my own country; England aspires to be America for reasons I cannot fathom, and I feel the ground crumbling beneath me. Regarding Kidman; that's a lovely dialogue you've started =) Indigo

The romantic query letter and the happy-ever-after said...

I like America and her people they are clever and full of possibility. I don't think they are given enough credit for all they have contributed to the world.
You take care and I'll call again very soon.