This I cannot do. At least, I cannot do this right now. Sometimes my current emotional state prevents me from seeing other emotional states. That sounds silly and illogical, but I think I developed the response in all of my years of depression when the thought of a happier time, a more alive time, made me feel even more depressed. Right now, I'm not so much depressed as overwhelmed and often in desperate need of a drink involving lots of rum. 'Tis the season, after all, right? I'm not exactly feeling the opposite of alive, but I am decidedly not feeling alive nor remembering that sensation very well.
All of this is not addressing the prompt, is it? If this were true free writing that wouldn't matter, but I am trying to cleave to the spirit of the thing. Did I have a moment when I felt truly alive this year? Yes. I felt truly alive in England, and for more than a moment. Something about traveling pulls me out of some of the numbness of everyday life, like extreme pleasure or pain. I can go along every day feeling good, bad, indifferent, but all within a certain range or normalcy. Travel takes me outside of that range. The boundaries of sensations expand and I realize that there is more territory of experience to explore than I could possibly imagine.
In England, I felt as if I were in through the looking glass, or in a dream. Everything was exactly the same as in the U.S., but just different enough to throw me off balance. I felt like I was an outsider, but in the best way. I felt that wonder that you imagine a child has, an awkwardness, but an awkwardness excused by my accent. That is, I excused myself my own awkwardness with the money, with the way things operated, with the language (despite it being English, too) and common expressions. I let the awkwardness become newness and I wanted to see all of this newness around me. I wanted to stay in the newness for longer and find more newness, press the borders further and further.
I had a temporal sensation, too. I'm not sure how to describe it. At the time, I mentioned that I imagine places to be exactly as I've read about them, regardless of the year. (Susan, I think that was 34 Charing Cross in which the bookseller says something similar.) When I do visit places with that expectation, I arrive with an awareness of that other time, the one in the Renaissance, or the 19th century, or the 1960s. Depending on the level of historic preservation, I can feel the ghosts of those other times. I look for them. With me, too, I carry an awareness of my younger self, the one who was too scared or too broke to follow this same path, and I want to return to her and tell her not to worry, not to be scared, to go because she will find that facing her anxiety will be fantastic.
In England, I felt both. I walked through Liverpool, aware of the now, aware that I felt like a historian with something to say, aware of my own mind and its abilities, aware of the 1960s and the Beatles, aware of Frederick Douglass and his visits, aware of the shipbuilding and slave trading. I walked through Stratford, aware of Shakespeare, aware of the years between Shakespeare and now, aware of the literary figures who made pilgrimages to his birthplace, and aware of the romanticization of that time and its reality. I was also aware of myself a year ago, two years ago, five years ago, a decade, two decade, and at various points through my life, like a spiral back over the same date every year, and that this moment was the best of them all and that I wished it had taken place much earlier.
That last part makes me sad; but it also reminds me that, however many more years I have left, I can still find newness, I can still go beyond the border of my own experience, and that the new territory can amaze me. That makes me feel alive.