I don’t know what has brought this on exactly.

I haven’t made any progress towards finding a job. (Bad news.) I do feel somewhat more normal. (Good news.) It’s a huge change to be here, in a lot of ways. It’s a huge change from Country X, and it’s also a huge change from my life before Country X—something I hadn’t really counted on. I am living in the suburbs, and I hadn’t really thought about how that would be different, since I have lived in a much more urban environment for most of the last 20 years. Los Angeles tends to seem like 500 sq. km of sprawl, so I had never thought about how socially and culturally, it would feel different to be in a different pocket of urban sprawl.

I have made some forays back into the places I used to go, places I used to shop and eat, and it does feel different to be there than to be here. It really feels quite different. I actually cannot pin down how they feel different to me, but they do, and I feel more out of place here than I do in the old places.

I went back to the street where I used to live in order to do some of my shopping—basically, I wanted shoes, and they have cheap, comfortable shoes there. It’s quite a lot more gentrified than I remember it, and I didn’t like it. This didn’t register with me until today. I saw all of the new, shiny buildings and noticed them, but what they meant as a pattern didn’t sink in. That part of town I guess is technically Los Angeles, but it’s just south of West Hollywood. If you know nothing about West Hollywood, which maybe two out of three regular readers might not (not having any reason to be concerned with it), it’s a pretty strange mix of Russians, gays and yuppies. There is, of course, an overlap between gays and yuppies. The Russians are mostly elderly. A lot of them are Jewish. This is further south than where I lived. It is West LA, and it’s on a street that goes from hipster to Ethiopian to Eastern European Jewish as you travel north.

It’s a Kmart with a Ross right next door, but it’s in the middle of hipster land. Go figure.

I bought two pairs of shoes, neither one of them especially great, but they’ll do. I also bought a purse, which looks a little like the Bible bag I had as a kid, and I am also pretty sure some woman in her 70s brought something very much like to church.

But some part of me thinks it looks cool.

I have had to do quite a bit of shopping lately because I basically have no clothes. I came back from Country X with two long sleeve shirts, two short sleeve shirts, two pairs of sweats, a pair of hiking boots I never wear, and a pair of very obviously knock-off tennis shoes. And that’s all. I was wearing National Dress all the time and, anyway, Country X-ers change their clothes twice a week usually. Two shirts is really all you need.

Walk around in sweats for two weeks in the suburbs and you start to feel like a serious slob, which is not really what my confidence needs right now. I went to the Goodwill and tried to buy a few things, although it was kind of mainly an exercise in trying to think about who I am and what I like: in Country X, I never liked the clothes other women wear. They wore these horrible rayon shirts with abstract patterns on them that were more ugly than sin. I ended up dressing kind of like a teenager, maybe partly because Charlie was picking the clothes, but also because the “adult” clothes were just so awful.

Also, I got a much-needed haircut. I am considering getting it dyed, because the thing that happened in the last three years is I turned seriously grey. It went to some scattered grey hair everyone claimed to be unable to distinguish from blonde to looking pretty grey. So now I look old. Right when I need a job. So I’ve been very focused on my appearance this week. It’s hard.

I was in Kmart, looking at shoes, and I heard a little voice inside me, “Mommy, I like THOSE.”

So I split into parts again. I used to really fight this, but I see it differently now. The shame of being seen, even by myself, is so great that I have disowned a part of myself, and it’s operating as a “not me.” But at least that voice is still there. What happens next is that voice disappears altogether. There is this balance, with parts, between the impulse to express the self and the impulse to suppress it. Parts come out either when the impulse to express the self is very strong, or the impulse to suppress it is weaker. As the part becomes integrated, it can be expressed as an element of an adult self, but until then it’s mostly expressed either as a part or not at all. At the moment, I think I am integrated enough that some of the time, my parts are functioning as elements of my adult self, but under stress this still happens. Parts developed because it was the only way not to overwhelm myself with shame and still express parts of myself enough to feel some degree of aliveness.

Anyway, I looked at the shoes. I recognized I was under stress, I just split into parts, and I didn’t panic or try to silence the voice. Instead, I thought, “Can an adult wear these?” And they were fine, so I bought them. I welcomed the voice, I listened to it, I didn’t give into it blindly, but I listened, and I think that can be an effective way to handle these moments. It creates safety inside.

But this is all very, very hard. I can’t really describe it, and I can see from my post that I am not describing it. I can’t describe how much I am struggling with seeing myself.