Coming home; December 9, 1997

I've been cleaning out computer files, getting rid of old articles and worthless ideas in the hope it will spur a return to the regular writing habits I need and miss. A lot is buried in those often confusing and misnamed, misfiled pieces, including this unfinished piece, written on this date more than 10 years ago. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't use the word bower again, but I know what I was struggling to say. What really struck me though, is the clarity and contentment I felt, and since I was primarily writing to myself at this point, I'm forced to believe that's the way it was. How strange to have forgotten.

Me, very relaxed, a few days before leaving Turkey, 1997.
My husband and I recently spent a year in a small Turkish town, and when I left there to return home I felt very content. For the first time in a long time I knew who I was. Superfluousness had been carved away during that year, and meaning had been revealed. Life was really very simple. 

During our year in the village I had, unplanned, reshaped my thoughts, values, reading, conversations, and writing into limbs and branches that enveloped me in a protective bower of warmth and peace. It wanted only a few limited furnishings: a colorful rug, a good lamp, a comfortable chair, soft bed, fresh water, and a few clothes. I loved the simplicity I found in Turkey, and when I left I loved the feeling of knowing who I was and where I stood. My sense of self was firmly in hand.

I hung on to this misconception through France, where I remember saying that all I really want or need is a pair of winter shoes, a pair of summer shoes, and occasional access to an L.L. Bean catalog.

Then we arrived in the U.S.

My feeling of certainty lasted about one week. And then I began to want things. Silly things. Things I couldn’t use and had no need of. I turned on the TV and wanted a bigger one. I picked up a magazine and wanted a subscription. I walked down the street and wanted a new car. I entered a department store and wanted clothes I’d never wear, and exited a bookstore carrying books I’d never read. The advertisers and marketers are so good at what they do that even when we know they’re doing it we succumb.

My love of simplicity remains, but I feel as if a sinister form of mind control is chipping away at my core. I sought my bower in imagination and meditation and avoided advertising when I could, but daily my willpower grows weaker and I fear I’m losing the battle.

I’m sure other people who’ve been away for long periods feel the same way; this feeling can’t be unique. So what are we doing to ourselves? When it’s impossible to be who you know yourself to be, and to live the way you know you want to live, what is possible? Must we all exit the country permanently to escape the coercion? Shall we run for our lives—and our souls—away from marketing wizards and globalization experts and market share concerns and high-tech hijinks? At the moment I can think of no other answer.