Finding My Way

Hi May and Dave and anyone else who is reading. I’m so sorry for my constant absences. I appreciate your coming back to check up on me, a lot. I want to write, but nothing seems to come out these days. The truth is I am not doing very well, and I don’t know how to turn this around. Not suicidal or anything like that, just… really, really lost. Alone almost all the time now, and I’m not good at being alone like this. The new job is not what I expected and I often find myself making my way along the road among the rice fields between my home and the university, dragging my feet and wanting to just sit out there watching the trees and birds, completely loathe to set foot on the campus. The town I live in is “desolate”, if that is the right word. I have managed to make a few new friends at the school, but you know how it is with people you don’t know well; you can’t share stuff like this. I’m trying to remain “positive” as people say, but it’s hard to know exactly what that means. If it means keeping a smile on my face for other people so they don’t feel uncomfortable, I’m great at that. If it means finding cheer and meaning in things that you find hard to see any positive points in, then I’m very confused and probably not the best company. All I know is that I want to get my life back in balance, to enjoy things again, to have rich time for myself, and to share time with someone I care about. I want to write regularly here again without always sounding as if it is the end of the world. And to be back in touch with all of you. And be able to look and see photos again. It’s all wobbly right now.

40 Responses

  1. Roy

    Hi Miguel,
    This is my first post and I want to tell you that what you’ve written in your blog has helped me a lot in the past few years while I’m struggling with the way I’m living my life. I’m sure lots of other people will tell you the same thing.

    I hope that I have given you some comfort in these trying times. Take time to right yourself, we’ll be around.

  2. zen

    Sometimes words can help, sometimes they can not. I know of now words that help what you are feeling. I too have felt lost, in a void, hopeless before. There is no quick fix, it si one one those thigns in life we have to find our path through and it is one of the blessings of the Universe that we will. Not today, or tomorrow, maybe, but it will happen. It takes living one moment at a time, not even day by day , but moment by moment. As they say in Buddhist thought, living mindful of each moment. You ill find your meaning, your joy again, when you stop thinking about finding it, it will be there. Somewhat like , trying to find enlghtenment, the harder you seek, the further it goes away.
    Be in the moment, even if it is bad, feel fully it’s badness. As with yin it is not fully yin, there is some yang in there. When the yin has reached fullness, it turns more to yang. Of course it is not fun while your are in the Yin state, but find some peace knowing it will pass.

    Best wishes

  3. Miguel Marcos

    Hi, Miguel. I hope this will be useful for you: It may not be as important to remain ‘positive’ so much as to remain patient, with yourself, with others. Making yourself be ‘positive’ when it’s not a genuine feeling may not necessarily be best. Patience will get you through the lows and accept others however they may be.

    I wish you the best.

    (tocayo cubano)

  4. Kate

    Butuki/Miguel, I don’t know you except through this blog, but I wanted to leave you a message to say that I wish you strength for the dark time you’re going through at the moment.
    As a foreigner living here in Japan, I have certainly felt lonely, and when I first arrived to a countryside which seemed bleak/hostile (after living entirely in cities) I felt very isolated. It seems that I encountered this country in an opposite way from you: the city seemed more welcoming, full of people, and the countryside (where I chanced to find myself living) a lonely place. Of course, this was me trying to cling onto what I brought with me as familiar, but that’s by the by. Why am I telling you this? Well, because, in those early months, I happened to find this blog, and your words drew me in. Firstly, as I’ve commented before, for the quality of the prose. But what I found here – your mind and your spirit as communicated so intensely through your words and photographs – was a sort of poem to the countryside, mountains, living things (even insects!) and the soul that they are imbued with. When I say poem, I mean this, as the highest compliment, in the sense of a communication that can literally open the mind’s eye to a new way of seeing. After reading one of your posts one morning – it was early, about 5am – I actually went out onto the balcony and stood, watching the sunrise over the mountains, and the birds busily alerting the neighbourhood as they hurried about the morning’s business, and the spiders wide-eyed and watchful at their posts in the persimmon trees, and many other things. I hadn’t done this, here, before: I was watching, just for a few moments, with butuki-eyes.
    Now, I can see these things with my own eyes. But for that moment then, at that time, it was needed, your words were needed. They meant so much to me. During a difficult time, I didn’t have the strength or the will to appreciate the beauty around me without help – your (perhaps unintended) help, it turned out. I wish I could repay this to you somehow! Drinks are on me, if you are ever in Shiga :)
    There is a special kind of loneliness that comes when you close the door of your own home behind you, in the silence and the stillness of a room where you are (feel you are) the only conscious thing. It can envelop to the point of following you again when you leave the house and go into the world, so that all the world feels just as dead as the furniture in your own room. I don’t know what the answer is to this, as Zen said above, the only consolation is that it will pass, and that it is life, and feeling. Also, as Zen said, sometimes words help and sometimes not – I am leaving this message in the hope that it is a possibility they can. To tell you that your words have helped me, and as Roy says, him too and I am sure, many others.
    So don’t worry about trying to make yourself/your writing sound positive if you don’t feel so, or writing at all. You don’t need to prove anything here, the many words you have already written speak eloquently to many.

  5. Dave

    Thanks for the update, Miguel. No words of wisdom here – I barely know how to keep body and soul together myself. But it sounds as if there are some kindred souls out there, even in Japan. Gambatte.

  6. CNT

    As you know, depression has its peaks (when you feel extremely optimistic) and its valleys (when you feel really, really low). Ideally, these feelings will decrease in intensity as the pendulum strives to reach some sort of equilibrium.

    I spent a winter and early spring in Hitachi, up in Ibaraki, and I found it to be pretty bleak. It’s dry, windy and dusty. And cold. But in a month the warm weather will be back for good, the fields will be flooded, and the hills will be filled with shin-ryoku. Hiking season won’t be far behind…

  7. Pascale Soleil

    Thinking of you and wishing you well.

    I am all-too-familiar with the condition you describe. All the ways of improving it are things that are made especially difficult by the condition itself: adequate sleep and exercise, the company of friends, new interests, change of scenery.

    If nothing else, I hope you will pick up a telephone and have a long and loving conversation with someone who knows you well. That, and sometimes medication, have been the things that have helped me most.

  8. beth

    Hi Butuki, I want to second what Miguel said, above: the longer I live, the more important I find the qualities of patience and endurance. When I am lonely, which is more common now that I’ve moved to a foreign-speaking city, I sometimes have days when all I can do is get through, one foot in front of the other, one breath after another. None of us expect you to force yourself to be positive. Write and we’ll read and listen and talk. I need it myself; we all do. I’ll be holding you in my thoughts.

  9. andy


    I’ve thought of you several times these last few weeks, Miguel, wondering how things are going for you. Sharing feelings like these isn’t always easy, and is something I’ve been avoiding myself lately. I don’t know why it should be so, but more and more our modern way of being has an expectation that we “should” be 100% positive the whole time, and attatches guilt to any feelings less than that impossible ideal. Trouble is, that keeps it all locked up inside, yet sharing is the first step to moving through those feelings and beyond to something new. Maybe I should give that a try myself…

    Peace to you, my friend

  10. zen

    You have more people that care on-line than some have in real life…

    Live and enjoy, things could be much WORSE…

    A roof over your head…
    People who care…
    A job…
    Food to eat…
    A MacBook :-)

  11. May

    The link above – I followed it and found an interesting blog. Thanks!

  12. lisa

    my thoughts have been with you.

    Feeling lost is natural when we are forging new paths. I hope you are able to find some time to do the things you love.

    I’m here if you need anything.

  13. christy

    Dear Miguel,

    Just a note to add my warm thoughts to all of the kind comments above, with the hope that all the small and large offerings of caring will help to buoy you at least a bit in this wobbly time.

    I know that you are sorry for your absences, but it looks like there are a lot of people who will wait patiently and be very glad whenever it is that you come out of this narrow place, and who are much more interested in hearing what’s going on for you than in some positive spin.

    and, in the silences too, I’m thinking of you, fondly,

  14. marja-leena

    I’ve been thinking of you during your absence, and I’m happy to find a report here, though a rather sad one. I didn’t respond right away, hoping to find something wise and helpful to say, but words fail me. Just wishing you what the others have said, patience and strength and peace. Joy will return. And we’ll be here.

  15. suzanne


    you have eyes for seeing beauty
    and a way with words
    and alone does not necessitate

    may you find
    comfort in the loving acceptance
    and cherishment
    I have repeatedly seen proffered
    to you here

    let it be the fire
    that warms you
    in cold times

  16. Dee

    Hi Butuki
    I stop by everyday to see your wonderful pictures and words.
    I have been coming by for more than a year now and I apologize for having not left a comment.
    I feel that I am not very good with words so…
    I am sending you a smile…you can wear it more than once.

    If I could reach out with my hands and push the pieces of your heart back together I would.

  17. andrew


    I started to write something here but ended up to use those words in reply to Andy Borrows.

    I know some of your pain. I am lucky that I have my marriage intact and my children, they keep me alive. But I do empathise.

    All I can suggest is to focus on some small creative outlet. If you can’t write here, write somewhere else in whatever form. If you can’t write at all, photograph. Or draw.

    And people. Find some way to connect with people. I have barely any friends left IRL, keep to myself, stay lonely. But I need conversation. We all do. For me, it was the forum at my Web host that answered the need.

    Hang in there.

  18. butuki

    Wow. All I can really reply is “Thanks.” Truly. I don’t know why it is that part of me is uncomfortable with friendships found on the web, but the truth is I’ve made some truly wonderful friends here, some of whom I’ve met in real life. I guess it’s because I never see any of you (and some of you are very old friends from back in college who are very dear to me and who I miss more than I really do a good job of showing) and as a living breathing physcial being it’s hard to gel the words I see on screen with other living breathing physical beings, though I know you are there. Also, and maybe this is one of the kernels of my own inability to make my marriage work, I’ve only begun to realize recently just how much I fail to understand the significance and importance of others’ presence in my life. Though I know I need to and should practice it regularly I’ve found it harder and harder as I got older to express outright affection; so much guilt seems to come with wanting and needing another person in my daily life, someone physically close and connected word-wise. But as so many of you have pointed out, the friends really are there. I am not undesireable or unfriendly or always boring. Part of it is being in Japan, though, of course, where the people do a great job of making you feel like an alien from another world (and even then why be so unfriendly? Aliens need friends and can be friends, too!). It gets to you after a while, especially when you know what they are saying and they don’t know that you do.

    So it’s okay to want to be needed and to show it. It’s okay to not always be strong all the time and to constantly show how “good” you can be. It’s okay to feel that the world is much bigger than you are and that sometimes you can’t hold it up any more. Thanks everyone. There is still so much to learn about being a person at peace…

  19. anonymous

    Japan can be very challenging long-term. Life in the “countryside” is lonely. The friends you make often leave after a few years, and it’s difficult to make others without good Japanese, and for me that doesn’t come quickly.

    Then too in the countryside people are more “pure” ie not afraid of expressing their prejudices. It’s like that all over the world, unfortunately. But there are always some good people everywhere.

    There are good things: nature is there to see and some places, days take your breath with their beauty and the wonder of eyes to see it. You have such eyes, such a gift.

    The outside beauty can be overwhelmed by the inside. I’ve been there many times and back and as a fellow traveller I say find what works for you. What do you enjoy? Even one tiny thing is a beginning and a comfort.

    Gambatte, for life.

  20. Kate

    “It gets to you after a while, especially when you know what they are saying and they don’t know that you do.”
    Ah yes. The peculiar gift of overhearing. My Japanese isn’t usually good enough to understand any comments directed at me in public (why are those people staring at me on the train? It’s because I’m gorgeous, right? Right?!) but I have friends who have experienced this and been hurt by it. In a way, because the said commenters don’t think you can understand, it’s almost like being able to read minds in the worst way – since you didn’t exactly ask for the priviledge, and also since what people say to each other in passing is sometimes more hurtful or dehumanising than their actual thoughts, I reckon. I don’t think this is something confined to Japan – I’ve never been hooted at from a car/been told to get my “tits out” here as part of the social commentary, like back home – I guess maybe what you get here is more ‘comments on foreigners/and their ways’ in general..
    I didn’t connect this before, but the feeling of having to be ‘positive’ or genki is very strongly pushed if you are teaching English here. Maybe that’s not what you meant, but it can be a pressure when that’s your expected social ‘role’. It might contrast sharply with your own needs/sense of wholeness.
    I see you as an artist, so I will leave you with this quote from Man Ray:
    ”Each one of us, in his timidity, has a limit beyond which he is outraged. It is inevitable that he who by concentrated application has extended this limit for himself, should arouse the resentment of those who have accepted conventions which, since accepted by all, require no initiative of application. And this resentment generally takes the form of meaningless laughter or of criticism, if not persecution.”

  21. Yen

    Hi Miguel, being lost is a familiar feeling for me these days. All I can say is I hope you will find some direction soon – whether in therapy, philosophy, or simply the beauty of life. Take care.

  22. Maria

    We visit his web – blog and it is fantastic, congratulations

    There visits our blog, the irreverent mas and iconoclast of the world in Catalunya – Spain

    Http: //

    Thank you very much


  23. rr

    Butuki – so lovely to hear your voice, beautiful even in sorrow. No words of wisdom from here either, but a hug and hope and the experience that it does pass.

  24. Mungo

    Just discovered your blog recently – don’t know how – enjoy reading it. Hope you feel more as though the silt has settled – all the best.

  25. Pica

    Butuki — just returned from a ten-day trip. I hope you will continue to feel comfortable being yourself, here, even if you think it’s not what’s expected or approved of or wanted. You are one of the most thoughtful people — and what you have to say is always worth hearing.

    Looking, hard, at a bird sometimes helps…

  26. Thomas

    Miguel – It seems that you are currently hiking through a particularly deep valley in the journey of your life… but you are a experienced hiker, I’m sure you’ll soon find the way up to the next long mountain ridge, rising into the morning light, just above the fog…

    Sometimes a quick chat, even on the phone, can help when we feel a bit too lonely. Here’s my Skype handle: tsturm8 – feel free to call whenever you see me online…


  27. CdV

    Just dropping by. How are things where you are? What season is it??? Here up north in England it is a very vibrant Spring.

    I wish you useful thoughts and happy accidents which help one’s foot onto the next rung.

  28. butuki

    Thanks May. I’m just getting myself set up to start blogging regularly again. Just have to work out a few kinks. I’m not sure this theme will be here for long, but it’s a good change for now.

    For the next few days it’s off to my beloved mountains!

    See you all when I get back.

  29. May

    Enjoy the solitude knowing that your friends will think of you.

  30. christy

    It’s good to imagine you up in the mountains breathing the springtime air. May you feel deeply refreshed.

  31. susurradeluz

    Miguel, each moment and each day offers the possibility of something new, maybe as small as helping a baby wren back into its nest as we did today. It made me feel useful in a little way, but there it was, a reason to see what the next day brings. And I’ve had my share of happy surprises over the last year or two! I hope that you can find some peace in the uproar of change you’ve undergone, and give time a chance to reveal something you might not have expected but might enjoy.

    Hugs. Sorry they aren’t the in-person kind, but for what they are worth they are yours.

  32. susurradeluz

    This is bound to be more helpful than any of my poor words.
    Sweetness by Stephen Dunn

    Just when it has seemed I couldn’t bear one more friend
    waking with a tumor, one more maniac

    with a perfect reason, often a sweetness
    has come
    and changed nothing in the world

    except the way I stumbled through it,
    for a while lost
    in the ignorance of loving

    someone or something, the world shrunk
    to mouth-size,
    hand-size, and never-seeming small.

    I acknowledge there is no sweetness
    that doesn’t leave a stain,
    no sweetness that’s ever sufficiently sweet…

    Tonight a friend called to say his lover
    was killed in a car
    he was driving. His voice was low

    and guttural, he repeated what he needed
    to repeat, and I repeated
    the one or two words we have for such grief

    until we were speaking only in tones.
    Often a sweetness comes
    as if on loan, stays just long enough

    to make sense of what it means to be alive,
    then returns to its dark
    source. As for me, I don’t care

    where it’s been, or what bitter road
    it’s traveled
    to come so far, to taste so good.

  33. Rana


    I hope that the mountains do what you need them to do.

    I’ll be thinking of you.

  34. mm

    It was your blog that was one of the chief motivators to start my own, Miguel. It was the piece you did a couple of New Years ago on climbing the mountain outside Tokyo and the sudden snowfall that turned the climb into an enchantment. It is still one of my favourite blog posts anywhere ever.

    There are a lot of words of wisdom here, and I don’t have much else to add to what has been said, except to say that you have probably touched more people than you realise, and thank you. Life can feel hard. I hope the trip to the mountains helped.

  35. butuki

    The last few comments shook up the frozen state of my voice and helped get me to push myself to write something again today. Thanks. Truly.