Friday, November 29, 2013


Ever since I came home from Palestine, I've been waiting for a torrent to burst from me: the emotions that I allowed to surface briefly, but then tucked away.  I expected it would happen on the personal retreat I took shortly after I came home.  My mind would not allow me to think too much about Palestine.  Instead it was more interested in distraction, in taking a break from the intensity of the previous months, in thinking of the future. Knowing I was lying to myself, I thought, "Maybe I did all the processing I needed to do while I was in Palestine." Shortly before I left my hermitage cabin, I shed a few tears, but knew more were waiting inside, that it was only the beginning and that my little pep talk was a sham.  I had a lot more processing to do.  It just wasn't time.

Several times I've opened my blog to write.  It's not content I lack.  It is the forming of the content, the shaping of the words, the interpretation of the bit of life I left in Palestine and the very different life I am entering now.

After two and a half years of living without a clear idea of where I might be or what I might be doing a few months from any given moment, I have now re-entered a life of security: I am living in the house I chose not to sell; I have a full-time job; I have relationships that grew stronger over the last year or so.  Saying that, I acknowledge that even when I chose to give up much of my life's stability, the safety net into which I was born still afforded me a great deal of security.  That security is not a given in the lives of many people I have encountered: my sweet students in India, children begging in an Indian train station, my Palestinian students and friendsa Syrian vendor in Istanbul, and so many more.

Last weekend I was in Nashville and shortly after my friends and I had arrived into the merriment of downtown on a Friday night, I felt my eyes well up and then spill over.


I'm not quite sure what triggered it. My friends seemed to be having a great time, which I didn't want to ruin for them. So as we listened to some great live music and tears streamed down my face, I alternated between holding my breath and breathing deeply until my eyes stopped spilling.  They finally complied and as the night went on, I found myself relaxing more and enjoying the fun.

As I reflected later, I wish I'd felt safe enough to let my friends in on what was going on. I say that without placing any blame on them or on me.  It was what it was and I know that if I had chosen to let them in, they'd have listened with empathy and compassion. I think I also wanted more than empathy and compassion.  I wanted understanding, the deep understanding that comes with shared experience. Later in the night one friend asked how I was doing and I briefly told her what had happened earlier.  However, I didn't have the words to bring her in the way I'd have liked.  At that point in the night, I also didn't want to dive back into the depths I'd swum out of.

Patience.  As I talked about the last month with a friend, she commented on the wonderful opportunity this is to practice patience, not forcing myself to process what I am not ready to process, but waiting for the experiences and emotions to come as they come and to face them in the time they choose (though I'll admit I hope those times don't happen when I'm out and about again).  Striking a balance between adjusting and not adjusting is not easy. Finding ways to honor the people in my life here while equally honoring my experiences in other places is not easy.  Learning how to keep my hands and heart open to both, not with a tight squeeze, but with an openness that allows them to choose their comings and goings, is sometimes a struggle.  Perhaps it is in maintaining that openness that will bring the same kind of balance and security to my inner life that I now enjoy in my outer life.

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