and tried

July 31, 2014



You just never know. Just when you think you know what to worry about, life throws a new wrench. Or two. Or three :-)
This morning I vented a bit during our morning run. After agonizing, in my usual pattern, along the lines of « What did I do wrong, » it felt good to get it out in the open. And the response I received, in conversation, lightened the weightiness, as so often seems to happen. More on that conversation shortly, though; first, some of the ventings:
Returning here to my work life, I knew to expect challenges. Quite simply, I live in a land where each day—even the most cheery and bright one—is full of daily challenge. Life just takes extra work, and time, here. And some days I get to the end of it, survey the day’s accomplishments with some dismay, and wonder how in the world everything took as long as it did: how is it that a whole day was eaten up by such a seemingly small amount of productivity!?! But I am starting to get used to this fact, and trying to reconcile myself to it.
What I knew, upon landing, was that:
Challenge #1. I would be moving into a new home, with my new husband.
Challenge #2. I would be adding Middle School Math teacher to my work load this year.
Challenge #3. I was losing my Cross Country assistant coaches, and didn’t know where to look for help in that realm.
Challenge #4. I left the library, at the end of last school year, with work to be done, knowing to come prepared to finish up the catalog before school started.
There are more that I was mulling over, but that will do as a shortlist for the moment.

What I did not know was that:

We would be unable to install internet in our new place. The internet company informed us that the previous tenant had an outstanding bill, so they could not give us a new account until that bill had been dealt with. Thanks to help from my school, the landlord was brought into the correspondence and it looks like we will be granted internet soon.
A few days after moving into our new place, we would sit down to enjoy our newest culinary experiment: a new variety of grain that we found in the local shop. The translation of the name they gave us for it amused us, so we thought we would try it out. As we talked about how much we liked it, and patted ourselves on the backs for the successful experiment, I heard a crunch. I pulled a rock out of my mouth and we enjoyed a laugh about never knowing what to expect when grocery shopping here. Two days later, while eating watermelon [yes, really!], I felt an odd sensation and pulled a portion of tooth out of my mouth. In instant panic mode, I found that I did indeed now have a hole in one of my teeth. Envisioning all manner of dental disasters, we scrapped our afternoon plans and instead headed to the dentist. Here’s where blessings kick in, though: instead of being on my own with no recourse, I was with a local friend who knew exactly where to take me, and who could act as translator. A short bike ride later, I was to find out that it was actually a relatively normal issue: not a tooth but a crown broken, that I had actually had for over 10 years already. They were about to start drilling there, taking off the whole crown, when I hit the pause button. I opted instead to leave the rest of the crown in place while I got in touch with the stateside dentist who had given me the crown to begin with. So far, no solutions found, but hopefully all will work out. I must say, though, it was not a very pleasant way to reinitiate into life here!
Also a few days after our arrival, I received a phone call from the school tech department. A few tech support emails, conversations, and file searchings later, I was to discover that our library program has been wiped out from the system, for upgrades, and needed to be reinstalled. No problem . .. except that the system was installed years ago, and no one knew where the original license was. Ok, so contact the system company and get new installation info, right? Except that the school had cut tech support for the library system out of the budget last year, so that the response given was that we were not longer privy to such assistance. Oy ve! My mind raced with visions of redoing all the inventory work done at the end of last year, in an amped up version: instead of just checking off the books, I would be taking each one of the 10,000 some volumes off the shelf and inputting it manually in order to rebuild the library catalog. Oy ve! So far, positive progress has been made with my meetings with finance, administration, and IT, and I have felt nothing but support. Again, hopefully, all will work out.
In this same period of time, I discover a patch of irritated skin. Soon this patch becomes fully inflamed, then blisters up to a horrible level of pain and itchiness. On a smaller scale, I had this same reaction last school year, and determined that I had touched something my sensitive skin did not agree with. Discovering its progression this time around, it is frightening to not be able to determined the source of an inflamed and blistered mess of a torso. We have been tossing around ideas but have resigned ourselves to the fact that we live in a place where the combination of great pollution and little chemical regulation means we likely will never know. But, in the meantime, I remind myself of the gift of a husband who willingly [happily, even!] massages my feet as we lie in bed, in an effort to distract me from the pain elsewhere on my being . . . grace in the interim.

I would go on with the not-short shortlist, but that’s all I can think of at the moment. It is hard to not already think longingly back to our summer holiday, and to peaceful days on the beach . . .

Ah, but back to that conversation I previewed at the start of this post. So I vented while we ran and soon, after some wise feedback and divinely inspired insight, was feeling a great deal better about it all. I said as much, quipping,
« Thank you, Brother G. You have lifted my spirits in this session »
« Ah, you are very welcome, Sister A. Anytime »
« I must confess, Brother G, » I added, « that I feel more than brotherly love for you »
« Well then, » he replied, « it’s a good thing we are married! »


July 25, 2014

I have spent my life clinging to familiarity. For very good reason: who of us doesn’t, if you think about it? We settle into our routines of action and thought, and then we stay put. Much is said about the process of breaking out of habits—or at least out of unhealthy ones. I’ve heard psychologists speak of the 30-day rule, in that apparently it is supposed to take 30 days to develop a new habit. No doubt this is very dependent upon one’s particular personality type, so far as the exact number goes. But it makes sense to me. My particular pattern is, I think, slightly shorter, perhaps due to a transient life. My frequent moves have made it necessary to learn to adapt quickly, to pretty much anything. This means that I can also very quickly develop new habits, based upon what my present locale demands of me [or at least what my brain perceives it to demand]. Maybe my magic number is something closer to half that, if I have to make a guess about a number?
Frankly, I think that routines and habits are quite normal—even healthy. Because why do we develop them to begin with if it is not due to a need we have for them? I think we are wired to evaluate our situations and surroundings, and then to figure out what works. So the habits we end up with are based upon what we do that works, or seems to, considering those factors. We land somewhere, be it in a physical place or a mental one. We survey our surroundings, again physical or otherwise. We see a need to get out of our “out of place”-ness, and so come up with a way to settle. We determine if it seems to work or not. If it does not, we try something else; if it does, we stick with it.
Back to the changing of habits, and to why I am thinking about this now: I have just returned to my home-away-from-home, after a summer away. And after this summer more than most others, there is more of a need for reevaluating—and for redeveloping routines. At least I assume that I will. Having never entered into marriage before, however, I can only guess as to what sort of personal changes will come. Time will, no doubt, tell.
For now, though, it seems to be enough to just be here, safely. The last few days of our travel were, to say the least, unpleasant. We were both brought to the edge, and over it, of our limits of patience with unexpected hassles. To be stranded and stuck in parts of the world unfamiliar [unsafe, even] to us was not an ideal way to honeymoon. But we made it, as people do. And now we are in our first two days moving and settling into our new home here.
I am grateful that we made the decision to arrive with extra time to do so [rather than my old habit of arriving the day before work began again].
Mind you, it was not a completely un work-related decision: I actually came in order to help with a children’s program. This has been a wild venture for the past two days: one that was out of my comfort zone initially, so far as location, transportation, and newness of the whole place goes. But it did not take long at all to decide that I was loving it. In my own little portion of the universe, it can’t get much better than to spend a day singing and dancing with children :-) Each of the past two days I have been in charge of a particular country program, coming up with four sections for the day: an arts/crafts activity, a cooking demonstration, a game, and an educational presentation. Yesterday was France and today Zambia. Yesterday I returned home spent, and “done.” But today, having gotten a bit into the swing of things, my tiredness led instead to an energized excitement over it all. There’s a melancholy along with it as well, having to do with the temporary nature of this gig. They will welcome me back, I think, for future volunteer sessions; but I suspect that the beginning of the school year will severely limit the amount of time I can spend doing so. I must, I suppose, resign myself to it being valuable in its transitory-ness . . . perhaps as a way to extend myself in service when I would otherwise be tempted to wallow in anxiety over the challenges to come in this year of work, and of life. The challenges will no doubt come. For now, however, I can smile at the sight of 60 pairs of little fingers writing the characters and letters for “Zambia” on their passport, knowing that a window in their minds has been cracked open. Ever so slightly for now. But who knows what sights, sounds, and senses that crack will awaken in future minds and souls?


July 7, 2014

The ties that bind. Two things spoken to me in the past have been running through my head over the last few days.
One said by an aunt, after having children later in her life: “Kids cut you to the core,” she said. While I thought maybe I knew what she was saying, I later decided that most likely I never would know, really, till I had children of my own.
The second was not spoken by a relative of mine, but by an artist I enjoy. She noted that when something happened to her sister, it felt as close as if it had happened to her.
This week my brain has merged these two statements, so that I have come to the conclusion that my own truth is that, for this particular situation of my life, my relationship with my sister is cutting me to the core. Not in a bad way . . . but in a brutal one.
Being here with her now, after several years, and after significant life changes [in her case, the birth of twins and in mine, the advent of married life] has done something undeniable to my “innermost being,” as King David so aptly put it. I am broken.
This evening, I clung to little B as he slept and I wept. My husband tried to relieve me of the child but I refused to let go. I rocked myself to comfort with his little body while I cried, aware that the heaving in my own chest was the same as that which I was trying to calm in him so soon before. He slept soundly through it all, blissfully unaware.
We are strange creatures, us mortal souls. How quickly we cycle through the seasons of a life! In some seasons we are hardly aware of the passing of the moments. Childhood comes to mind as one example of this; and, likely, the latter stages of some lives also fall into this category.
In other seasons, moments are agonizingly long, each one seeming to last an eternity. Motherhood, for all its supposed brevity, can I think fall into this category as well, when the cries of an infant are inconsolable and one’s nerves are shot.
But what do I know of such things? The older I get the more I know about how little I know . . . and this is just one of the areas in which my ignorance is glaringly evident. Yes, what do I know? In the here and now, about all I can think about—can know—is that I am tied to my sister and, consequently, to the little ones who have sprung from her, with cords stronger than any human creation can sever. Bound.