Thursday, April 16, 2015

Lost? Found? What about Determining?

On the Arkansas River near Bent's Old Fort (photo by Zorig).
For these last two months of the school year I've taken over two classes of American Literature for a teacher on maternity leave. We are reading and discussing Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko. The novel takes place post WW2 in New Mexico. Our protagonist, Tayo, is a half Laguna (Native American) and half white male who served in the Pacific theater, losing his cousin/best friend while there. Tayo suffers from PTSD while simultaneously fighting to discern where he fits in the world. There are multiple tensions: race, culture, old vs. new, urban vs. nature, tradition vs. science. The list goes on and on. 

As I prepare to move to Asia and consider how I will adapt into an entirely different world, our class discussions have been striking a personal chord with me. 

To be honest, I have moments where fear washes over me. It makes my heart race and I pull a deep breath into my chest, and fight against the tension that wants to pull on my neck and shoulders. While I think.....Can I really do this? My lizard brain causes my physiological system to contract, to tighten. Fear manifests itself in a physical way. 

Do not misunderstand me, my desire for this man, this newly cobbled family, this adventure and opportunity--is strong and sure as ever. But as the date of departure inches closer, those little arrows of doubt and discomfort attempt to poke holes in my resolve. It's one thing to change a job or even a career, to move from one state to another, to go back to school, and so forth. 

But the CHANGE I make on June 30th is HUGE. Though I will yet be meeverything and everyone around me will be different. Will be changed. And I wonder how I will be changed because of that reality. 

I want to share a quote with you from Ceremony. An older Mexican woman tells Tayo the following--in regards to the way some people are reacting to him and to the world at large:

"They are afraid, Tayo. They feel something happening, they can see something happening around them, and it scares them. Indians or Mexicans or whites--most people are afraid of change. They think that if their children have the same color of skin, the same color of eyes, that nothing is changing." She laughed softly. "They are fools. They blame us, the ones who look different. That way they don't have to think about what has happened inside themselves."

Why do we fear change? While we simultaneously crave it because it makes us feel alive? 

And do we really fear it....or is it simply part of our public consciousness....that something that connects us to one another? Does our lizard brain simply cause us to choose the comfortable path--to sit where we always sit, talk to those whom we usually talk to, to wear a path in life spotted with routine and
Dad & Me at the Zaisan Memorial in UB

I confess, I have begun to picture myself standing on a street in UB and needing to get somewhere.....and being paralyzed because I don't know where to go or what to do. What if the car service doesn't arrive to take me home from school? Whom do I call? And will they know English? And if they don't, then what? 

I know these moments will present themselves--it's part of the process, part of what I'll have to get through to assimilate into UB, into Mongolia, into Asia. It makes my heart race to imagine the moments ahead that I can't anticipate. Everything here in the USA is easy, simple. I know how to navigate our roads and streets, how to call for help when I'm in trouble, and never even think about whether I'll be understood. Life is easy for me now. It won't be in a few months. This is reality. 

And what about the pop culture statements of "finding oneself" or "losing oneself"? In recent years I've struggled to accept the lost and found motif in human life. 

I am always with ME. I know WHERE I am and WHAT I'm doing. I don't need to go off on a backpacking trip to find myself, nor do I need to spend a day at the spa losing myself (both of those activities are great and do provide for the human spirit--I've no doubt). 

I am always WITH myself. I spend more minutes of each day knocking around thoughts and feelings inside my head, than I do most other things. And let me tell you, my skull has been overcrowded these past eight months with many voices, opinions, thoughts, feelings, worries, considerations, suggestions, criticisms. I have moments of clarity and peace. And I have days of unease and uncertainty. But I am yet Heather every one of those moments and days. 

You see, I am not lost. Perhaps I made a choice to spend my life a certain way for a number of months or years, and then opted to change my course. But I wasn't lost. And I didn't finish a degree or earn a job that suddenly made me feel found. 

No. I am determining who I am in each and every moment of my life. I decided to get my degree in English and my Masters in Library Science. I determined at the age of 21 that I wanted to move West, wanted to break out on my own. I joined the Army when I was 17 because I determined it was a way to pay for my college education while simultaneously exposing myself to a larger world. I decided to get married, and then divorced. I choose to reach out and connect with friends that are hurting, hoping to ease their pain. 

Ever evolving, my life has been no one else's but my own. With each word spoken, each target pursued, each path abandoned, I am choosing who I want to become. And the best part--if you don't like the current iteration, the next one is up to you to generate. Now. Or next week. Or next year. You see, there is always a choice. You choose who you want to be in every second of your life. 

The Mexican woman tells us that change affects us all--whether we want it or not. I am scared of the changes ahead of me. And I am excited. I want to keep faith that I will yet be myself in Mongolia, while recognizing that I will be changed by Mongolia. Over the weeks, months, and years to come, I will be determining WHOM I want to become in reaction to my new surroundings, my new family, my new friends, and all the other aspects of what this new life can offer me. This is a thrilling opportunity to grow, develop, and expand in ways I could not if I remained here in the US. But it also scares the hell out of me. 

What is something you could choose that would offer the dark and the light? The yin and the yang? The thrill and the fear?

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