A Different Story (from the ones you’ve probably heard)

I love spending time with people who travel the world–or people who come from other places and have traveled to the U.S. where, happily, our paths have crossed and ended  in a meal or a long cup of coffee.  Hearing their stories, flipping through their pictures, and comparing notes of my own travels, enlarges my view of the world and helps me gain perspective.

DSC_1116

Specifically, talking to people who go other places reminds me that the world is enormous and that there are a billion, ordinary, life-changing events unfolding on every continent everyday, even as I brush my teeth in the morning.  I may not know what each one is, but being aware that I am small in this vast universe, that my joys and sorrows are coinciding with myriad others across the globe, helps me to disengage from my toxic tendency to navel-gaze.

DSC_1600

And it helps me to reject the ubiquitous, Hunger Games media frenzy in our culture.

Because, again, my traveling friends remind me that many important things are happening all the time, and no one is reporting them.

DSC_1072

It’s life-affirming to remember this.

Just because the Internet screams at me, demanding that I watch the dickie-bird and react, doesn’t mean that it’s telling me the truth.  By that, I mean, the whole truth, the larger truth of life.

DSC_1158

My friends remind me, and I feel relief.

I think to myself, I am small, thank God, and there’s more to this story of the world.

When Things (Don’t) Fall Apart

After nearly three weeks away (first out of the country, then out of my state), I’m back home.  The first thing I did when I came through the door yesterday was to pet the dogs –I hesitate to admit how much I missed them–and to sniff the air.  Our house smelled stale, like mold, kind-of.  But the friend who cared for our two dogs and Russian tortoise while we were away had cleaned the place, bless her, and changed the sheets. She was even trying to prepare chicken for us before we stopped her.  It definitely wasn’t her causing the smell.

I’m always anxious right up to the time I catch a plane somewhere.  Not-so-deep-down, I believe that if I don’t prepare for every domestic eventuality, heading off each maybe with typed lists and Martha Stewart efficiency, things will go horribly wrong while I’m away, and I’ll pay for them in the end.  Every, single time I leave.

But, so far, things have been OK when I’ve returned.  Sometimes even better than OK.  I know that God is teaching me how to trust him, one tarmac at a time, though I’m in the slow group when it comes to these kinds of lessons.

Because, in the end, there is so much that is out of my hands.  I (purposely) forget that as queen of my little domain.  It’s only when I leave that I’m reminded how fragile, how miraculous, the everyday workings of life really are.  So then it’s pure, blinky-eyed luxury to walk back through the door and find that my home world kept turning without my managing it, even if the air is slightly funky.

I’m tucking these travel revelations away to chew on later, and, like some desert animal, I’ll call them up when I need them again.

But I plan to set off one of those mold bombs, too, just in case.

On My Way Out…

I’m off to Africa with my husband.  I still have approximately ten thousand things to do before I go and, naturally, only about half a day’s time to accomplish them.  So why am I sitting at the computer?  Because I won’t have it in front of me for a longish time, and like my morning chocolate coconut Luna bars, I’ll miss it.

“See” you on the flip side.

P.S.  If you’re new here, feel free to take a look around while I’m out.  🙂

Another Home

We lived in a dingy, Indian apartment for three years. We shared square footage with mountain monkeys, mice, and mongooses (mongeese?). The pipes leaked but only when we weren’t experiencing water shortages.

We ended up kind-of loving that place.

A dear family member visited us once and delicately called it a shit hole. After taking a deep breath, I looked around and tried to see it through his eyes in order to cut him some slack. I couldn’t. After all, the neighbors were living in tin shacks. Our concrete floors and lumpy walls had begun to look decent to me. My bedroom with the little porch felt familiar the way pajama pants do, the ones you wore after having your third baby.

Now we’re two years back in the US and we’re house hunting. I find that I’m at odds with myself and Husband about everything pertaining to domiciles. I mean everything. I look at ramshackle houses and love them (memory-soaked walls)/find them repulsive (why must the ceilings be so low and the walls so wood-paneled?) I visit new construction and salivate over stainless steel appliances and shiny wood floors while judging these Americans with their monstrous master bedrooms and cocktail party baths.

I decide that I want to stay in the cottage we’ve been in for two years, the one my parents own.  The one in which I crashed and burned upon our reentry into This American Life. But it feels itchy, like arrested development. I’ve got rocks in my nest, as good as it’s been.

I am propelled forward.

Husband will board a plane to Africa today. The kids and I will wave goodbye and then set the GPS to look at another house. I will imagine myself in it.  I’ll come away hopeful, then worried about money, then worried The One will slip through my fingers. Or I’ll come away muttering.

I will face the fact that I am uncomfortable searching for a home and that this is OK. I will remind myself of what Scripture says. Also C.S. Lewis.

I’ll find a house one of these days and it will be good.  Time will make it a (temporary) home.

Earth

This morning I returned to earth at 9:21 a.m.  The sounds of a made-in-the-eighties cartoon pressed through the doors of my bedroom, elbowing past the hum of my floor fan, and tapped my subconscious on the shoulder.  One of the dogs had curled himself next to me, wedging me on my side.  I suppose it was my tingling right arm that brought me back in the end.  I felt for the dog’s back and pushed him over, sitting up halfway. I blinked away eleven hours.

The first day of getting back to things.

It has been eighteen days since I’ve truly slept, paid attention to the kids, written, or been quiet for that matter.  I’m worn.  Every day I’ve spent with family (first husband’s, then mine) has been a gift.  I am reminded that, other than my faith, my family is really all I need in the end.  And if I had the choice to surround myself with my sisters and their children on a more permanent basis, I would.  I’d wrap them around me like a mink coat, aware of the luxury.

But I am a girl who longs for quiet, who craves routine.  These things are important for my long-term survival.  I’m ready to slip back into the familiar warp and weft of my life, such as it is.  Ready for the odd moment of fruitful nothing.

Husband leaves for Africa next week so life won’t be strictly normal in the days to come.  But I will spend many night hours staring and thinking hard and writing when he’s gone.  When he arrives home he’ll recognize me.  I’ll have put myself back together, one word at a time, and returned to earth for a longer stay.

Africa

I am back from ten days of stepping through the looking glass.  Africa was magical and difficult as I knew it would be.  I am thankful to have been a part of something truly special during the time I was there and hope to be able to return soon.  Somehow–and really, I know it was grace from God–I managed to endure heat, humidity, different foods, travel, sleeplessness, and culture stress without so much as blinking.  This was not the case when I lived in Asia where, for the first six months, every rumble in my belly was a portend of doom, and constant power outages felt like God’s divine discipline.  Of course, this was a short-term thing and I did not have my children with me.  Now I love my kids, but I could not BELIEVE the ease of traveling with only myself to worry about.  It was ridiculous how streamlined everything felt and I think I wore a bewildered grin on my face the entire trip.  I was probably a little obnoxious.

I am in my bed at the moment, eating Grape Nuts which are my passion.  The dogs are at my feet, both of them curled like medium-sized caterpillars.  I think they’re glad the lenient owner is back.  Daddy has his rules, you know.  Apparently, I slept hard last night.  I don’t really know as I have no memory after eating welcome-home-cake for dinner.  But they tell me I slept.  My daughter came in this morning and informed me that she’d carried on a conversation with her father about emotions in the middle of the night.  She said she looked at me lying there on my side of the bed and could tell I wouldn’t wake up, whatever that means.

It’s good to be back.  I will never stop loving the world and its corners.  Each time I travel I leave my heart on some shore.  But I know that this is my home for now.  I am thankful to be reunited with my family, my church, my dogs, and Grape Nuts.  Now I think I’ll drink some East African coffee and take a little nap.  Talk soon.