Tuesday, June 9, 2009

a dance of submission and resistance

I read somewhere that life in a foreign country is a dance of submission and resistance. Although I would agree wholeheartedly with this statement, what I find to by more intense is the dance of returning home. To me, the adjustment to the familiar calls for a much deeper level of submission and activates a much more intense urge of unrelenting resistance.

This is my first post in some time. Some of this is due to the nature of the situation I faced while residing in my last country as the security issues were unlike anything I have ever seen before and I experienced things I have yet to find the words to describe clearly; some of this is due to something else altogether.

Three days ago marked the 6 month anniversary of my mother’s death. What has become tricky is that I don’t know how to talk about it anymore. In the beginning anything was appropriate – tears, giggles, regrets, anger…they were all accepted as normal. I knew I was a slow processor and unlike my beautiful emoting brother I knew it would take me much longer to work through my connected emotions of this unprecedented loss; what I didn’t realize was how others would deal with my delayed reactions.

Although many people in my orbit are outstandingly well meaning and exceptionally supportive they also seem a bit shocked when I start talking about this loss in a raw/emotional way now, months later. I think they expect me to thank them for their condolences and move on. Instead I find myself talking about my feelings and becoming quite tearful; they adjust beautifully and I am thankful it is they who I turn to when I feel vulnerable and yet with every thoughtful hug and caring question I fear they are wanting me to hurry up and cope….The funny thing with loss is that there is no steps, no cycles - just longing for what is gone.

The beautiful thing about writing about my internal experience is that now that I have put my thoughts on paper I realize this last paragraph is absolutely bogus. My anxiety about how I am coping has nothing to do with how my orbit is reacting to me and has everything to do with my ideas about myself. My biggest fear has always been to “look crazy” by expressing too much emotion and as I just put my thoughts and feelings on paper I realize it was my fear of feeling, not my experience of my support system that I was describing – thank you dear sweet friends and family for being you and being unrelentingly available! I wouldn’t be getting through this without you.

But I digress………let me return to the here and now.

I’ve been home for 11 days now, and I’m not sure where I belong. I’m struggling to reconcile the reality and vista of the place I departed with the daily grind of a more or less upwardly mobile life. I find myself shifting from feeling exceptionally anxious about my financial situation and resume building successes in a fast paced achievement oriented country where occupational success means everything to willfully spacing out, trying to slow down, trying to hold onto that sense of other places I know to be true, the sense that time is simply time, not money.

Perhaps I have become a permanent expatriate – neither fish nor fowl, forever lost no matter my location. But this fluidity also means that I am like a unicorn – a magic creature that always knows there is another way. Let me end this post my accepting the unicorn in me, a magical creature that was my most favorite childhood collectible, and strive to be as unreal and magical as possible for as long as possible in a country where magic and fantasy are diagnostic rather than extraordinary …


Farzana Rasheed said...

'A dance of submission and resistance' - that's really a very fitting way to describe being in another country, especially in the context of what we 'development people' do. But then again, I find myself doing this resistance and submission cycle even here in the UK while I am studying!

I read this totally cheesy book - Shantaram - about some Aussie escaped convict's adventures in India. He totally fell in love with India and, the way he describes it is that you have to just yield and embrace.

Once again, I applaud you for your writing, especially since it is so personal. I can relate to your loss a bit - I lost a university friend to a drawn-out illness when I was doing my undergrad here in London some years ago. I still can't get over it. It still feels so raw.

Thanks for sharing.


jaci said...

I love you Gweneee. Welcome home.


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