Monday, September 29, 2014

a woman of independent ways

The men I've truly loved
needed me to need them more.
All I wanted was to be wanted.
I didn't understand their need.

Others say I've always been this way ...




I thought it was a compliment.
A  part of my strength.

Maybe I was wrong.

Maybe they were.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Is openness selfish?

I’m here – I’m in Kingston Jamaica. I’ve been here 4 days. In SKWiD training one of the conversations is about whether or not to share negative things with our people back home – what good can it do (feeling supported), and what bad (worrying loved ones who can’t help; being disappointed in their inability to help). I’ve been reflecting back on that conversation this week as I navigate the steaming miasma of a new country, essentially a new language, all the endings I left behind, and all the questions that lay ahead. 

Nothing about Kingston is negative, so far. It’s not that. Yes, it’s hot. Yes, we sometimes are locked out of the water supply for (knock wood) short periods. Yes, I’m learning to navigate systems in a place where everything still looks the same to me. It’s early days, and Kingston is a rewarding challenge. 

The only real struggle I’ve had is feeling isolated. We are in training all day, which means I can’t get to the necessary government office to get the tax registration number I need to get home Internet. I am home alone by 5 every evening, and in bed hours earlier than I normally would be just because there is no loneliness in sleep. Except, of course, when there is. Damn dreams. 

My roommate arrives tomorrow, but I don’t expect her to fill those aching gaps. She is a stranger-roommate. Not a son. Definitely not a lover. Not my champion who for years has reassured me at every turn that I can do anything. Not even yet a friend. I know myself well enough to have anticipated that this would be my first, and perhaps my biggest, hurdle. And I know that sharing it may be a selfish act, but there it is. I am not just alone – I am lonely. 

I seem to have lost by two best friends somehow this summer. They have left large holes. I have a lot of love in my life, but it’s hard to feel it across a large continent and a wee sea. I feel it reaching, but not within reach, at least not yet reliably so. I know it's there ... 

The upside is, I am learning to stand tall on my own. To cross traffic where pedestrians have no rights. To cook with local flavours and ingredients. To turn on the boiler in the morning or enjoy my cold shower (mostly that). To include sunscreen and bug spray in my morning routine. Once I get over the ache of what was, I’ll be even more ready to celebrate what is.  

I am on a grand adventure – I have been blown away by the people of Kingston, their patience with my inability to understand their accents, the amazing customer service everywhere, how nicely put together people are at their businesses, the food, my 5-month home ... I haven’t seen a lot of the city so far, but I am so excited already with the opportunities to learn and grow and explore. 

I didn’t expect to be this lonely this soon. I didn’t expect to feel so shut in when the sun goes down completely by 6:30 and I’m encouraged to stay in my apartment. I know this feeling is very transitional, but it was surprisingly fast. 

As always, music is my friend. Tonight I have been listening to this on repeat while I scrub the kitchen:


Do not worry – I am happy. I’m proud of myself for being here, for seeing that my life wasn’t what I wanted or needed and doing something about it. It’s just hard, sometimes, to keep looking forward. I am using a cliche as a mantra. I wonder how you say it in patwa. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Room: a book club review

Had I known what Room was about before I read it, I might have skipped this book club selection by Emma Donoghue. That would have been my loss. While the situation of the narrator and his mom is horrifying, that the story is told by a five-year old boy is brilliant, engaging, and eye opening. 

I don't actually want to say too much about the plot, and if you read Room I encourage you not to read too much about it first. Much of the power in this story comes from seeing it through the narrator's eyes and you risk diminishing that power. 

Life in 'Room' is its own special culture. Reading it as I prepared for my own cultural immersion was a great lesson. People can adapt to almost any situation - how they do that is not for people outside of that situation to judge.

Amazon Associates Link

What an incredible treat to get to attend the September book club meeting on the day of my departure. Hooray for brunch meetings! Having missed August, I was glad to get one more meeting in before my long absence.

Six of the seven women in attendance that day are moms; four of those six are moms of boys. I can't presume that reading Room was more powerful for any of us than for readers who don't have children, but I would say that gave us a particular perspective in the narrator. 

During our three-word review circle words like 'difficult,' 'creepy,' and 'challenging' came up, yet we were unanimous in saying that we would recommend this book. That's never actually happened before. We didn't necessarily like it, per se, but we would recommend it.

Thanks beautiful ladies for the hugs, and thanks Melissa for the salad bar full of things I might not get to eat here in Kingston! 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

of Kafka, words and memory

A loved one sent me this quote the other day:
How many words in this book. 
They are meant for remembrance. As though words could carry memories. 
For words are clumsy mountaineers and clumsy miners. Not for them to bring down treasures from the mountains’ peaks, or up from the mountains’ bowels. 
But there is a living mindfulness that has passed gently, like a stroking hand, over everything memorable. And when the flame shoots up out of these ashes, hot and glowing, strong and mighty, and you stare into it as though spellbound by its magic, then– 
But no one can write himself into this kind of pure mindfulness with unskillful hand and crude pen; one can write only in such white, undemanding pages as these. I did so on September 2, 1900 
Franz Kafka
... for words are clumsy mountaineers ... 

At first I was so taken with Kafka's skillful pen that I paid more attention to the sparkly sound than I did to the hardened diamond of meaning. On re-reading though it strikes me that words may be feeble vessels for memory, but they are vibrant conductors of it. What but words can take your mind back to a moment so completely that your body responds? We have so few other sensory recordings of those moments that words have to suffice, imperfect as they are.

Perhaps that's why memories themselves are imperfect and either embellish or diminish the reality of a moment. Even a photograph, the supposed truth-teller of the past, shows only a flattened and particular image, a flash of time within a frame. What happens before or after or outside the field of view is left to the inconstancy of memory. Photos too fade over time. Memories can fade, though those we hold closest seem to maintain their shine.

Some moments are burnished with revisiting - a hello, a chuckle, a touch, the splash of bath water, the slow relaxing of muscles ...

Kafka is both right and wrong - words are imperfect for carrying (or maybe for sharing) memories, but he seems to imply that that imperfection is a weakness. I think the magic of words is the way in which they can translate memories, that they can get to the truth beyond the reality, that the details fall away and only the experience as experienced remains.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...