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Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Heart Still Feels

I just finished watching Lion, a movie about Saroo, an Indian young man who returns to India to find his birth mother after being adopted by an Australian couple when he was just a child. While the movie was rather slow-moving, I resonated with two thoughts. One, when he told his girlfriend, I've found home.

The other was that he kept returning to reconnect with his girlfriend, even though he kept pushing her away out of confusion. The story in his heart seemed too painful and too big to share with someone who came from a monocultural worldview but she had a deep desire to try to understand. I know these feelings. When Professor Baer tells Jo, as they sit in the rafters watching an Italian opera, your heart understood mine, the words echo in my heart.

This is what I search for. I'm looking for home not just in a country, where the smells of open market, people carrying you along in the push of the evening, crunching grilled fresh corn on the cob, or crickets accompanying the imam for evening prayers are as familiar as the detergent aisle in Walmart. I'm looking for home in a person. Familiarity. Solidarity. Continuity. Above all--loyalty.

I just finished putting together a 6-minute presentation for a conference in the Netherlands next month. I'll be speaking to professionals and families about how loss impacts TCKs and how as adults we search to reconcile our identities that have been seriously influenced by the continual loss. Saroo lost his language, comfort in eating with his fingers, his older brother, and the connection with his mother and sister. When he began to search for his past, he knew that it had affected who he was today. His identity was incomplete with those missing pieces.

I understand. This is why I look for someone who will take the time to sit and listen. Who will ask me questions about who I am and why I think the way I do. Who will be fascinated by my past and discover ways I view the world that I didn't even realize. And above all, who will look into my heart, see the missing pieces, and reassure me that even though he can never fill those empty places, he will cover them with love and understanding. Those places will always be empty but now I will be able to see them through a covering woven with the tears of someone who sat with me and understood my pain.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

I Am Free to Dance

Sometimes we come to the realization of things much later than we imagined and when we do, we wonder why we chose not to see reality. Stubborn, that is what I am. I easily fall into situations that I then have to try to extricate myself from. I insist that I'm aware and yet I really am lying to myself. I am good at that. It's born of years spent in a culture that insisted forgiveness equated minimizing lies, winking at poor behavior, and ignoring broken standards.

Perhaps what really counts in the end then is honesty to the core. This is best blended with respect, humility, and kindness and while I'm not saying one can be perfect, because I know we all fail, I am beginning to believe that just being nice isn't enough. It isn't too much to ask for total commitment that extends beyond the fairytale story of glass slippers and princesses.

We all fall. We all stumble. We all mess up on the way, sometimes because we're tired of living up to outside expectations and sometimes because we really don't know. Yet the real heroes are the ones who quietly get back up and keep going, even if it means crawling for a while until they have the energy to stand. They recognize their deep need of a Saviour and have learned to relinquish their attempts to be their own law.

There's a phrase from a song that keeps playing in my head. What do I know of Holy?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Goes By

The seasons change pretty clearly here. Summer's humid air so thick you can set a spoon upright in it gives way to the relief of autumn's cool breezes that blow away the layer of smog always hovering over the city. Winter's damp cold shivers into spring with the scent of fresh cut grass and itch of mutant ninja mosquitoes. Each season has its signature, its moments where I breathe in deep and smile, and its idiosyncrasies that make me long for the next one to arrive.

In the same way, I have clearly seen the seasons of my life change in the short year I've been here. When I first came, my heart was open to every friendly person and I enjoyed getting to know people from different cultures and learning how they saw life. Then I found a best friend and we did everything together, from eating in the cafeteria to going to church to singing in choir. As summertime came, tiny twin boys stole my heart and I began to spend most of my time with them and their parents. Soon I was part of a group that went out to eat and watch movies but even that group dissolved and I was spending most of my free time with the twins again.

Today I find myself somewhat stingy with my availability. Perhaps it comes with settling into routine and realizing that it simply isn't possible to befriend everyone. I'm realizing that it's okay to have just a handful of close friends with whom I invest my time and then to be friendly to everyone else. This is part of life and as the dynamics shift and seasons change, the faces change also. For me, though, I have a difficult time letting go.

I know realistically that, just as I choose whom to spend my time with, others will choose whether or not to invest in my life. It fills my heart with joy when I know that someone has chosen me; but it's elementary school all over again when someone I know I'd never forget allows me to slip easily out of their life. As a TCK, I live with the insecurity that I will never fully fit in therefore I will never be fully chosen by someone else because I don't belong. I'm not exotic enough to stand out but my ability to blend in is limited to how I look and not what I say or think.

I've been playing a song on repeat for several weeks now. It's a song by Lonestar that perfectly describes those I've seen standing on the tracks, their face turned away as the train I'm on begins to pick up speed while it heads away. Seasons change and I'm helpless to change the inevitable--one of us will leave. The only thing is. . .this time, I'm staying.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Do You Swear?

Things are changing very quickly in the world I thought I once knew. I guess that is how it is, the world is constantly changing, but it had never been a threat to me before. Now it is. Even as refugees struggle to make sense of their new reality that won't allow them entry into the US for at least 3-4 months, I face the possibility of also having what I thought was stable be in jeopardy.

I hold European passports but I live currently in the Middle East. Though my country is not one of the banned ones, it is close enough that should the travel ban expand to include others, rumour speculates that it will be on that list. I just read an article that talked about the former Norwegian PM who was questioned at a US airport because he had been on a trip to Iran two years ago. While I thought my perceived elite citizenships would allow me to continue to travel in and out of the US without challenges, now I'm becoming very concerned about the future.

What amazes me is that people are able to defend the executive order with a straight face. Perhaps they never stood in line in the cold outside a tall metal barred gate, waiting to be let in only to face the sternest of faces behind a glass window, barking out questions without empathy as they were interviewed for a visa that would change their destiny. Perhaps they never stepped outside their small town in the Midwest or the South, never ate a meal with someone who spoke a different language than them, or cried when the latest shooting happened in a city they'd never been but was in a country close to their heart. Perhaps they did not understand that the black and white strokes on a paper, seemingly to protect the innocent was actually destroying the hopes and dreams of countless children. Perhaps their rational logic kept them warm at night and able to callously negate the stories of humanity, citing it as an emotional reaction.

I wonder if I'm the only person who feels somewhat helpless against this tidal wave of prejudice coming from a country that prides itself on being built by immigrants. The Statue of Liberty should hide her face in shame for no longer can she welcome the tired huddled masses. Yet in the midst of this tyranny, there is still a flicker of hope. The thousands of US citizens who are outraged whether those who were ready to welcome refugee families or those who could not place the banned languages on a map. Each one who stands up for justice and demands that, while the borders are protected, equal representation is given to bring in those families who have struggled for years to immigrate to freedom is a beacon of light in the abyss of night.

As for me, I watch the news and I wait. I do not know if the next time I step up to the bullet-proof window and hand my passport over for inspection, if it will be the last time I step on US soil. I do not know if he will smile and say Welcome to the United States or Right this way, ma'am, we have some questions to ask you. I have to trust that my God is bigger than a world leader and can overrule and direct even in the midst of chaos. But the uncertainty isn't easy.