It’s been two months since I landed back in Canada.
I have the overwhelming feeling that this life isn’t as easy of a fit anymore.
I was walking through the suburbs of my childhood, getting lost in a place that was my home for years. And the incongruities between my two lives hit me: no fences or barbed wire allows me to see right into people’s homes as I pass. As I walk on the perfectly formed sidewalks, across the pedestrian crossings, I don’t get stared at or followed, and cars stop and wait for my leisurely crossing. Basically, walking through a neighborhood is easy: pedestrian crossings, perfectly formed sidewalks, dogs on a leash type of easy. I am not dodging mobs of dogs, or rubbish thrown on the side, rather I am consumed by the smell of freshly cut grass as it lingers in the air.
My brain hurts from the constant comparisons – honestly, walks here are far less interesting.
And so I start to wallow as I try to find healing and a sense of purpose. It’s that allusive glimmer of hope that I will eventually feel whole again. But I am taking baby steps in finding what is next. Each decision that I make, I first ask the question: will it make me happy?
And so, instead of pursuing a job in Oil and Gas or in another volunteering capacity, I took a job at Starbucks.
My new job as a barista continues to make me feel unsure of what I expect out of life. But there is something beautiful in providing a coffee and a smile. That’s it. That’s all I am responsible for. No newbie arriving from America and needing to be held through the process of orientation and cultural fit. No drunk mechanic requiring constant supervision and a development plan. It’s just coffee.
I needed this job. I am so burnt out from nearly four years of caring too much, and near the end feeling constantly unsafe and scared.
And so back in Canada my days are filled with learning the basics of a coffee shop, sun tanning, day drinking and learning how to be with a man who actually is decent and cares for me (something I have never allowed myself before).
I have decided my only mission this summer is to fall in love with life – here in Canada.
there’s an inexplicable shift when you finally make decisions. it’s a freedom i couldn’t even fathom a few months ago.
i am living in the moment.
no pressure, no expectations. just being present, because right now, in this second, it’s perfect.
there’s something so innately wonderful feeling drawn into just being. and so i fill my days with the smallest of victories; where I am experiencing pleasure.
a yoga class. coffee and a health muffin. a man telling me I am beautiful. underlining in a book. twinkle lights in a garden. wearing a bright pink skirt that blows in the wind. beautiful ruminations that allow me the courage to act on dreams. and girlfriends who surround me with swapping clothes, kind words and wine.
so today. this moment. and Rumi:
“let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. it will not lead you astray.”
Two weeks ago I would have left Botswana. Forty degree heat without air con, sorting out my feelings over a man, and wondering why I think being far from family during festive season is such a brilliant idea…
My life is so circumstantial sometimes – my decisions feel so based on weather, or relationships, or whether I can get a decent cup of coffee.
So life feels negative, and I can’t seem to get over that energy. I start beating myself up over decisions, bringing up the past. It takes courage to work through, to get beyond the negative. Courage I don’t think I have the strength to muster.
I went to my mat. I needed to surrender. To take deep breaths.
I went to a place where I was forced to meditate and pray. Forced to stretch myself beyond what I ever thought possible.
I read this and it felt so true:
“Often it’s a struggle just to get on our yoga mats. And there are moments we struggle once we get there. Some days it is a wrestling match of the mind. Other times it is a wrestling match of the body. And the only way to liberate this so-called struggle is to soften and surrender. Savasana is taking all of that work and just letting it be. Allowing it to reabsorb into us. It is the taking and acceptance of the final fruit of our efforts. (The Girl Who Hated Savasana)”
Today, when I was doing a back bend, resting only on the crown of my head and the tips of my toes. I crossed my arms and smiled, releasing all of the negative emotions.
My yoga practice has allowed me the privilege to see that I am strong, I can do the impossible, and even when I struggle or it doesn’t feel right: I will get it, trusting my body and my mind.
Isn’t that it? Finding the courage inside of myself, to surrender to that.
Bravery isn’t only for the superheroes…
It’s been a rough year, full of setbacks.
I look back on so many experiences where its been hard. My life became a cycle of crying, therapy sessions and moving homes. I took no vacation, and allowed myself to be dragged into some pretty painful relationships which were like poison.
How do you recover from this kind of year?
Well, right now my answer is this: by dwelling in possibility.
I am done. I need a vacation.
You know that point? Where it feels like you’ve hit a brick wall?
Yep, I am there.
And so I am here at the office. Counting down.
But not in a fun advent calendar full of sweets kind of way… more like dragging.
Slogging through the work that so desperately needs to be completed. Fun, right?
The panic attacks began again last night. I thought I was free. My morning meditations have created space and light – where there was fear. Its been two months.
Two months of fighting for control. But still.
The dark doesn’t envelop me softly anymore.
Now, I shiver in fear. Every noise a warning signal for danger. The darkness is a heavy cloak, threatening to suffocate.
Tears are streaming down my face, I turn into a parking lot. Load shedding ensures that my commute home is darker than usual. The brights of my car don’t cut the darkness, as if in a fog.
I frantically search my mind for logic. Why now? What was the trigger?
It dawns on me even in my frantic state: I just signed a lease to start fresh. To live alone again, but this time in a new neighborhood. Safer.
But still this fear of being alone takes root. What if they come again? What if those men break into this house. And I still cannot fight them off. Images of that night, images I wish I could forget. This time, it’s a silent movie running through my soul. It used to be a full affront – noises and smells.
The “what ifs” are paralyzing. The fear is choking.
I acknowledge it, “I am scared”.
But today is move in day. And I am choosing excitement. My emotions do not control me…. or so I am constantly telling myself.
It will come, I am allowing myself time.
Every day is a new beginning, hell, sometimes every minute, I must choose to leave those fears behind me.
Rumi said, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
I came here wanting to change her; to show Africa how I could help in a way no one else had.
And so with the pride that can only come with the cleverness that Rumi suggests: I came to change her and instead she broke me.
More shit has happened here than I ever thought possible. And I said, “WAIT! I am a do gooder! I am helping! I want to change things! Why can these awful things be happening?”
And then I learned: It wasn’t about me changing the world, trying to fit Africa into my idea of what she should be. Rather, it was about changing me. I had to allow this process to happen. To remove the pride, the “do-gooder, pat on the back” kind of thinking.
Africa, she can do this on her own. I know this to be true from the very core of my being. I am just blessed that I am along for the journey, and have the privilege to grow and change with her.
The only part of development that fear has a place?
At the start. As you’re pushing it out of the way. Moving forward towards the dream.
What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
There was an armed robbery late at night this past Sunday. I am physically unharmed. My stuff has been gone through, and valuables have been stolen. My safety net has been ripped apart.
A funny thing, this whole trauma experience means that my life as I knew it before has changed. I will now see life through this lens. This isn’t the first traumatic experience I have had here, though considerably the most terrifying.
Africa, she has changed me. And there have been those moments where I thought I would drown.
A friend says, “You should just go home. You have been through too much. What’s left for you here, what are you trying to prove?”
Who knows, maybe I am addicted to the growth and development all of these experiences have forced me into. But regardless, leaving is not the best decision for now.