Today, I am nostalgic.
I asked him to pick me up.
“I want to drink wine and dance,” I said.
I didn’t mean for it to feel like a date, hating that the end is coming.
I ate beforehand. His invitation to feed me dinner was too much. It was more intimacy, which I was trying to avoid but so desperately wanted.
We drove up to the concert at an outdoor venue. This was set to be my last concert with him, and with some of my favourite girls before I would leave Botswana.
I was feeling all pretty and carefree in my borrowed hoop earrings.
He reminds me how the last time at this venue, I blew him off. It was because I was with another man. Knowing what I know now? I wish I would’ve noticed him sooner and never looked back.
The main act comes on stage, and we start dancing.
I pretend not to want to take his hand. Rather, I focus on the moment, dancing with friends I will sorely miss.
Tonight, I go out with new friends to bring in the Chinese New Year. New friends, new year, fresh focus. And yeah, there might be more wine and dancing too.
When I came back to Calgary – it was all I could do to find signs and affirmations that this place was where I was supposed to be. In August, it all looked right on the outside. Amazing friends, a steady boyfriend and a new job.
And then, it started to crumble. The summer came and went, and so did the new boyfriend.
It’s autumn here, and I find myself almost in the same position as when I arrived to Canada: a feeling of unrest. And today, I am beginning to understand why.
I had forgotten that I still need to play an active role in my happiness. And to be brave enough to push further.
It’s the same in my yoga practice – last week while in wheel I yawned and scratched my head. Obviously I wasn’t going deep enough. I was just performing an asana for the hell of it. The next class, I pushed. And it was just me, the breathe, and my desire to go deeper into the pose.
Today I was talking with a dear friend, and he told me he believes that happiness is an active force. You can’t expect “happy” to come to you; hoping upon hope you will magically become the person you’re destined to be.
I had started to become passive in my own life. I know what bravery is – leaving my life in Canada to move to Botswana was courageous. But when I came back, changed, I had just been hoping happiness to come to me.
This autumn, I want to fight for that woman who wasn’t afraid to leave everything comfortable for the next adventure.
And once I begin that fight, that push to find what will allow me the freedom to be happy? There’s this essential piece: reveling in the moment.
Being present is allowing all of that active work to come into fruition. It’s the same glorious feeling as to be staring into the eyes of someone you fell for, being able to talk for hours and not noticing the time.
It’s reaching a new point in an asana and then settling into the new limit of your body. It’s the breath.
Everyday is busy as I spend my final few weeks in Botswana – selling things, trying to wrap up work while fitting yoga among drinks with friends. During all of this I am overwhelmed with nostalgia.
This isn’t some greatest hits album though – some of it has been absolute hell: full of politics and pain.
I love this place even more because of those moments. And I don’t want the hard bits to overwhelm some of the greatest experiences of my life.
Lately during Savasana I have cried. It’s the one time where I am totally still. I let my body fall into the mat. And I cry. For the loss of a life, coincidentally, that I am happy to leave.
Basically, I am stressed – the fingernail biting not sleeping thing has got to end soon.
I read this just now (via Radiant Body Yoga) as a meditation during Savasana, and it rang true to the very core of my being:
Consider all the pain and all the pleasure
You have ever experienced,
As waves on a very deep ocean which you are.
From the depths, witness those waves,
Rolling along so bravely, always changing,
Beautiful in their self-sustaining power.
Marvel that once, you identified with
Only the surface of this ocean.
Now embrace waves, depths, undersea mountains,
Out to the farthest shore.
It is official. The tickets are booked, and my Botswana end date draws near.
Why back to Canada? Well, it’s basically this: I need to sort my life out which includes a way not to be poor.
But I am not totally ready to close the door on Botswana. Why? Well, there is no plan beyond the 15th May when I land in Canada – I will be flat out broke, living in my parent’s basement, searching for the next thing. Funny? On the outside not much has changed since September 2009.
The mixture of emotions right now is starting to make me crazy. Sure, I am happy – hell, I finally made a decision about the next steps, one that I have been waffling about for months. But this isn’t the kind of happy that makes me want to jump around in glee.
I am realising how hard it is to shut down a life.
And the woman that goes home to Canada is so different to the one who stepped foot off that plane more than 3 and a half years ago.
Leaving isn’t something I take lightly.
But today, right now, I choose gratitude with a hint of mourning, and a dash of excitement for what surely will be an even greater chapter in life.
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?
Okay, deep breaths.
An acquaintance died of TB. The more probable underlying cause of his too soon death? Having AIDS, where his body couldn’t handle the attack on an already weakened immune system. I mourn for his wife and children. He was a good man.
And a friend, whose stories read more like a Jerry Springer episode. Where every week, some other tragedy occurs. It’s inevitably an issue I can’t relate to, where I realise more and more, our cultures are so different. Maybe too different?
Or when a colleague says a racist comment, and I laugh. Because this place I live in feels so racially aware. Every day I am talked to, looked at, because I am the token white girl. But no excuses, I still laughed.
I tweeted the other week that someone should just send me home to Canada. It would be easier right?
And then my sister wrote a message jokingly, “see this is why it’s bad that we don’t live closer…..” I start crying, because all of the emotions of this place – the queues, the heat, the inconveniences, HIV, illogical bureaucracy, laziness, bad driving, slow internet, THE HEAT – are starting to add up. And I forget why the fuck I am here anymore.
I open Facebook, madly trying to remember life back in Canada, trying to find that perfect place that I can go to, does it exist there? Yet status updates read like white middle class rantings of the conservative Christians – we love Jesus, sure, but we don’t want to be inconvenienced by well, anything. Perfect lives are disrupted by the few insidious things or beings. Judging, more judging. We’ve lost the bench mark for spewing our opinions.
I close it down in disgust. Sometimes the differences in my life feel so enormous. Where do I fit anymore?
I still eat, drink, commute grudgingly to the office, practice yoga in my studio flat… things are surprisingly the same as what life would be in Canada.
But I have moments, where I can’t get free of being different. And my values, culture and colour are glaringly opposite to the place I now call home.
What scares me the most? That despite it all – I still want to stay.
This has become my place in the world, as crazy as it seems. I am trying so hard to want to go back to Canada, but I know that Canada won’t make me happy. I need to be happy within myself.
I read this quote, even retweeted it, and have been mulling it over ever since:
“Anyone can hide. Facing up to things, working through them, that’s what makes you strong.” -Sarah Dessen
Still trying to sort out how it all adds up, to how these rantings become a life principle, how they change something in 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?