18 August 2009

Musings from 30,000 feet...

From somewhere over the Pacific Ocean on a day that began at a hotel in Washington at 4:45 AM and will not end until 4 AM the following day in a time zone 11 hours ahead, after 30+ hours of travel. I’m feeling disoriented to say the least. Emotionally and physically, I’m bordering on exhaustion. Making such a concerted effort to present a strong sense of certainty about this new venture has required a certain amount of emotional distancing that helped get me through the good-byes that could have paralyzed me over the past few days, but I feel that it’s left me exhausted enough that as soon as things settle down and I realize the reality of my decision to be gone for two years that I just might break down. Don’t get me wrong, I know this is the right step for me, and the place that I need to be, but it was not an easy choice for me to make and embrace. I am certain that these next two years will full of unfathomable challenges. At times during the process of bringing this dream into reality, I’ve questioned my ability to handle the challenges and expectations that await me in Vietnam. Questions like, Can I do this? Am I in over my head? Am I crazy? Why? Pepper my thoughts even as I doggedly pursued a way to make this happen. Those with whom I shared some of these concerns did their best to realistically assuage my fears, while keeping me grounded in the reality this time will present me with challenges that will stretch beyond my wildest expectations.

At times, especially when I’m on the brink of something new, I find myself longing for a smaller life. I long to be satisfied by the things that comprise a ‘normal’ life. Though I chafe against the constraints of routine and get restless when I’m in the same place for too long, part of me wishes for a sense of contentment with the lie that doesn’t keep pushing me so far from the world I know. While I know that these are largely reactionary desires that simply promise an easier alternative to the options that push, mold and shape me, a small part of me wishes for fulfillment in them nonetheless.

There’s a chapter in Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak entitled “Now I Become Myself” and that line keeps running through my mind as I contemplate what this journey will mean. The line is taken from a larger poem that I can’t remember but in it, the poet speaks of the process by which authentic selfhood is formed. This process, she says has taken her many places, and in that time she has worn many different faces, but now, she says I become myself. This feels like one of those moments for me, as I stand on the brink and peer out into the unknown. I don’t know which self will reveal itself in these next days, weeks, and months. I have caught glimpses of it in the questions which haunt my thoughts and the things about which I become passionate. But, I am sure that this true picture of myself will surprise even me as she is born throughout this time. I look forward to this birth, even as I anticipate the pains that will accompany it.

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