18 November, 2008
Namaste. Hey! How’s it going? Sawubona. The moon is waning tonight in a clear sky that’s black for once instead of orangey-fog-reflecting-city-lights. What a day it has been. What a week. What a month. What a year. Sometimes it is difficult for me to grapple with it all to imagine the places I’ve been, the people with whom I have lived and worked, and believe that it’s all me and all one world and all one year. I feel the need to slow down and ground myself in people and a place. But it’s hard. I rarely think about Nepal and India, rarely think of them, I mean, because of how far away they feel. And yet so close. I received a letter from a dear friend today reminding me how I have left a part of myself in these places and that I have taken something of them with me, that I am different and better, fuller because of my life there and the people I love in these places.
He also told me that the places were better for my having lived there. I like to think so. I try to live my life so that the people around me can see more clearly the beauty of the world and people. For it is not me to make the world more beautiful but to open my eyes to see its beauty. I believe that living in the moment, in the present, is very much about finding this beauty in the world. Life is good, big picture. Very good. I love the city I live in (San Francisco), I live with some of the most incredible, strong, passionate women I know, I like my work at the residential care facility and appreciate its basic importance – cleaning, dressing, feeding and caring for fragile women who have spent their lives doing this and so much more for others – I love my church community and feel at home and rejuvinated each Sunday when I am there.
But the details. The moments are sometimes such a struggle. Being present is not so easy if I feel tired. Sometimes I wonder why I am here and not somewhere else, anywhere else. I get frustrated and angry with friends for not being more present in my life as I struggle, finally, with culture shock and the challenge of being an adult not-in-college in the United States, as I figure out full time work and stress about the GREs and graduate school applications. It often feels like a roller coaster. Up and down and up and down. As my stomach sinks to my knees then rises to my throat, I wish that I could call a halt to the ride, jump out of my seat without hurting myself, not have gotten on. But I am on. It’s life. And I realize that a geographical fix is not going to get me off. And the ride’s not about that anyway. It’s about Mrs. O’Connor yesterday morning at work when I went to help her out of bed, telling her how glad I was to see her. She turned to me and said, “You’re such a doll.” It’s about my cold hands on Mrs. Shelton’s warm ones as I assist her down the stairs. “You in love with a fool?” she asks (I guess that’s what they say about cold hands). It’s about the smile on Joe’s face at church when I see him after being away for a Sunday. I’m glad to see him too. It’s about laughing while I struggle to do yoga with Shawnrey, and we talk about life and art and dancing. It’s about calling my mom 3 times in 30 minutes to ask about plane tickets.
If only I could keep these things in sight each moment. But I can’t. All I can do is to be insanely grateful for the love and care of these people around me. I am learning that generosity is not only found halfway around the world. Hospitality does exist in the United States (I experienced it during my three hour conversation about identity, race and responsibility with some Divinity students in Chicago – the conversation ended at 3:00 am). Someone asked me how I can have the energy to care about so many people. I don’t know. But I do care about other people. The chances are the reason that you’re on this email list is because I care about you. I guess having each of you care about me back gives me the strength and energy I need to keep on caring. And the grace to forgive myself when I don’t care, when I walk by a woman, like I did today, who sat on the sidewalk and asked me if I had some change to spare for food. I did not even look at her. How is it that we are so complex? So human and flawed in our way of living. I am able to love so strongly AND to not care. Or not care enough to do anything. Smile. This has been a long philosophical rant. Or perhaps we could call it an extemporaneous reflection. Grin. It doesn’t exactly say that much about what exactly is filling my life today. Except there are people. And there is incredible beauty and joy and some fairly intense moments of frustration and struggle and loneliness. Such is life. A tapestry of contradictions. What does your tapestry look like? What colors are prominent? What textures? Think about it perhaps. And remember that it’s beautiful.
With much love, Thandiwe