My youngest son said this week, “I haven’t read your blog in forever.” I told him I hadn’t really posted anything since November and that post was entitled “Things that Stain”. Silence. “Wow Mom, that’s a little Goth.” I agreed that it did reflect a time-specific state of mind.
When I think back to that time, I feel like a small airplane in the big, Montana sky, quite solitary and small and sounding like a fly buzzing in the distance. Then, I start to sputter and cough some dark smoke and almost unnoticed, I spiral out of the sky and crash into a farmer’s field creating just a little poof of dust. It was devastating to me, but the world pretty much just went on.
I have a friend named Dan who has known Allan and me for 30 years. When we have just made some big life change, like having a child or moving, he has asked us if this is a new paragraph, chapter or book in our lives. I have definitely experienced a life change in the past 5 months and my answer is teetering between a new chapter or possibly, even, a new book, it was that big. Strangely, I was right here the whole time, but my world swirled in change around me and I came to see that ways I thought I understood people were not only incorrect at that moment, but had likely never been correct. Dan also pointed that out to me and it was one of the most useful observations I’ve ever received. It helped me stop fighting behaviors I thought were uncharacteristic of people and begin telling myself that I don’t know how they are thinking. And with that, I could stop trying to make sense of it. I think it has altered my perceptions of people forever.
This year was supposed to be my “bump” year. I have a justifiable theory that the third year you live somewhere is the year when all of the hard work that went into making the changes required by a move pays off. You get to finally just live in a place rather than constantly discover or adapt to it. After last fall, I dismissed any hopes of a bump year. Everything looked like tearing apart and rebuilding, no staying still and enjoying.
But then, a number of things and people started getting better, including me. A counselor who has worked with our school on PTSD made a simple but profound statement: People will spontaneously get better. We slogged through a Christmas season with pasted-on smiles and nearly trampled one another to get to the airport to go someplace else for a few weeks, but amazingly, many people were really happy to get back here to their Tunisian homes and our school and each other. I was.
I asked Allan a week or so ago how the new hires are doing in their waiting period and he said, “Great, do you want to see them?” and he started pulling up an info. sheet he had made about them on his computer.
I said, “No, not yet.” Very soon, all of those new people will become a priority for me as we work to greet, settle and integrate them into our school community and Tunisia, but at that moment, I was just sensing the beginning of being able to simply converse with people I’ve groomed friendships with for two years and longer. We were finally eating lunch together, again. We were starting to laugh and plan little outings. I wanted to have one season, at least, in the present before we have to start taking things apart this spring and saying goodbyes. It made me think of the song Blue Umbrella, by John Prine?
Just give me one good reason And I promise I won't ask you any more. Just give me one extra season So I can figure out the other four.
I think I’m going to get my season. A few of us had a soul-expanding day yesterday in the Tunisian countryside tramping around on an organic olive, honey and wild thyme farm. We worked up a big appetite and devoured a vat of fava bean couscous. Then, like a bunch of happy babies, and alongside the happy babies, we napped on the bus all the way back to Tunis. We were happy together and I thought, saha.
Saha is an Arabic word my friend Dorsaf anoints me with when I share with her about a good experience I have had or thank her for some way in which she has treated me. Saha, saha she says and she explains that you say it like the Kiwi, “Good on you,” or just basically, I am happy that you experienced something nice.
Many of us have read Anne Lamott’s new book, Help, Thanks, Wow, recently. She writes about asking the “Great Someone” for simple help when we realize we are choking the life out of ourselves and others. When our squid-inky hands are making a mess of a situation even worse and we can’t seem to stop. Breaking out of the black hole requires one to breathe, stop talking and let some air and light get into the situation, which incidentally is what is needed for the healing of all wounds. Healing comes when we let it and feeling new growth elicits a spontaneous murmuring of thanks, thanks, thanks, it’s good, it’s good, it’s good.