Saturday, December 8, 2012

Change of plans

I have the strangest feeling that my life is not going to be at all what I expected. This is particularly odd because I’ve never really had any expectations of what my life would be like at all. So to feel like it will be different, different that what, I wonder? But the feeling is still there.

It’s like that story where the woman prepares her whole life to go to Italy, saves her money, studies the culture, learns the language and then is suddenly surprised to find herself landing in Norway (or wherever). It’s still a beautiful country. There are still many adventures to be had. There is still the opportunity for a beautiful life there, but she is entirely caught off guard and unprepared. There it is, a beautiful life to be had with many beautiful experiences...completely different from what she had envisioned.

Again, I hadn’t ever really envisioned anything. And along with any heartache, that comes with it, I’ve always (nearly always, certainly as an adult) had an underlying calm about things and life in general. I know that the Savior loves me. I know that I can try again, even when I get frustrated with my own laziness and inability to make myself try hardly at all. I knew the opportunity was there. The opportunity to be happy in any circumstance. In any location. Perhaps my job choice is merely a subconscious effort to prove that point over and over, every three months. :)

When I decided to go on a mission I had one thought in mind: I want people to know that they can be happy. I want them to know that whatever their story is or was, or will be, they can be happy, even through the hurts.

Are there hurts? Please, are there ever not hurts? Are they ever too much? Sometimes it certainly feels like it. Can you pick yourself back up? I wish sometimes I could stay down, but surely enough, a few minutes, days later I find myself hopeful again. Blast that unquenchable hope and underlying knowledge that there are still things to enjoy once the hurt has had its moment. It’s embarrassing at times. To be so maddened and upset at one moment to find myself only a short while later singing the praises of what fun ride this life is.

And it really is. I’ve always seen this life as very short. It’s amazing how one can always feel like they’re right in the middle of their life. But I do. I have very strong memories from the time I was very young and I remember thinking, even then, how quick this life would fly by. I also remember knowing that I didn’t want to waste it. That I want to soak up all the wonderful things, and all the fun that this first time mortal can conjure up to endure, like tasting new wonderful foods for the first, or even disgusting foods for the first time. HA! (Frog legs. Yuck. Not that I’m the most adventurous person with food. Just that I enjoy learning and growing in this crazy, short life.)

When the topic of this life is brought up at church and how we all rejoiced at the idea of coming to earth and being blessed with the gift of agency, having to push through difficulties, heartaches, and overcoming weaknesses, and constantly having to correct ourselves and drag ourselves back to the path, I still get all excited.

I think to some extent, we all do. When kids ask for a puppy I think they really are excited to take care of it, feed it, walk it, clean up after it. I think they know exactly what it will entail and it enthralls them. Of course, like the rest us with this life, they get lazy, they get distracted, they get bored, or think there is something more important than the puppy (or whatever else it is we want) that they wanted so badly in the first place, the puppy and all the challenges that come with it.

We’re created to love a challenge, or at least growth. I’m terribly lazy and my faith lacks more in myself to care for a puppy, or do what it takes to get, keep, maintain the “puppy” rather than the promised and sure reward that will come from having whatever it is that I want. The exhausting, constant, tedious, re-correction, that in the end is part that means the most and that we become most proud of.

We’re more proud of the culmination of events, dedication and survival of preparing for a the marathon when we cross the finish line than those last 26.2 miles we just completed. These are all metaphors I assure you. I’ve never run a marathon. Not yet anyway. I did train for one once though and got up to 17.5 miles...then I got strep like 6 weeks before the race. But that’s another story for another time.

I don’t claim to be a motivated or productive person. In fact I think I score very low on both ends of those measures. But it doesn’t mean I don’t see joy in the today and for whatever reason am very excited for the road ahead, whatever it is.

This is kind of on point, but probably more off point. I think about this subtly when I think about my dad. His birthday is coming up and I’m trying to think of the appropriate way to celebrate. There are so many to choose from. And any or all of them would have some sort of sweetness to them.

The hurt is still there. He’ll always be dead. Time can’t fix that, like it can the frustration of a friend canceling plans, a failed work out, a bad day at work, or a bad haircut. For the rest of my life, I won’t have a father. And nothing is going change that. But it sneaks up at the oddest times. And strikes the most unexpected cords some times. But even while I’m releasing the tears, whether they be of fond memories, or past hurts, I know that when the hurt has had it’s bittersweet moment (because sometimes it feels good to hurt-it forces you admit that you care-and that there are things worth being hurt about...that your soul is shapable), I will continue on again and, sometimes despite my best efforts, find joy in life again.

Do you know that when my father died, and since, only three people in the entire world asked if I was okay? Many offered condolences. Many asked questions and were kind and it was all well-received and very appreciated. But only three looked me straight in the eye (well, two looked me straight in the eye the other via phone, I could tell was sincere, and was really asking, choked me up at the thought of someone seeing through me in the midst of it) and asked how I was doing. It meant the world to me. Just being asked was enough. I didn’t even need to respond.

But like I said, despite the hurt, there is an underlying calm. A peace, happiness, and assurance that all is right in the world. Not that everything will eventually be right, but that right now, even during the hurt, everything is just fine. I’m just as capable of picking up right now and enjoying life (even enjoying the ability to care enough to hurt) as I will be in ten years or was ten years ago. It’s supposed to be that way, and it’s useful. And it’s wonderful.

So here I sit, looking at my beautiful Christmas tree decorated in memories (I used pictures of family, children in Ecuador I fell in love with, and pictures of really good moments that remind me of exactly how I felt in that particular moment), feeling like my flight has just be redirected to some unanticipated path. I look forward to looking back on it, like I do the pictures on my tree and being amazed at all of it.

I’d love to promise you a post about how I end up celebrating my dad’s  birthday but we all know I don’t have that kind of follow through.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Me Again...another Ecuadorian tangent.

I may have mentioned this before, or many of you know, the past few years were pretty rough. And although I thought I got through them just fine and had returned to normal life, I really hadn't.

Ecuador brought me back to life. It was a big catalyst for me. And although, it's something I have always wanted to do, and plan to continue to do (the whole international travel/volunteer thing) the timing was quite perfect.

Time had done all it could do in the healing me from my Father's passing, the scare of my mother's cancer, and letting go of a guy I really cared about but  new it would never work, but I didn't have that spark/zest for life again yet. And I didn't even know it.

Through these years I still found plenty to be happy about and some things to entertain me. And I don't know if it was just because I was bored or if it was because I was a bit numb. If I was numb I didn't know it, but looking back I can see how maybe all my resources were put into "getting through" that I didn't have much of me left for anything else. (And I did it all alone, which is sometimes easier, and sometimes harder.)

Either way, Ecuador came at a perfect time. I feel pleasantly guilty for how much I got out of loving those children. Whereas I always thought of everything in terms of plane tickets, I now think of everything in therms of orphanages and children and getting back there.

My poor ENT who told me I need to get my tonsils out, (I do, they're really bad. It's quite disgusting), who had me break down in his office in tears because of how much it would cost and me sobbing, "But that's orphan money!" I felt like an idiot.

And I realize that I will remember them much more than they me. I just hope that if I do get to go back to Ecuador the orphanages will let me back in to volunteer. (My sister-in-law, Kelsey-who btw, is one of the coolest people I've ever met- got me in the door the first time. I don't know if she knows how cool she is...) Ecuador will only let you in for 90 days in a 12 month period. By the time I could go (May) and by the time I save the money (set back majorly by the tonsil-thing...if I ever find a way/someone to babysit me when I get them removed), they most likely won't remember me or be fine with me just walking in the way I did before.

When I was there I felt totally alive. Couldn't wait to think of something else to do with the kids, to watch them grow and progress. And I had a good enough report with the staff and those who ran the orphanage that I feel like I was getting into a position to both know what would be useful there, and had their trust enough to start adding/making changes that would benefit the children and the home as a whole.

(Thanks to everyone who gave, especially that last minute effort to get the propane tanks. We were- able to buy two of them, for the record-so that the kids could have warm showers. What they really need now though is showers. I think there is one or two for all 52 children at that orphanage.) I'm sure we could do that without too much trouble...get them showers I mean. I don't know. I don't know what it would take to build like a little bathroom/locker room. The teenagers were clean for the most part, but the younger ones I don't think were cleaned/showered very well/often. And anyway, like I said, I no longer have the report I had with the staff to have them let me start a project like that. It takes time to build a relationship and I don't want to just walk in and step on toes or act like I know what's best. Because it also takes time in the orphanages to see what they, for me to even know/recognize what would be helpful.

(The books were a MAJOR hit! But I was there almost 2 months before I knew that's what might be most beneficial to that orphanage at that time.)

:) Like I said, I think of everything in terms of orphanages now, rather than just plane tickets. That was quite a tangent to prove my point though.

Those kids brought me back to life. And even though I'm home now I've been changed. The flip has been switched back to "on' and I care about things again. I'm excited about things again. I care about learning, and knowing, and doing, and loving. And I'm calm. I feel like me again. And I'm so excited to be back.  I owe those kids myself.