the first bite.

September 14, 2008

i remember a tuesday evening last winter [or, i suppose, it could have been spring – tuesday nights often get smooshed together in my head] when i sat out on the front steps of first presbyterian church with a friend after i had given a talk to a couple hundred college students. as i often feel on tuesday nights, i was irritated and sad because i hadn’t said what i wanted, or expressed what was inside of me very well. he listened patiently [as he did to many of my post-speaking, self-absorbed debriefings] as i babbled on about how i should probably quit speaking – because i clearly am not able and, quite frankly, i have nothing left to say. when i was done verbally throwing up on the sidewalk of garden street, my friend posed a question – do i really believe i have nothing to say or was there so much inside of me that i didn’t know how to share it? dang it, he was probably right.

for the past two weeks, i haven’t been able to type even one full paragraph before my mind switches tracks, my feelings want to be expressed differenly, and i start all over again: a new paragraph that never gets finished. it’s been frustrating and has left me exhausted, feeling as if perhaps i have nothing to say. i have shut my laptop and walked away numerous times, unsatisfied with my words and annoyed at their limits [or maybe, at my own]. and today, an old question is asking itself – do i really have nothing to say or is there so much inside of me that i don’t know how to share it? dang it, that’s probably it.

so, this afternoon, as the september sun is shining and the sounds of neighborhood children echo in the air, i will sit on my front porch and muster up the courage [and energy] to try. and i choose to be kind to myself today: to take small bites and chew carefully, to not expect myself to be able to say more than i am ready for, to honor the place where God is currently holding me by not forcing it past too quickly.

twenty-two days ago richard dropped me off at the kilmanjaro airport – in the same white van he had first picked mom and me up in two months earlier. i walked up to the ticket counter and through tear-filled eyes and a lumped throat checked myself in. “kuna matatizo gani?” the woman behind the counter asked. she wanted to know what the trouble was. “ninahuzuni,” [i am sad] i replied, “ninakupenda sana, tanzania” [i love tanzania very much]. she smiled and handed me my ticket. i remember wishing that the flight would be cancelled, or overbooked. but my wishes were left ungranted, and two hours later i was on a plane [the first in a very long line of planes] heading back to the world i had come from. a world filled with people i care deeply for, a job that has meant everything to me for nearly a decade, a beautiful home [complete with an adorable pug], and the promises of my favorite season. i am back now. i am sleeping in my own bed, going to the market on saturdays, walking to the grocery store and trying not to cry in front of the cashier, spending time with people i love, reading new books, going to work each day, catching up on political news, forcing myself to go to church [well, most of the time], drinking coffee, going to weddings, taking walks, showering every morning, going to the gym.

and this world isn’t mine anymore, not completely, not like it once was.

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