It’s happening. Every day takes me further away, making the desert my memory instead of my reality. Cindy, WOTH Editor, tells me that, “We write so we don’t forget.” And can I tell you something? I’d rather not document all of this, but… I don’t wanna forget it…because He’s so good. Maybe you’ve been here, too… or maybe you’re headed here. Either way: Welcome to the Uncomfortable.
So, I’m being totally awkward and withdrawn and people are reaching out to me and being mostly wonderful and I…. just stare at them. Like they’re the ones being weirdos. Inside my big, lethargic body, I’m squirming around in gratefulness and delight, but I can’t communicate it. I can’t give the right expression or say the right words. I can’t appropriately respond to their initiation because I feel imprisoned… just locked in a foreign language, time and space. Alone. Again. [Like I was in the desert.]
No other American shared my desert work experience. I spent HOURS every day in my head. [Trust me—you don’t want in there.] Surrounded by women cluck-cluck-clucking, playing with my hair, poking my stomach, examining my eyebrows, studying my clothes and talking about me… in Arabic. Bored, embarrassed, stuck, alone. I marveled at my days and friendships, at my unprecedented boldness and strength. I grieved my lack of language and style, my youth and my weakness. Even in the adventure, every day was wildly predictable: I’d be alone.
I’m approaching a full two years of not being known, of no one in my daily life being able to understand me. It’s not anyone’s fault that they weren’t with me in the desert—totally not. But I can’t fully articulate where I’m at right now, and I’m the one who is responsible for navigating these changes. These changes in me.
A wretched reality of the Shagra in TYD is that I’m [seemingly] strong. StrengthsFinder will tell you that I’m an outrageously empathetic-believing-wooing-developer of people who values connectedness and has a strong sense of responsibility. What StrengthsFinder won’t tell you is that I feel I’ve run out of these strengths. “New norms” have made me weak, but people around me don’t recognize that I’ve stopped interacting till I’m at the point of being fully recoiled and closed, if at all. Again: Not their fault.
I’ve also decided that the English language needs more words, too. Because I’ve been examining myself and wanted to say that… I don’t feel lonely. Not most of the time. The alone I’m speaking of is that of isolation and separation. Like I’m some steps behind… that I’m not included… like there’s something I’m not understanding…
I can tell you that my heart has been singing this past week—well, it’s been singing the blues, but it’s better than being silent, amen? Dear, dear photo book friend is in the States and I can reach her by text. So, of course, we skip the chit chat and go straight for the heart wrenching topics. Over text. But she knows. She knows the wounded parts of me—the depths that are silently sliced open when I don’t know what to say to a friend who wants me to “talk” or when a story actually finds its way out of my soul and past my lips and… then, no one knows how to respond. She knows because she shares this with me. And as I was crying in a Starbucks in California [yeah, I guess it’s what I do these days], she found herself a side street in New York to mourn her own last desert days, anticipating her photo book…
It hurts—this coming and going. And, in many ways, I don’t feel like I know myself anymore. But in the past months, while clumsily finding my way, I’ve come to see these natural stages of reverse-culture shock as one more thing I’m willing to endure for Love. My alone-ness has caused me to talk to Him and want Him more—for Him to show Himself as Comforter. It’s given me words for those anticipating their own arrivals and departures. It’s opened my eyes to the reality of the Son’s time on earth—how He really had no one who knew Him.
I’m embracing that fact that “I’m ruined” in so many ways. I can’t understand and have trouble managing much of it, but I’ve been wrapped in the joy in my aches and tears. I’ve found that I don’t want to forget how I avoid. And divert. And am grieving.