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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Each Breath is a New Beginning, an Opportunity to do it Better



Huambo (Hello)

I am a new person this morning. Although I awoke at 3:00 am, (rattled by another bombing), I fell asleep so early last night that I slept through dinner.  I was told that my classmates living here at the center: Rose, Stephen, Tom and Charlie (shortened names for my benefit, since their African names remain impossible for me to pronounce correctly), waited patiently for me to show up to the dinner table before filling their plates and starting to eat. When I did not show up, they voted for Sister Rose to check on me. At 8:00 pm, I heard a gentle tap on my door. A sweet African accent ask, "Mary, do you want some food?" It was not until Rose reported back to the group about my well-being that they arose from the dining table, filled their plates, and began to eat the meal.When I walked into the dining area this morning, they greeted me as if I had just returned from a long journey. In many ways, I had come back from a journey.

Experiencing the thunderous sound that caused the earth to shake below my feet, resulting in the death of many innocent human beings, has become an embodied  and existential experience. My emotions are thick: fear, despair, grief and anger.

Analyzing an emotion, strip it down to its bear bones, is an enlightening exercise that many of us are unwilling to touch. We react in a certain way in a certain moment. End of story. This was what we did in our class today!

For example, lets take anger. Why do you get angry? What is your experience when you feel anger? If one challenges you by taking the emotion you chose to describe a given interaction; for example, I feel "angry," and, as T.S. Eliot describes, "like a patient etherized on a table," lay that word out for all to see, all to dissect and stab that from every angle until it is bloody and raw, one discovers the "why" in why anger is your experience/reaction in a given situation. Furthermore, you have to own this reaction and not to blame the others, One finds it is not about the other person, or the one that made you "angry," it is something inside of you that has not been named and integratted. Chomp on that a bit.

Needless to say, while in front of my peers and my teachers being the one to dissect and be dissected for an hour, I cried, felt beat up, yet I experience a sense of liberation and joy after! I believe I am beginning to unpack that purple bag I talked about in my initial post. While I felt utterly uncomfortable during the exercise, the words of Father John came to mind: "it is only through the suffering pains of birth that life can begin."


As the day progressed, I realized my outside world, meaning my little room, represented my inside world: chaotic and messy. Some say how we keep our outside world reflects much about our inner world. If I am here do some unpacking— reaching in and pulling up those deep issues that block me in life and relationships, it was time to get my act together. I finally unpacked those dam suitcases, neatly organizing my belongings in the rickety armoire.  I kept the clothes in my suitcase that would be too hot to wear, picked up the scattered dirty clothes I have been walking on for the past 3 days, and vowed to ask Jebetta for a washing lesson. I placed the copious amounts of  "back up" medicines and beauty products in another bag, along with the unusable hairdryer and curling iron, and stowed them away under my bed. I also made the bold decision to stow away all makeup products, with the exception of my tinted face lotion (baby steps).  Come on friends, doesn't the thought make you a tad anxious? Remarkably, I don't feel anxious and traumatized by it! I wonder if I could have done the same at home? Somehow, I doubt I would have loved myself enough to allow it! Please do not misunderstand me. There is absolutely nothing wrong with makeup, botox, etc. What is at question is the "why" you do it. My "why" is not healthy.

Maybe I am starting to experience moving beyond the red lipstick?

(A bonus to all this positive juju: I found my shampoo!)




I have much work to do tonight, so I will end this post with the highlight quotes/thoughts of the day:

"Running away from your shadow does not mean it does not follow you."

"Humility is to know what you know and be open to learn more."

"Do the work to unglue your thick mask and live as you are meant to live."

"Being judgmental gives us 'false joy' because it make us feel powerful. It says, 'I am better than you.' A judgmental person is incapable of disagreeing with another without dismissing the entire person. A disagreement turns into a rejection of the entire person."

"Challenge yourself and others when they say 'I feel good" or 'I feel bad'? What do those words mean? Once unpacked, we find these are words are hiding a myriad of feelings." Stepping in to this challenge is an act of love.

"Giving others authority means you rely on externals for your strength and validation, when the locus of control is within yourself." The kingdom of God is within you takes on a whole new meaning!

"If your shower is coming down on your head with cold water, it is up to you to change the temperature!"


I have so much more I want to share. I want to describe the beauty of the Kenyan people. I want to discuss the absolute and authentic kindness they innately carry. I want to tell you about my walk with my classmates, Tom and Charlie, and our discussion about politics and show they view the recent terrorist attack. I want to tell you about the food Jebetta prepares for us, so simple yet so rich with love, all organically grown and picked from the garden on the grounds. But, I know...I don't have to wear you all out with it now. I have several months!

Tonight I give thanks for my life and the lives of all of you: we are strong yet so fragile and vulnerable. I give thanks that I learned it is right and grace-filled to grab a hold of my own authority and to stop giving it away;  I grieve for those who suffer because others feel the authority to be judgmental (this includes myself, BTW) and dismiss the entirety of a human life just because they disagree with you; I grieve for the recent loss of lives.

Usiku Mwema, (good night)

Nakupenda, (I love you)



                                                                My walking buddies

1 comment:

  1. They are reporting on NPR about the Nairobi attack. That must have been so unsettling being so close. How horrific. Love the idea of dissecting emotions and owning them. So true. And so powerful. What an experience you are having.

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