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Across The Universe

August 2, 2007

Caution: long post! Read when you have time!

clouds over Georgia, July 30th, 2007

Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup,
They slither while they pass,
they slip away across the universe

Pools of sorrow, waves of joy
are drifting through my opened mind,
Possessing and caressing me.

Sounds of laughter shades of earth are ringing
Through my open ears inciting and inviting me…
Limitless undying love which shines around me like a
Million suns, it calls me on and on
Across the universe

However, unlike the verse that follows (Nothing’s gonna change my world), I do feel that my world has been changed, in subtle, yet powerful ways. I feel like we were all on an acid trip together (though I wouldn’t know what that feels like). I feel like my heart’s been cracked open.

D’Arcy wrote today about how being an exchange student changed her (or didn’t). I’ve been thinking a lot about this in the past few days (and weeks). There’s the surface stuff, and then there’s the deeper stuff.

Surface stuff includes:

Out of my shell: This is the most obvious. Prior to being an exchange student, I had a hard time meeting new people, letting people in. In fact, I was kind of terrified. Very shy. I put up prickly barriers to guard against ‘unworthy’ people coming in. Like I was one to judge who was worthy. This is what Finland taught me: it’s worth it to risk a little and let in unexpected people. At the very least, you’ll learn something. And you might make a friend for life. I still have a hard time in group situations, but at least now I can fake it a little better. And I’ve got a keen eye for those folks who might make a good friend.

Seasoned traveller: Now, there are certainly people who have travelled more than me. Relatively speaking, I haven’t travelled very much at all. But I do know how to get around. And how to do the no-common-language communication. And how to get out of sticky situations. And exactly how long a book to bring on a 9-hour train ride. I definitely learned to love travelling.

Drinking: It was in Finland that I learned that I’m really not much of a drinker. I’d be fine with a sip of wine now and again, but I’m totally fine in my usual mode of not touching the stuff. I’m grateful for this, actually. Don’t get me wrong, I had a ton of fun getting tipsy with my friends back then. But generally speaking, not a fan.

There were some other things, of course: loving Finnish baked goods and lingonberries and cloudberries… learning to ride a bike through frozen snow… how to dress for -35 C bike rides… etc. But mostly, the ways in which this whole experience affected me (now and then) were more subtle, and much deeper, and have taken almost 15 years for me to realize.

There’s so much I want to say and I don’t know how to arrange it, so I’ll just jump in.

Our first night, I posed a question to our group: “I know how each of you contribute to our group; I know why you’re all special. But I don’t know how I am special in this group. I don’t know what I bring.” I knew I could trust them to be honest and kind.

What I heard moved me deeply. I heard: that I’m sensitive and kind. That I have deep compassion. That they feel they can tell me anything, and I won’t judge. That I’m sweet and loving. That I’m a calm presence. That I’m grounding. That I bring a dose of reality to any situation. That I speak my mind and opinions, but kindly (at least, now I do). That I’m a good friend. That the years have softened my sharp edges. That I’m more kind and caring than ever.

I love this. I feel like I’ve been shown a mirror and all the things I’d hoped to see got reflected back in the kindest, most beautiful light. It meant so much to me that my friends see me that way. That this is what my puzzle piece looks like.

I realized today that in the past nine months or so, I finally feel like I’m coming back to myself. I’d had inklings (which I’ve posted about here), but this full circle of being reunited with my exchange student friends (and, in a sense, with my 18-year-old self) has somehow given me permission to finally settle back into just being me. When I came home from Finland, I was so very lost. Absolutely clueless about what I wanted to do, or how to do it. I struggled. I had bad boyfriends. I almost got married. Then I met Keith and moved here. It was wonderful, we had so much fun — but it wasn’t about me, not really. I learned a lot and did a lot of things, but my own self kept on shrinking. I got married and divorced. I was seriously depressed. I met and fell in love with Terri, which was and is wonderful and exactly what and who I need. But I’ve had to fight my way back through my own self-imposed rules and expectations and walls, to finally get a glimpse of the truth: It doesn’t matter what I do. The only thing is to just be myself. And to love me. And that’s what this weekend has given me: permission to love myself, just as I am. Who cares what I accomplish (or don’t)? All that matters is that I live with heart. And as myself.

I got in a little early this morning and did some journalling. An excerpt:

“I feel like something has shifted and changed and I’m different. I feel like I’m coming back to earth, but I want to keep processing what happened. Something profound happened. I feel like I got shown my true self, and it was shown with such *love*. Love and acceptance. It’s almost as if, coming full circle, I’ve been given confirmation and permission to really be myself again. I look at the photos I’ve taken and I’m so happy, and I struggle not to cry with overflowing emotion. I’m sad, but it’s not sadness that moves me. It’s feeling profoundly grateful. Being seen for who I am, seeing myself reflected back with such love, and total acceptance by people who could just as easily let time sweep me and our friendship away – this is so moving to me. Free of expectations, just totally accepted. Over time, people expect things of regular friendships. It’s normal. But to cut through all the crap and sit there with Darren, D’Arcy, Ismail and Monica, and to absolutely know in the depths of my heart that I am loved and that these people really truly love me and enjoy me (even if I can’t quite figure out why) – this means so much. I don’t understand it, but I appreciate it beyond words. That feeling that I don’t fit in anywhere – it goes away when I’m with them. More than anything, that’s what it is: I have a place. There is a puzzle piece with my name on it. The puzzle isn’t complete unless I’m there. The reunion would not have been the same, wouldn’t have happened in the wonderful way it did, if I weren’t there. God, when does a person have that? The years have taught me more compassion and more patience. More tolerance. I understand pain and suffering better, I understand what patience really means. I want to be there for all of them. I want them to write to me when they are feeling lonely, call me when they want to hear a loving, friendly voice. I want to be an active friend, though we are miles and miles apart. Being friends with these folks is extremely important to me. I love each of them individually in a different way per each, and I love them as a group with my whole heart. They make me want to be a better person, to live more authentically, to love with my whole heart, though it might hurt sometimes. To be open to whatever comes. I’m blessed beyond belief. All those times when I felt so lost, so alone, so hopeless – I’m not alone. I’m loved.”

Thank you, D’Arcy and Ismail and Monica and Darren. This is my love letter to you all. It’s not so much what you mean to me (although that in itself is immeasurable) — it’s that I mean something to you. That’s the gift. You make me see myself as someone with a gift to give. You all inspire me to be my best self, but to also just to be MY self. It’s like I forgot I had the most amazing friends in the whole world, and now I’ve rediscovered them. And I have FOUR of them. And I’m never letting any of you go again.

I do feel changed. I feel like I want to stay this open and this bright-eyed (if not exactly bushy-tailed… I’m still recovering from the lack of sleep!). I want to really think about what I’m putting out into the world. What I’m giving back.

But on a smaller (and, to me, more meaningful) scale, I want, deeply, to continue my friendships with all these people. Even though we are miles apart, times have changed enough that we can stay in closer contact. I want to laugh hysterically with Monica and hear about her adventures and love her through all of them. I want to travel with D’Arcy (with kids?!), have misadventures, share inside jokes that seem to pop up like wildflowers when we’re together, revel in that which makes “Daph-n-D’Arce” so special. I want to poke Ismail into spirited arguments, share music and book lists, debate mystery and reason. And I want to hear Darren say over and over and over again, through sweet tears, “I can’t believe you’re all here! I can’t believe we’re together again!” and go over and hug him tightly.

Darren, I promise — this won’t be the last time.

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