Something I have never been good at, is goodbyes. And having my life split between a number of significant places across the globe, one would assume this has gotten easier. It hasn’t. Many places hold severe significance to my story…all have been “home” in some sense. None are rated higher than the other. Each hold a part of me, have formed my heart into what it is today, have worked me over, tugging at my heart, and whispering for me to return. I couldn’t choose one of these places if I had to, so I am thankful this is not a task before me at this time.
Coping, however I can do. I have learned to look forward, to gauge the future with a speck of joy in the mystery, focusing on what is to come, not allowing myself to live too much in my mind, where I can’t be physically in the present. But honestly, it makes me wonder how “natural” goodbyes are supposed to be. My coping mechanism is to block the emotion from taking root for too long, dismissing the reality of separating. I tend to do this quickly. I am certain it’s unhealthy. But I don’t really know what else to do. I mean, separation is one of the most difficult things to conquer. The breaking of ties, the changing of relationships…and feels unnatural to me. But is has to be done.
Despite the pain I know is coming in goodbyes, I have remained firm in allowing myself to still go deep with people. I am thankful to have not lost this ability, or been frightened away. One could put up intense walls by thinking “what’s the point?”…but not me. The point is to make the most of my time with those I am surrounded with. Allow them to be used as tools, and soak up the joy that comes with their presence in my life. My motto is “Everyone has an interesting story to tell, you just gotta know the right questions to ask to get them talking.” Hearing people’s stories inspires me.
Even with my current job at the language center, I am back at it. I was surprised how quickly I connect with my adult students, and get attached, the same as with kiddos I have had in my past classrooms. We spend hours together, engaging in each others lives, learning about one another, our different societies, family structures, etc. Then one day, they tell me their time is up, and they are off….whether to a new school, or back to their home country. It always ruins my day. I hate when this happens. “Thank you teacher for teaching us….” then off they go…
It’s unsettling to me how often this is the case…and I have started pondering how damaging this is for me on a mental and emotional level, to always feel like I am going to have to say goodbye.
Leaving Egypt was particularly tough. I was greeted with immediate community the moment my feet hit Egyptian soil. Our group of expat girls from both the UK as well as the States, was one of my sweetest parts of living in Cairo. I was shocked at our immediate chemistry, and how we leaned on one another for survival. When one would leave, it tore us all up. But we all knew this was part of the life we had been called to, but we hated it. It rocked us, every time. Thankfully we all still talk, send group emails to one another, conference Skype, and plan reunions here in the States. Oh the joy it brings. These relationships were sweet beyond words.
Of course, the families I worked with at the school in Cairo were undeniably a huge gift as well…and the church community, and my home school moms, my Arabic teacher, and my co-workers…aah! So many close relationships…so much tenderness. I did not lack community in any sense when I lived in Egypt. This was a rich area of my life during my days in that crazy land.
But there is one relationship that stands out in a different way. Below are some shots of my closest Egyptian peer companion. The first night that she came over to my place for pizza, I knew and thought, “This is something sweet that we have”…and it was…and still is. Within the year, I will be returning to Cairo, to attend her wedding. I am on pins and needles waiting for the exact date of the ceremony to be set so I can book my ticket.
Although we live on opposite sides of the world, this face, is one that is never far from my memory…a laugh I can still hear in my mind whenever I want. Our opposing world views, upbringings, culture, family set up, beliefs, views of God, and religious practices did not cause rift between us. Rather, were used as tools sharpening how we relate to those different than us. She taught me loads about Islam, and we were able to engage in some tough, but real conversations. Her desire to love those around her, honor God, and learn about the world, made her one of my favorites. I respect her more than she knows. I miss her everyday.
She was an unexpected burst of a blessing in a hard place…my sweet gift. Those that know her, adore her. And rightly so…