Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Part of Me
This weekend we went on a trip to Boston, and while there, we attended church. It was the first Sunday of the month, and in our church that means that anyone is allowed to go to the microphone and share some thoughts about the gospel.
A blonde-haired girl who looked to be about my age got up and began to talk about trials. She talked about a time when she and her husband had just returned from living in Chile, and how she sat in church and reveled in the "American-ness" of the lesson, and was just so grateful to have finished the Chile experience, and to be able to put it behind her and move on.
I'd never seen this girl before, but I saw my eyes in hers as she smiled wryly and spoke too lightly, mentioning the experience only briefly and then skipping past it. Skipping ahead before the memories got too painful.
China, my mind whispered. Only you can't claim you've moved on.
I've written before about trying to overcome my China experience. I said at one point that I was going to start writing lots of posts about China, to try to help me work through it all. I then wrote 3 more posts, none of which had to do with China, and then quit blogging at all for the next six months; in part because every time I went to write, I felt guilty for not writing about China.
I've told myself so many times that I want to put China behind me, yet in the same bag I packed for Boston this weekend I carried all the items in the picture above--they've been in that same bag, the bag I use for nearly every trip I take, for the last 4.5 years. In one pocket of a jacket I wear every spring and fall, I still carry a Chinese bus ticket.
I've come a long way in the last 4.5 years. I'm not as jumpy. I'm not quite as cynical. I've even started to study Chinese again, and, for the first time in years, I was listening to a Chinese podcast the other day and had the sudden desire to go to Asia--not China specifically, but maybe someday I'll get that far.
But I haven't moved on. I haven't given up my bitterness for not getting the experience I dreamed about for so long. Despite many people's reassurances that someday I'd look back and only remember the good things, my memories of China jump straight to the depression, the sickness, the frustrations, the injustices, and the week at the end that left me with 6 months of PTSD.
As I've thought about how to put China behind me, though, the answer I'm coming to is that I shouldn't. Instead of trying to put it behind me, I think I need to take it inside me, and make it a part of me; not in the traumatic way it's been a part of me up until now, but in a conscious, I can learn from this sort of way.
Up until now, I think I've done that only with one aspect of the China experience: being sick. During my first pregnancy, as I got up every morning and puked before heading off to class, I reminded myself that I did the same thing in China, and that I was still somehow able to go stand in front of classes of 50-85 students and teach. Because of that precedent, I knew I could go sit in my classes and finish my degree, even while sick, and even when my burgeoning belly no longer fit in the desks and I had to sit sideways. I received power because I internalized a difficult experience.
I don't know what lessons I'll learn from the rest of the experiences, and I may not have a "lesson" attached to each post I write. But I hope that, in writing out some of these things, I'll be able to learn the lessons that this experience was meant for. That I'll find power, instead of pain, in my memories.
After all, I survived. And anything which does not kill us is intended to make us stronger--if we will let it.
(Now lets see if we actually get any posts about China this time...)