December 8, 2011 § Leave a Comment
I took it off automatic. Automatic brew doesn’t start till 5:00 AM, and I’ve been up since three. There was a nightmare, a start, and then a long stare at the Christmas lights across the street. I can’t seem to stay awake past 7:30 PM. I can’t seem to sleep past 3:00.
Last night Beta helped me clean up a coffee stain on my carpet, and then climbed into my bed beside me. “I can snuggle you,” she told me.
“Did you want to snuggle?” I asked, because we’re working on how to ask questions.
“Yep,” she said.
We laid in the dark for a long time, staring at the Christmas lights across the street. Finally, I asked if she was ready to go to her bed.
“Almost,” she told me.
“You’re not full up on snuggles yet are you?”
My mom woke me up around 9:00 grabbing Beta out of my bed. I’m 22, but when I’m fresh back from Africa, she usually still sneaks in a kiss goodnight, and tells me she loves me and she’s glad I’m home for at least a week of nights running.
I used to feel this ache when I first got back from trips overseas, like I wasn’t sure where I fit. And, a misfit kind of feeling is the worst, because you don’t know how to fix it. It’s an itch you can’t scratch. A feeling you can’t quite put your finger on. So, I got back on “American time” quickly. I went out for drinks with my friends right away to tell them about my travels. I spent a lot of time feeling doing fundraisers. When it came to Haiti, I convinced my parents to adopt.
But, this time around, my iphone is still set to both Los Angeles and Kampala. I wake up in the night to messages from Morris when he’s on chat online with updates on orders, and, around 3 AM, he’s usually telling me about the meeting he’s in with Agnes, or how soon they’re shipping bracelets for our next wholesale order – and can I send this or that amount of cash by the end of the week for him to use for it?
He’ll send me a message – “In your village, so I’m thinking of you.” And then, because he’s working with me officially now, he’ll correct himself – “our village.”
“Our village,” as if a man who comes from the Northern tribes of Uganda has split responsibility with me for a group of people in central Uganda – geographically placed by the powers that be to live in a place I never should have logically heard of, in an area that I never logically should have wanted to visit, working closely in a village he isn’t originally from, with a people group with skin about six shades lighter than his own.
But here we are, doing business at 3 AM, stopping when the electricity stops and his phone goes out, keeping track of the time difference – “shouldn’t you be sleeping?” He’s got two time zones on his smart phone, too.
And here I am, awake with a fresh cup of Starbucks brew at 5:00 AM, wishing I had brought home more Ugandan brew from Kampala, waiting for the electricity to come back so Morris can tell me about a wholesale order shipping out Friday, and wondering if, at 4:20 in the afternoon, the afternoon rains have set in yet in our village.
I guess I won’t be getting back on Pacific Coast Time any morning soon.
November 3, 2011 § Leave a Comment
I’m thankful my friend Dana uses it often.
“Are you keeping your congruity?
As long as you are keeping your congruity…
I lost congruity.
I must keep congruity!
Congruity – The state or quality of being congruous; harmony; appropriateness: a congruity of ideas.
Congruous – 1. Agreeing; accordant; congruous.
2. Mathematics. of or pertaining to two numbers related by a congruence.
3. Geometry. coinciding at all points when superimposed: congruent triangles.
Beta hands me back my congruity in bucket loads. I saw it clearly on Halloween, dressed up as a gypsy and fairy princess, and chatting with a 98 year old neighbor who wanted B to twirl in her dress. Her care taker noticed my sister’s dark skin and quietly asked me an aside: “Are you the family that was in the paper?”
Then he knows her full name without asking, and I’m smiling. Half because he read the article that thoroughly, and half because she doesn’t question why he’s calling her “Bethany” when she had introduced herself as “Beta.” I see growth in her. She doesn’t hide behind me when he calls her pretty, she laughs out loud, and gives him her hand – “why thank you!” She says it with a very Haitian kind of hip-cock, and grabs my dress as we’re leaving, “Oh! That man make me LAUGH! That man make me laugh so hard my heart hurt inside me.”
That night, she handed me my congruity in the same way she usually does, except I saw it clearer. She’s always giving me options to choose to laugh with her, to take a moment to not be too busy to care for her, to play just one more UNO game before bed time instead of checking my email. But on Halloween, I realized that, at eight, she’s good at reminding me of what I like. And knowing what I like is, quite often, the impetus of congruent living.
I stood in the street, watching her ring door bells, and I thought of the years I spent out for Halloween. Was I having fun? I don’t think as much fun as watching her ring door bells, or squeal over Reese’s pieces. Fun was effortless, this year, in it’s quiet, simple way on a backstreet, picking up candy, listening to her laugh so hard that her heart hurts. And, it felt right to be spending my night that way – which I think is also what living congruently is made of: knowing what’s right for you, even if it would be wrong for the guy in the seat to your left, and the one in the seat to your right.
I see congruity in her too, standing on the sidewalk yelling, “are you going to scare me? Because I don’t like it that way.” When the man in the dark house answers her honestly, “no, I won’t!” she can’t figure out why we’re both laughing. “What? I just tell him what I don’t like!” At eight, she knows more than I did at twenty – to speak out what she does and does not want (congruity), to dance with a drum outside my house in a pink bath robe and my mother’s clogs, and to lack embarrassment that the neighbors might hear, because she is singing to them. None of them know that she beats them to the punch. Of course they’ll hear. Of course they’ll comment. In fact, why don’t I just sing a little louder just so they do?
“They love my song,” she says to me when I ask.
My life has been odd for a year now. I graduated and picked a job that people asked about with quizzical looks. For months, my grandfather questioned my ability to drop by during the day.
“When are you going to get a job?” he’d ask.
I felt small when he said it, like he was right. As if being tied to a desk from nine to five, and having someone else sign my paycheck, meant that I had legitimate work. As if signing my own paychecks, and working from a table at Peets Coffee and Tea didn’t.
I still get asked that question sometimes, by all kinds of well meaning people – “are you working while you’re home?”
And when I feel that echoing voice of insecurity inside me, I tell myself that it’s not congruent to excuse yourself for starting your own business, and I say, “yes. I am running my business.”
Love is similar, and choosing to love when it’s odd is that way as well. We find all kinds of normalcy, patterns, expectations to live by so that we can feel comforted when we are doing things we feel are uncomfortable. I used to ask my therapist “is this normal?” and feel most comforted when she said, “yes.”
Is this the measure of my congruence?
Someone else does it too?
Is it normal to live in a family of “crems” when I am brown? Is it normal to suck my fingers to fall asleep at this age, and to rock myself to calm down after school? Is it normal to have learned to rock myself because a mother didn’t? Is it normal to not know who my father is, or to have seen my mother intermittently and never missed her in between? Is it normal to live in an orphanage with 35 other children, or to eat the same thing for almost every meal? Is it normal to have only see the ocean once before I came to live with you? Is it normal? Am I normal?
No. It’s not. It’s not normal. Just like it’s not normal to love when it costs you, or to graduate from college and start your own social enterprise, or to be singing in your bathrobe with a bongo drum on a Saturday morning.
Watching her, I remember it wasn’t normal to want to leave for Haiti by myself at the age of 18. And, it wasn’t normal to believe that three years after meeting a little girl in Port-au-Prince, there was still hope for her to become part of our family, and we shouldn’t give up just yet.
It wasn’t normal at all.
But it was, most certainly, an act of congruence.
June 27, 2011 § 1 Comment
Jeremy wears an old necklace he found in his grandfather’s things after he passed. I stumbled on it in his desk four months ago and asked about it. It is made up of an old, green strand of fabric and a brass pendant with the simple outline of a Japanese landscape on the front. It’s beautiful. We talked about his grandfather for a while after I found it, and then he put it on. I was helping him move and I think, more than anything, he put it on so it wouldn’t get lost. He hasn’t taken it off since, however, and, months later, it’s become part of the essence of Jeremy to me. The pendant fits in somewhere between his smell, the old red plaid shirt I stole to wear on cold mornings and the way we both know that his beer will be cheaper, every time, but that he’ll taste mine and comment that he should have “ordered that too.” It has become part of my repertoire of things that make me come back to the quiet moments in which I feel like I have centered myself, and am aware of the love and the goodness that I often ignore in the loudness of being busy.
This weekend, I went to hear an old, dear friend play live music at a local pub. He plays often, but this time was different, for me. The bar was almost empty, and I sat with his brother (also a dear friend) having a beer after a ten hour work day and watching him play the violin for us stragglers – the ones that wanted a few moments more of the night. Afterward he danced with me to Mrs. Robinson at a bar up the street, and I thought about growing up together, and the way that my life has stopped, suddenly, and dropped me in Northern California near the people that made up my world when I was a little girl. I’ve thought, often, that it was an accident the day I was dropped here. Six months later, I’ve thought often that I should have been somewhere different. I’ve thought that I should have left sooner. I’ve tried to leave.
As we made our way through the crowds of people I grew up with, I yelled at some for a quick squeal and a hug, avoided others and commented, over and over again, about how crazy it is that this small town has remained so much the same.
There were new people, too. I met an instructor at the yoga studio I’ve been practicing at, and, in the midst of talking, told her I’d have to quit because I couldn’t afford to keep coming each month. She shook her head when I said that, and drug me over to meet the owner of the studio. She held me hand in hers while she grabbed his shoulder and said, in the din of the bar, that my name was Shanley, she had just met me, and I would have to stop practicing because I couldn’t afford to.
He turned from the shuffleboard table, and I smiled when I saw that the text on his shirt was about karma. He leaned in and said, right in my ear, that I needed to keep coming. “We’ll work out whatever you can afford,” he said. “It’s not about money. It’s about being.”
I thanked him. I thanked her. And, I walked away thinking I knew what he had meant. I thought he had been talking about him – that it wasn’t about the money, for him, and he wanted me to get to keep coming. But, later, I realized he was talking about me. He was letting me know that, for me, it doesn’t have to be about the money. Just like it doesn’t have to be about exactly when I get to move out of this tiny town. Just like it doesn’t have to be about exactly how many followers we gained on twitter, or if we made money at the fair, or just broke even.
It’s about being.
After working through the weekend, I took an hour this morning to cook myself an omelet, and read and write for a while. Beta yelled to me from the other room, and I helped her wash her hair in the shower. We giggled about her crazy fro, and how she looks like a “crem baby” when all the soap is running down her belly. She, too, is part of my repertoire of things that bring me back to the goodness in my life – back to being. In this moment. In the next moment. In all the moments in between. Just like violin solos at the local pub, sitting for a few minutes with an iced coffee instead of rushing through my day and choosing to prutz around my house in my favorite stolen plaid shirt.
What reminds you to be?
February 4, 2011 § Leave a Comment
It’s been just over a year, but I never fail to adore this series. Thanks, Shannon, for sending me this link. I had forgotten all about them!
August 28, 2010 § 2 Comments