Thursday, January 24, 2013

Across The Ocean

There's this place that exists across the ocean that every now and then holds me captive. Even though it's thousands of miles away, and it's been nearly eight years since I left it, it's left a stamp of the most indelible ink on my soul.

Sometimes, it doesn't affect me at all. Sometimes it's just a place that I happened to visit once. A place, that in the moment when I remember it, I have no feeling for or about.

I've come a long way, I think. For a long time in my home, it's name was only referred to as "The A Word". It was a name my family feared to speak, because mention of it could unearth all kinds of unwanted feelings inside of me.

But, now, truly, sometimes I forget I've even been there... Sometimes, I forget that was my life, my experience. I forget that I was one of the people "on that team." Sometimes, it's just a place far away across the ocean with all kinds of exotic animals and climates and languages and people...

And, then, then there are other times. Times that take me by surprise.

Like a smell can, in a second, take you back to someplace you had been as a child. Maybe it's the smell of Spring, with the tulips sprouting up and the dew in the morning, that reminds you of that Easter when you were ten, and the deviled eggs were there next to the sliced ham, and you had managed to fill your basket with all kinds of colorful, plastic eggs...

Or, it's the smell of someone's fireplace that reminds you of the weekend trip your family took to the mountains that March... It was so cold, and the family dog got to come along, and we played and played in our winter coats...

Just like that, in just a second, you're back there. Because of one simple thing that reminded you of it.

...

I guess that's how it is.

Although, I don't have to live as sheltered as I did those first two years after, I still filter the things I watch on television. My sweet brother and sister and close friends who walked through those two years with me have always been very good at warning me not to watch certain movies. And, I kind of have a formula I follow that works well for choosing TV programs.

The images on screen, those seem to be the strongest triggers, so I guess that's why I still have to avoid them.

...

I had prayed about serving in this year's Passion 2013 conference in Atlanta the first week of January. I never had a settled feeling about it, so I enlisted myself as a prayer warrior for the students and door holders who would be there. My brother, Paul, attended. And, after, during one of our several long conversations about his experience there, as I listened to the stories that were shared about women enslaved in human trafficking, Paul said, "There were lots of stories about how women become trapped in it... Stories about girls going out to the clubs, and there were stories like your's..." And he just looked at me.

I looked down at the kitchen floor for a long second... Then back up at him, and said softly, "I think it's a good thing I wasn't there (at Passion)."

He just nodded, bitting his lower lip, "Yeah, Lindz."

He and Katie, they seem to know better than anyone what takes me back there...

...

The Discovery Channel has a program on right now called "Africa." The footage these camera crews have managed to capture is truly amazing. I sit there and watch images of these tiny frogs climbing up blades of grass in the MIDDLE of the Congo or of these spiders rolling down sand dunes in the desert, and I just can't believe how fortunate they are that they were able to find these tiny, living things!

They're just animals. Animals aren't in my formula.

Just last week we watched footage of thousands of flamingoes on a lake.

I saw thousands of flamingoes when I was there eight years ago. I stood right there, in the mud, on top of their little footprints. I have pictures of it. Last week, watching flamingoes on my HD TV screen didn't bother me...



But, yesterday, the footage of the jungle... The jungle alive, not because it's full of living things, but because it is a living thing... THE JUNGLE ... That reminded me of the Africa I experienced...

Riding in our white van one day, eight years ago, through Nairobi, I noticed the pot-hole filled road we were driving on. It was paved, but it was almost as if the jungle had given permission to the road thus allowing it to be there. The trees created a canopy above us, and thick vines crept along the side of the road. There was no sign of human maintenance that kept the vines off the road, or kept the great trees' roots from cracking it... One of the men we visited just outside of Nairobi said to us, "Africa LETS US live here." I sat there looking at him, eating my Kenyan lunch ... primarily mashed potatoes with peas ... with my tea and milk, and thought about the road we'd driven on that morning.

...

As I sat on our green couch, yesterday, with my legs curled under me and Sperry snuggled up close, I couldn't break my stare. I couldn't reach for the remote control. All I could do was look at it. As, internally, I fought every racing emotion inside my body I just stared at the jungle floor on my television screen... At the life.

I didn't visit the Congo. I was in Kenya. And, the forest they drove us into, it didn't look like that forest. It was bushier. And, every time when I was there and saw jungle that looked like the jungle on my TV screen was a different time. It wasn't that Sunday...

But yesterday, it didn't matter. It was Africa. The continent that has a persona of her own. It was that Africa I fell in love with, before I even stepped on the plane to go there. And, it's that Africa that pulls at my heart when I let myself remember her. Not, the violent part that I experienced. But, the LIFE. The extraordinary life that lives there.

Perhaps, yesterday, or today as I process all of this, I have stumbled upon a revelation. Maybe the reason my relationship with Africa is so complicated and dynamic is because that is Africa. It is beautiful, and happy, and full of hope for a better life, and there is dancing and singing... but it is also sick, and scared, and violent, and lonely, and tired, and needy...

ALIVE vs DARK.

That is my conflict. That is Africa.

So, now I don't feel so bad about having mixed feelings, when I allow myself to have them. To feel for Africa, to remember it appropriately, should encompass the reality of all that it is. And, that, Lindsay-girl, is okay.