last week i went to an informational meeting at the kentucky refugee ministries. they provide assistance in settling refugees from all over the world. i'm facilitating an enrichment for 3rd-5th graders this year that focuses on service projects within our immediate community and the idea of partnering with krm came up early on.
the meeting included a lot of shocking statistics and information about how to help. most interesting to me were the personal stories from two refugees working with the program, who came to speak. one was a woman from cuba, who spoke to the ostensible freedom of her country's inhabitants that only thinly veiled an oppressive dictatorship. another was a young man from somalia. he fled to kenya ten years ago and spent that time working as a teacher and writer in a refugee camp. he'd been waiting to gain admittance to america for ten years. this was the dream.
he spoke english quickly with a beautiful british accent. he was more articulate than most native english speakers i know with the occasional strangely placed word or phrase that belied his non-nativeness. he wants to be a journalist. i hung on his every word.
the woman leading the meeting asked, and how has your experience been here so far?
he's been in louisville one month. one month since achieving the long awaited dream.
"it's calm here," he says. "there's no fighting. people have problems but they know how to solve them. but it's not what i thought. before i did whatever i had to do, i ate things that were not even food just so i could... push life. here i'm bored. everyone is so busy, rushing. i am lonely."
those words landed in my gut like a bag of sand.
this man waited ten years, his whole life, for what he thought was the dream. for freedom, for peace. and when he arrived, all it was was rushing and isolation and loneliness.
i felt sick with guilt. i am a part of that rushing. that chronic busy-ness. that never enough time.
i am the peace he waited to find that only really looks like peace, but is ultimately filled with this aching restlessness, this need to stuff all of time with so much.
he says something about missing kenya. that his classes had over 150 students and it was chaos and everything was hard but he was part of a community that was working together.
i won't make the offensive suggestion that i wish i didn't have what i do. but it was an alarm to step back. way, way back.
so what can i do? what can i do that is not just reiterating the problem while continuing to contribute to it? i'm not going to rewrite the system but i have to do something.
i've committed myself, for the time being, to some enormous amount of busy. I can't change the hours, so how can I change the energy?
this is my question to myself.
it's all energetic. i know that. i know i can do a lot and still not be frazzled, not constantly rushing to the next thing. but i've been searching for that my whole life and still i don't know how. so what? what do i do now?
i sort of thought, in writing about it, that i'd get there. i'd figure it out. i could say some words about how to slow myself down into the moments i'm living, about how to be less busy, even though i'm really super busy.
but i don't know.
i feel like i suck. i feel like i'm trying to do so much that i can't do a single thing well. i feel like i'm skating by. that i'm half-hearted at taking care of my body and heart, of the kids and my coworkers and friends, of my classroom and home. that i've literally never had anything to escape or flee, no reason to feel like it's not enough, and yet i'm acting like the refugee myself, the one in constant flight. i feel like i'm trying and trying and all i am is busy. i'm just another blur that makes someone, who wants to dig into their surroundings, feel lonely and lost.
i don't have an answer right now.
but i know it has to change.
i have committed to a lot, but i can't let it be the thing that ostracizes people who are looking for love, when all i was trying to do in the first place is make people feel loved.
motherfucking catch 22.
help me. that's my conclusion. help me, please.
i do not want to live my life in constant preparation for life, for the next thing, missing the entirety of it as i go. i cannot. but i don't know how to stop.