The Guest House

12068708_10153536177301208_7678163383816642870_o.jpg

Dear Keatsway,

I want you to encourage you as if it’s the most important task I’ve been given. You’ve been brave and adventurous, hopping continents and crossing borders, forging your career trajectory and becoming the most international person I know. All of which comes with a cost: leaving friends, meaningful work, and places you love behind. Of course, you are heartbroken and unsettled. You don’t know if you should prepare yourself for the next move or learn to love Amman. I don’t have easy answers.  I can only echo your broken heart.

Recently, I returned to America after living in England for sixteen months. In York, I fell in love with the city, the people, the lifestyle. I lived inside Roman walls, traded my car for a bicycle, bought my groceries at the year-round farmer’s market and grew to love the rain and the fog. I critiqued literature, translated foreign films, and learned how to read medieval maps. I went road tripping and hiking through the Yorkshire Moors, Scottish Highlands, the Lake District and Irish countryside. I traveled by train across Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain. I did daring things I had never done before: karaoke, bouldering, sensual bachata dancing, swimming in Loch Ness, clubbing until 3 am. I also wrote a thesis, fell in love, and started attending an Anglican church. I could write a book about everything I did in England but there is not enough space here yet for that.

A few months ago I unpacked my bags in a new place: a hamlet in southern Washington state. I am grateful for the hospitality of my cousins, and the chance they have given me to start anew in the Pacific Northwest. Nevertheless, I struggle to be fully here at times, as I imagine you are in Amman. My 16 months in England reels through my head reminding me of all the brilliant adventures and loves I have left behind. I want to return permanently, but I don’t know yet if that’s in the cards or as you say, Inshallah, if God wills it.

I agree with you Keatsway, we must write about our inner journeys. The highs and the lows. The joy of a discovering a new place and the ache that accompanies having your heart split across continents. What do you love about Amman? What do you miss about Kampala? What can you take with you from place to place to create a home regardless of where you lay your head?

I think we can choose to stay in a place and call it home. Even if we have to leave we can build our lives around returning. I don’t know yet if Amman is your city, but I do know that the last city I lived in felt like a place I wanted to stay.  I don’t know what it will take for Amman to feel like home for you. And if you are not sure about Amman, be excited about what the city has to reveal you. What the city expects of you. Maybe you will discover answers to Rilke’s questions or perhaps you will learn to carry them with grace and poise.

All that is yet unknown. As you learn to hold uncertainty with open hands, I leave you with this poem by Rumi. It offers solace for the expat whose heart is still halfway in Kampala or York.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

So much love,

xoxo Brightstar

The Holy Tussle : Longing for England

brightlights

Dear Keatsway,

Lately I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to write. I’ve started so many new projects this year (a small group based on Storyline, a church sermon, new presentations at work, a cooking frenzy) that I am worried I won’t finish the one project that matters the most: graduate school applications for England.  I feel like I am in the midst of the final struggle between almost finishing and not quite. I fear I’ll end up stuck in this in between zone, the holy tussle.

Transformation of any kind always exacts a kind of holy tussle.  The newborn butterfly struggles to open its wings so it can conjure up the strength to fly.  So, too, with artists, inventors, mystics and entrepreneurs. –Tama Kieves

What happens if a butterfly never masters the struggle to open its wings?
Does it lose its opportunity to transform?

big-flower on butterfly evening time

It took a lot of gumption three years ago to navigate all the major shifts in my life.  To graduate with my first Master’s, apply for an American job, move to America, start a new job, make new friends, orient myself to American culture. And now that I have a steady job and have settled into a routine, making a leap seems like a contradiction. Why move when I live in a nice city with good friends and full time employment?

I thrive on change and challenge, even though it terrifies me most of the time. Yet when I become too comfortable a ripple of restlessness runs through me. I am a nomad at heart, and my desire for travel and adventure take over. To make this crazy dream reality–to become an English graduate student– I have to  first overcome my own setbacks:  insecurity, procrastination, and uncertainty.

Until I send my application my life will feel out of focus. My situation could transform in an instant, but it’s blurry until I move past this transition phase.  I can’t see farther than the next step ahead of me, like a foggy landscape at dusk. I know there is a pink horizon on the other side, but for now all I see is white haze.

fogdusk

Visions of a new continent, a new city, new challenges whirl past me, and I wonder if my dream to study English in a graduate program in the UK will someday become a reality. I admire you Keatsway for already making so many of your postgraduate dreams come true: working in Johannesburg and in a few days Geneva. I only hope I can use your successes as a springboard for my own.

1501823_10152117130991208_1843428446_n_002

In the meantime, I’ll keep doing what I know how to do best. Attend my weekly yoga class and stay grounded.  Keep my shoulders back, my heart forward. Breathe deeper, reach further than I did a moment earlier. Maybe moving past the holy tussle is as easy as deciding to trust yourself. Trust that I know what the next step is,  that I’ve been here before, and I will eventually make it to the other side of this white fog to the bright clarity of a new horizon.

DSC06406

Hoping this upbeat perspective lasts beyond my yoga class,

xo Brightstar