Thursday, October 26, 2017

Lessons from the Tightrope

"Do not think you can be brave with your life and your work and never disappoint anyone. It doesn't work that way." -Oprah

Life is a balancing act, isn't it? All the things. Home and work and family and community. I'm getting better (or working harder at trying to get better) at keeping all the balls in the air while balancing myself, perched somewhere between who I was and who I am. A mom and a big sister. A boss and a best friend. A foreigner at home. Trying to navigate the junk, while maintaining some semblance of sanity. Allowing myself to feel joy when things aren't perfect (or even ok). Maybe you know I don't always manage chaos or conflict well. Adventure and excitement are fine, but when everyone or everything isn't "ok" I tend to struggle. I prefer to live in LaLaLand and I prefer to put things in little boxes, tied up with bows. But because that isn't real life, I tend to make sweeping generalizations that help my mind to process and be "ok". (ENFP forever.) This morning when I logged into blogger I found that I had a few different posts drafted, so I combined them. Here are some of the little (random) boxes I've been packing...

I read somewhere that if you spend a day in another country, you could write a book. If you spend a week there, you could write an article. If you spend a lifetime (or maybe a good handful of years), you're lucky to write a sentence. And I couldn't agree more. When I first visited Rwanda I saw so much. And I thought I understood so much. I wrote (too) many posts about that here. As the years go by, the less I have to say about anything concrete; the more I see and experience, the less I understand. Right when I think I've figured out, just a tiny piece, life takes a hard right and I'm, again, surprised. I love Rwanda most days. And I wouldn't be honest if I didn't tell you that I hate it sometimes, too. I don't know if you're supposed to say you hate your host country, but what happens when that country becomes your home? And the hosts become your family? I have never ever called myself a missionary, but I've struggled at finding my footing in "who" I am here and what my role is. Lately, I've started to settle into the truth that I am me and I live here. I am a mom, a neighbor, a friend, a boss.... And I'm happy with that.

Recently, I was helping one of my boys process through some junk. I was explaining that I think I came to Rwanda because I wanted to make difference. I wanted to "speak up for those who can't speak for themselves".... The truth is, these boys (and anyone else I've had the opportunity to love here) have a voice and, as far as I can tell, they don't need anyone to speak for them. What I'm learning is that they do need someone to speak into them; reminding them who they are, why they're here, what they're capable of.... This sweet boy doesn't know that we've been processing. What he knows is that he's not alone; he belongs here, with us. He has a soft place to land and someone who believes the very best in him. Turikumwe. (We are together.) I think the same thing is true for the No.41 staff. They don't need anything from me. Not any more than one friend needs another. I support them, they support me even more. This Rwanda life is so far from what I thought it would be. God knew I would never be able to make a difference here, but I would fall in love with Rwandans and they would make a difference in me. By offering by myself to them, I would earn a front row seat to watch them make the difference. And I'm happy with that.

This morning I shared a very difficult, very exciting post on the No.41 blog, that I hope you'll read. While I don't think I would ever call myself a follower, I would definitely call myself a very reluctant leader. I've never really been one to play to win. And maybe that, in itself, is a victory; letting it be ok to ride it out, to learn as we go, and to need each other along the way. I don't have all the answers. (Even typing that is laughable, because it's painfully true). I'm not particularly driven or competitive. I hope we all win. I like to love and be loved. I like to have a good time and I like those I love to have a good time, too. (And that can be as shallow or as deep as the situation calls for.) I think what I am is more stubborn. And maybe determined. Tell me that I can't do it and I'll call you when I do. I think that's why I'm still here. Or back. Or maybe what this little reboot (like, all of 2017) has been about. Our No.41 team is more a team than we have ever been. Our partnerships are stronger for it and so are we. I used to carry around the burden of being the answer, or at least the drop-off, for problems and now I find myself biting my angry tongue at not even being necessary in the process of finding solutions. So, to add to the long list of oxymorons that has been my life in Rwanda, that loss (of control) is a win. 

Anyway, we're probably not ever going to arrive at that elusive finish line. So maybe the trick is just to feel it all, the good and the hard. To be brave, knowing that sometimes you'll win and sometimes you'll learn. You'll make it to the next pit stop, with a few new lessons under your belt, a bit more prepared as you move on to the next hard thing. And when you fall, because you will, promise yourself to brush off the dust and celebrate the chance to try again. That's what I'm telling myself. And I'm happy with that.


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