Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mulling over Moscow

Greetings cyber-land friends. June has proven to be a catatonic month so far. May was packed full of DF (dear fiance, for those of you keeping score from home) graduating law school, a WONDERFUL and well deserved vacation in the Caribbean, and one other little thing...oh, yeah, finals for the first year of grad school. Whew.

So now I'm coming up for air after holing up in my home for a few days, hanging out with my little niece, then gradually working my way back into society, one sleepy and hung-over-from-semester coffee date at a time. In the midst of my post-semester recovery, I'm also getting prepped to head over to Indonesia for the summer with my mentor, the ever brilliant Dr. Leslie Dwyer. I'm beyond excited, and really looking forward to the trip.

To be honest with myself, the excitement I feel for the pending Bali adventure didn't really begin to bubble up until I knew for certain I was going. DF and I made a deal that I could afford it if I was able to get the majority of the costs covered. With a specific financial goal in mind, I kicked the decision to my Higher Power and said that if HP wanted me to go, make it really, REALLY clear with the easy flow of abundant financial resources. After meditating a bit and a great little nap, I had an awesome idea pop into my head (thanks HP!) and began to ask around for funding. The money just flooded in, and by the deadline I had exceeded the dollar amount necessary to commit to the trip- God saw fit to kick in a little extra, which was good because I tend to be really, really dense when it comes to looking for signs.

There is this song we sang at church camp (eeek...just so you know, I don't affiliate as a Christian anymore, but have a look of respect if you do. Disclaimer over.) growing up called "Subtle As a Truck"...condensed, the song discusses the multiple times in the Bible- for example Pharaoh and the Israelite where river turns to blood, frogs rain from the skies, and babies die- where God does a little divine messaging via less than subtle signs. My HP tends to work in, thank you God, less than brutal fashion, and usually leaves me what I call 'divine nudges' in the form of gut feelings, conversations with friends, songs coming over the radio that say exactly what I need to hear, and ideas that spontaneously pop into my head while meditating. I have been given an amazing opportunity to go study in Moscow next spring, from mid January to mid May, and I am trying to get a read on what my HP has in mind here. I keep hoping for the subtle as a truck (only not quite so violent) sign that will be blazing YOU ABSOLUTELY SHOULD/SHOULD NOT GO BETH. Like, perhaps I'll drive by one of the three dozen churches in Old Town and they'll have one of those signs out front advertising the sermon and it will say "BETH, GOD CALLED AND SAID YOU SHOULD GO TO RUSSIA." Nothing so far, and I have been past quite a few in the past couple of days. And, to be honest, even then I would twist it around and convince myself that it was another Beth they were directly that at. Like I said: dense.

So here's what I have been getting since I kicked this over to God for realsies. I was going around and around in circles in my head with 'what do I want, what should I do, what's the right thing, etc' and I finally got in the shower- where I do my best thinking- and told God the decision was in Her/His court. I'm done, I'm spent, and I'm making myself nuts. So I asked for it to be REALLY clear by the day I have to commit.

This was yesterday, and let me recap what's happened so far. The day before yesterday I got a call from my cousin and we chatted about how one doesn't have to go into grad school with a list of particular outcomes in mind- in fact, going in being open to the fact that you may be guided in a totally different direction than the one you had in mind at the beginning can be an amazing thing. What I really came to through the conversation is that you can't make decisions based on what may or may not happen during a given experience, because doors are going to open to you that you don't even know about or can even dream of until you are willing to take a leap of faith into the unknown and trust that you will be caught. That night, DF and I had a conversation about his experiences traveling abroad last summer that made me further consider the fact that I can trust that good things will unfold simply as a result of me being willing to get out of my comfort zone, to push past what I know today and leap into the unknown. There are wonderful things there, too. Then yesterday, right after earlier referenced spiritual shower, I was in the car and this song came on with this chorus about how "it's bigger than this", talking about faith being about more than what we have in mind, because we can't conceive all that the universe/God/Buddha/Great Spirit/WhatHaveYou has in mind for us.

Some sort of energy shift happened when this came on, I swear all of a sudden the excitement I have been waiting to feel about Russia flooded over me. I tend to use my emotions as a barometer to make decisions. If something feels right, and brings me excitement and joy and enthusiasm, that's my cue from HP that I'm on the right path. If something brings up anxiety or sleepiness, that's usually a heads up that I need to back off and reconsider- the emotional equivalent of a DangerDangerWillRobinson signal (no judging, this is working for me well, thank you very much). Up until this song coming on, all I kept feeling every time I thought about the Moscow opportunity was ambivalence. No excitement, no fear either, but just this 'eh' sort of tepid thing. Not so good for navigating off of.

Something about the lyrics of this song resonated with a conversation I had with a friend the day before. She had told me to consider what was best for my recover from my eating disorder- could I keep up my recovery while in Moscow for five months? This question had been rattling around in my head for the past day, and the lyrics of this song grabbed onto the question and put it in a different light: my recovery is not just about not eating a shit ton of bagels. Avoiding sugar and flour has been the taproot of my recovery, but, for me, that's simply the foundation upon which I have built a better life. Once the food is out of my system, I can get these divine nudges, use my intuition, and, last but not least, not be a huge- literally and figuratively- bitch all the time (yay!). So, yes, not eating sugar and flour is part of my recovery, but it's only part of it. If my whole life was about food, or lack of food, that would not be a life at all. My recovery is bigger than that- it's about doing the work that I do around creating better rape intervention policies, about sharing with other survivors that their lives can be defined not by what happened to them in the past but by what they choose to do with their futures. There's a great book by Susan Brison, Aftermath, where she talks about her recovery from rape specifically in regards to reconstruction of 'self' once you come to grips with the fact that the rape has decimated who you conceived your 'self' to be prior to the assault. Brison says (paraphrasing) that the nice thing about having to rebuild who you are is that you get to decide what to include. I have decided that one paramount aspect of my new 'self' that I have fashioned in the process of my recovery has been the passion I feel for fostering discourse (rousing rabble might be a more appropriate term) around how rape victims are perceived. OK. This is part of my recovery too, just as important as the whole food bit. Challenging myself is part of my recovery. My life is not going to be about sitting in one place trying to maintain homeostasis because I am afraid I might screw up or be uncomfortable or be awkward (that's a guarantee anyway) or sound stupid (ditto) or whatever.

A friend told me yesterday, as we were discussing the whole Moscow thing, that many people's greatest fear is of dying. My greatest fear is of not living- really sucking the marrow and living. I'm not afraid of dying. I'm afraid of dying before I get done all of the things I feel I am supposed to do in this life (and I don't necessarily buy the whole 'only one life' thing, but that's a different topic). I want more than anything, as I am rocking in my chair at age 96, that I have seen the world, left a mark for the better- the mark that my HP lead me to create- been an influence for good and for peace. Facing death, I want to feel like I have known life.

Before this turns into a Bon Jovi song, let me say this. Studying abroad in Russia or staying in DC, either way next spring will present amazing opportunities and challenges where I get to enjoy life, grow, challenge myself, and contribute. But I can't help but begin to think that perhaps going is what I am supposed to do. The divine nudges are starting to add up. Last night I ran into a friend in my study group who helped me talk out the logistics, right after meeting with someone who suggested I wait and see how HP handles the logistical hurdles and use those outcomes as a benchmark to see if things fall into place the way they tend to do when I am meant to do something. Then last night a friend asked me to coffee this afternoon. When we met up today she told me straight out that she thought I should go- walked through some ideas on how to keep my recovery from the food in order, and reinforced the whole 'it's bigger than this' thing I've been pondering. She said the question is not "why go", but "why not go?" I am beginning to agree.

Why not go? Because I'm scared. Of what? Being lonely? Not speaking the language? Being away from DF and my dog? Being (really, really) cold? Not fitting in? Check, check, check and check. And yet, none of these seem like good enough reasons to not go for it. Someone else reminded me that there is no such thing as a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I agree. I could go to Russia another time, another way, for another reason. And yet, as I begin to really feel about it, the 'why nots?' are beginning to outweigh the doubts.

There is this great episode of the West Wing where President Bartlet has to decide whether or not to stay an execution (not totally synonymous to my decision, yes, I know). Bartlet's director of communications comes to him with input from his rabbi and tells him to stay the execution. Then a Quaker political operative tells him the same thing. Then his boyhood priest arrives right as they are putting in the needle, and tells him a parable of a man caught in a flood who hears a radio announcement warning of the impending danger, then has a man come by in a rowboat to offer help, then has a helicopter come by to rescue him once shits' creek has risen. All three times the man says God is going to save him, and he'll pass on the offer, thank you very much. When the man drowns and gets to Heaven, God says, "I sent you a radio report, a helicopter, and a guy in a rowboat. What the hell are you doing here?" Bartlet didn't get a Mack truck, but he did have a lot of friends coming with input and guidance.

Much as I am still hoping for a truck-esque sign, in the 30 hours since I told God I was on the look out for any and all guidance that makes this decision clearer, I have gotten a song, then a feeling of excitement that is usually a tell-tale indicator of good things abrewin', then I ran into a friend totally out of the blue who offered really good counsel, then had my coffee date friend- whose input I regard as gospel because she is truly wise- tell me outright that she thinks I should go. The waters are arising, my friends.

I'm supposed to make a final decision by July 1. Should you see any rowboats or helicopters, send them my way. I'll be on the lookout til then.

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