Today’s post is all about getting stuck in.
The world has plenty of people who could use a bit of help. There are also a lot of people who want to help. But it is all too easy not to, to not know how to, to equivocate, stay distant and remote.
There are times when I still feel resentment rise at the many many friends who did not call, did not write, simply were not there for me when dad died. It is something I won’t ever forget; that awful surprise of finding myself standing very much alone.
Forgiving and letting go sometimes seems to take practice and a lot of repetitions.
I get it. Nothing was done to me that I have not done. I’m honest enough to know that there have been times when I too have hesitated, hovered, even though my heart said I should jump in.
It is all too easy to just stand and watch the storm, wishing, hoping, meaning well but doing nothing, saying nothing. It is all to easy to let awkward be the final word, the last breath, to let nothing be all that’s shared.
But I never wanted to be that person. I never wanted that to be my life.
I read far too much as a teenager and from illicit late-night pages I absorbed so much fire that all I wanted to do was change the world, and all I wanted to know was how. I was never quite sure what my careers’ advisor made of that…
Once I want something I don’t tend to let that go and the silly dreams rooted, shooted and bore fruit in time. I sometimes smile and remind myself that I’m now living the life that everyone tried to talk me out of at seventeen.
On most days I think the work I do does make a positive difference and my wandering soul has found many roads to roam, a lot more fires to light and brighten.
And yet it is always good to look what is really in the tin, to check out the small print. A certain kind of career is not enough. That alone is never going to be the stuff of great poetry or even happy haikus.
Once in a while I try to shrug myself off and peer inside to check where my heart as at. I ask myself whether I am standing on the side watching or jumping in and reaching out.
You side that side, that bank I want to get off, keeps on shifting. It is not just being in certain a place or doing a certain job. It is about pushing and shoving at what is comfortable. It’s about trying to live, to be real and warm and close.
As an expat there are mountains of things to separate me from the people that brought me here. I got a good draw in the lottery.
I have a passport that opens the world like a book. I have a bank balance on the right side of zero. I have a string of all the right numbers and letters; the blithe belief that opportunities will always knock for me. I also seem to be the only person in Bangladesh who lusts after salt and vinegar crisps…
When I want to be alongside people I often don’t know how. I worry I will seem condescending or patronising or just look a bit of an idiot. I dread sticking a foot somewhere I shouldn’t.
But one of the blessings of dad’s death is that it gave me a lot of practice in dealing with things feeling all off and a little messed up. There is strangely a kind of freedom in that. When you have been really broken you worry less about being impolite or awkward. You know the world does not end so easily after all.
And so, I have been making the small efforts to narrow an inch or two of the gap:
I’ve painted myself with mehindi until I am blooming with flowers and dots and spots and smudges in the strangest places.
I’ve faithfully worn purples with violent pinks and blues because my admin assistant says it’s hip in Dhaka. I’ve faithfully dressed local even though it makes me feel a bit like Aladdin’s girlfriend…
I have tried to be a person first and an expat, a supervisor, a colleague and whatever else second.
I’ve accepted hospitality with gratitude, rather than worries about food poisoning.
I sat at the wrong side of the lunch table, ignored my cutlery and made a mess with my dirty fingers to sidelong looks. I think that got me a highly decorated thumbs up.
I’ve learned a few Bangla words, remembered them badly and been the first to laugh at myself.
Sometimes it is all about the little things..