In December Michael and I made the official decision to come back to the US in April. We both had a lot of thoughts and feelings making the decision, and the closer we get to April, more and more of our conversations circle around what the future has in store.
And the more the reality sets in: We’re going home. Not just for a month, but for good.
I have moments when I think about that and I feel so ready to just be done. I’m so tired of how crappy my diet has been and how out of control my life feels. I’m sick of not being able to go for walks or ride a bike by myself because it’s not “safe”. I’m tired of hand washing dishes because our dishwasher doesn’t work or drying our clothes on our poster bed because our dryer doesn’t actually dry anything.
I’m tired of dealing with being “shadowed” everywhere I shop and stared at everywhere I go. I’m tried of pulling teeth to get people to just answer my questions. I’m tired of sitting in traffic for an hour everywhere I go, no matter what time of day it is. I’m tired of dealing with all the power outages and the sickening smell of gasoline that fills our apartment every time our generators kick on. I’m tired of nothing working and nobody knowing or caring how to do a quality job and fix it right the first time. And I’m tired of being so far from home and being treated like a foreigner in culture that I’ll never understand.
I told Michael the other day that this period of time, the waiting before we finally go home, reminds me of the waiting before we got married. It seemed like the wedding day was an eternity away and it would never arrive. I remember it was hard to imagine that one day we wouldn’t be married but then suddenly the next we would be for the rest of our lives. It was exciting and the anticipation was almost unbearable. But the day did finally arrive and married life is our present reality. The waiting is a distant memory.
In some ways, it’s been the same with moving back home in April. One day we’ll look back on this time in India and reflect on how badly we wanted to come home. We’ll remember how hard it was those last 3 months and how it seemed like an eternity waiting until April. But then, suddenly, the day will arrive when we make that last drive to the airport, we’ll step on-board an airplane and as we take off, I’ll take what will likely be my last look on India. Living in America will be our present reality again and India will become a memory. Just like that.
And when I reflect on that, a much different set of feelings and thoughts arise.
Doubt. Anxiety. Fear. What if…
What if we gave up too soon? It was only a year and a half after all, and we were able to come home at least once every 6 months. That wasn’t so bad, was it? Maybe I should have tried getting out more? We never did go to any Indian weddings or birthday parties (even though we heard them loud and clear throughout our entire apartment at 3am in the morning on a few different occasions). Who did we really impact while we were here? What experiences did we have that were truly and uniquely “Indian”? What more could I have done to live in the present and invite God into my experiences here in India?
And what about being back home? What’s that going to be like? Won’t I be bored after the daily “excitement” I’m used to dealing with here? What will I do with all my newly regained free time? Won’t I feel restless not having my days filled with stuff breaking and having simple errands turning into half-day goose-chases? Won’t it be weird knowing my way around town and shopping in all the same stores I shopped in before? Won’t it be difficult to be back around everything that’s externally familiar, while I’ve internally changed?
How can I do “normal” again after head-bobbiling, weird smells, people transporting rebar on bicycles and… well, “India” have been my life for the past year and a half?
I’ve drawn the parallel that being in India has done to me what Joshua wrestling with the Angel did to him. In the same way that Joshua carried a limp after the Angel touched his hip, India has touched my “hip” and I’m going to walk away from this place differently. I know that confidently, even if I don’t know or understand all the ways that I’ve changed.
I have a whole year and half’s worth of experiences that haven’t touched the people or places I’m returning to, and I find myself thinking of Frodo before he boards the ship to sail to the Grey Havens when he eventually explains to his friends that the Shire “has been saved.. but not for me.”
Will I feel that way too after we go home? Will I be able to resettle or will I feel like a foreigner again except this time in my own country?
During our very first trip to India I was actually reading Lord of The Rings and since then I’ve connected it in lots of ways with this “odyssey” of ours in India. In another scene from the movie where Frodo, broken and wearied from the weight of the ring, nearly gives in to temptation after being taken prisoner into the citadel of Osgiliath.
Right before the witch king swoops in to snatch Frodo up, his ever-faithful friend, Sam, leaps on top of him and pulls his hand away from the ring. After they tumbled down the stairs and Frodo regains his senses, he laments: “I can’t do this, Sam.” To which Sam replies:
“I know it’s all wrong. By rights, we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo — the ones that really matter — full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now.. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding onto something.”
“What are we holding onto Sam?”
“That there’s some good in this world Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fightin’ for!”
Sam asks the question that everyone at this point in the story is asking: How can things go back to the way they were before when so much has happened and so much has changed not just in Middle Earth, but inside these characters as well?
But he continues and answers the question by saying that the world will go on, just like it always has, because darkness is just a fleeting shadow. But the light, it’s always there, and when the shadow finally passes, you’ll actually see things even clearer than you did before. And the time you spent in the shadow was just a blip. It becomes a memory and life in the light becomes the new reality.
Maybe one day, that’s how I’ll look back our time in India.
Life will go on, but as it does, I’ll see things from a better perspective than I could before. And my experiences in India won’t take away from feeling at home as much as they’ll add clarity and breathe a new life into it.