I haven’t written in a long time because I have felt blocked and unable to quite put my finger on it. While I’ve used this blog as a method of letting “our people” know what we are doing and how we spend our days here, this one is a little more personal.
One of the most difficult parts of being overseas is who we’ve left behind. Interestingly enough, it feels more as if we are being left behind, despite being the ones who boarded the plane. Watching life go on without you in a place you so belonged is a harsh side effect of the life we chose to embark on this year. Mix that with the lack of an insta-community (word coined by my new friend, you should read her blog, I cry through it pretty regularly– http://www.drinkingthewholebottle.com) you can sometimes find in international school, plus being in a foreign country and you have the perfect recipe for disaster.
These feelings of loneliness were some of the first feelings to strike once we began to feel settled. Think Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Once you get over your basic physiological and safety needs, what is left is a need for belonging. My husband and I are fortunate that not only have we come here with one another as a couple, we are also the closest of friends. We have lifted one another out of some of the darkest places and most taxing moments; however, as all who are in healthy relationships know, you can’t just have each other.
There is a widespread culture on this island of letting go. Letting go of control, time, grudges, the list goes on. It is also my biggest challenge and personal life mission. It is hard to reconcile that life has bigger plans for you. I’ve begun to realize that I’ve glorified many friendships over the years as being my “best” ones, but realizing in my most difficult moments that these friendships were made of convenience; because we had a shared history or shared space at some point. I won’t be at the forefront of my best friend’s minds anymore and that could mean a lot of hurt, but it doesn’t have to, right?
That is where the letting go comes in and it is not restricted solely to those moving their lives abroad. I have always appreciated the principle of impermanence that is a part of Hindu and Buddhist doctrine but have never had to face it so entirely until we moved abroad. Buddhist monks create these incredible sand mandalas that take days to create, building one grain of sand at a time.
Then, just like that, they destroy their creation. All of that toiling, bending over each speck of sand, the precision and concentration is all wiped away. But why?
Time, memory, people, communication, is all fleeting. While I have always been fascinated with this Buddhist principle, I’ve now been immersed into a culture where letting go not only exists, it is required.
We hold on to these things because we need to feel human connection. Life moves forward and it has been a hard lesson to learn that the people who are worth putting in the extra effort for, will be there regardless of where we are on the planet and how long we stay. While devastating, that many of these glorified friendships have crumbled in the last several months, I have also begun to learn the Dominican art of letting go. We’re okay. It’s okay. There is not enough energy to hold a grudge and those fleeting friendships, while they may not have meaning anymore, meant something in the moment. That’s wonderful, but it’s also okay to let go when the friendship is no longer serving either of you.
Loss of control is not a bad thing; in fact, there is so little that we have control over in the first place that perhaps we didn’t ever really lose it, we just allowed ourselves to accept it. Of all the lessons I’ve learned so far, this has been both the most difficult and the most rewarding. While I have only just scratched the surface of learning to let go, I pray this aspect of Dominican culture seeps into my very being the same way the salty, humid sea air does. I feel less burdened, less worry, less guilty.
These initial feelings of isolation in conjunction with some pretty jarring revelations about friendship took a heavy toll on me, in particular. I quickly realized that not only was it time to find community, it was also time to let go; otherwise we would not last in the Dominican Republic.
Since these bumps in the road, we have since made some incredible friends from all walks of life. We’ve met people with similar values and beliefs that have made us feel like we don’t need to pretend we are anything other than who we are. I have found that many people who move overseas have been forced to learn the same lesson so there are no expectations or rules that govern friendships aside from love and let love. It’s the greatest lesson I’ve learned, yet.