“Knowing love I allow all things to come and go, to be as supple as the wind, and to take everything that comes with great courage, love, kindness, goodness, and patience. Life is right in any case. My heart is open as the sky.” ~Kama Sutra: A love story
Three weeks today, since I arrived in China, in my new city ZZ (Zhengzhou) and began my new job! It’s been an incredibly positive experience meeting new people, facing new situations, and circumstances in a totally new world, a place where I knew no one, and whose customs and culture I knew nothing about!
I’m finding I like it here in this new place! I’m enjoying the people and the scenery. I’ve written previously about how I’d had a desire to live in the heart of a city, to be able to walk for coffee, and to the market, and to the hardware store… and here I am literally living a dream, here in China I’m doing what I’d dreamed! So much has happened in such a short time!
I’m settling into my work here. The environment is akin to my children’s schools when they were wee ones in primary and middle school days – it’s a school. The children, though Chinese, are similar in many ways, though I have to say these Chinese youngsters seem predominantly happier than most American children at the same age. When asked, “How are you today?”, inevitably the answer is, “I am happy!”, accompanied by a huge toothy smile (or toothless as it may be)! I’m adjusting to the rhythm of the work, which is after school hours, so late afternoon and evening, and all day Saturday and Sunday’s. And I’m adjusting to the workplace culture as it is mixed with Chinese locals and English-speaking foreigners from around the world! Already I can see myself comfortably in this role for three years or more. This, too, this living and working in another culture, has been a dream of mine as well… so, thus far I am doubly blessed!
Recently I’ve enjoyed engaging in conversation with the foreign teachers and the subject of moving in and out, the transient life-style, the very transient nature of this work (teaching English as a foreign language) has come up as a topic of discussion. A couple of the foreigners related the sense of starting over, more than beginning again, rather a leaving a life behind, was what this job has offered them. I found the idea new and the thought intriguing. These foreigners, one mid twenty something and the other possibly early forties or so, both here more than two years in the same role. They shared that this work was far from their minds when they accepted the positions. That further they found that since working and being in China, they had changed in a myriad of ways, bettering themselves by working with children for one thing, and then the whole expat experience of relying upon others and supporting other foreigners as they have come and gone. It boiled down to relationships and how they have learned to relate better to others, and to come to accept that their people are now here in China.
Though I could understand this way of thinking, this startling idea of leaving relationships and another life behind, it is different for me. I have such ties back home. I have desires to see more of the world and to live in other places, with other people, and in other cultures, though I’ve not thought of leaving anyone or anything behind… though I suppose in reality that is what physically happens.
Going into my second week here in China, there was a serious change of circumstances in my family back home. These changes impacted family, two people I care greatly about, and one of them is my daughter. Upon her return home from traveling for a couple of months herself, she returned to be abruptly asked to leave where she lived and to leave within a couple of days. She had been traveling for over thirty hours, returned on a Friday and would begin work on the following Monday. Her phone was disconnected and her SIM card from her travels didn’t work in the US, and she also has a dog and the house was full of my furnishings that were hers now.
Well the expectation for a physical move of this magnitude in a bit more than twenty-four hours, wasn’t possible, establishing new cell service and simply finding temporary housing for her and for her dog, was the priority. Thank heavens for friends and family, at a nearer distance than me, to help and lend verbal support. There is a mixture of being hugely let down, one of severe disappointment and betrayal, all coupled with the overwhelmingly good feelings knowing of the support of my daughter’s friends and their families, and of some of my extended family have been, as well.
Also, my cousin’s son is getting married today! Theirs’s has been a long-time, long distance relationship, and they’re finally getting married. The family is gathering to be present for this great celebration and fun time! Having so many of us together in one place is a cause for celebration in itself, and I long to be there with everyone!
All of these things have impacted my mother of nearly eighty. The swing of emotions, the feelings of surprise and disappointment at someone dearly close to her and their recent poor behavior, her deep concern for them, and their lack of connectivity, her other daughter living some six thousand miles away in a new city, and her concern for her grandaughter… then there’s the excitement and planning for this upcoming wedding celebration and seeing family and friends. It’s just a whole lot for anyone.
My point is this, for me, life back home didn’t just stop for me. I don’t know quite how to extricate myself from people I love; relationships are key for me – period, full-stop. The notion of leaving a life behind, just isn’t possible for me. It isn’t possible for me on any level to be indifferent to people and circumstances, even at a distance.
I further recognize the great ripple of energy, even across oceans and continents from one of us to another. The choices we make, on every level in our lives, impacts others. Empathy and compassion, and time are good things. Pausing and responding rather than reacting to things is eminently a best choice, because those ripples of energy are far-reaching. We, all of us (me, too), have great impact on those people around us with the choices we make, with our words, our actions, and even our thoughts.
So for me, I’m settling quickly, adapting beautifully to my new job and new digs and new city, and ok, also to my new life in China, and loving every minute of it all… but, I am deeply rooted back home with my people, my family, my friends… I’m not indifferent to the hard decisions, the difficult choices, the pain, and also the goodness, the celebrations, the accomplishments, that occur there where I used to reside.
I’m reflecting this morning on this contrary thought of leaving a life behind and my deeply felt connection with my life back home… My daughter has been blessed with the goodness of her girlfriends with a place to stay. Another sister of mine has been able to dog sit for a time. The wedding celebration is in full swing right now at this writing. I received a couple of nudges from friends back home this super early this morning through Facebook (thank heaven for VPN) and had some good heartfelt connections. A new local friend visited a temple yesterday and brought me a gift from her temple visit, which touches my heart to be thought of and remembered by a new friend here in China. There are still details to be worked out though – a place for my daughter to live needs to be found, a home or a plane ride to China for our dog, and repair of broken relations.
At this moment, I am sitting at my writing desk, looking out of the big picture window of my apartment, and feeling many things. Mostly feeling blessed for the realization of choice and the power of empathy and compassion. Feeling the love and support of people back home and here in my new home. Feeling vulnerable at a distance and learning to let go and allow people to help, back home and here in China. Feeling the power of connection with my people, back home and here with new friends! I recognize that all things, even abrupt change that is thrust upon us, work out for the best. Life is right in any case…