Sunday, July 24, 2011

Feeling Time's perspective

As of today, I have been in Japan for 6 years, 9 months and 21 days. It has been 3 years, 3 months and 21 days since I have last stepped foot in America.

My mom told me before I left America for the first time, "I'm afraid you are going to go and never come back." And I told her not to be silly. There was no way something like that could happen. But in the back of my head, I admitted she might be right.

It's not always easy living as a foreigner, but I have it easier than many. I am a white female in a land that likes white people. (although there's a lot of racism against other foreign minorities here, but it's passive racism, which might make it worse.) I came with a group, and I have been taken care of the whole time I've been here. God has never left me alone. And now I can converse well enough in the language and I have a very basic ability to read.

6 years have gone by in a flash. And it feels like it's not enough time.

I am in love with Japan.

When the earthquake happened and there were all kinds of radiation fears, I had a couple of uncles urging me to pack my bags and get the first flight out. But they didn't understand how that was impossible that was for me. And I talked to my parents to see how they were doing with listening to the media and the fear and the playing on emotions that has become the norm for reporting these days. And they gave me the gift of blessing, and understanding. They gave words to what I was afraid to say before.

This is my home.

I love Japan.

And I felt such freedom and love that they had acknowledged that for me. The words I was afraid to say, especially to them, because it felt like a betrayal of the family that cared for me and raised me. And they heard what my heart was screaming, and said it for me.

6 years, 9 months and 21 days.

I have been blessed.

I wouldn't trade it for anything.

On the days that I am frustrated with Japan. On the days that I am frustrated with the financial chains that seem to bind me. On the days I'm frustrated with being an outsider.

I remember.

I wouldn't trade it for anything.

I wouldn't trade my past for anything. When I get caught up in the "what if's", I know that if given the choice, I wouldn't trade. Because everything has led me to here.

If you ask me if I would have changed the way I went to college, so that somehow I had less debt in student loans. Went to a different college, waited a few more years, worked more in college. I consider it, and I remember the faces of the people I've met. The relationships that a price can't be placed on. And I know that if I had done things differently, I would have never been in a place to even seriously consider Japan.

So I accept my circumstances, and rejoice because I am living my dream. Maybe not the dream I had when I was a little girl. When I look at my friends married, with children, living lives that I can no longer relate to, I remember I am living my dream.

I love Japan.

Time flies when you love.

I have one week before I return to America to visit my family. I'll have two weeks to spend with people I haven't seen in 3 years. I"ll have two weeks to get to know my niece and my nephew, my brother's fiance, the adult my brother has become. And they'll have two weeks to try to get to know who I am, for I am not the same person who left Texas 6 years ago.

Time is too short.

But at the same time, it will be two weeks with a Japan size hole in my heart, of longing to return of the pain of separation. And after two weeks, I'll return to Japan, counting the seconds and the miles until I am surrounded by Japanese words I only half understand, and return to my clear cut status as a foreigner in a foreign land.

Time passes slowly when you love much.

It has been 5 months since I have seen the band on a regular basis. The place where I was accepted. The people who no longer think of me as "the foreigner", but merely as "Anbaa." (the Japanese pronunciation of my name.) 5 months without the people and the place that I love have been so terribly long. And I cry out to God, try to bargain with Him, wonder if I did something wrong that they should be separated from me so...

And I imagine.

My mother has been separated from her daughter for 6 years. But she loved me enough to let me be free. Even though I now understand how painful that must be.

Time passes slowly when you love much.

And I remember that things are not one dimensional. I can't force people to be with me because I love them. Because I love them, I have to give them their freedom. And because I love them, I wait, even if they never come back, even if it's only for a little while. Even when it hurts because I want to see them so much.

Because that's what love is.

And isn't that how God loves us? He loved us enough to give us our freedom. He loves us enough to wait for us. To be there to rescue us when we screw up again. And God's Time is much longer than ours...

It will be one month before there is even a chance I'll be able to see the band on a weekly basis again.

And one month seems so far, far away.

6 years have gone by in a flash, for while I love my family, and I appreciate my American heritage, I do not love America. Not the same way.

2 weeks will be both too short and too long.

5 months has pained my heart, and I know there is at least another month to go. Maybe longer.

And I remember God and His promises to the people He loved. How long did Abraham wait for his true dream of a son? How long did Joseph wait until he saw his family again? How long did Israel wait until God rescued them from slavery? God kept His promises. But in His own time.

How long did the world wait for a Savior. the child promised to Eve to redeem her from her fall?

Waiting is hard. Very hard. I really hate waiting. And it's easy to get locked in on only my perspective. And then you start to think unfair things about God. Why is it taking so long? What did I do wrong? Maybe if I did this...? Maybe God doesn't love me enough to give me this? Maybe I love this too much and it's an idol so God has taken it away from me?

But the problem with that line of thought is that it's all about me.

Love, relationships, life, time. They are not one dimensional things.

Does God no longer love my mother because she has been separated from her daughter for 6 years? Of course not.

The feelings and perspective of Time change. To one person 6 years feels too short. To another, it feels too long. They are feelings both born from love.

Well, if you expected a big epiphany at the end of this rambling post, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed. I'm just good at rambling. And this is just a snapshot of the things I've been thinking about while facing Time.

But somehow I feel a little freer from the constraints of Time, for just a little bit. It's good to have new perspective.

One week until America. Two weeks after that until Japan. One week after that until I can see the band. Two weeks after that until I have the possibility of seeing them again. And a lifetime of waiting for new things and old things after that.

The waiting never ends (in this lifetime). Only the perspective changes.

The book, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is very popular in Japan. I read it because one of my friends likes it very much. It's been several years since I read it, and the first time I read it, I was not impressed. It seemed too universal for me. But there was a impression in it that has stayed with me for a long time, and has kept coming to my mind lately.

The story is about a shepherd boy from Spain, who has a dream about treasure in Egypt. And he decides to follow that dream and find this treasure. And on this journey he learns many things. And he meets a woman of the desert, whom he falls in love with.

When faced with love, he found he must choose. He could continue to search for his dream, and then return for the woman. Or he could stay with the woman and not fulfill his dream. And this is what Fatima says to him:

"I have been waiting for you here at this oasis for a long time. I have forgotten about my past, about my traditions, and the way in which men of the desert expect women to behave. Ever since I was a child, I have dreamed that the desert would bring me a wonderful present. Now, my present has arrived, and it's you."
The boy wanted to take her hand. But Fatima's hands held to the handles of her jug.
"You have told me about your dreams, about the old kind and your treasure. And you've told me about omens. So now, I fear nothing, because it was those omens that brought you to me. And I am a part of your dream, apart of your Personal Legend, as you call it.
"That's why I want you to continue toward your goal. If you have to wait until the war is over, then wait. But if you have to go before then, go on in pursuit of your dream. The dunes are changed by the wind, but the desert never changes. That's the way it will be with our love for each other.
"Makutub,(it is written)" she said. "If I am really a part of your dream, you'll come back one day."
The boy was sad as her left her that day. He thought of all the married shepherds he had known. They had a difficult time convincing their wives that they had to go off into distant fields. Love required them to stay with the people they loved.
He told Fatima that, at their next meeting.
"The desert takes our men from us, and they don't always return," she said. "We know that, and we are used to it. Those who don't return become a part of the clouds, a part of the animals that hide in the ravines and of the water that comes from the earth. They become a part of everything... they become the Soul of the World.
"Some do come back. And then the other women are happy because they believe that their men may one day return, as well. I used to look at those women and envy them their happiness. Now, I too will be one of the women who wait.
"I am a desert woman, and I'm proud of that. I want my husband to wander as free as the wind that shapes the dunes. And, if I have to, I will accept the fact that he has become a part of the clouds, and the animals, and the water of the desert."

(skip forward many pages to where the boy has told Fatima he is leaving to follow his dream.)

"Don't say anything," Fatima interrupted. "One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving."
But the boy continued, "I had a dream, and I met with a king, I sold crystal and crossed the desert. And, because the tribes declared war, I went to the well, seeking the alchemist. So, I love you because the entire universe conspired to help me find you."
The two embraced. It was the first time either had touched the other.
"I'll be back," the boy said.
"Before this, I always looked to the desert with longing," said Fatima. "Now it will be with hope. My father went away one day, but he returned to my mother, and he has always come back since then."
They said nothing else. They walked a bit farther among the palms, and then the boy left her at the entrance to her tent.
"I'll return, just as your father came back to your mother," he said.
He saw that Fatima's eyes were filled with tears.
"You're crying?"
"I'm a woman of the desert," she said, averting her face. "But above all, I'm a woman."
Fatima went back to her tent, and when daylight came, she went out to do the chores she had done for years. But everything had changed. The boy was no longer at the oasis, and the oasis would never again have the same meaning it had had only yesterday. It would no longer be a place with fifty thousand palm trees and three hundred wells, where the pilgrims arrived, relieved at the end of their long journeys. From that day on, the oasis would be an empty place for her.
From that day on, it was the desert that would be important. She would look to it everyday, and would try to guess which star the boy was following in search of his treasure. She would have to send her kisses on the wind, hoping that the wind would touch the boy's face, and would tell him that she was alive. That she was waiting for him, a woman awaiting a courageous man in search of his treasure. From that day on, the desert would represent only one thing to her: the hope for his return.

Even though I don't agree with everything she says, I agree with many of the sentiments. and I feel like this is what I want to become. A woman who can wait. A woman who can accept waiting. And a woman who can let go of the things she loves, hoping for their return.

So maybe Time is teaching me how to wait. And I wait because I love.

And this is also true of my God.

My favorite quote:

"I'm a woman of the desert," she said, averting her face. "But above all, I'm a woman."

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