Waking up to what seems like an empty house and walking out of my room to find, as I do every morning, breakfast waiting for me. There is hot water for tea, white bread, 3 bananas, 2 passions fruits and 1 tree tomato. I have been perpetually full since arriving here, the diet is very heavy in starches like potatoes, pasta, rice, plantains, fried foods and meat. So a breakfast of Africa tea (ichai) suits me just fine. What started off as a usual morning quickly changed, as the babies realized I was awake which means they are by my side as much as possible, well at least the 2 1/2 year Abbey is. After making a huge mess on the carpet, we eat in the living room, with banana and bread crumbs we moved to the outside area and found Mujah (the nanny). I am greeted by her every morning with a huge smile, a giggle and a hand up in the air awaiting the high 5, followed by a hug on the left, a hug on the right and another on the left, then another shake of the hand which is like a “we’re about to arm wrestle” kind of grip! I love it. I love the ritual of it all and that everyone, acknowledges everyone at every encounter with presenting at least an open palm, face up hand and sometimes just laying their arm out for you to grab anywhere you like!
We spent some time peeling potatoes, singing, playing with my computer and then I introduced her to iphoto on my MAC which was an absolute hit! I have had many a gut busting laugh-a-thons with friends and family (see below) on iphoto and this was no exception. I thought at first she was freaked out, her faced looked like she had no idea what she was seeing and then she started to laugh and dance and have a great time with it. Again I realized that I do not need to do anything to bring joy or happiness, I simply need to take the time to share what is real in my life and my world. It was obvious that sharing something fun with Mujah and Abbey was a great way to lighten day, bring a whole lot of laughter to our day and when I hear that Abbey has been talking about what we do together all day to her family, I know its because I am having an impact on her life just as she is on mine.
And there are many, many more where these came from!!
What I am starting to come into is a place of comfort, relaxation and acceptance of my reality. I accept that I have little money but I still need to spend some in order for the process of discovering what it is I am doing here. I accept that I am in a completely new country that feels very, very new to me and I do have a bit of fear about going too far from home or just heading out for the day with no destination. I accept that I need time to adjust and that time often feels or my mind tries to tell me that it feels like, I am not doing anything or enough or the wrong thing, but I just sit back and watch it, ride it out and come back to reality which means reminding myself – “ahh Hello, you moved to a new country where you don’t speak the language, don’t really know anyone, have no idea what skills you are going to be asked to use, no real clear path for a job……” and that usually helps me come to some kind of place of compassion for myself! Reality check, what I am doing is not an easy task and I am doing amazing, all things considered.
When I think of my life pre-ashram, I remember lists – lots and lots of lists, always planning, checking, organizing, scheduling, checking off things, all of which I see now were an attempt to feel like I had some kind of control in my life. I was not an “A” type personality but I still put a lot of pressure on myself to do things, and when I didn’t I would beat myself up mentally, telling myself I was a loser for not being able to do all of it, not having enough time and not working hard enough. I would blame myself and tell myself I was too lazy, good for nothing. It felt really good to accomplish things and really, really bad when I didn’t. Lists are not the culprit here and neither is being organized, I love those qualities about myself, it was the mental chatter that had to stop. So not only did I stop making lists, I stopped planning my life. I let go completely of the idea that I could actually organize life all the time the way I wanted it and plan how things were going to be – I did this when I realized that I was not in control at all of anything in my life other than my mind. When I learned to control my mind, which is a constant battle but one that I am winning, I learned to stop beating myself up and instead can be compassionate, more realistic and more open to the flow of my own Divine spirit. Now I live life in the present moment, free to change plans last minute if it doesn’t feel right while still be a committed person. Making the commitment to come to Rwanda was part of the flow and offered me the challenge to focus on one thing while still living my ideals.
(As I looked for a photo to put in here to depict this pre-ashram, “Lister” personality, I realized that all of my photos show me looking very free, very flowy and often full of Joy, even when I was ill. I began to wonder what it was I was looking for, something straight laced, uptight and angry…well here’s the thing it was all in my mind and while there are obvious differences in my physical appearance that reflect to me what I was going through at the time, there will be no pictures of me being anything other than who I was allowing myself to show the world which was always shiny, bright, happy and joyful. This was also part of the problem but what this exercise is allowing me to see that my spirit was very strong and bright. There is something in these photos that I cannot deny is very real and that is my spirit, it wasn’t broken – was that all in my mind too?)
Today that spirit of free flowing life lead me to so many wonderful things, including what I spoke of above , like dancing and singing with Abbey, having baby Kenny fall asleep in my arms while we had some quite time, a good talk with Alice (Abbey and Kenny’s mama), helping cook dinner, and going to my first traditional Rwandan dance class with a man I was introduced to via Mary Jo from Santa Barbara, Gilbert. Gilbert is a very sweet, gentle, kind spirit who has a very firm belief in God and in love. He told me so many things today that I found not only inspiring but also very true to me as well. He has great talent, a generous heart and wants to make a difference in the lives of the children that he teaches dance to for me. His class practiced the traditional dance of the Twas tribe today and I was able to join in. Right away he said “slow down, you need to feel it!” This is how I find my next steps and how life unfolds – try something, feel it and see what happens. Riding home behind a small Rwandan man on a Moto, feeling so wonderfully free and looking out over the hills bathed by the sunset, I said to myself “Wow! This is beautiful!” and I meant – LIFE!