This morning I dipped my toe another inch into the water by venturing outside the gate on the backside of campus. Feeling much like a caged animal, once again, I am continuously weighing the risks of venturing into new territory alone, with keeping my spirit vibrant and joyful.
As I eased outside the gate, which BTW is guarded 24/7 by 2 men, I ran towards the hospital on a dirt road (red clay and dust) that I had been told led to the hospital. Feeling right at home on the steep hills, I greeted several people walking and biking as they passed, pretty much a mandatory thing here in Malawi culture.
Feeling safe and secure, I then retraced my steps and veered off on a different road recommended by an azunga (white person) as safe to ride bikes and walk on. Much to my delight, I was able to run 45 minutes through quiet farm country, peppered with a few houses and peeps walking to work. No cars. Another HUGE victory for the spirit!
As time passes here, I am aware of the rather small impact and footprint I will possibly leave here in Malawi as a result of my service and teaching. Today I am reminded that perhaps the most important footprint will be on my interior; my soul and heart space.
Living with a roommate is challenging for me. I have lived alone for most of the past 8 years, my girls returning home for small amounts of time; sharing the house with dogs and cats that cannot verbalize, judge or evaluate me as a companion.
Navigating this roommate relationship in a foreign country, work environment, and small communal space has required immense patience, communication, and understanding from each of us. So today I am graced with the opportunity to unwind my expectations of comfort, control, and assurance in doing it “my” way, as I usually require.
I am beginning to see that perhaps my year here is not as much about teaching and offering my professional skills but undoing my own communication habits that lead to resentment and misunderstandings in personal relationships. What better training ground than an intense 24/7 living/working situation with another colleague with whom I have very little in common?
Conflict resolution has never been a strong suit for me. Conflict avoidance is my specialty! That technique is particularly ineffective in negotiating the pathways to successful living situations!
My reliance on living alone as a means to having things just the way I want has led to relative incompetence and impairment in negotiating and finding solutions to problems, conflict, and challenges. I am willing to work this out and learn. Right now I am right up against it, my vulnerability in this arena is in my face, and I can chose to run or lash out (which by the way I did today) or belly up and pilot through it.
My roommate, Nenita, is a kind, intelligent, vibrant, loving, and extremely accomplished professional. Some adjectives that come to mind in describing both of us; strong, intense, demanding, capable, self-reliant and accustomed to living alone! Tough as nails, soft as a marshmallow. We are each from extraordinarily different cultural, professional and geographic backgrounds Yikes…
They say that those with whom we have conflict and challenges are mirrors for us. This has certainly been true in my recent experience of living with someone I have labeled as controlling and bossy! Hah, I can now have the humility to see the truth in my own self-centered behavior.
I am grateful for the opportunity she affords me to evolve and grow in this journey towards competence and artistry in relationship skills. Thank you roomie for your willingness to share, for your patience, kindness, and understanding. For your bulldog approach to those who threaten our safety and wholeness. I look forward to a year of learning and growing!