At 62, I have had months, years, decades even, of this yearning, restlessness and seeking. Can’t explain it, can’t control it, just is what it is. In the last few days, particularly as I gaze at the photo of me and my students, I have the awareness of this feeling I will call contentment.
This is epic, earth shattering, a break through for me. I cannot recall any time in my adult life that I felt the contentment. I have been seeking the perfect job, relationship, place to live, set of friends, horse, garden, it just goes on and on.
Smiling, smirking I think, did it really take going 7680 miles from home, selling my house and possessions (except the 8000 pounds in storage!) leaving my kids, mom, dog, friends, to accept a new job, in a strange land to arrive at contentment? Well, I guess so. How does this happen?
All I can say is that I have accepted life here as it is and I am happy. Did I really say that? Do I miss people, things about home? Absolutely, painfully so. Yet I am learning so much about medicine, culture, people, communication, relationships. It just fills my days and my heart. Generally, Malawians are warm, welcoming and friendly which has helped a great deal. I feel safe. Yet I would like to exercise, walk in the market, shop in the grocery store without all eyes ON me.
My social life here is certainly better than home. I have made friends from Malawi, Holland, England, US, South Africa, Germany, Italy, Austria, and Switzerland. We are a small community of mazungu (white people) here in Mzuzu as compared to other locations in Malawi, ranging in age from 30ish to 65ish. We congregate at local restaurants, bars, and hostels and talk about Malawi, traveling, our families, jobs, our experiences.
We are in the process of planning an American Thanksgiving, so looking forward to that. So the sense of community I feel here is pretty awesome! Because there is no TV, movies, limited internet and basically nothing else to do, we talk, eat and just get to know each other.
This is not to say I have not developed friendships with Malawians. I have, but we do not socialize as I would with my mazungu friends; more through work and casual conversation.
Putting aside my OCD tendency towards perfection, things that would drive me crazy at home, are just fine here. Here are a few examples:
My car has 2 out of 4 hubcaps. This makes it look more Malawian which makes me happy!
The electrical panel has had the cover off since we got here
The shower curtain is pink, old and ugly, hanging from a frayed pink string attached to a nail in the wall
There is old paint stuck to the sink and faucets
The kitchen hot water spigot is not over the sink and turned sideways aimed to hit the right place
The huge water heater is located in the ceiling of the kitchen in a gaping hole in the ceiling and has nothing covering it, truly ugly
The crawl space in the ceiling is open, no cover, mice and bugs running around
Curtains hanging by a thread
This is progress! Perhaps it is because it is temporary, and I am able to let it go. No matter.
I made the commitment to myself on Jan 1 2015 to meditate and pray daily. I have kept that agreement and am choosing to believe that it is God’s grace that has assisted me in arriving both in Africa, and at this place of contentment.
Today I celebrate 16 years of abstinence from alcohol and chemicals. So it is with immense gratitude that I feel this sense of contentment, for however long it lasts. I truly believe that without this passage, I would not have this opportunity here in Malawi, nor the peace and contentment I feel at this time. The path of sobriety has offered me the most intense, challenging, and beautiful journey and I am grateful for every moment.