Goodbye, Girl

goodbye
Playa de los Muertos, Dominican Republic. Photo by @andresmiolan

I remember distinctly what goodbye was. I learned it waving my fingers back and forth while that someone left. I learned it really meant, “bye for now,” and I could go on breathing and living without giving it another thought.

But then I stared leaving.

And I guess that is where all goodbyes start; some sort of departure that puts beings in different places for a time. Wilmington was my first. My wild burst of teenage enthusiasm to run and not go back. I loved everything about that city. That island loosened up the soul of me that wanted to know.It wasn’t enough to know it was all there. I had to really know it in a way that made my toes tingle like they did when curled against the sand.

I promised everyone I’d be back next summer. I couldn’t bare the thought of leaving my surf board and hammock abandoned to boredom. Spain, however, had different plans for me. What little I thought I knew about the world melted away from my conscious and was replaced by curiosity–which had then suddenly grown miniature hands and feet as it overtook every part of my mind. I began to absorb and to cultivate the new knowledge into part of myself. The language made me see things upside down and backward. The blend of European culture coming into one tapa bar and sitting around with the same bottle of vino, speaking of things that matter to humans. Because those people, passing through, where the kind of people we’ve always heard about and never had the courage to be. Friendships formed instantly and without a thought. Going out of our way to meet up without the luxurious curse of a cell phone; talking in whatever mutual language we could muster between us.

But then I left.

And that “goodbye” was the kind I felt. It was final. It was “I don’t know when or if we will see each other again.” And even with the uncertainty of the goodbye, I knew that I was keeping them. These weren’t the high school friends I sought after for security or popularity. These were people I shared life with. I shared a transition with them and a memory. And somehow I felt that I said goodbye to who I was in those months as well.

There have been countless goodbyes since then. I have loved so many in so many places that my heart has seemed to become elastic- stretching with each move until I can no longer keep track of all the places I’ve left a strand. I’m afraid of what happens when I stop saying goodbye. What happens when I stay? When my heart melts back down again and is poured into something forever? That vulnerability is what I’m afraid my heart does not want. It wants the freedom to never get too close. To see the end of one place and have the excitement of the next.

But then I suppose it was never really about the place. It’s the people, and it’s me.

Now that I’m in transition again, and I’m in the place that is my home base, I can’t help but feel a bit trapped. My mind is screaming at me to not settle in. To not unpack. To not find work. I’m only alive when I’m gone. Will it always be this way? Really, like all who wander, I’m only looking for that one place or person that makes my heart want to bounce back whole again and melt into something fully.

Until then, it’s goodbye, girl.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He Always Will

White is unattainable,

In sight- but untouchable;

My stride falls as my breath stills,

The black of the dark is palpable,

Knowing I can’t, I haven’t, and I never will.


Fantom extremities moving toward it;

control an illusion, trapped within dimensions.

A body never meant to succeed- tainted, torn;

For what, then, is this striving for?

My soul longs for the fill,

But I can’t, I haven’t, and I never will.


Lips that crave salt, but a tongue that thirsts for water;

Consuming both in heavy gulps-

Not caring that salt dominates the latter.

This curse I can not handle;

Drowning as I die of thirst.

It is sure I can’t, I haven’t, and I never will.


But holes break through the solid shell;

streams of white pushing through the dark.

The light that comes is not from myself;

It surrounds me despite my efforts.

It tells me to be still;

because He can, He has, and He always will.

10 Opportunities to Do Without

As many times as my eyes have seen how foreign the world is outside of the American bubble of security and convenience, I will never be accustomed to what happens within as the bubble pops; the blend of excitement; frustration- with a tinge of guilt around every street corner.

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It is all together beautiful.

I have composed a list of the realities that most Americans live in everyday that are privileges we have taken far too lightly. Things that I will miss, but am so thankful that I have the opportunity to do without.

  1. Free Water flows as freely as words from our mouths. The thought of paying more at a restaurant for a bottle of water than a glass of wine makes us giggle. Before any of you say, “that’s awesome!,” think of those who not only struggle to find food- but water as well. Late night runs to the sink for a drink are not an option, and the long hot showers that we enjoy sometimes multiple times a day seem a laughable extravagance.
  2.  We don’t think flushing toilet paper is anything special- I mean, who really thinks about that anyway? The answer is, me. And most people living in Central America and the Caribbean. No matter how many times I’ve done it, I can never get used to it. Public restrooms don’t usually provide the cherished white squares, and I find myself always needing more tissues for my purse. This little detail will have you dancing for joy in every bathroom in the states… yes, even the public ones.
  3. Pedestrian walk lights are not a thing. Stop signs are but I don’t think Dominicans are aware of what they mean. Traffic rules are more guidelines than anything else, and the person with the most aggressive horn seems to win the right-of-way. While walking across the street, I fervently pray that the car speeding toward me will stop. After the first car, I’m a little more confident that I’ll make it across the other three lanes… but not much. The positive in all this- yes the positive– is that Dominican drivers seem to be much more alert, gracias a Dios.
  4. Power only goes off in the states when there is a storm or major damage. I can count on my hands the amount of times it has been off for an extended period of time in my life. Here, it’s as reliable as the weatherman on the morning news (and in case you didn’t catch that, not very).
  5. There’s contrast between the rich and the poor in the states, but we are very good at putting a fresh coat of paint on the good parts and ignoring the others. Here, it is right in front of your face. The extravagance is flaunted next to the poverty, and the gap is so wide I can’t seem to see the end of it.
  6. Family means something here. Granddaughters looking after Grandfathers, families living together and taking care of one another, elders being valued and not pushed aside as inconvenient, and friends become as much family as everyone. Children live at home with their parents often until they marry, and why not? It is a strong unit and an unbreakable force that relies on every part. I realize more and more how much I have not valued having a close family unit in the past.
  7. On a typical stroll through American streets, it doesn’t involve avoiding large piles of trash and debris, strewn about so carelessly that you would think the street had been mistaken for the landfill. We are so blessed to have a place to put it, and people willing to put it there.
  8. Feeling the sand in my toes is not a luxury I’ll be enjoying on the public beaches of Santo Domingo. The white pieces in the sand are not shells… no. They are pieces of styrofoam that will never decay. Instead of seaweed, bottles and cans wash ashore with every wave. The first few hundred feet off the shore is highly contaminated with sewage… and even still, it had a beauty to it that showed me God’s creation has a way of poking through to give us hope in the heartache caused by humanity.
  9. Making eye contact with men will not land you a smile or wave, but sexual and flirtatious comments. This is something I struggle with being from the south, where every stranger is really just a friend you’re waving hello to.
  10. Things upon things are a thing of my past. Simplicity is in abundance here, and my life seems to be less complicated out of a couple suitcases and a backpack. The more you have, the more you want. The less you have, the more grateful you are for what you do.

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There was as much styrofoam as sand, and with each plastic littered wave that broke against the shore, my heart broke again for the ocean.

 

Some of us may read this list and feel pity. Some, dread. For me, all these differences make me so grateful that I am able to experience what life is like outside my “normal.” I have a heart that desires to be rich in experience, culture and relationships. Here, I know now that will not be a problem… at all. 

Experience Knowing

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 [What does it mean to really know something… or someone?]

As I’ve gotten to know the Spanish language over the years, I’ve noticed some of the depth that the English language has lost over time. There are two verbs for “to know” in Spanish. The first, saber, is to know a fact; to know of; or to know how. Conocer draws what we know about knowing deeper. It is to personally know someone, or experience a place in reality. This seemingly minuscule difference is the essence of why I’ve decided to go on my adventure…

I want to know.

I want to know God in the sense that I experience who He is; not who someone told me He was. I want to have the faith that he will bring me through the trials of having little and living outside of what I consider comfort. I want to see countries with my own eyes, and not on a screen that doesn’t provide smell or breeze or noise. I want to live in cultures long enough to begin to understand  beyond memorized facts and superficial knowledge; to taste foods prepared by native hands. I want to have relationships and know people who have never known life as I have known it; people with different ways of looking at the world we live in and different ways to cope with it. I want to know what it feels like to live on minimal possessions; gathering my wealth in the adventure. And ultimately I want to know me. Me as a person who is free in Christ; always looking ahead to what is to come.

There was never a time when I took what someone said and believed it without first seeking it with my own eyes; my own mind; and my own heart. Why do we so often settle for knowing about a thing without allowing ourselves the opportunity of truly knowing it? I discovered a love for Spanish and Hispanic culture by going to Spain to study. I am diving deeper by moving to the Dominican. I treat my spirituality no different. I sought out what God’s word said and uncover daily more of who He is. Seek to know God, not just know about him. Seek to experience him, don’t stop at the stories. Seek a relationship, not a title or a political status or a place in the pew. Are you personal about what your faith? Have you experienced Him enough to make him real to you? Or are you just someone who knows the right verses to say and attends church once a week?

This year will be a year of knowing. Moving from my home and family in North Carolina to the Dominican Republic is, to date, the scariest and most exhilarating thing I have done. I am taking that forward stride into a place where I can know God more; a place where I learn every day from the world around me, and a place where I can seek out what God has purposed for my life. Follow me as I discover the gift of experience… but more than that, follow me as I go out into the reality. Take yourselves from words to life; from screen to vision, and from superficial to relationship. Intimately knowing our God and all of his creation is not way to experience life; it is the only way to truly experience at all.

You will seek me and you will find me, when you seek me with all your heart. -Jeremiah 29:13