Friday, August 29, 2008

Back to College

The serenity and beauty of Alaska still wanders into my thoughts from time to time. It's got me thinkin about what I really want.

Being back in college, one question continues to haunt me: "So, what's your major?"

I've stopped asking the question, because I loathe trying to answer it. Instead I've started asking, "If you could do anything in the whole world, what would you do?" This usually lights up the eyes more than the dreaded "M" word.

I've started telling people I'm taking the buffet approach, sampling a little bit of this and a little bit of that (If you're wondering, the latest thought is: Secondary Education, emphasis in Language Arts Education. My kids in Cambodia think this is hilarious!)

There are many things I'm good at and enjoy doing, but not all of them would make great careers. I won't be joining the WNBA or recording a CD any time soon, chef school sounds boring, and I doubt anyone would pay me to scrapbook all day.

So I figure I should anwer my own question: "If I could do anything in the world, what would I do?" My answer isn't short and sweet, but here are a few ideas.

If I could do anything I'd write books and everyone would buy them, love them, and be inspired.

If I could do anything I'd have my own garden, can my own food, sew all of my own clothes, and avoid Walmart entirely.

If I could do anything I'd marry an Australian, or an American who talks with that accent. He'd take me with my quirks, listen to my wanderings, believe in me, and be bold enough to tell when I was being ridiculous.

If I could do anything I'd live outside the city where I could breathe, but be close enough to get my city fix once in awhile.

If I could do anything I'd do something that mattered, whether it be writing life-changing books like Elie Weisel, fighting for human rights like Nelson Mandela, or using words to make people think like Maya Angelou.

If I could do anything I'd walk everywhere.

If I could do anything I'd run a bakery with wonderful healthy delights. I'd have regulars who came for chai and rasberry scones. I'd decorate it myself with my inspirations from all over the world to encourage people to think globally.

I feel like my answers to this question would've been different a year or two ago. My "If I could do anything..." answer would have had something to do with God.

Last week, I was listening to a podcast with Ben and Ashley about a Jewish Rabbi who encourages her members to voice their frustrations and disappointments to God. She said a great part of our relationship involves letting God know of the times we've felt let down. Ben said, "That sounds like someone I know", fully realizing he was talking about me, my eyes started to fill with tears. Ben's good at making me think.

I do feel like God let me down. I feel like I busted my butt in Cambodia. I pleaded desperately with God for over a month to show me some relief, some proof, something. Nothing.

I've been continuing to read my blogs from last year. I'm now into October 2007. This has been so healing for me. I am forced back into those feelings and those situations. It has made me consider and really look at my experience now that I'm out of it. Already, I've started thinking, "Was it really that bad?" Then I am reminded: Yeah, it was.

Looking back has been interesting. I am transported back to Cambodia temporarily: back to the hot and noisy classrooms, back to the isolation and the loneliness, back to the destructive ED behaviors. Then, I shut my laptop screen, walk out the door, and I'm back in the States. It's interesting going back and forth. But at the same time, I think it's making the day-to-day a little harder.

My experience isn't any less real, but I read about it, head to class, and I have to be "college student Heather" the me with projects due, responsibilities, and a job. It makes the whole thing feel surreal.

It's been kind of a rough two days. I'm still getting through the antibiotics for the creatures growing in my stomach and the Giardea I picked up overseas. So this leaves me feeling sick and weak. With my body's reaction to the pills, my body image isn't really thriving so I get caught up in the same destructive thoughts.

I was walking to class today thinking, Well, that was a nice 2 week break from ED, but that's about as long as it seems to take for the ED to catch up any time I try to run from it.






Sunday, August 24, 2008

Passion?

I feel the need to write. I can't pin down a particular topic, but we'll just see what comes.

I haven't thought about this in a year-and-a-half, but upon returning to Union it's been smacking me in the face: there sure are a lot of couples walking around on campus. Happy boys and girls holding hands strolling in their bliss. Oh, boy they look happy! And I'm happy for them. Can't you tell?

I am having a hard time taking school seriously. When a teacher tells me I have 100 pages of reading to do and a typed paper to turn it, I just want to say, "Ummm...no! I don't wanna." Basically I feel like a brat who just doesn't want to do anything. But after spending a year teaching in Cambodia, being on the other end as the student, isn't very fun. I was walking across campus last week just thinking, What am I doing here? Why do I need an education? It feels like what I was doing in Cambodia mattered more. So anything here just seems, pointless. I felt needed there, whereas here, all I have to take care of is myself apparently.

I've listened to college students complain about worship credits at Union for as long as I can remember. We call them "Jesus points". You know because it feels like the school is saying that the students need to earn points with Jesus to gain eternal life. I've never really had much of an issue with the idea, until now. I didn't go to vespers. I didn't go to dorm worship. I didn't go to church. I didn't go to V2 (the second vespers). I feel like attending makes me a hypocrit. I don't feel the urge to go and yet I am forced to so I can earn my points. It feels like they are less concerned with a genuine spiritual experience, becuase they assume that vespers somehow guarantees it.

I've started attending the Church of Options. It's a great church just off of Prescott street. We meet in a quaint and cozy house on Saturday mornings at about 11am, or whenever we feel like it. Pajamas are welcome and the music is always acoustic and often sung along with Coldplay. My sister and Ben invited me. They started the church and I am the only member. We get together and listen to a podcast called Speaking of Faith. We pause and discuss what comes to mind. Ben sips his coffee, while I do yoga, and Ashley paints her nails. They interview Buddhists, Jewish rabbis, Catholics, Voodou masters, and game wardens. Afterwards we talk about what resonated the most with us individually. Church is, by definition, an association of people with a common belief system (thankyou Google). This is the best church I have ever been to. I am encouraged to grapple with issues that affect me day to day. I talk about topics that really matter to me. My opinion is welcomed and always heard. My mind is thinking and absorbing and changing. Then sometimes Ben and I play guitar. I love the Church of Options. It is the only church I've attended that feels 100% true.

Saturday afternoon, I went to a student missionary potluck with all the returnees from last year. It's been interesting seeing them and talking with them throughout the week. It feels like the SM's just get this better than other students. We met at a families house and chatted. I listened to other SM stories and looked at their pictures. The longer I sat there, I worse I felt. They all had wonderful stories and experiences. They loved their year away! Pastor Rich was there. He gathered us all together for discussion. As soon as he started talking, I excused myself and started crying. It was just so overwhelming to see the year that I could have had, but didn't. Did I do something wrong? Did I miss the point? I am not saying that I am the only one who struggled. We all did in different ways. But it is hard for me to come up with fun stories and memories. It just makes me want to avoid the topic entirely. The rough stories aren't what most people want to hear. Someone I was talking to this week actually said, "Well aren't you a downer!" after I told them I'd had a rough year. Pastor Rich said, "I know all of you will agree that coming home is harder than going into the mission field." I'm thinking, Um...no.
"And most of you would go back right now if you could!" Nuh uh!
He continued, "Now that you are back, remember how you learned throughout your struggles to rely on God. Don't lose that! Remember how close you have become to God." That last one didn't fit me either. I left feeling more separate than ever. I left knowing I was unfairly uncomparing myself. But part of me couldn't stop and part of me didn't want to. I'm very envious of what everyone else seemed to have.

My kids in Cambodia seem so far away. Kagna doesn't fully understand the Gmail chat option. So everyday I have a chat that was sent while I was offline that says, "MS.BO???????????????" as if it works like a telephone. I don't want to be there and I don't necessarily want to be here.

In my Drawing for Everyone class last week the teacher told us to introduce ourselves: name, major, and what we were passionate about. Huh? Passionate about? Nothing really came to mind. Maybe that's part of the problem.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Culture Shock

I have never read my own blogs. I write em, post em, and move on. I have never felt the urge. I was challenged to today, so I did.

It is about year since I left for Cambodia. I started at the beginning with my first entry about leaving home and arriving in Phnom Penh. The first entry was mostly facts, the second entry made me want to cry. I had already slightly forgotten how painful it was. The first few blogs, I wrote about just staying for a month! I ended up staying 10 months! The reason why is still up for debate, but regardless, I did. I think going back and reading will be very healing for me. It has been this afternoon.

Today I thought about a few changes in me I've noticed since I've been back.

I spent a lot of time barefoot in Cambodia. So here I ususally find myself kicking off my shoes after a few minutes, if I can.

I walk much slower than I used to. I used to envy this in people, thinking they must be more at peace and able to observe things more clearly. During my time in Cambodia, there was just too much to take in, I had to walk slow to sucessfully absorb what I could. Now, I walk slow out of habit and I notice a lot more.

Everytime I need water, I am intrigued by the idea of clean water just magically coming out of this silver spout in the kitchen. Remarkable! Now, if only everyone had it so easy.

Any time I am out in public and see a person of Asian descent, I want to walk up and start a conversation with them really bad. It's as if just because I lived in southeast Asia for a few months, I feel like I can relate to all of them. Not true, but a nice wish. I just feel drawn to them. But I really don't think they are drawn to me at all. Sad. I guess it's not just Asians, but really anyone who is obviously a foreigner: Indians, Africans.

I am back in the college life full swing. I've completed 4 days of classes and work, nights in the dorm, and cafeteria meals. Four days and still, so much to say.

It's weird being back. It just feels odd. I feel a bit out of place, so I've been really intentional about not hiding in my dorm room to avoid making new friends. I have to do it, becuase so many are gone.

I'm taking several classes I think I will enjoy. Drawing, Editing, Psychology of Religion, and more. Sitting in class, I feel like maybe I never left. Did anything change from the last time I sat in this classroom? Uhhh, yeah. It's hard to be motivated to be back in school. Now it all just seems really pointless.

I work in a quite office tucked away in corner. I wish I could be around more people. But as I sat filing today I thought, "Well, this is a dramatic change from my last job!" No rats. No 98 degree heat. No yelling kids. I almost miss it. But not quite.

My kids have been emailing me religiously. Pov Sokagna wrote today,
"My dear Ms.Bo,
How are you doing in school!!!!!Is it everything ok?????? I tell you something i passed my drivers exam. i'll get drive's license next month. yesterday we drove in rain. It rained all day. YOU know everyday I feel so lonely, need someone talk with. i called my friends were bsuy, what can i do be happy? I really miss you. i want to talk with you and play with you. Whenver I talk with you i feel so good..........I forget to ask you, do you miss me? Remember I..............LOVE...............YOU......!!!!!!!!! Don't forget to take care of your healthy. Bye bye my dear. Kagna."

Well, let's not view this as a reflection of her English teacher. I miss her very much. Our relationship was simple, we made eachother feel good. Isn't that how it should be?

So with the Cambodian in me that seems to dominate all else, I dive into another year. Most of my thoughts about the reality in front of me is complimented with a, "Oh, I remember this one time in Cambodia..." Though I've stopped saying all of them outloud.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Colorado to Nebraska

Well another big move. This time I stayed in the country. Well sort of, I now live in Nebraska.

All Nebraska jokes aside, it really is a good place to live. Coloradoans totally take the mountains for granted anyway. So we take great pride in having them and complain that Nebraska doesn't, but even when I go home, I stay in Loveland, the mountainless city where I live.

But Thursday morning, I loaded up my car and departed for this flat-hot state, reminding myself the whole way, "This is what you need to do". I don't know where home is right now. I suppose I'll try Nebraska on for size again.

I have been staying with my sister Ashley and her husband, Ben. These two are favorite people. I don't know how they do it. It's like they put their evil hearts together before I came out to Union my freshman year and said, "Ok, let's get her! Let's smother her with love! Muah-ha-ha!" Well, it worked. I feel horribly loved, disgustingly appreciated, and grossly understood. In short, I love them more than most anything in my life.

Friday afternoon found my sister and I totally abandoning the world temporarily to have a lazy afternoon together. We cooked, we watched Alias episodes, we chatted, so good. On saturday we did about the same, but Ben joined us. I got my first guitar lessons rocking out to Coldplay, we listened to podcasts that make us think, then we talked about it. They like to talk and they like to listen. They are good at both. We went for a walk, we talked some more. Really, I wonder if I could just grow old with these two! But I think eventually they'd kick me out of the house, but I will always proudly claim to be their first daughter.

I took my things to the dorm with the intentions of moving in, but staying the weekend with Ben and Ash sounded much more appealing. I got more moved in today. My roommate showed up today. Her name is Cherise. I think we'll do well together. She is a returning SM from Prague.

Speaking of SM's, I think I will spending a lot of time with them this year. It is an odd, almost indescribable feeling to return first of all to the states, secondly, to the college life. I'm basically predicting here and now, a lot of frustrated-sounding blogs about re-adjusting to the college life and my difficulties fitting in. I feel it already.

I know routine and starting classes will be good for me. But right now, I'm waiting. I feel like a terrified incoming freshman. I might as well have never gone to this school. I don't recognize anyone. No one knows me. I feel awkward and uncomfortable at a school where I've had some really good times. I walked into the cafeteria and wanted to cry. I didn't see one familiar face. I feel, out of place.

I feel that here is a lot of pressure in college. Some of it is self-imposed, some comes from people I've mistakenly called 'friends'. Either way, I can see this year being a struggle to maintain how I want to live my life, versus how everyone else thinks I should.

I haven't even started classes yet. Leave it up to me to overanalyze, I'm quite good at it. I may be just fine in a week or two.

My parents called while I was moving into my dorm room, alone. I wanted to cry. But they were too far away to hold me, so I didn't.

I am not a patient person. Example: I would rather do a task one way even if it takes a lot longer, as long as I can start it right now. I asked Ben if there was a way to copy and paste all of my blogs to my computer. While he was searching for the answer, I just went ahead and started doing it. He was searching for a program he'd heard of that may be able to do it automatically. Still, "It would just take to long", I decided. I don't like to wait.

I dread that in-between stage. Like the line before a roller coaster, hate it. Or that silence when you're between two songs on a CD, should I say something? What about brunch, always an awkward meal, ya never know when you might be hungy again. Just weird. Oh how about puberty? Ya, that's uncomfortable. The in-between stinks.
I feel like I am living in the in-between, and more than just the, about the start college thing. I feel like I am a talented person with a lot of potential, yet things just keep getting in the way. May it be health problems, the eating disorder, or painful relationships, it feels like there is always something standing between me and the life I am truly capable of.

Last week I was blessed to have a conversation with a good friend. He's got a full plate of struggle in his life and as I listened to what he was saying, I heard myself. I had felt the same way. Where it came from, I don't know, but I said, "Ya know, there is no such thing as waiting for your life to begin, this is it! You can't wait to be happy or feel loved or valued until you jump the next hurdle. You'll miss out if you don't learn that the life you are living right now, is up to you. Your life is your fault." I was somewhat suprised I said it, because I don't always believe it. But on that day, I did.
A friend from highschool, Megan, reminded me one day, "Heather, life is what happens when you're busy making other plans." Busy recovering, busy finding financial stability, busy hoping people will like you.

Busy, busy, busy.

I'm not necessarily inspiring myself as I write this. I need to learn this lesson more than anyone else I know. But I suppose I'm hoping that talking, writing, and thinking about it will someday make it true.

Monday, August 11, 2008

I just posted the newest pictures since I've been home. Well, I haven't actually been taking pictures of my house, but trip and people and fun. Click the Flickr link on the right side.

Hermit

I've basically been a hermit since I've been home. At first I felt bad, now I really don't. This is what I have needed. But little by little, I've been getting out more, which has been surprisingly good.

Last week, I played tennis with my good buddy Michael Beans. We played in the rain for awhile, then went back to my house and watched Oprah. Now, that's a good friend. (Never heard back from Oprah by the way. She is definately off my "potential friends" list.) He's headed to Union this fall and I'm thrilled. He's like a little brother to me. He has so much potential. He's good at absolutely everything he does, though I'd love him just as much if he was awful at everything he did. He has a very thoughtful spirit.

On Thursday, my old friend Jon and I got together. We met when we both worked at a smoothie shop in highschool. We went to an acapella concert and then later to Dazbog coffee shop. I suggested Starbucks because it was on the way home. He said, "Heather, don't give in to paying the big man!" My response was, "Dazbog is a corporate chain too ya know!" Still, it made me think. Another day we went and tried Bikram hot yoga. It was intense! There was a room of a dozen or so people and the heat was cranked up to atleast 90+ degrees. I immediately felt overdressed. People basically do yoga in their swimsuits. We got really wet. Within the first 10 minutes of simple breathing exercises, I had sweat dripping from my elbows! It was tough, but I did feel great afterwards and more flexible too. We shared pictures from the last year of our lives. He is headed for the millitary. We usually see eachother about once a year. It's strange really. Jon isn't my type of friend. I like a few really close friends. But I hardly know Jon. I mean, I learn more whenever we hang out, but it isn't awkard and we always find fun things to talk about. He loves adventure. He brings out the spontaneous side of me. Great guy, headed out to save the world.

On Friday I had the pleasure of dining at Qdoba with my old basketball coaches from highschool, Keith and Rob. They've been friends for a few decades and it shows. They intently listened to what's been on my mind and made me feel less crazy. We laughed together. These are wonderful people who really care. Devoted, is a good word to describe them.

I had a bunch of close friends and family over on Friday night. I cooked Indian food, or atleast my version of what I was taught. It turned out good. I wondered if any of them had ever eaten Indian food, they had, yet it was still darn good. I made two different curries, dhal, creamed spinach with garlic, and chipatis. Yum! Then I showed a bunch, 500 to be exact, of my photos from Cambodia. I thought that was a lot, but it was fun to show to people and at the end, Kevin said, "That's it? No more?" It felt good to be a little better understood.

Yesterday I met up with Eric, a wonderful friend from highschool. He is headed off to Egypt in 2 weeks. We wandered around the Denver zoo and talked about, oh, everything! Deep stuff, shallow stuff, family, relationships, goals for the future, spirituality. As I sat listening to him, I realized, "Now this is church!" We are people with common beliefs discussing what matters most to us. I could've sat there for hours. Eric is one of the most driven, intentional, disciplined people I know. He'll do well.

I feel very blessed for these inspiring people in my life. It is their encouragment and joy that has been missing from my life for awhile. I have been able to visit and spend time with some really wonderful people since I've been home. I feel like my family has grown since I've been gone. I was able to start and even restore friendships I never expected to have. For many it was about finding common ground. "Ahh, you are human and struggle? Me too!" Fast friends.

I chatted online with Tim and Fay last night. They are currently in the air, probably some where over the Pacific ocean. I have been so relieved to be back, I can't even imagine going back. They get 7 weeks off, then return to the craziness that they still manage to call, 'home'. They are so brave and dedicated. As they return to their lives and I return to mine, I can't help but think, "Ok, what now?" At times, I've thought things couldn't possibly get worse. Other times I'm amazed that life still gets better and better.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Stress and Health

I've often felt that my body and I just do not get along. We disagree on many things. I just want to be healthy, but not put forth 100% effort to keep it that way. I want to enjoy life without thinking about taking my pills, balancing my hormones, psychological issues, or doctor's appointments.

I saw my doctor this morning. Indeed, the results are in, I have more health problems. After looking over my blood, saliva, and stool tests (which she affectionately called, the "poop" test, and it made me giggle), she concluded we have some work to do. As a result of living in Cambodia I have come back not only with much psychological work to do, but physical as well. I have parasites, amoebas, and bacterias swimming around in my stomach. I also have giardia, most likely from the water. I am still anemic, low iron. And she also informed me that, I now have high cholesterol. I've never had high cholesterol. She tells me it's from stress. I told her that always sounds like a cop out, is stress really a health factor. Don't we live with stress everyday? She reminded me I am an agressive, type A personality, and of course I would say that. I don't grant myself permission for stress to be a symptom of anything, except life that is.

All of these findings explains my weak immunity and constant once-a-month illnesses in Cambodia. This explains the still constant bloating and fatigue. I also found out this week that I have food sensitivities to 3 very common foods in my diet. So this means I have to change my diet to keep them out. I got my teeth cleaned and found out I had a cavity that needs to be filled. On top of everything else, I wanted to cry. What is going on?

All of this is added to EMDR trauma counseling and work with a dietician to learn a normal diet. I already take pills for arthritis, allergies, and anemia. I take birth control pills to balance out my hormones. I got my teeth cleaned and found out I have a cavity that needs to be filled (I hate needles!). On top of everything else, I wanted to cry. In fact, today, I did. Yes, maybe my body is trying to tell me something.

BE KIND!

I have been neglecting my health because other issues have just taken priority. I have currently been working full-time on my health since I got home. But the thought came today, someday very soon, I won't all 24 hours to be so consumed with, myself.

Next week I am loading up my car and driving to Lincoln, Nebraska. College calls to me. I am glad to go. I need to move on and focus on something else. But with all the effort of just taking care of my health, where does friendships or school or work or sprituality come in? I just don't know how I ever balanced all of this. My gut tells me, I never did.

I've gotten really good at just getting by. I know how to squeeze way too much into the limited hours of the day and still get 8 hours of sleep. I am good at schedules and making things fit. I am not always so good at spontanously doing things with friends or doing something on a whim. I wish I was. But how does a human being get it all done?

I have realized that taking a year away, helped me to see how much of me needs to change. I am now creating a life that isn't so structured. I am not, I repeat "NOT" signing up for every club and group that Union college offers me. I am going to get darned good at saying, "Uh uh!". I am taking 14 hours, instead of 18. I am taking a drawing class. Joy! I am changing gyms to one that has yoga, the ultimate stress relief. I am not pressuring myself to find God as quickly as people might like me to. I am going to learn guitar from my Ben, something I've been putting off for 4 years now. I turned down a job that required me to wake up at 5am, eventhough I am still currently jobless. It just didn't fit with the new life I am creating for myself. It will be hard, but I am going to try to leave wide open spaces in my planner. I don't have to account for every hour of every day. I have always looked at carefree people with both disgust and jealousy, wishing I could allow myself to just sit on center campus and do absolutely nothing.

I have been able to chat online with a few of my students. They remind me of what I learned while I was with them. They are a continuing reminder to me that, I may survive stressing and or I may thrive just being. I think it is obvious which one I really want.