Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Un Ano

One year.

Exactly one year ago today, my plane departed from Phnom Penh, Cambodia where I was a student missionary for a year. I looked over the faces of several 11th grade students who had come to the airport to wish me farewell. They were quite and kept saying how much they would miss me. I wondered, Will Kagna be sent to marry a stranger in another province? Will they live to ripe, old ages and get wrinkles? Will they survive in Cambodia? Will they be hurt by someone? I grew to care deeply about each one of them, but mostly relief flooded my thoughts as I realized I was finally going home.

I flew to Tai Pei and then Los Angeles, finally landing in Denver, Colorado. Home. Gasping for air between tears, the wheels touched down, and I realized I had no idea how I had survived since the last time I left that airstrip. In fact, landing alive after a tumultuous year overseas was probably the most “spiritual” experience I had during my year “serving” God. Between flights to different countries, near-moto accidents, corrupt governments, new cultures, and war within myself, somehow I arrived full-circle in mostly one piece. My spirit was broken, my world view had been shaken, but my physical body remained intact, starving, confused, and abused, but intact.
One year.

I think July 1st may serve from now on as my own personal New Year. January is so overdone. I’m starting my own. July 1 reminds me of new beginnings and a fresh start. July 1 reminds me of lessons learned, opportunity, and growth.

So what has changed in my life during the past year?

Home found me supported, understood, and healing. I learned how to reach for the help I desperately needed, whether it was family and friends or psychologists and dieticians. I learned that honesty would only help me and keeping it stuffed inside was not an option.

God is no longer a source of guilt and anger, bitterness and resentment. I wouldn’t call myself a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, at least not until I find out what that actually means and if I believe it whole heartedly. If I must have a recognizable title “Christian agnostic” seems to fit best. I am probably Christian, but I cannot say with absolute certainty that there is a god. No one can. I may be wrong and I’m okay with that. I believe Jesus existed. There must be something to the fact that the Bible and Christianity have stuck around as long as they have.

Post-Cambodia I began considering strongly, What if I am only Christian because that is all I know? What would I believe if I had never read the Bible or stepped into a church? Would I still sense the presence of a god or higher power if I didn’t have all of those things?

I began considering that God uses people. That I may never see or hear God, but I might see his work in other ways. I started exploring prayer and devotions in more ways than one. Maybe it isn’t getting on my knees and reading my Bible. Maybe it can be yoga, deep breaths, and writing. Maybe “devotions” can be a much needed conversation with a friend. Because frankly, as I’m sure we can all relate, I’ve seen God more often outside of church than inside of church. What if praying for God’s will really means, putting myself aside long enough to listen to what the Universe is trying to tell me? What if I am not pre-programmed to live one way? What if I have decisions to make using the brain in my head that was given to me? What if Christianity does not have to mean evangelistic series, prayer meetings, church attendance, nominating committees, and potlucks? What if Christianity can mean healing a hurting world and loving others?

I’ve learned that sometimes life will ask me to make a whole hearted decision about something I am only 51% sure. It's called "faith" on purpose, otherwise it would just be a "prudent life insurance policy." Thanks Elizabeth Gilbert.

In one year I’ve only thrown up 3 times. Yippeee! In Cambodia it was several times a week, that’s progress. The behaviors related to an eating disorder consume me less and less than ever before. Now I’m sorting through the thoughts that drive them. I’m getting down to the source of what leads me to control my body. I’m learning that I am enough and I can forgive myself. I’m learning that if I eat right and exercise, my body will tell me what it needs to weigh. It is not up to me to determine the right number. I’m learning to trust what my body tells me, fully, hungry, happy, sad, anxious, tired. I stopped listening for awhile.

I still catch up with my dietician from time to time to stay on track, but I’m more flexible with my eating and exercise than ever before. I’m learning to forgive myself.
In the last year I picked up a boyfriend along the way, or maybe he picked me. Jeremy and I began emailing during my time in Cambodia. Upon returning to Union, he wanted to hear my stories, the good, the bad, and the…well, you know. We built a relationship knowing full-well each others dirt, no surprises. It was refreshing that he already knew the most shameful parts of me and still wanted to be with me. He encouraged me to speak my mind and to be who I was.

Six months later I find myself really attached to this guy. It is intriguing to me how we just fit together. His playful, spontaneous, side balances well with my more structured, organized self. He helps me lighten up. I help him get things done. Jeremy isn’t scared of my tears, the bulimia, my questions about God, my girly side, my competitive side, or my depressed side. Jeremy is passionate, dedicated, strong, and loyal. We talk about everything from God to religion, chick things to guy things, feelings, how to love better, and why I’ll never cook him meat. He hugs me when I’m sweaty and gross. He makes me feel beautiful when I just don’t see it. He encourages me to write. He pulls me away from magazine racks covered in gossip and half-naked celebrities. He looks me in the eyes across a room and makes me feel like the most important person in the world.

We want to travel, experience, live. We want to help people and live on purpose. I keep waiting for him to really disappoint me, to snap at me, to lose his patience at one more random thought that comes out of my mouth. But instead, he listens, he shares, and together, we grow.

I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time and consistently too. It is difficult to compare, but I dare say I’m happier than I’ve ever been at any other time in my life. That is a strong statement, but I don’t feel much hesitation in saying it. Sure 6 years-old was nice, but come on, I was terrified of clowns and my brother could make me cry just be looking at me. Yeah, 21 is pretty darn good.

I’d say that the single greatest lesson I’m learning since my experience in Cambodia is: peace. There is peace in life. I’ve never felt such peace and joy in my life than I do right now. The last few years of my life have been dominated by fear and control. I wanted to control my weight, my appearance, God, my friends, my family, and circumstance. I’m learning to let go.

I’m learning to ride the waves and take the days as they come. I’m more likely to adjust to change and roll with the punches. I can ask for what I need. I can be late. I can be wrong. I can eat carbohydrates all day. I can disagree. I can take care of myself. I can make mistakes. I can feel. I can say that wrong thing, at the wrong time, to the wrong person. I can have bright red zits and cellulite. I can have down days and up days.

I can be.


Anonymous said...

damn good
thank You Spirit
and thank you bo

Carley Brown said...

I love you declared your own new years.. thats awesome! sounds like Jeremy is a great guy for you, that awesome too! Thanks for all the good reading, I like to keep up with your blog. btw... Devon Howard i guess reads your blog too and he added me on facebook cause I guess he found my blog through yours or something. I knew him and his brother from all my GVR days and living in Loveland. Anyways have a great week!