Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Incredible Lightness of Leaving

I finally bought my plane ticket home. I'll be home a few weeks earlier than I'd originally hoped, because I recently found out a close family member of mine is fighting cancer. That was another lesson from the universe, as if all this restructuring from Peace Corps security weren't enough stress: count your blessings. Always! As a kid, I really didn't always have to, but I've learned it in many ways here. This was just another reminder.

So I'm getting the cat's "visas" in order, scrambling toward the finish line on the ecological trail, making final to-do lists, putting together a list of potential follow-up things my replacement can work on.

I didn't do everything I committed to do before leaving - largely because of the transition in municipal government - but I desperately want to at least acknowledge it, to leave feeling I dotted the i's and crossed the t's and that it will be tougher for folks to say: "Oh that volunteer? She didn't do anything!"

Having the ticket is nice, because it's forcing me to accept that what I've done, I've done, and what I won't do, I won't do. And it's helping me to picture that plane ride home with some excitement: that first bite of pizza at our local pizzeria, the first hug with my grandma, the fragrant fresh smell of western NY in the spring time and wearing a tank-top and flip-flops!

At COS conference in February, our programming officer led us through a visualization of going home. It made me cry, which I tried to hide through squeezed eyes. I just wasn't there yet, miles from it. I felt horrible about the idea of leaving. Without proper goodbyes, without closing out projects, without even having passed anything over to my replacement. (Actually, then, I didn't even know for sure if I would be replaced, because the mayor's council was dragging their feet).

Now I'm ready to think about it, yet as I begin to attack my leaving to-do list, I'm still fighting my own resistance to leaving. I think about it for a minute: oh, I should... (fill in the blank) : sort my recycling, clean up that pile of dirt I've left in that corner all year, back-up my Master's data, wash the clothes I'm giving away...

Then it occurs to me that I'm leaving and as soon as I do anything on that list, I will be one step closer to leaving, just a tiny bit lighter. I don't want to be lighter. As tough as it's been, I've anchored myself here over the past two years. I wanted to stay anchored. I don't want to float away after so much time invested in the community.

What would I do with a completely clean house, packed bags, and nothing to do on my to-do list? Just being is terrifying.

Last night, on the whim of an invitation, I sat eating dinner with one of my best friends and her mom, campesino cheese with boiled salt potatoes and tamalitos. It was delicious for some reason, maybe because I didn't need to cook it. We chatted and talked about the town's history and development and what makes it special, a common topic in her house. Afterward she walked me home and we watched the Friday lenten procession: women in teams carrying floats with statues of the Virgin Mary and Jesus decked out in resplendent velvet robes, flanked by plastic flowers, illuminated by high-power CFC lightbulbs installed in the corner of each float, little kids trailing behind the floats pushing gas generators on wheels.

I thought about the creativity and unique spirit of the people in my site, and how I wished I could share it with everyone back home so that they would understand that the town is in no significant way "third world" to the US. And I thought about how I would miss it all, even the potatoes and tamalitos.

My sense of wonder is mourning: how did I became so comfortable here? Why were the confidence and efficacy I have now so elusive to me in my first year? Why do I have to leave now, and what have I even really done here?

There will be time to ponder these issues, and I intend to take advantage of my time at home this next month to write about a lot of these things.

In the meanwhile, two weeks is a short amount of time, but I'm determined to try to be here in every moment I can. Getting lighter and lighter.

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