Friday, September 10, 2010

Part III, No Man's Land (No Person's Land)

I am caught in a "wrinkle in time" that has placed me between one thing and another, depriving me of structure, teaching, students, and people.  It is a very strange place in which to find oneself.  I'm an introvert and that's really no secret but hours and hours, days really, of solitude have forced me into a place of self-reliance, emotionally, that I never expected to be. It is no one's fault that I had to leave Lithuania, for several reasons, on September 1st, almost a month before classes start in Lebanon.  What is more, professors here are gone on holiday, the few weeks they have after the summer session and before the fall session begins.

The difference between what I left in Lithuania and what I have found here, during this time, is so dramatic as to be nearly at complete opposite ends of the spectrum, emotionally.  I was, as I said, in the center of the city, surrounded by everything I needed and, for the final 2 weeks there, I spent at least one and sometimes more meals or coffees each day visiting with and saying goodbye to students and friends.  I moved about the city as I wished, either walking, taking the bus, or calling a taxi if necessary.  At times I had all I could do to prepare to leave and to keep my appointments.  

For days I have seen no one unless someone from maintenance needs to come into my apartment to fix something.  I have seen the chair 3 times and 3 faculty members on 3 separate occasions in eight days.  That is the sum total of my human contact here.  That is NOT the sum total of all my human contact however; I have had several chats on skype with friends and family.  Without those, I would begin to wonder if I had been transplanted into an alternate reality somewhere.  Without human beings around, it is easy to believe that I do not have a place in the world at all.  There's  a frightening sense of unreality about this experience that makes me wonder, "When there's no one mirroring our existence back to us, validating our presence, do we exist?"

Of course, this is not the first time I've felt this way.  There were many times in Jordan and in Lithuania, especially in the first years, where I felt dreadfully alone.  However, I was always busy and never, ever had anything longer than a weekend to be alone.  By comparison, this period feels monastic, completely isolated.  What's worse is that the more I stay indoors, the more I want to stay indoors.  A friend and I were talking about the recurring dream we've had of a cottage in the mountains, a getaway place of peace and quiet, a time to read, to think, pray, and write.  Mountains?  Check.  Quiet? Check. Time? Check.  Peace?  Not-check.  The difference here is that this is forced, not chosen.

The other issue is that I finished teaching at the end of April but because Balamand starts so late, I  do not begin teaching again until the end of September.  I have taught ever since I was 17 when I had a class of 1st graders in Kingston, Jamaica, and a few piano students.  I have never, ever had that kind of teaching break since I began. Who am I, when I'm not teaching? And who am I when no one knows me?    Now I am a non-teaching teacher who feels as though she's lost her identity.

This could be a time of real growth--a time to gather the inner resources to deal with the loud chatter in my mind that seeks to create chaos and misery, a time to recognize my ability to do this hard thing.

Limbo is not a dance but Level I in Dante's vision of Hell.


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