Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Being Known

I grew up always a stranger.  Always a foreigner.  In some places, I looked like one and in other places I didn't, but I was always a stranger.  Part of me happily fit in.  Part of me never will.

I grew up always on display.  People were always watching.  My very differentness could attract a crowd in some countries - people who would watch how I chew, laugh at how I tried to talk, or giggle when about how I wore my shawl.  My simple position in life had people in other places watching... how do MKs act?  Are they going to be normal?  Their parents must be such good Christians, so let's see how the kids are?  The pressure knowing that we had to be well behaved because, after all, these people are supporting us.

I grew up always trying to be normal, trying to blend in, but like a chameleon, able to change to fit the surroundings.  I bet that no matter how much the chameleon looks like a rock, he doesn't feel any more solid.  If he looks like a leaf, I bet he doesn't feel anymore green.  There has to be a "chameleon feel" that is himself seperate from all he blends into.  There has always been a me separate from my surroundings.

Even now, even when I could fit in to these surroundings fairly well, there is a me separate from them - that part of me that is a rich mix of all I am.

I grew up trying to behave.  Now for some kids, that is not too difficult, but I was one of those for whom behaving was a little more of a struggle.  But always watching how I appeared.  People were watching.

Even now, I am aware of how I behave.  There is a good side to that.  I mean, there are times to behave!

But with these pressures, it was hard to be known.  Like a cut jewel, there are many sides to me.  People might know one or two.  A few good friends might know more.

Being known takes time.  It takes trust.  It takes the permission to pick up the jewel and turn it around and ask questions.  To not be surprised with the different sides.  To not be shocked with a rock colored chameleon turns green with yellow stripes like a leaf.  To not focus on the outside, but to sit and listen.  To spot the lizard, not the disguise.

Time is a rare thing in the life of some of us.  I'm now 37, and my frantic moving pace has slowed.  On last count, I was at 29 moves, so I am really pushing that gap between years and moves.  There were times in my life that the moves were more than the years.  But beyond the moves we ourselves have made, the lives of missionaries and their kids are constantly affected by the moves of others.  We are a little like bumper cars in a large rink - life is full of short relationships.  We learn quickly to get to know people, to let them in, but never to hang on to them.  There is rarely time to turn the jewels around to the many sides and get to know them.

Most people see me in my one setting.  They know me in that setting.  They don't know that there are any sides to me, a product of being fit into so many different places.  I feel happy in my relationships with people, but also sad... feeling like only a part of me is known... wishing I could be other sides of me, too, but aware that others don't always understand.... they are not used to being of many cultures at once.

There are a few people who have seen me out of my one setting.  Who have picked up the jewel and turned it over to see the other sides.  It is a different thing for me.  I grew up thinking that it would be uncomfortable to have someone know you that well.

It isn't.  It isn't at all.  I am known well by some, and it isn't scary.  It is like watching the sun rise over a lake up in the mountains.  It is like drawing in a deep breath and breathing out in complete relaxation.  There is a comfort in being known well.  A feeling of absolute safety. 


Carrie said...

I can relate :(

Kacie said...

heh wow. Yeah I totally relate. Absolutely. Known but unknown. Always performing for the watching audience, and therefore not sure what's underneath the show.

Angela said...

I know what you mean. And it's hard to never feel fully known. It's also hard sometimes to risk letting people in when you know it's temporary.

Kara said...

I found your blog from the coffeegirl blog. And enjoyed listening in, especially to this post. We're raising our three kids in St Pete, Russia, now, but have lived in four different cities in the last four years--on three continents. It's good to hear the ups and downs of the MK life. I assume you've read Third Culture Kids?