getting a bigger heart

August 19, 2010

I think it's normal life that takes you most by surprise when you're in Africa. The email from a friend about her ex boyfriend, the catty facebook exchange between roommates at home, the wrapping up of a relationship that you were holding onto the loose ends of.

I think that, if anything, this trip has wrung out the glamor of travel for me. I think I thought it would fix my problems - take me somewhere where I would forget about everything normal and become new. Instead, I've lied awake thinking about petty things, and realized how small minded I can be. This trip taken up all my wild dreams about changing the world and hung them out to dry. It's exhausted me. I expected that. What I didn't expect is that it would feel like a healthy thing, or make me love Africa in a more tangible way than I did when she was a glowing destination on the map in front of me on an Emirates flight.

It's the people that make me realize that everything has it's place, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. When I hear the stories of women that have fought for their food, their safety, their children's education - their freedom to make choices - I find that there is a deeper strength in me than I expected. It's that strength that meets the unexpected real life situations, and gives me a kind of cushion to work with when they come. Because even though so and so hurt me, I met Halima Namugambe, co wife to Elizabeth Nalongo, and I learned about their fight to survive after the death of their wealthy husband, and it wasn't that my problem seemed smaller, per se, it just took it's place in a long line of other realities and situations that are teaching me what life is about. Life, not just for me, but for women around the globe.

How could I stay the same after meeting Erina Naluwooza, living in a wheelchair, and taking care of her mentally insane son, who often turns violent, forcing her to lock herself in the ajoining room of their home until he calms himself? There is a fierceness in Erina's eyes, and a quickness in her laugh, that makes me want to be a stronger person.

I guess that's it. My desires are changing.

Tonight, I said to Millie that I think Africa has made my heart bigger.

Some people say you shouldn't allow yourself to feel too much, or live to openly - but I find, in Africa, that the more I let into my heart, the quicker it heals. The better I know how to manage it, and keep it whole.

The better I know how to love from its deepest parts.


Kelly said...

I took a trip when I was around eighteen or nineteen, and I remember feeling exactly like you describe in the second paragraph. Which was one of the most important lessons of my life!


Phoenix said...

"The more I let into my heart, the quicker it heals." <--- I think this is true everywhere, not just in Africa. It's a beautiful (and very wise) life lesson.

Great post, Shanley. :)

Tina Steele Lindsey said...

Poignant - real - everlasting.