Sunday, March 3, 2013

Day 11: Stillness

I spent today luxuriating in an empty and solitary house. I enjoyed every moment - which I mention only because I spend a large amount of energy avoiding this very scenario. I'm not someone who typically enjoys long periods of time alone. More often than not, I'd rather wrap my schedule around the workings of friends and family than start a day based solely on the demands of my own body and soul.

In the wake of yet another trip across the Atlantic, this weekend has been a welcome time to let my body and brain ease back into my ever-evolving Nairobi life. Last night as I sat in a taxi, skirting downtown Nairobi and climbing the newly finished road to Westlands, I felt like I was experiencing the city as a stranger does. Somehow the result of my pattern of movement between two continents and multiple homes has unsettled the sense I briefly had of "knowing" this place. Relationships aside, my surroundings feel strangely foreign and I find myself retreating indoors in a vague need to distance myself from the spectrum I know this town to be.

This afternoon I sat on the balcony reading in the locked-in warmth of late afternoon sun. My muscles tingled from doing laps as they gradually relaxed into stillness, and I felt for a moment like I was at my family cabin in the mountains (one of of the few places in which I know how to simply relax and let the day be). In the approaching twilight I realized my profound need to rest and gather myself against the raging competition of need that is infinitely presented by the outside world - different here than there, but existing, above all.

When I am exhausted or brave enough to let this stillness in, it almost always results in a need to write. Thus now I find myself comparing my pin-prick on the universe life to that of this grand country I have crept in and out of for the past five years.

For tomorrow, Kenya votes.

We, the people who live here (if not all who will actually cast a vote) have stocked our pantries and fridges, stored up on phone credit and cash and determined to stay home until word is given that all is well. We sense that the next few days are likely to be calm, but that the chance of a runoff means we will repeat this preparation a month from now as the two main candidates go head to head.

In the quiet simplicity of my last two days, I realize that this election is just like an individual life. It is full of earnest proclamations and damning critiques aimed at limbs dangling from the same gangly body. It is drenched in sound and energy, in the pulsing of the promise that victory will surely propel the body forward, away from its demons and into the next frontier. Perhaps such victories will ring true, but (as in most places) the most innovative thinkers don't seem to stand a chance. Surely, the status quo will reign - and as such, the whole country may erupt in havoc for a time.

While I hope this is not the case, I have to remember that should all hell break loose in this election cycle, it will inevitably find its way back to the stillness I stumbled upon this weekend. For in this moment I am reminded that the utter exuberance (and sometimes agonizing confusion) of my life between two countries boils down to a basic path of learning bit by bit what it means to be human. As an individual I need to understand this in order to know my role in the larger world. More often than not, I need it to simply make peace with the soul I wake up with and put to sleep each and day.

If Kenya is not yet ready to align with the best interests of its people, to unify as a nation and not as a collection of tribes - it surely will be someday. For just as any individual must recognize, there comes a time when whatever distractions or challenges set give way to basic need. The body must be nurtured, fed, rested and relaxed. It must learn to listen to its deepest longings and guard against the banter when it threatens to drown its unique cadence. There is true humanity and identity in this stillness. I pray that both Kenya, and I, can find it.


John said...

Welcome back!

letton said...

Thanks Megan, for your insight on what it means to be human and the reminder that I need more stillness in my life...every day.

Rog said...

This was great Megs. Very meditative and an absolute pleasure to read. Keep up the good work (and blogging!)