Have you ever focused on something so hard that you've actually lost focus? Maybe you've listened to someone so carefully that you've become lost in their words? Maybe in the process of focusing you've become too focused on focusing? I can admit that even in social work, a profession that many would say prides itself on listening skills, I have sat staring at someone, focusing so hard on them that I've missed a beat and part of what they are saying. This feeling may remind some people of the Magic Eye books of the 90s. Although it is probably not fair to compare my inability to focus on people's words to a psychedelic image book that when brought extremely close to one's face yields mystical images, but the feeling of failure is the equal for both. I remember how awesome my sister Kaitlin was at those Magic Eye books. I couldn't imagine how if I was trying so hard at something, why was I not seeing the picture. That, and why did my head hurt so much.
Some days in Suriname I feel overwhelmed with language and words. Every day is a lesson in being present and patient. I mentioned above all the things that go through my head when I'm trying to understand people. Sometimes we think that we can learn by breaking things down and focusing on all the pieces. You can see all the pieces of a puzzle in the box, but that doesn't mean you know what the final picture is. I'm one of those people that over-complicates things. When really, in the moment, we can just turn the box over and see what's on the lid. If we’re more present in the moment, then we can learn exactly what we’re supposed to learn at that time. Not just that, but we can enjoy everything around us so much more.
I could just throw in the towel and I definitely think about it every day. I could say, "People understand enough English for me to get by." Realistically, I'm not going to be fluent in 3 more languages by the time I leave here. For me, I feel like it's a certain level of respect. Culture, customs, language, whatever it is, I know that it's respectful to put in an honest effort. So I do every morning with my notebooks and dictionaries. I know that I can be more helpful, more connected, but most of all I know that it opens the doors for conversations and human interactions that I might not have otherwise.
Although my head is constantly spinning and I'm often confused, I start my day off lying in bed preparing my jumble of words, and then finish the day in bed exhausted by it.