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Born in the US, raised on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, lived in Italy, the US, and Canada. Lover of language, travel, colour, and the natural world.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Signs and pieces

Me in a field of Lupins in French River, PEI, Canada
A couple of days ago when I opened my bedroom door in the morning, I found a packet of seeds lying on the floor. I bent over, and picked them up to see what they were. It was a package of Lupin seeds. I don't know if you know what Lupins are, but they grow wild all over Prince Edward Island (PEI) in the early summer, and are spectacularly beautiful. My question was "what are they doing outside my bedroom door?" and "Is this a sign?"

I have been searching for signs this week because I have been thinking about moving back to PEI. I have been having intuitive "feelings" about it all week. I mention it to my mother and she just looks back at me, her silence saying "why are you even contemplating moving back to a place that you could not wait to leave a year ago?" or as my dear friend Deepali, who is from India, and cannot fathom the idea of actually choosing to live somewhere that gets as cold as PEI does in winter so frankly put it, "why the hell would you ever want to move back to that godforsaken place?" (like I said, her aversion is entirely due to the cold weather, which horrifies her).

I can see where they, and many other friends back on PEI, are coming from. When I told a friend back on PEI that I thought I was ready to come home, he wrote back and said: "that sounds like a great idea...but where is that, exactly?" I have been talking about leaving PEI ever since I moved there to do my Master's degree, naively thinking that I would only stay two years to do my degree, and then be moving on. I talked about moving back to the Mediterranean to apply what I had learned in the part of the world that inspired me to undertake a Master's degree in Island Studies in the first place.

I have spent much of my life living like a nomad. My family left the east coast of the US to drive to the west coast in one of those orange, hippie VW vans, when I was less than a year old. I had my first birthday on a road trip in the Midwest somewhere. When we settled in California, I somehow managed to attend six pre-schools before the age of six. When I was six, my family sold everything we owned and moved to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where, over a period of eleven years, I lived in four different houses and attended four separate schools (one of which was a Greek school) in three different cities between the age of six and seventeen. Things did not slow down after I graduated from high school. I somehow managed to attend four separate universities located in three different countries before I finally found a school that worked for me, and from which I graduated with my B.A. Between 1998 and 2004, I lived in Italy three times, in two separate cities and four separate apartments. In between, I lived in Mexico, Arizona, Cyprus and California, with short trips to the UK, France, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Sicily, Lebanon, Germany, Greece, and Spain. So when friends and family roll their eyes at the idea of my wanting to return to "home", I can't say I blame them. I have been looking for a place to call home for a very long time, and to be honest, I am not really sure I know what the word "home" means, which may be why I am having such a hard time finding it.

PEI is the longest I have lived anywhere since middle school, so technically it is as close to home as I have gotten since childhood. It is the first time in my life, that I can remember, where I actually became an integral, contributing member of a community, and I started realizing that I valued who I was as a part of community more than the excitement of moving to another new country and starting all over again. It may not sound as exotic, but it was wholesome and grounding. In the past I would pack up and jet from one place to the next and back again with very little thought as to why I was doing it -- it felt right at the moment, so I did it. I gave little thought to my long-term goals. So the fact that despite feeling the desire to move back, I am holding back, reflecting on what I am thinking and why, and looking for signs before I make a spontaneous move, feels to me like I am making progress. I have an intuitive feeling that my instinct is coming from a new place -- from my desire to be a part of community again...to be of service in a community that I value deeply instead of just passing through briefly. But I want to know that I am moving from the right place -- that making this choice is moving forward and not backward. Hence the search for a sign!

 My mother gets signs all the time. She prays for an answer as to what to do about a job that is not going well, and within a day or two the phone rings, and someone offers her a new job. She is uncertain where to get something that she needs....absolutely anything...and someone will knock on the door with precisely the thing that she needs. When I was on my pilgrimage in Israel last spring, I met someone who told me a story about someone who was praying for guidance on which university offer to accept from two possibilities. In the middle of the person's pilgrimage, this person wandered out into the gardens on the side of Mount Carmel in Haifa and looked down the mountain and out across the water right as a huge freight ship slid by across the bay in front of them with the initials of one of the universities that had accepted them printed on its side. I tried hard not to bang my head repeatedly against the nearest hard surface -- I mean, come ON! Needless to say, I said lots of prayers on my pilgrimage (which was absolutely amazing, don't get me wrong), but the only sign I received while in Haifa was that when I turned up at my appointment with the office of personnel, to find out about serving there, I had to ring the buzzer to be let into the building in which my interview was to take place five times, because the door would not open the first four times that they attempted to buzz me in. Apparently the lock release mechanism had broken just in time for my interview, but they did not know that. After my interviewer had recovered from his bout of laughter at my "door troubles," I had a five minute interview, in which I was told not to apply for a position (because they had nothing in my field of expertise). A day later, one of the other women in my pilgrim group was reluctantly convinced by a number of people to visit the same office for an interview. Her interview lasted an hour, and she was invited to come serve in Haifa immediately (and yes, the door was working again). When I saw her afterward in the tea room, she said she wasn't sure if serving in Haifa was really what she was meant to do with her life right then. "Are you kidding me?" I asked her. "Could the invitation to serve have been any smoother?"  

So here I am reaching for a sign in the package of Lupin seeds (which my mother found while cleaning out her dresser drawers, and thought I might like to plant in the front garden). Yesterday a very wise individual illuminated me on how he believes the pieces in life come together. He said that I have to choose one thing at a time. Identify what is most important to me: owning my own business, living in a rural environment, service and community, etc. He suggested that I choose ONE thing, and give everything I've got to getting that one thing established. Once I have that one thing running well, then I would start working on priority number two, etc. This may sound obvious to you. It sounds obvious to me too after he said it, but at the time, it was an epiphany! 

Last night I was studying a letter from the Baha'i Universal House of Justice, which is the international administrative body of the world wide Baha'i community. The Universal House of Justice sends the Baha'i community letters throughout the year outlining where we, as a community, are headed, and what we should be focusing our energies on in terms of individual and collective service to humanity. One of the things it says in this letter is that while sometimes all of the activities in a community are generated simultaneously, often one activity is established (like a children's class), and this then generates another activity, which in turn generates another activity. In other words, the pieces often come together organically, one at a time. Signs can help along the way, but often a decision has to be made before signs appear.

As we move into the new year, I wonder what approaches those around me are taking to realizing their dreams and goals. How do you bring an idea to fruition? What are your tactics? Do you look for signs? Do you do many things all at once, or one thing at a time? What have you found to be the most effective way of realizing your ideas? I am finding that talking to others, and listening to a diversity of approaches, illuminates my own process, and the chance that I will achieve my goals over the next year.

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