More than a few times in my life, I have been asked the same question by different people. The question always disarmed me, and each time, it was asked I would frantically search inside myself for the answer. After a brief moment, I would carefully cloak myself in all the calmness I could muster, and answer “I’m not sure, I guess I like adventures”.
The question I dreaded being asked was: What are you searching for?
For a long time I have had a slow, strong, deep desire – a sort of warm longing for some unknown thing. For whatever reason, until today, I was unable to put a name to that desire.
I have found that Peace Corps service is amplifying my shortcomings, and through this amplification is providing me an opportunity to face those shortcomings head on (free from the many distractions found in the States).
Such service, being far from home, in another country, trying to understand another culture, trying to give meaningful help to others, trying to understand what making a difference really means, has given me many opportunities to look inside myself and face those things lurking there.
I have not written much in my blog much since arriving in Namibia, nor have I written much email back home to my family and friends. This has bothered me, and I have made many excuses to myself and others in an effort to explain away this shortcoming on my part. Just today, a series of events occurred which helped me to understand this shortcoming, and helped me put a name to what I have been searching for, for so long.
Today, during a discussion with a friend, I was forced to face my lack of discourse with those back home. I was frustrated with the questions and statements my friend made, and I was surprised by my frustration. My reaction forced me once again to search in myself in an effort to understand why such innocent questions by my friend would cause such a strong reaction in me.
Peace Corps service can bring about a certain clarity of mind, much like being a hermit or shepherd might provide. For the past couple of days, I have been experiencing a wonderful calmness and clarity of mind. It is my luck that this clarity occurred in conjunction with my unplanned inner search.
I began asking myself: What am I afraid of? Why am I avoiding interactions with those people that mean so much to me? A series of answers and questions moved through my thoughts. Seemingly unconnected thoughts and feelings began to connect. I could probably capture some of those connections in this blog entry, but those deep inner workings of my mind are difficult to write down in a comprehensible manner…so, I will cut to the chase.
- I have vividly realized the one thing I am searching for is: emotional intimacy.
- I have finally admitted to myself the one thing I am deathly afraid of is: emotional intimacy.
What an ironic thing, to be afraid of the one thing I want the most.
I have been spending all of my extra energy in Namibia meeting many new people. It is easy to meet new people here, because many people are curious to why I’m here. I guess it is one of the perks of being a stranger in a strange land.
The brief interactions I have with new people provide me a small portion of the intimacy I am searching for. There is for me, a wonderful feeling of warmth, the first time I exchange smiles with a new person. Each day, I am able to meet so many new people, that if I try hard enough, I am able to do a pretty good job of satisfying my need for intimacy. But, it is only an illusion – only a temporary fix.
This temporary fix, this far away, relatively unconnected place has given me the freedom to avoid that intimacy that I am so afraid of. It has also given me a temporary solution to my longing, through many warm, brief interactions with curious new people, but in the end it is a relatively empty self-medication.
I guess I have always been running away from intimacy. I just never had the courage to do it well enough -- because I did not have a strong enough excuse, an excuse like Peace Corps service.
For all of you that I have been avoiding, please know that it is nothing you have done.
Please be happy, that the same service that has allowed me to withdraw for awhile has also helped me to acknowledge my biggest fear, my fear of intimacy. Know that I will be working hard to understand this fear because it is standing directly in the way of what I most desire.
Thank you to a friend, her father, and an email they shared, that was then shared with me.