That is what I want right now: a risk. I am taking one right now.
This space, this website, has never been a personal one. Of course, my self is implicit in the passions and questions and opinions and shrugs that appear on thousands of posts over five years. I am so passionate about the purpose and worth of stories, and here, I’ve positioned myself as a sort of meta-narrator. But, outside of a few close calls, I rarely cut clear of the culture and idea-making to expose myself cleanly. Without aversions or refractions to something else—someone else’s news story, someone else’s art. Why? Partly because I am critical of the over-sharing I’ve seen on other sorts of sites (the sort of loquacious narcissism that many still associate with the word 'blog'). I don't want that to be me. And partly because I have an instinct to hold some distance between the 'personal' and the 'professional' or 'political;' the river is already muddy enough.
And partly -- a big part, the root of the other parts -- is because I am afraid.
Not just on this site, but out loud, in person: I am not in the habit of taking up space with my emotions, my inward journeys ... and when, of course, these parts of me do spill over, I struggle with hedging and shame--trying to pull myself inwards, back together, while also, at the same time, craving that spill, that space. I don’t like admitting this. On either end of the equation, whether it is holding back or washing over, it doesn’t feel like my best self. And for so long, I have not been good friends with my weaker selves.
Our beating hearts, our vulnerability, our many-sided loving, our breath – this is what is. It is easier, though, to be a storyteller, a meta-narrator, than to accept ourselves, our very selves, as story. And right now, something in me wants to scream, to push my voice, my body, my mind outward into this space I’m in, this Kenyan night where, even in the thick of a thick city, I hear frogs chirping from the damp grass. What a story!
I have been thinking a lot about edges. I’m pushing up against so many of them right now. Of course, being in Kenya provokes this: this gorgeous and strange country where I am, by turns, lulled and startled. It is dizzying, almost sickening, to move so swiftly, moment by moment, between resistance and openness. There are times when I listen to others speak Swahili (or Sheng, or Gikuyu, or any number of other indigenous languages), and my heart soars to the lilting voices, my mind delights to pick out words I recognize, and I feel porous. Other times, I am simply irritated that I cannot understand what is happening, and—perhaps more telling—irritated that the speakers know I can’t understand. There are times when I have an intellectual’s fascination with the class and race dynamics folded so cuttingly into the culture here, particularly between Indian Kenyans (many from families that have been here for a century) and black Kenyans; I want to understand, to search, to complicate the American-centered experiences and ideas I have of how class works, what race means. Other times, I feel bright with anger, indignant at so much harm laid plainly before me. I simmer with a hot energy.
The pivots happen moment to moment, second by second. And I know, I know, that this is what transformation feels like. It has happened before. It is happening again. It is always happening. Strange that there is familiarity in upheaval, common ground on the way to someplace I can’t possibly imagine.
The edges I am grating against are not all about East Africa. Or perhaps, this outward journey is a trigger for this other place I’m moving into… an inward space that I don’t recognize, that I don’t have words for, and yet here I am, uncharacteristically divulging, in public, to more than a few strangers. Taking space. Where am I going? What is to be said? What to do with this ferocity that I am pulsing with? Ah, god, I am alight with gratitude for how the universe, again and again, gives me the gift of uncertainty—so I can keep practicing my balance.