That day was today actually.
Life can be strange, beautiful and can truly make your eyes, heart and head hurt so much all at the same time. That’s what I’m learning in my post-grad year here at L’Arche.
My house is called Harmony House. We are 5 adults, (3 of us have more prominent and varying disabilities) attempting to live in harmony with one another and loving each other through that process. It was not until September, when we invited a German volunteer into our home that we finally and officially became that solid 5. So… here we are in October.
In the short span of a month I have learned and processed many things from being in this house for 4 months now, and living one of those months with a new volunteer/assistant.
Here is my list:
- Language barriers are real, and they suck big time. Now, I’ve known this for awhile, because my dad’s side is from Scotland, along with some of my mom’s side… they may speak the same language, but boy, is there a language barrier sometimes. I’ve also been to France, and I felt horrible speaking any English there, but I did, because my French was awful.
This is not to say that she doesn’t know English, and that we don’t talk. She speaks a little bit of English from what she learned in school, but sometimes she says sentences or tries to phrase a question in a certain way and we both end up perplexed and lost.
- No one has it figured out. If they say they do, they are probably full of my favorite curse word – “bullshit”.
A harsh reality for me was learning how to be okay with making mistakes. I hated the fact that I would have to mess up and that others would think I was something less of a human being. But I’m not. And you are not. We are all human, and humans are faulty and sinful beings. We all suck, but we are all loved and are capable of many things.
- Life is better with more than one person.
Even though it has taken the other assistant and I awhile to adjust to each other and the house (and it will take even longer due to how our walks have been so diverse through life thus far, and with it being only her first month at L’Arche, and only her second time in America), it is getting better every day.
- My newest roommate may not be able to cook to save her life. She may or may not have made some sort of egg salad soup even after being given a recipe and specific instructions with 2 hours to figure it out while I went with Sarah to church (a little background on the title of this blog post). She tries, and she is willing. I am thankful for her and her willingness to be apart of L’Arche, and to step outside of her comfort zone and head over to America… Nicole, you are beautiful, and a gift. We simply need to learn together, and you are definitely going to try again on making egg salad… Even though both of us don’t eat it.
- Sometimes all you need at the end of the day is a hug.
Mainly when they are welcomed, and not forceful… Sarah’s hugs can feel much like my mom’s some days. When you live in community and you are living life together, with all of it’s anxieties, it’s ups and downs, twists and turns, a hug can be that deep breath you have been waiting for to know that you made it another day, and that a new one is just around the corner.
- You should probably not ever pee with the bathroom door open clothed and/or naked, because one of your roommates might just try to open your bedroom door and will scare the bejeebers out of you.
- I have learned to say “no”.
I have learned time and time again that it is okay and extremely necessary to say no to my oftentimes cute, but also annoying roommate Sarah. She inappropriately grabs people when she wants their attention, even if they are talking to someone else. This is not appropriate behavior, and she needs to be told, “no”, and why she is not allowed to do it. It was super awkward at first and I didn’t feel okay disciplining someone who is older than I am and is also not my child, but … that’s the L’Arche life!
I have also learned to say no to myself. I have wanted a dog walking position ever since seeing the movie In Her Shoes. When my anxiety spiked again in September I worried about money, and then found this surge of energy and felt that I would be able to take on a side job (on top of my 55-60 hour work week, being in a relationship, going to church/ 2 small groups, trying to hang out with my friends, keeping up with my family back home, and trying to become a deeper Christ follower among other miscellaneous things). I ended up finding a position that sounded perfect for me, and so I applied. Then I quit after about a week and a half. It was a hard decision, but I realized my free time, along with my sanity and health, was more important than extra income.
- I’ve come to realize and be grateful for my college years over the past 4 months. I knew that when I went to college I was not going for the degree itself (the degree was kind of just like icing on the cake… kind of). I wanted the experience, and I got it. I didn’t realize I had more life experience from going to college until meeting my newest roommate who just graduated from high school in Germany.
- Some people have only ever eaten carbs and sweets for 20 years of their life and you somehow have to be okay with the idea of that and move on without judging them/their family/culture so hard.
- Sometimes (hopefully this is only a L’Arche thing) you end up having to make 3 different meals… OR, you make an entire meal and at least 1-2 people pick it apart or say that they don’t want to eat it.
I’ve learned that this kind of situation really irks me, and that I sometimes need to leave the room before dinner starts just to cool off… Which is actually hilarious because I was so picky growing up that I’m sure this is pay-back of some kind. I’m sorry, mom.
- Expectations will kill you.
So maybe they won’t literally, but I would advise shattering and tossing any expectation you have ever. There’s a quote that has become one of my favorites over time :
“Expectation is the root of all heartache.”
I think this is true for the most part. As I was sitting and reflecting today after the whole egg salad expectation failed me, I realized that my expectations may be to blame many times when I grow annoyed with another, or even myself. Today I was annoyed with myself for getting so upset to the point of bawling my eyes out after coming home to a lack of dinner on the table for the house. As I was crying I asked myself, “is this dumb?”, but I just kept on crying. I had expectations of myself (to not cry in such situations and not need a break when the going gets tough), and had come to this point because I had expectations of someone else as well. If you limit your expectations, I would think you would have less disappointment. Perhaps!
- It is okay to step outside and breath. You need to take breaks when you feel like you are falling apart.
After several minutes of crying I decided I needed a break. I pulled myself together and told Nicole I was going to leave for an hour, gave her advice on what to feed Lance and Sarah and was out the door. By leaving the situation I told myself that I was not running from my problems. I needed to escape for a little while, until I had fully calmed down (plus I had been working all day, and wanted an hour to myself and more God time). It can be hard to escape, when you feel like you can just push yourself and make it work. This is when you need to hit the brakes and calm yo-self. I have done it so many times. I think I can do it all, but then I crash: emotionally, mentally, and physically. We were not made to handle, control and assess everything, especially not all at once and without a break. Take a break. Take a deep breath, and let the world just pass by for a moment. You have time.
- Something else I have learned from having this position at L’Arche is what and how people think.
I hear a lot of people say that it takes “a special person” to do this job, or that I must have a lot of patience, or they look at me like I’m some modern day Mother Theresa. None of that is true. I get angry, I cry, I need to take breaks and just breath for a couple of minutes (or an hour, like today) to gather my bearings and just go out and deal with everyday stuff, and I feel like a stay at home mom a lot of the time. I feel alone, and sometimes I lose my patience and have even collapsed to the ground in an adult-like temper tantrum (is that even a thing?) because I was lied to about a sucker… I suck. These past 3 months have taken me on a roller coaster, just like school did. I genuinely thought about quitting and have thought that this is not the job for me. I have had days where I question whether or not I love Sarah and anyone else in the house. (I definitely do.)
The thing that has gotten me through this journey so far the most is GOD. He deserves any and all of the glory that anyone is giving to me. I have not done anything. I accepted a position that I prayed the Lord would reveal to me, and it turned out to be the easiest choice to make, but one of the harder, but most fulfilling decisions I have made so far. I have decided to follow Jesus, and I pray each day for Him to reveal what is next. I pray for patience each day to respond in an appropriate manner and to prepare me to become a good and decent mother and wife someday if that is His good and perfect will. I am not perfect. Like I have said: I suck. God is what has helped me to be who I am today. He made me and He is what has strengthened me over time. I still have a loooonnnnnnnng way to go though. Stay tuned for that!