Last week I shared what I feel like is the hardest thing about living and working in rural Zambia. As soon as I started writing, I knew that there was more to the story - namely, the America side. While we are full time Zambian residents, we do occasionally make trips back to the States for family, health and the obligatory "home-assignment" stuff. We love coming to the US precisely because that is the place where we are most able to enjoy hugs, cheese and the absence of malaria.
Of course there had to be a but. Intro the infographic:
Whoever created the following cartoon deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for social-psychological exposition. Just... brilliant. If you've never seen this, do yourself a favor and read through:
photo credit deviant art
Understanding the nature of introversion was the first step for me to understand my
melt downs feelings about the onslaught of peoplepeoplepeople every time we returned to the wonderful United States.
In the past, when we've been burnt out by the bush, our first response was to run to the motherland and fill our tanks with friends and family. It is a gift beyond gifts to be able to come to a place where were are surrounded by people who love us. A place where people want to know our needs and even want to meet them. A place where we are hugged and fed and gamed in the best ways possible.
We do not in the slightest take this gift for granted. Which is why I am overrun with ulcer-creating guilt when I can no longer cope with the intensive love interaction. Too much lovin'? Is that really possible? Isn't that like complaining about being too beautiful or having too much money? People who audibly whine about having that which others covet are usually either fishing for compliments or oddly unaware of their blessings. I think most of us actually want to smack the people who complain about too many choices, too much abundance, too much fun. ERGO I absolutely beat myself up for feeling like the love I receive is too much. But... after a connected string of fifteen dinner dates, small groups, large groups, brunches, lunches, one-on-ones, pop-in's,drive by's, phone dates, Skype chats - the calendar is full and the energy is depleted and I can't deny it: I've lost that loving feeling. I start referring to myself as a hermit and dreaming of Zambia. This, friends, is the other hardest thing: the mashup of America and my introversion.
If our little family lived in America full time, I think we would be rather social people. We like to get together, chat, dine, play and make memories with like-minded friends. We like to talk about Zambia, culture, politics and faith. I SWEAR, WE ARE ACTUALLY NORMAL PEOPLE. It's just that when we come to America-land, we try to pack the social interactions of a normal person's YEAR into a matter of weeks, and in doing so we forfeit our ever loving minds.
My biggest fear in this dual-continent life is that, during our America blitz trips, we will miss seeing someone, not be able to keep our date, fail catch up over Skype and that that beloved soul will feel unloved by us. (If there is an equally brilliant depiction of people pleasers - someone please comment.)
In the last weeks I've scoured dozens of missionary blogs and websites and found a repeated theme: when missionaries get real about furlough/home assignment/trips to the states, the sentiment is almost always the same: being "home" is hard.
I resonate strongly with the conflict shared in each of their stories as these missionary colleagues explain how they honestly love absolutely everything that they and their kids receive from friends and family and supporters. But, people-filled-love-filled-interaction, for all the hours of all the days of all the weeks is emotionally unsustainable.
Dear friends, you have been good to me, your introverted missionary friend, and I want more than anything to make ya'll feel loved in return. Thank you a million times over for the grace you show us when we can't do it all: this is the best thing.