Sunday, March 26, 2017

With Perspective

It's easy to forget, in the bustle of the village and the occasional chaos of the classroom, just how isolated we are here in White Venice. Sure, there are only 400 people. But 400 people, clustered together, seen through the lens of work and social visits, can feel bigger than it is. Add in the endless stream of duties, coupled with a good WiFi connection, and the vastness of our removal doesn't feel as immediate. But there's one place I can never forget it.

The laundry building behind the school is separate from everything else, a peaceful bubble of whirring washing machines and humming dryers to which I gladly retreat once a week with a book and a few bulging bags of clothes. From the balcony that abuts it, facing away from the village, the tundra extends in enormous nothingness to beyond the horizon. No houses. No snowmachines, No yapping dogs. No pretense. Just hundreds of miles of frozen white plain. Standing on that walkway is a like careening on the end of the world, abyss ahead and civilization behind. That's when you feel the weight of living here. That's when you get a sense of what it is.

I learned a long time ago not to sugarcoat reality, because sooner or later a reckoning with the truth must occur, and delaying that reckoning has a way of making truth bigger and scarier than it was to start out. So here it is: three weeks in, I'm lonely. Everyone I know is 4,000 miles away, I'm seeing the same faces and doing the same things day in and day out, and the yearning for friends and conveniences to which I was accustomed pulses like a tiny ulcer. I knew that would likely happen, and I made the decision to come here fully aware of it. But still.

I'm lonely.

I'm the kind of lonely that makes you remember things as better than they were, that makes other loneliness stand out in sharper resolve. In missing what I did have, I find myself longing for what I've never had; how, I've wondered, am I to meet a man? That was something I could never do back home anyway, but now the absence of this hypothetical person is even more acute.

"You know, God led you up there," said Livia, my priest, when we spoke by phone earlier this afternoon. "I've always believed that, from the first time you told me about it."

And I have, too. So much, in prayer, in Bible reading, in life, seemed to all be pointing in the same direction, and then this opportunity opened up in so unplanned a way. It was hard not to see the hand of Providence in that, hard even for a priest of the Episcopal tradition, whose members tend to regard the color beige as a little too loud and to judge the veracity of holy visions based on whether those visions interrupt brunch.

"You just have to have faith," she told me. "You just have to be patient. That doesn't mean you sit around and do nothing, or wait for Prince Charming to waltz into your life. But it means you do what you can do, and believe that God will let that moment happen when it's supposed to. Patience can be hard. But I have no doubt that is going to happen for you."

"Unless that's not His plan," I laughed, an abrupt sound. "Unless His plan is for this to stay a party of one,"

"No," she said, her voice firm. "The Bible says God gives us our heart's desire. I don't believe you'd have these feelings unless you were supposed to. Unless you were supposed to meet someone. You just have to believe. You will be okay."

And in any case there's no alternative. I do believe I was meant to come here, do believe that it is far and away the best professional option I have. So in the difficult moments, I endure, always with an eye to where the moments of joy can be gleaned from that endurance; always with a mind to what the long-term plan is, even as I live in the present. God brought me here, and I have to trust He'll lead me where He intends me to be.

So that's where I am. Planning and praying, trusting and withstanding, making room in my head for little pleasures and optimism about the future amid the tedium of daily lesson plans and strolls about this very tiny town. At this juncture, it seems likely I will begin the 2017 - 2018 school year in another district, one here in Arctic State but not in White Venice. And of the six weekends remaining in this semester I will spend two away, one in Riverville and one in Iceport. Decisions to be made. Excursions to be savored. Plans to be laid.

Now also seems like a good time to mention that the names I use on this blog are not the actual designations of people and places in the real world. Back in 2008, when I started this site, I borrowed the tradition from another blogger of using pseudonyms to protect mine and others' anonymity. Nine years after the fact, the practice has stuck, so I leave it to you to divine the real places behind the made-up monikers. Arctic State and Iceport will probably be easy enough to decipher, but if you manage to ferret out where White Venice is then you deserve some kind of award.

I very much appreciate the number of you who read and commented on the last post. I'd been away from regular blogging for quite a while, and the warm welcome back was heartening indeed. I'm looking forward to following your journeys as you follow mine.

It seems we're going such interesting places.


Arizaphale said...

Yes. The loneliness. I remember. It does pass. You make connections, whether in the local community or in the nearest large community. A friend of mine moved to a small Caribbean island last year for work and spent the first 6 months wondering what on earth she'd done. She loves it now. I met the BA's Dad in my first year teaching in the bush; and despite the fact that our marriage didn't last, I still have the beautiful BA and still have a pretty good relationship with her Dad and his 'new' wife. That time we both spent in the bush seems to forge an unbreakable bond. Shared experiences. The craziness of isolation and the quirks of country life. I am still in contact with a number of the people I met in that first place and several from the second (which was much more like White Venice). Hang in there. We are all with you in spirit.....

Bijoux said...

I was wondering about the place names! I have let down my guard on some of my anonymity blogging, but I do totally get it.

It's been a long time since I felt lonely. Probably when we moved and I had my first child. There's a certain isolation that new mothers feel, when you have left your job and don't have friends nearby, and then are faced 24/7 with a crying baby. I hope you are able to make some good connections, even if they are only platonic.

Pixel Peeper said...

I can imagine how it feels to stand at the edge of the earth...with nothing but snow and ice in front of you. But remember, there's a community behind you. It sounds like your time there is fairly short. You'll make friends, and the time alone can be devoted to writing and taking pictures.

Hey, at least you weren't left behind on Mars, like the guy in "The Martian." That would be lonely.

Mary Kirkland said...

I can't imagine moving some place with only 400 people. I live in Las Vegas and this town is 24/7. Not sure I could get used to a small place again.

Cara said...

Brooo where you at? I will find you! Wondering about loneliness and God's plan, eh? Same. Let's be friends.