Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith – letting go of the need for certainty
Thirty-seven years ago on the 7th day, of the 7th month, in the year 1977 my journey into greater uncertainty started. I still remember that day clearly. I was twelve years old. We were gathered at the local airport just up the hill from my small village in Germany, surrounded by family, about to embark on the long journey into the Far East. We had already been for many years the “Africans”, the part of the family that dared be different, that somehow felt comfort in traveling to strange and foreign lands to live, which for many at that time in our small family villages in Germany and France seemed unimaginable. That past summer I had spent with my cousin attending school, had many of her school friends ask if we lived in grass huts, rode elephants to school, and lions roamed freely in the streets. (Although not much may have changed… My own children tell me they have still had some of the same questions asked of them.) And so from having been “African” we were embarking on a journey to become “Korean”.
The long flight took us from Saarbrücken-Ensheim airport to Frankfurt to Fukuoka, Japan where we waited in a hotel for some days while visas and work permits were finalized. I remember lying awake one night with an aching arm, after having had the requisite Cholera vaccination, wondering about this strange journey we were on, feeling a mixture of anxiety, fear, loss, anticipation and excitement at what lay ahead. All made safer as I was with family, and my one brother who often helped me mediate the world in those early years. My young mind could not imagine what was coming our way. There were no television stories to tell us. The media and books I had found in Windhoek had been heavily anti anything from the so-called communist east. Searching the world map in our school geography book for Korea all I remember is it being a very small peninsula shown right next to the very large, completely coloured in communist red, country of China. All I had heard, from my young mind perspective, about this region was propaganda and fear. I had no idea how to think about this move other than it seemed a good move for my dad, exciting for our family, we were all going together, and the best was we could order from a company catalogue some special treats from Germany to supplement our local finds. The excitement when the packages arrived, and we could have some chocolate again, was like Christmas every time.
Arriving in Pusan, South Korea, it felt like I was rendered illiterate overnight. All the signs were in writing that I could not understand, and I had no idea what anyone was saying. Despite this everyone was friendly and curious. Perhaps from my perspective a little overly so. Everyone wanted to touch my hair and the concept of personal space seemed not to exist. We were touched, pulled along, embraced, especially us children. All with big smiles that we dare not deny. And after some time of living in the local neighborhood we were in we found ourselves getting used to the sounds and sights and smells and food, everything was different to anything I had ever experienced. There was no real preparation for this change, no thought to prepare for the adjusting, just an expectation that it could be done, that all would be fine. We were occupying the top floor of our landlord’s house, I was sharing a room and a bed with my younger sister, while my brothers got the big bedroom with beds and desks each, and my parents set up a bed in the lounge behind a screen. After a month of playing on the streets outside our glass encrusted walls, and playing ping pong with the boys downstairs whom we could not understand, we were enrolled in the only English school in town, on the US army base of Hialeah. Having left grade 7 in Windhoek after only two months of school, and being in Germany while my dad entrained into his new work, it was decided that we would be enrolled into the next grade. I started school again in grade 8 and never did do grade 7. Academically at the time it was not really a problem. The bigger issue for me was social. I was more than a year younger than most in my class. This may have not been necessarily important but as I found myself new to the school, to this third culture of Americanisms, and on the cusp of puberty, the division was between being able to go to the teen section of the after school teen club, as opposed to the pre-teen section. All the kids in my class could go to teen section. As a newbie I could only get into the pre-teen section. Don’t get me wrong I made some amazing friends who were in grade 7, and they were some of my closest friends in Pusan(now Busan) and we are still in touch, but it was not a good start for building confidence in my teenage self when I was having to learn to adapt to a completely new culture and then quickly adapt to a third system in going to an American Army Base school.
All the other kids seemed more confident and outgoing and even though I was pretty good at being that too, even if quietly so, it was at an internal cost that only showed up years later when things unraveled at university, and I could no longer bluff my way through, and the academics did not keep up. And as the years have gone on the need for certainty at times has grown. Has sprouted into a need for being organised, perfect, and always in the know. In time all that too has come apart and now it is time to let go of needing to know. Needing to be certain. Time to trust my own senses and intuition and listen to my deeper longings with faith that this is the simpler and truer way to show up for my life.
Yesterday another 7 day of importance passed. 7 + 7 = 14, 7 x 7 = 49, the end of my own 49th year, and the beginning of the mid-century. Can’t quite believe where the time has gone. It does however feel like all the turmoil of change and adaption, hiding and masks, restriction and growth, has come full circle, and that for the first time in a very long time I am residing in a place of my own choosing, one that I have actively sought out and despite all the difficulties have stayed the road and find in that less need for certainty, and even less need for complete clarity, less need to know what will be around the next corner. There is a capacity to trust and have faith that this will all be okay, now and in time. And what stays constant for me is the turning toward the uncertainty, turning toward the difficult, turning toward the faith that in this moment everything is truly okay and in that there is much to be grateful for.
In all of this I have finally come to have a deeper appreciation of one of my favorite Haiku’s by Basho
My house burnt down
Now I can see the other side