Thursday, August 09, 2007

Concentric Circles

My life has always run in concentric circles. The pattern isn't obvious per se, but it is definitely there. I can't predict or control it. Things just happen. Random things, which, for the record are usually very lovely.

As I've gotten older and traveled the world more and more, I've learned that it is no longer necessary to say good-bye. The world is small, and when you least expect it, people have a way of coming back to you and vice-versa. Perhaps these things happen to me because I don't believe in finality. I also I don't believe in random coincidence. Things happen for a reason. People come into our lives at moments when we need them or they need us. Either way, my feeling is that if I'm open to this--open to learning what I didn't know before, giving what I am able to give, sharing what I can and taking what I need--then I'm growing. Every day is an opportunity to discover something new. Every person I pass on the street is a new friend just waiting to reveal herself.

Of course, I don't go around searching for the "greater existential meaning" in everything I do. I would nauseate even myself and no one would like me or want to spend any time with me at all. Instead, I simply adhere to the principle that we have doors in our lives for people to walk though. They come and they go. It is our choice to let them in or out, but either way, they come with purpose and reason, and often go out in kind. Personally, I have a very open-door philosophy on all of my relationships, whether they are simple or more intimate friendships. I learned a long time ago that the greatest amount of trust, openness and literal freedom keeps the ones I love most in this world closer than the most expensive locks and alarm systems. It is very taxing to hold on to people too tightly. It is also taxing to be the one who feels trapped in the space of someone who won't respect my wingspan or trust that I only desire one place to call home. The irony of my open door policy is that it actually causes less abandonment than more. But I digress.

People come and go. Even in Israel. Yes, even in Israel--thousands of miles from home, time and space can collapse and worlds can collide in such a way that the idea of "coincidence" feels as artificial as squeeze cheese.

It happens that a dear friend of mine from home is in Israel this month. It happens that he is an Arab-Israeli colleague of mine from school. Coincidence? I think not. It is also not a coincidence that his sister lives two buildings away from me here in Jerusalem. People come into our lives for a reason. Along with them, they bring a suitcase filled with the contents and people of their own Universe. Sometimes, when they share what they have, we inherit more friends than just one, and so the ripple continues...

Seeing a face from home has lifted my spirit and given me a tremendous sense of perspective this week. This particular person is someone whom I never expected to become so dear to me, but he has proven himself time and again to be one of the people with whom I am undoubtedly walk through life as a mutual cheerleader and supportive friend. We need people like this. We really do. We need to surround ourselves with people who care for us even more than we sometimes don't feel the need to care for ourselves. Sometimes we do a better job of seeing the beauty in someone else and reflecting it to them when they have a hard time lifting their eyes. It's a gift when someone does this for you, it's also a gift to be able to do such a thing for someone else. The key is being open and gracious enough to give and receive without keeping score. Again, the pattern isn't obvious, but it's definitely there.

The good news is that once you figure out that there's no way to control the game or the players, there's a tremendous amount of freedom in letting go and knowing that the Universe will be kind to you no matter what. If the only thing you do in a day is live deliberately, then you can't go wrong. Practice good habits. Concentric circles abound. I've learned to be thankful for them. Second chances always appear, but it's just easier to be nice the first time.

At the moment, my cup is full again, even after a week of intensive Hebrew training, cultural adjustment, stress and little sleep. Thursday afternoon is the start of the weekend here in Israel, which gives me some time to pursue some other interests. Tomorrow, I'm escorting a group of human rights workers to the West Bank. I'll take them on a tour of the camp, and help them meet with some local officials. Afterwards, I have big plans to visit my family and play with the kids. I'm bringing them crayons and coloring books. I can't wait to see their little faces and run myself ragged in their tiny world of circles and love. Like all of the people I love, I miss them dearly. Maybe this is why I never say good-bye. Even on the other side of the world, good-bye is just a pause until I see you again.


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