After more than 24 hours in airports and airplanes, lugging my heavy backpack and dragging my stuffed suitcase, pulling off my sweater because I was burning up and then pulling on my wool socks because I was freezing cold; after going up and down escalators trying to find the right gate, unpacking and repacking my computer to get through security, and readjusting my seat, moving my pillow and turning over what seemed like more than a million times while getting comfortable enough to sleep, I had finally arrived at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. I had made it, almost.
I headed down the familiar sloping hallway, waiting for my phone to connect to the wifi and walking slowly knowing that the signal was going to fade as soon as I got near the doorway to immigration. I quickly shot off a few facebook messages to let “my people” know that I had arrived safely and then made my way to the only “foreign passports” line, happy to have only two people in front of me.
I waited and waited and waited. As I did, the all-too-familiar feeling started to creep in. I sighed deeply and laughed at myself. This dreaded, yet expected, feeling was that of not knowing, not understanding, and, worse still, not being able to do anything about it. It’s the feeling of not being in control, and to a semi-control freak like me, a girl who always wants to be in-the-know and to be in charge, its both frustrating and exhilarating. Waiting in this long line where there were 6 more stations with no one waiting, was just the first in a long list of things that were out of my control.
When I finished answering the questions at immigration, they stamped my visa for 2 weeks instead of three months and I was given no reason why. When I inserted my Middle Eastern SIM card into my phone, it would not work and I couldn’t figure out what the problem was. The next morning, when Rasha’s brother came to pick me up, I had no idea how to tell him where I was. Later, on the drive to Tiberius, when he stopped the car and hopped out, I couldn’t figure out what he was doing. As his two young daughters squealed and laughed, I had no clue what they were going on about.
It was as if I had been teleported back through time about 30 years and instead of being a 35-year-old, independent woman, I was a 5-year-old overwhelmed with all that I didn’t know and all that I wanted to know; with the questions ‘why?’ and ‘what?’ and ‘how come?’ eternally running through my mind and occasionally, almost uncontrollably because I simply couldn’t take it anymore, coming out my mouth to no one in particular, aimed at anyone who might offer me an answer. All I wanted was to make sense of things, to know what was going on, to figure them out, to have the answer and to be relieved of my continuous speculation.
The not knowing is extremely frustrating because when I don’t know what’s happening or what’s being said or what I’m supposed to do, I can’t be independent; I have to be patient and rely on someone else to tell me, to show me, or to guide me, and that’s uncomfortable. (Anyone who has spent the least bit of time around me could probably tell you that relying on others is not something I do well!)
But what I’ve found hidden under the discomfort of dependence is priceless. It’s a gem whose beauty incessantly questioning little ones cannot yet articulate and whose preciousness has been forgotten by us know-it-all adults. You see, I’ve discovered that when I come face to face with something I’d like to figure out on my own, but instead I have to rely on a four-year-old to pick out my ice cream bar because nothing is written in English, or I have to ask a 7-year-old for directions to get to where I am, or I have to question the stranger sitting next to me as to why everyone is getting off the bus, my walls of independence begin to crumble. And the beautiful thing about the vulnerability, although dreadful to my pride, is that it creates a space for relationships to grow and friendships to be born. And THAT is exhilarating and worth trading in my independence! (Now, if only I can remember that bit of wisdom the next time I’m looking for an answer and given nothing more than a thumb pressed against the tips of the other four fingers, the Arab hand gesture meaning “wait”)