By Holly Herring
Today I went to church. It was awful.
For a little bit of the backstory, I just moved to a new state. I’m brand new here and I seem to have brought my expectations from my old state with me.
Now, this church I went to had a great message and it fit in with my beliefs and convictions. Nothing was said that was wrong exactly, but it was so formal. They had practices they all seemed to love that weren’t my cup of tea. It was too big. There were too many people. I felt overwhelmed. I left.
When I arrived I had this job lined up and it sounded like it was right up my alley. But I didn’t like it. They did things so strangely to me. The work environment didn’t feel right at all. I got sick and while I was recovering in bed I would think about my eventual return to this job and I’d start feeling dread. I quit before I was to return.
The food here—it isn’t the same. There’s this strange obsession with chili and I’ve yet to find the perfect burger spot. I don’t recognize the brands of soda on the menus and I can’t find my favorite convenience store. I love going to a well stocked convenience store with all my favorite snacks in it. They have these other convenience stores and the hot dogs don’t taste the same. I haven’t seen my favorite snack cake in any of them.
The people here are unnecessarily friendly.
Sure, being friendly is nice. But where I came from we did not greet our neighbors as often or with nearly as much cheer. In this apartment all of these people greet each other, ask how their days went; they talk about such-and-such neighbor person has a new job. Going from my car to my front door creates this anxiety of running into a neighbor like Wilson from the TV Sitcom Home Improvement, hanging his head over the fence saying “Hydie Ho Neighbor!”
So, I came home from church today and I knew that I just had to start my own church. I referred to Google and decided to see if it was really difficult. I honestly had myself convinced that it was clearly going to be easier to just start a whole new church on my own than find somewhere that was like what I had before.
Oh, ouch – “before.” There it is.
I stumbled in on exactly what my problem is. I want what I had and left. I feel safe and comfortable with what I had. Things here aren’t bad or worse, they are just different. It’s not the same.
Nobody at the church did anything that conflicted with my beliefs. That job I quit did things differently and had a different understanding of the services I’m accustomed to providing participants. The food isn’t bad, I don’t think people here spend as much time in convenience stores as they did in my old state. My neighbors aren’t loud or mean. It’s me. It’s me from the previous state expecting my new state to be the same.
What is the answer? How do I make myself feel at home in this new place?
I cannot expect the me that’s here and now to be the same. I need to learn, grow and change a little bit. My geography changed and I would be wise to as well. This is like the people I have advocated for as they have emerged from recovery programs and set off to re enter their community. They will not be the same person now although it might seem easier to fall into place as their old self. Their community is going to look at them as they were before they entered treatment and they will think they know how this person is going to respond in certain situations. The community will be shocked when these people behave differently.
Maybe the Holly that is living today in this new state doesn’t attend spiritual services. Perhaps the Holly here finds herself doing new work in different places, different ways. This Holly says “hello” in the grocery store and she might even bake cookies for the nosiest neighbor in the complex.
When this present day Holly places her order with the server she might decide she’s going to try a little green chili on her mac and cheese. Don’t hold your breath on that green chili thing though. That’s a reach.
I’ve had a very strong attachment to my life as I knew it in California. My clinging and expecting this place to make itself something different just for me is unrealistic and unfair. I’m placing myself into a recovery program of my own making to bravely enter my new geography and in doing so, I’ll embrace the new me.
It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
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