Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Ordinary Moments

 About 60 miles north of the Mexican border a man approached me carrying an assault rifle across his chest and a Glock in his thigh holster.  He wore giant boots, and mirrored sun glasses, and for a moment I was struck by just how much the scene was that of a movie: sun beating down, his stern face and short hair, the confident way he brandished his firearm as though he could have cared less about blowing you away in the middle of the desert and no one even knowing.  It was all oddly amusing until his chest was puffed out in my direction.

 "What kind of ethnic are you?" he spat out. 

I had no idea what to say and was quite appalled at his tone.  This must have come across all too well in my body language.  "¿Qué tipo de etnia eres?" he shouted visibly annoyed at my lack of answer.  My hand instinctively went to my Spyderco as I came around to understanding his feelings of authority. I could have cared less if I only had a 5 inch blade and he had rounds of bullets.  If we were going to have it out in the desert, we were both going to walk away in severe pain. He was the border patrol.  This was how he treated people whom he couldn't readily identify as American.  My disgust grew immeasurably.  The Barracuda was sent off to use the bathroom with a look that told him to go regardless of whether it was necessary.

"I'm the American citizen kind of ethnic, Thank You. 
 Soy un ciudadano Americano, Gracias."

I silently praised my two years of college Spanish and what I thought was a worthless chapter on travel.

 He told me my skin was dark, my hair was weird, and I had a dark-skinned child with me.  "Those sorts of people don't normally hike the Pacific Crest Trail." Both The Barracuda and I were IDed, but I refused to empty our backpacks.  I cited my rights and told him I was going to keep walking if he didn't have cause.

"Piel morena no es motivo (Dark skin isn't cause)," I reminded him sternly.

More praise went out to chapter about describing people where I thought "dark skin" seemed like a very outdated descriptor, and the woman at the DMV who worked with me to get my young child government certified picture ID.  

It was the first of many experiences people would call brave.  But I don't feel very brave here at home.  I never thought I would need bravery in the small, ordinary moments of my life.  Turns out, I do.

Turns out the bravery necessary on a grand adventure is so minimal compared to the bravery needed to continue doing the dishes, to fold the laundry, to make dinner...again.  When all you have to do is walk forward, there is nothing but progress.  Every step, every breath, every day, you are progressing forward toward your goals.  Here at home, all there is is faith.  Tiny moments of miraculous faith that tomorrow will turn out okay, that you are doing the right things, that in the end the moments will all fit together into something larger than yourself.  

For quite a few months I'd cook, I'd clean, I'd study, I'd work, I'd laugh, but in the end, when I really looked, it was fear which was really steering everything forward - forward, so I didn't have to realize it was right on my heels threatening to take me alive if I stopped. 

It is a funny thing that happens when you decide to be straight up with yourself about what is going on.  Up until then all you get are glimpses of the problem in the reactions of others.  

So I decided to catch the fear by surprise, pin it underneath my laundry basket, and sit on top until it agreed to leave me alone. 

Faith feels a whole lot better.

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