Thursday, November 18, 2004

My Almost Nine Lives

I've always been a very feline human. Of course, any person who makes such a statement would have to be a cat lover, which I am, but I mean that I have many cat-like traits in my personality.

I'm shy and standoffish around strangers. I take time to get to know someone before I get cozy with them. I require maximum attention to my food, but minimum attention from my people. Noise and confusion send me hiding under the sofa. I enjoy small groups and quiet times. And like cat-lore, I have had many lives.

Random memories of my past sneak into my present. A sudden memory of little Carol-in-Indiana, 6 years old, walking to school in her small hometown gently creeps into my mind. Shy in class, rated as "doesn't play with others", fearful in this strange new place called school, but secure in the knowledge that her 4 older sisters were close by in other classrooms. I wonder how that quite and shy, bookish, plump, insecure little girl, ever grew into this middle aged woman living half a world away in Pakistan.

Sometimes it's Carol-in-Chicago, who pops into my mind. She has just left Indiana to attend college in Chicago. She's the first one in her family to attend college, the first to leave for the "Big City" and live alone. Here is our middle child now, all alone in a city of several million without the comfort of a single friend or family. She walks down Michagan Avenue, staring at the posh designers shops, the well dressed people, the tall buildings and she likes what she sees. She loves the architecture, the look and lines of the designer clothes. She feels invigorated. How did this smalltown girl grow to be such a risk taker?

Othertimes, it's Carol-in-Motherhood who visits me. I see her setting in a Chicago playpark watching her youngsters playing nearby. She is struggling to raise her children alone without the comfort and guidance of extended family and with a husband who works 100 hours per week. She is overwhelmed by the constant needs, the constant pulling both mental and physical (too much touching, tugging, tail pulling and this cat-woman wants to hide under the sofa) the constant interaction with others from sun up to sundown. How did she survive such stressful times and come out with sucessful adults, not just as her children, but as her friends.

These mental flashbacks occure often. Sometimes, she's working in her family vegitable garden, sometimes she's riding the Belmont Street bus. At times she's working at Clinton Elementary school, sometimes she's at North Elementary school as a student. Sometimes she's visiting her parents in Indiana with her 4 kids in tow seeking a break from being Mom to be a daughter again for a few days.

Each time I think back and see a past Carol it surprise me that I have grown or traveled or changed so much. It feels like my life has been a series of disjointed chapters, not one life of fluid changes, but a series of seperate lives by sperate people. Each past Carol seems like a different person with a different life. That's why I said I'm a feline person. I've already lived several seperate and distinct lives. I'm about to embark on a new one.

As I sit in the family room I'm surrounded by bags of clothes and boxes of junk. We have started the process of preparing to move. It's like divesting myself of another Carol, Carol-in-Islamabad and starting another life. Carol-in-Islamabad will be discared, sold, packed, miminumized and concluded. Carol-in-Islamabad will become Carol-in-Dubai or Sharjah or _______ I'll have to learn a new alphabet, language, set of customs and laws. I'll have to locate a new house, new job, new friends a new congregation. I'll miss the comfort and guidance we had in Pakistan from my hubby because he was a local who knew the language, customs, culture. And, for a long time, I'll have gentle flashbacks to the old and comfortable Carol-in-Pakistan and wonder how the hell I got here.


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