I am saying this to my husband, not for the first time by any stretch of the imagination, and most definitely not for the last. I feel this way often, though not always in so many words. Usually it is just a collection of moments that I string together in my head that form the overwhelming feeling I can describe, that when tied together, form only the shape of a question mark.
It may be because I am a gatherer, as a close friend put it, gathering in the expressions and words and mindsets and ideas of everyone around me as best as I can and trying to surmise them. It may be because I love psychology, studying body language and the way the mind takes in information. It may be because I love language, that every single word choice leads to an interpretation of something deeper. It may be because I love culture, its intricacies and mysteries that even those in it do not always understand. Whatever it may be it leads to things sticking in my mind long after the moment has passed.
The problem is I don't know where I fit in. Even with all those messages coming at me, I have a hard time knowing what they say. They are in another language. It is like a wall of glass rises up between myself and the world and I keep walking into it, unable to see where it stands. I can't tell if I offended or if I connected. I can't tell if I am supposed to speak or stay silent. Did I push too far? Can we talk about that subject? Are we on the same page or different planets?
"Sometimes when I don't know I just do it with more confidence hoping no one will notice," I admit to my husband.
"Then if you are wrong they might assume you are just rude." he stipulates and again I feel it rising up in me.
"How can I do it right if I don't know the rules?" and then in my head I hear and how can they teach me the rules if they don't even know they follow them?
I think about what they call my "identification" sitting in my wallet. Ironically right now it says Virginia, a place I have lived for only three months. Before that it said Texas, where I lived for four months. Before that it said Illinois, where I lived for six months. The face on it looks like me, but the rest of it does not. For it is an identification I can not identify with.
If you sit behind a desk at airport security and swipe my passport you will see a clearer picture of who I am. Like my passport, on the outside I say America, but when you flip through the pages of my life you find country after country, and even this will not tell you the whole story. But at least in an airport I know the rules. I can follow the signs, move with the crowd. I know when I must take off my shoes, and I put them back on when they give them back without prompting. I shake my head at the people who don't realize they have to take off their belt, or forget the change in their pockets. I sigh at the people who have to stop and ask where something is located, or what happens next.
|People wandering LAX|
"Whenever I'm not sure I just ask," my husband says and I am shocked that he might sometimes be unsure.
But maybe it is time I start stopping to ask. "What are the rules here?" I will start to say. "Is this okay to say?" I will remember to ask. "Too much? Too far?" I will wonder aloud with my mouth instead of silently in my head. I will show my ignorance and hope for grace in the moment instead of forgiveness after it.
And then, like in the airport, after I sigh and shake my head, when I see someone who needs help, I will hope someone will help me, even though I don't know the rules.