Since I came to the US, what seems like a lifetime ago, I’ve had a recurring dream or, rather, a nightmare. I am hearing that it’s a phenomenon, afflicting many of us, immigrant folks. It’s the nightmare of being “sent back” against your will. In this awful vision, I am being forced on an Airflot plane. Walking backwards through the dark tunnel, I am watching John’s tearful, terrified face. He is being held by the armed policeman. It sounds like he is trying to say something, but I am too far. I can’t hear what he is saying. Helpless to do anything else, in my tired mind, I am sorting all the documents that have been lost, disappeared, got mixed up in some crazy bureaucratic process. As I get closer to the airplane, I strain to create an image of what my life is going to be like back in Ukraine. I wonder how I’ll manage to speak Ukrainian since it’s been so long since I’ve spoken in this language. Where am I going to live? What am I going to do? How will I ever be able to come back? Granted, since I’ve become an American citizen, back in the 1990’s, the nightmare isn’t as frequent, but in the past five years, the component of leaving my only child behind makes me wake up in sweat, tears, and totally breathless.
I remember all this now because it seems to be happening in reality with my dear friend, her husband and their little baby (who is an American citizen!). After losing their jobs, they are unable to renew their work visas and, therefore, can not legally stay in the US. So, next Tuesday, early morning, they are going to be on the plane en route to Shanghai…For months and months, they’ve struggle to do everything in theire power to stay – looked for jobs, engaged countless people to help them, applied and reapplied, petitioned…My friends and I tried in earnest to find ways to help them stay in the US. Nothing worked. Every glimmer of hope turned to nothing. Every lead, led to another disappointment. And now, on this beautiful Sunday afternoon, I am watching this awful nightmare unfold in reality, helpless to do a thing to stop it.
And then I hear a voice. It’s coming from somewhere deep inside of my soul. It’s the eternal wisdom that resides within all of us. I feel its gentle nudge: “Hey, what happened to your motto?”
“What are you talking about?” I say, almost angrily.
The voice: “Don’t you always say that things happen for a reason?”
Me: “I guess I do. There must be some darn good reason for all this”.
The voice: “Concepts such as good and bad are manmade and therefore aren’t real. But there is always a bigger picture that you are unable to see”.
Me: “But how will they manage?”
The voice: “They will manage.”
Me: “How can you be so certain?”
The voice: “Somebody has to be”.
And then I realize, it’s like learning how to do an independent back float. My son takes swimming lessons and he recently got a sticker for learning to stay afloat in the water, on his back. It took many, many tries and I heard his instructor repeat to him over and over again: “Don’t fight the water. Relax. Just let go and count to 10”. Maybe this is the same thing? When everything is going seemingly wrong and you find yourself totally out of breathe, swimming against the current, struggling, maybe the only prudent thing you can do is an independent back float? Maybe when nothing works, as Martha Beck teaches, you’ve got to just do “nothing"? Put your head in the water. Let go. Trust that it will hold you up. Don’t try to find the reason things are the way they are, don’t decide if something is good or bad, and just let the water of life take you to your next stop in your journey. And maybe then, you’ll hear an approving voice of the Instructor: “You’ve done well kiddo. Here is a sticker. You are an accomplished independent back floater. Now, let’s move onto something more challenging”.
Good luck my dear friends! You’ll manage! I am certain of it, because somebody has to be.