My husband and I took a trip to his hometown, Bucharest, Romania. He has been in the States for several years, the majority of which we have been together. So, when we finally received permission from the US government to travel abroad, we jumped onto a plane, three actually, and off we went to Bucharest.
I’ve traveled abroad on various occasions prior to this, but this was a very unique and special trip. I met my new family, in person, for the first time. I would experience, first hand, the culture, and the community where my husband spent the first 27 years of his life. I was able to whiteness the man I’m in love with, be surrounded by those who shaped his character and observe him in a place and state which I’d not yet been able. Basically, the bigger picture of what I’ve gotten myself into with my marriage has become more clear.
I’m thrilled to say, my extended family is filled with even more beauty and genuine love than I ever imagined.
There was one evening in Bucharest when something really unusual happened to me. I felt very uncomfortable. I’m not sure “uncomfortable” even describes how uncomfortable I felt. I experienced myself, experiencing reality like never before. Essentially, my sense of identity was slowly being stripped away, exposing the raw nature of my true self, to the surrounding elements. It was scary, odd, very uncomfortable, and also fascinating. So, here is how it all started…
We were spending a seemingly low-key evening at his mom’s place, with his mom and sister, when my husband had one of his college friends stop by. His friend was nice. They were taking in the other room, it was great.
My mind was submerged in this quiet evening, where I was able to spend some alone time with my mother-in-law and new little sis, or as I call her in Romanian, “sora mea.”
Suddenly, the doorbell rings, and a hand-full of my husband’s friends surprise us with huge smiles and hugs! Personally, I usually don’t enjoy having an idea of what I’ll do with the evening, then having the rug pulled out from under me, but this was pretty awesome, so I went with the flow and put my mind on this new set of train tracks.
A few more friends showed up, and we all got comfortable in the living room. My husband gave a quick, general update on some of the key things that have happened to him over the previous three years while in the States. Of course, he mentioned how he and I met, he again introduced me as his beautiful wife, and sweetly noted how in love we are.
All of his friends understand English, and each of them speaks at least a little English, while others are fluent. Aside from knowing some key phrases and about a dozen words in Romanian, I don’t speak nor understand Romanian. After a while of everyone, including me, conversing and interacting using English, the evening shifts into speaking Romanian; which I encouraged because I could tell a couple of people, in particular, were staying quite because they didn’t feel comfortable speaking English. Plus I always feel a little uneasy when people make accommodations by speaking English, simply because I’m present.
So this is where things start to get pretty unusual, for me, internally.
The conversations break out into two, sometimes three, smaller groups of conversations. It’s a very intimate setting with some people sitting comfortably on the floor. We are eating snacks and people are casually drinking. So I observe. That’s about all I can do, since I don’t understand what is being said. I tried to at least understand the topic of conversation, and it’s always easy to tell how someone feels about what they’re talking about. But after a while, I felt odd just staring at someone as they tell a story, but being unable to make any connection with them, what-so-ever. I couldn’t naturally nod my head as a sign of listening/understanding their message. I certainly couldn’t contribute to the conversation, like I typically would being the social conversationalist that I am. I couldn’t even burst into laughter with the rest of the group when something funny was said. And since people knew I didn’t know what they were saying, eventually eye contact with me diminished.
I found myself feeling very anxious about all of this. Apparently, my anxious energy was permeating the room because despite me sitting there normally (or so I thought), others could feel my unease.
Being the meditating observer that I am, I, of course, use this as an opportunity to observe my body, breath, and mind.
I use my posture to create a flow of energy that may help me feel more at ease. I breathe a little more deeply, to ensure my body and mind are behaving with intention and calmness. These two things were fairly easy. My body wasn’t experiencing typical signs of anxiety or panic, but my mind and energy certainly were.
There were some additional causes of unease, which when added to the equation, compounded the complexity and intensity of my sense of discomfort. It was only a few months prior that I had conquered my addiction to alcohol, so I wasn’t drinking like I was used to in social situations. Even when someone was kind enough to try to connect by offering me something to drink, I had to deny the offer, thus subconsciously deny the attempt to connect. This too was new to me.
Also, there was an attractive female friend of my husbands, with whom I suspect my husband has had a deeper connection with in the past. I knew I would meet her during the trip but certainly didn’t anticipate it would be that “quiet” evening. I’m sure I would have freshened up a bit and felt more presentable.
Being in the intimate setting of the living room was truly special. Although, given the big picture of my perspective, it didn’t allow for any kind of relief when I needed it. I couldn’t simply look around at other groups of people, watch waiters walk by, or observe a lively ambiance. I was stuck staring at either the carpet or the same four hand-drawn pencil sketches on the wall. (Which by the way, were pretty cool. My husband’s father drew a picture of a stool, which is still in the house, with an apple on it. Then the rest of the family, mom, my husband, and his sister, drew the same composition. They’re compiled together, side-by-side, in the same frame now.) Additionally, the surprise of the occasion threw me for a loop anyway.
Overall, I felt very unable to connect, unable to express myself, and I felt restricted from movement (visually and physically).
My mind couldn’t really get a hold of itself.
So, I told myself what I knew to be true: “This is a wonderful, safe situation with kind people coming together to celebrate friendship and life… You’re okay sitting here, even though you feel uncomfortable with your very presence right now, no one else feels uncomfortable with your presence… You often desire to be exposed more to the Romanian language and also to see your husband spending more time with good friends, so stay present. Observe with an equanimous mind.”
But it didn’t really matter what my rational self told my emotional self.
My sense of identity and typical means of expressing myself and interacting with peers was being challenged. My ego was threatened.
While it was happening, I was observing myself feeling the experience of discomfort. I witnessed myself squirm in my own skin, as the connection to my sense of self, increasingly diminished.
The spiritual teachings I’ve studied would tell me to surrender to the threat. That the perceived threat isn’t a threat at all. It isn’t your enemy, it’s actually your friend, as it will help you to relinquish your false sense of self (social connector, conversationalist, etc.) in order to experience the true Self or the true reality (that we are all one, language isn’t necessary, a separate sense of self doesn’t exist.)
My sense of myself being separate from others creates the desire to connect in the first place. So when the ability to connect wasn’t available, my sense of self began to deteriorate.
That was for me, subconsciously and consciously terrifying. My ego was fighting to survive; fighting for its own (disconnected) place in the living room, in order to reconnect. But my intuition, (the voice of Higher Self) knows that identifying as disconnected in order to reconnect isn’t necessary, because we are already connected!
So what did I learn?
I learned that my ego thrives on predictably. In fact, its very existence relies on it.
I learned that finding myself in an extremely mentally and emotionally uncomfortable state of being, is actually an awesome opportunity to chip away the ego. Unfamiliarity can be uncomfortable, and it’s in that discomfort where opportunities are created to either retreat deeper into the ego for perceived safety or move beyond the ease of familiarity into a mental and emotional space, that is filled with Truth.