After my really difficult summer and the blogging that grew out of that, it's been a relief the past few months not to be quite so personal in my blogs. Yeah, I blog about what's happening to me and I write about my positive feelings--but I leave out some of the more personal stuff, the struggles, the ways that I'm trying to learn and grow, the stuff that is about as personal (and perhaps as incommunicable) as it gets. But today, I'm going to not only tell a story--but also try to communicate what it means to me.
When I lived in Setubal, there was one family in particular that I really loved, the Sousas: Idaliano, Luciete, Manuel, Luis, Idalino, and Vanessa. But we had lost touch over the years as my Portuguese faded and our lives changed. I knew, though, that our connection was one that was important to all of us. There are certain people in our lives with whom we share such deep connections that they are always part of us.
Because the Sousas mean so much to me, I really wanted to see them. But I also knew that they might not understand who I am or where I am right now. I'm divorced, no kids, no longer a practicing Mormon. These are things that are complicated, especially given the fact that I knew them as a missionary. In other words, my friend Linnette and I taught them about Mormonism and they converted as a result of our interactions. I also knew that my language abilities weren't strong enough to communicate well about the changes in my life. Even so, I decided to go to Setubal, I guess because I think that the love that we feel for people should mean more than religious differences . . . but I didn't have an address, only a vague memory of the area where they lived. I was actually able to find them thanks to some Mormon missionaries.
When I arrived, Luciete didn't recognize me (after all, it has been 20 years). I had to tell her who I was and she couldn't believe it. Then Idaliano came to the door, and then their oldest son Manuel who just happened to be fixing his parents' washing machine today. We were all so happy to see each other. In fact, at one point, Luciete told me that we were family, that she was my second mother.
They were eating lunch, so we sat down together and talked and ate. They were patient with my rusty, limited Portuguese--and I was just so glad to hear how well they are doing. All the kids are married and have their own children now. Idaliano was really sick a year ago, but is doing much better. Manuel is bishop of his ward--and his brother Luis is the leader of his congregation, as well. Luciete showed me pictures of each child's marriage and of her grandchildren. I was mostly able to avoid my own status in the church right now, but when it was just Manuel and I talking he asked me point blank if I was still Mormon. I said no--and I wonder how he feels about that. Of course, he's seen his father and sister move in and out of the church. Still, I wish that we had had the words to share our feelings about these changes. I also wish that Idaliano and I had had the chance to talk one on one. I worry that he thinks I'm disappointed that he left Mormonism for so long which isn't the case.
Later, Manuel drove me to the train station. Since I missed the train by about 5 minutes, we had the chance to talk for another hour or so--we walked around town arm in arm. Before I left, he told me how much I had changed his life, his family's life--and I know that's true. I know Mormonism has brought joy, peace, and fulfillment to their family. I feel so grateful that I was able to make a difference to them . . . .
But I've also been thinking about everything we weren't able to address. There's something about this poem by Fernando Pessoa that gets at what I feel today:
Whether we write or speak or are but seen
We are ever unapparent. What we are
Cannot be transfused into word or mien.
Our soul from us is infinitely far.
However much we give our thoughts the will
To make our soul with arts of self-show stored,
Our hearts are incommunicable still.
In what we show ourselves we are ignored.
The abyss from soul to soul cannot be bridged
By any skill of thought or trick for seeing.
Unto our very selves we are abridged
When we would utter to our thought our being.
We are our dreams of ourselves, souls by gleams,
And each to each other dreams of others' dreams.
Na escrita, na voz ou na aparencia
Jamais nos revelamos. Nosso ser
Nem palavra ou semblante o vao dizer.
De nos a alma longe em permanencia.
Por mais que a vontade ao pensar dermos
De, por artes, sermos revelados,
Os coraçoes se quedam encerrados
E no que os mostramos, escondemos.
Abismo de alma a alma intransponivel
Nao ha pensar ou arte que o desfaça;
Distantes de nos mesmos, impossivel
Nosso ser ao pensamento revelar.
Sonhos de nos, a alma em claroes passa
E um noutro se ve em seu sonhar.
I feel gaps sometimes between me and my loved ones. Sometimes these gaps are caused by distance, but sometimes they occur when we're physically together. Even in a relationship of love, there is ultimately something unknowable at its core. That is something I haven't always been willing to face (aside: and one reason I wanted to go to Norway was to discover new things about myself, to make myself more "apparent" which I'm definitely in the process of doing, sometimes much to my chagrin). Ultimately, I can't completely know who I am nor can I completely understand someone else--because we have to try to "abridge" who we are into small words and acts.
So today, I can only hope that action is enough, that the fact that I took the time to find the Sousas will mean something to them, just as seeing them and hearing about their lives meant so much to me. I'll continue to try to build bridges, even if completing that task is impossible. It's the doing that matters. Sometimes, those efforts actually materialize into something tangible, "apparent," and long lasting though difficult to define.