About five and a half years ago, a friend of mine left Los Angeles. Linda decided to fulfill a dream and leave her corporate job at a law firm in Downtown LA to go do some good in another country.
We weren’t just close, we lived close. Her apartment was about 100 feet away from mine. There’s nothing quite like getting a text from a friend, “Glass of wine?” And all you have to do is walk downstairs to meet up at her place.
When she left, I was devastated. Actually, I think I can take poetic license here and say WE were devastated. You know, in a teenage-like lose-one-of-your-best-friends kind of way.
Linda was moving far away. Not Japan or Australia far. I’m talking Congo far. A very different kind of distance.
She was moving to Kinshasa – the capital and the largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It takes about 30 hours of flight time to get to Congo from here. Kinshasa isn’t exactly on my list of “Top Ten Vacation Hot Spots I Gotta Get To.” It didn’t even make my “Top Ten Cities I Would Visit on a Dare.” The Congo is not known for its safety. There are health issues, too. I have another friend, Pete, who travels the world, and even he has said, “Nope, no way,” on going there.
I was a little worried for Linda. But I knew she had visited Congo before. She was comfortable there and it felt “right” to her. She also had an aunt, uncle, and cousin who spent 30 years in Congo as missionaries. My friend was no stranger to the land. But to me, it felt like she was moving to another planet. Not even some cool planet like Mars. I had no idea when I’d see her again. It felt very dramatic at the time – like she was never coming back. You know, in a teenage-like lose-one-of-your-best-friends kind of way.
When I was driving her to the airport, we were both teary-eyed, but not saying a word. We both knew talking about the big (South African) elephant in the room wasn’t going to do us any good. We’re not one for super touchy feels or hysterical crying. So, we hugged each other and said, “See you soon.” And we wondered what would become of us both and when we’d see each other again.
While living in Congo, Linda has casually mentioned some life annoyances. Intermittent electricity. No hot running water – if there even IS running water. She also tells me, if you go to the bank, you’re not guaranteed the bank will have money. So, you may have to keep going back until they do. Plus, you can only use crisp dollar bills when buying things with cash (How convenient).
Driving in Kinshasa can be stressful, and not exactly safe. Somehow, though, she wrangled a car. One time, while driving at night and stopped at a light, Linda had simply forgotten to lock her car doors. A no-no in the Congo. Before she knew it, a gang of youths (please use a New York accent for ‘youfs’ here) stormed her car, opened all the doors, and rapidly took all her belongings. Laptop and cell phone included. (Remember how I said I didn’t want to visit there?)
Linda was unharmed, but super frustrated and a little pissed. She contacted a woman in-the-know who took her to the gang to get her stuff back (Who does this, by the way?).
Linda used the iPhone “find my phone” feature to show the kids that she knew they had her phone. This freaked them out, big time, since they had no idea tracking a phone was even possible (Apple needs more advertising in third world countries, apparently). The kids probably think Linda has superpowers. They’re not wrong. She got her laptop and phone back. And I’m pretty sure the gang won’t be bothering her again. #badassLinda
I guess my point is that during all this time, even after this last experience – Linda has never complained. Not. One. Bit. She has never said, “What have I done? Get me out of here!” She has just kept on movin’ on. Doing what she needs to do. And gettin’ ‘er done.
Her strategy? Some courage, for sure. But to me – it’s mainly positivity. Because what else is there? What is the point of negativity? It doesn’t get us anywhere. Sure, it’s a release to blow off steam at times and complain, but remaining positive is key.
The downside to positivity is it takes work. Being negative is the easy way out. I’m constantly reminded that perception is everything. How we see our world – or choose to see it – can shape how we feel on a daily basis. Will it be negative or positive? It isn’t how we show other people our life on social media; it’s how we show ourselves. What we choose to focus on guides how we feel about life. Sometimes there is no running water. Sometimes there is.
I’ve said it before – I’m not one for the ol’ “the glass isn’t half-empty, it’s half full” garb. You can see the glass any way you want. I just want you to know you can keep filling that glass. So, it doesn’t really matter how full or empty it seems at the moment.
About once a year, Linda returns to the U.S. for a visit. We even met in Italy one year (that’s about how close I’ll go to visiting her). So, yes, I have seen her again. Thanks to Google voice, we stay in touch pretty easily. There’s always email. When she’s back in town, it’s like she never left. Here we are at LACMA jazz last week:
Linda does keep trying to get me to visit Congo. I keep trying to get her to move back. At this point, I’d say I might be winning.
Sure, it’s totally fun to tell people I know someone in the Congo. But, Linda, if you’re reading this, I’m totally cool with changing that to: “I used to know someone who lived in the Congo.” Still works.
Come back, will ya! I miss my friend. 🙂
Julie Slater, aka THE LOTUS FLOWER, looooves music. Besides being a rabid fan and musician, you may recognize her voice. She’s a voiceover artist and audiobook narrator (www.julieslater.com). She’s DJ’d on top stations: 88.5 FM and 100.3 the Sound in LA and 92.3 K-Rock in NYC following Howard Stern.
When she’s not at concerts, you can usually find her meditating or in the kitchen. She has a slight obsession with deep, dark cabernets & small batch whiskey. Namaste!