There are times in my young adulthood I questioned my parent’s decision making. Why? Well, they were born and raised on the beautiful Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago. As was I, well up until my middle school years. I questioned in my adulthood why someone might leave a place where everyone else is hoping to retire someday.
As an adult I now realize the sacrifices they made in order to give their children a shot at the “American Dream”. What they gave up for us is immensely immeasurable. They were living fairly peaceful, restful lives before we emigrated to the United States. Both my father and mother had established working connections and a network of friends and family. They gave it all up in a high stakes gamble for our future.
I’m one of seven children, so to transplant a family of nine was no easy feat. I’m amazed at the tenacity of my mother and the hardworking commitment of my father. They lived apart for three years and saw each other only on the holidays. They both worked to prove they could support a family of nine on my father’s truck driver income— his new career. Gone were the days of his cushy corporate job. He chose to start all over again. My mother became a CNA. Gone were her days of working for the Trinidadian government from behind a desk.
I compared the days of idyllic frolicking on the beaches with my father’s company issued station wagon to their transplanted U.S. working weekends. My father punched the overtime clock on almost all his free weekends. Whenever he could, he took us with him just to be able to spend at least one day together. My mother grew bitter and discontented. I understand why today. I understand what she lost— what they both lost.
They lost the ability to rest. The rest they enjoyed in my birth country stemmed from a different place than most American concepts of rest. It was an inner rest that they could no longer capture. A rest that included acceptance, community, family, familiarity, predictability and identity.
As I consider myself, coworkers, and extended family members, I realize most of us are lacking the inner rest that my parents lost in the move. The idea of stability and constancy. Today there seems no soft place to rest our heads and hearts. We are constantly bombarded with social media messages that steal our inner peace— rumors of recessions and financial collapse. These messages often cause us to question our place in the world and our propensity for vulnerability.
I see the same look on the many faces in my life— the same loss of rest I witnessed in my parents’ lives. Families moving from one city to the next, one job to the other, one home to another. All of us are trying to find some stillness in this world and simplify the overwhelming feelings of fear we are all battling. We might be wondering when things will be like the good ole’ days. And maybe these good ole’ days are just the rose colored lenses we use for a time we now understand better.
I remember when the internet seemed complicated. I remember learning this new concept in computing called “Windows”. At the time it felt complicated and above my head but now today it’s like second nature to open a computer window. This exemplifies to me the nature of humans to adjust and evolve with new norms when truly all we want is for things to be reasonably predictable. Like my parents in their new home country, we can no longer depend on what used to be predictable occurrences in life. For many of us this is stealing our inner peace. But I believe in our capacity to learn new ways of framing our daily lives. This is where we will find that elusive rest. We could endeavor to learn and discover new “windows” in our lives. So what if it’s not neatly predictable?
My parents’ marriage ultimately did not survive the transplant. It tested every weak part we possessed and we came up short. We lost our family in the move. We were broken and torn apart by our inability to connect and become plugged into a supportive network of love. My experience from our family’s loss has me convinced that, ultimately, rest comes from the relationships we form within a network of support.
We can remain intact by constantly strengthening our core units. Our core units are those neighbors we laugh with on the weekends, the co-workers we listen to during breaks. It includes the church family who hugs us on Sunday mornings and the crossing guards we wave to on our way to work.
The pandemic showed us just how much we missed these small yet important parts of our lives. Ultimately, rest within is fueled by love deposited from the outside. Embracing this today allows me the comfort of knowing each day I can wake up to carefully placed measures of rest each day and each week. I believe we were designed to connect with each other and thrive together. Anything else or less will rob us of the inner rest that comes with it.