“SCOTT, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? I have not seen you in days!”
Nazzi, my friend who owns a shop near my apartment, will ask me this—I can count on it—if I go more than a few days without stopping by. He will stand up from his little table outside the window, admonish me again then, without even asking, pull out a chair for me and prepare me a coffee.
Elmarie and I are learning that relationships here in the Middle East have a greater weight and significance than we often treat them in the West. In the U.S. we can get “busy” and go weeks without much contact with our closest friends and think nothing of it—but that doesn’t fly here. People here share a closer PROXIMITY—closeness and frequency of contact—with one another. They expect to connect daily, sit over coffee, know the details of your life. When Nazzi doesn’t see me every couple days, it throws off the rhythm of relationship.
Friends aren’t islands here.
This throws a monkey wrench into the way I’ve learned to live. Forty-plus years with Tourette Syndrome has taught me a pretty complex set of survival skills. The vast array of motor tics, strange sounds and odd behavior is part of my daily life—but something I work to control in public, so for short bursts of time I appear (relatively) normal.
There’s been a cost to that. I don’t hang out too long—I leave the room before the tics get too bad; people know the parts of me I choose and control; I invest a small amount of time in a lot of different people (instead of the other way around) so nobody gets too annoyed of my eccentricities and fixations and phobias; in short, I hide—a lot. The fear is always there—what if they see ME…
Nazzi is making it hard to keep living that way. It scares me. But it invites me, too. It invites me to step out, come out of hiding, risk…
Being here, in this part of the world, I wonder if it has as much to do with my own healing as it does anything else.