BETWEEN WORLDS – Essays on Culture and Belonging by Marilyn R. Gardner

Book Review
  • Approximate Time Commitment: 10 minutes

Marilyn R. Gardner, an MK from Pakistan, often writes in the quarterly Among Worlds. We highly recommend it for anyone who has lived overseas or who is interested in other cultures. This book review was written by Hank Griffith of South Suburban Evangelical Free Church in Apple Valley, Minnesota.

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Resource Description

Excerpts from: Between Worlds: Essays on Culture and Belonging by Marilyn R. Gardner,
compiled by Tim and Ann Wester September 2015.

Marilyn R. Gardner, an MK from Pakistan, often writes in the quarterly Among Worlds. We highly
recommend it for anyone who has lived overseas or who is interested in other cultures. The June edition
talked about “Oh, the Places We God!” The June edition talked about, ”Oh, the Places we Go!” Very appropriate for us!

“No matter where these goodbyes have taken place whether it’s been on hot tarmacs, or dusty river banks; efficient European (American) airports or train stations, the symptoms are the same. My
stomach gets those characteristic “goodbye” butterflies, my throat constricts, my body feels restless. Time passes too quickly; minutes count, hours horrify.” P.195

“I don’t look back. I knew intuitively that if I looked back then all of that would flow over me and it would be over before it began.” P. 198

“The Bittersweet Taste of Goodbye – Third culture kids and international travelers know these words well…. When I learned that goodbye comes from “God be with you” the word changed completely for me. To say “God be with you” is at the heart of my world. To say “Goodbye” to my kids (and parents) with that meaning in mind is a comfort to my “mom” heart.” P. 119,201

“Regardless of when it was, the feelings of nervous stomach and throat catching are universal. Tears remain unshed, stored up for a more private time to be shed like water on a parched land. All the world feels caught in these goodbyes, goodbyes that bruise and hurt, yet remind us that our hearts are still soft and alive. For a dead heart doesn’t hurt with a goodbye, only a heart alive to others feels the pain of that goodbye, the difficulty of leaving.” P. 202

“The Moving Manifesto: … As days fill with parties and packing, numerous goodbyes, short tempers, unexpected tears in public and private places, we who have traveled this road many times must remember this manifesto. We are comrades of sorts, traveling a path not everybody travels, loyal to each
other and to change, unable to explain to people that though we cry now, we really would not trade our
lives. But we need to express those deep feelings of loss and grief in order to do what we do, and do it well.

“We go into auto-mode once it becomes inevitable that the packing must be done. Until then, a part of us pretends life will always be as it is right now. Occasionally we purchase items for our current reality, almost as a talisman against what’s coming, or a nesting despite knowing that very soon the nest will be knocked form the tree and it will take a while to rebuild it. We are well away that some of our current relationships will survive the move, and others will not. Not everybody has the capacity to maintain friendships that withstand distance and change. We will not hold that against them. But we are allowed to feel sad. That is part of the manifesto.

“And all too soon, the final party will come. We will be the life of that party. We will retell stories with our old friends. We won’t admit to ourselves that they were not part of our lives three, four or five years before, because that would give in to the idea that it’s ok that we are moving and right now it’s not ok.“

“As the day arrives, the manifesto becomes more important. Part of this process is frustration with our current situation. If we can be mad at “right now”, our future looks much easier and brighter. Everything that can possibly go wrong often does just that. …. As you drive away, you do not look back. For perhaps you will, like Lot’s wife in the Biblical account, turn to stone.

“Yet you survive. Two days and hours of jet lag later, you are in your new location, figuring out how to make it a home. It all feels like a dream. Neighbors have looked curiously at your family, trying to assess your kids’ age. One conversation has already felt promising. It is time for a different manifesto.” P. 218-220

“For the third culture kid, reunions are many and frequent. Hellos are also frequent, goodbyes more so. Trying to work through the complexity of being willing to get to know someone only to let them go is a challenge. We often feel it’s not worthwhile, that the goodbyes are too painful. Dave Pollock who worked extensively with third culture kids until his death tells us that unresolved grief will be a major struggle with us: ‘One of the major areas in working with TCKs is that of…. dealing with the issue of unresolved grief. They are always leaving or being left. Relationships are short lived. At the end of each school year, a certain number of the student body leaves, not just for the summer, but for good. It has to be up to the parent to provide a framework of support and careful understanding as the child learns to deal with this repetitive grief. Most TCKs go through more grief experiences by the time they are twenty than monocultural individuals do in a lifetime.’ P. 224

“This cycle of goodbyes and unresolved grief is also self-perpetuating. Just as we said many goodbyes and faced continuous loss as a kid, we bring up our children with a love of travel and the world so we continue to face these partings. Only now it’s with our most precious asset, our kids. Then we go through that glorious feeling of reunion. We hug so tightly we can hardly breathe and we can’t talk fast enough to get all the missing thoughts and words of the last months and years out of our hearts and heads and into the hearts and heads of the other person. In that instant, no matter how much it hurts to say goodbye, the reunion is all the sweeter. As much as we think we want that other person’s life, the life of the one who has lived in the same house for 30 years and has all of their family within a five mile radius, it will never be so for us. And during the sweet space of reunion we can say that’s quite alright!” P 225

“For the one whose heart is set on pilgrimage, goodbyes add up. It’s not the arithmetic that brings the sting. That can be shared through guessing games and laughter at dinner with friends. “Let’s have a contest! How many places have you lived in? How may goodbyes have you said? How many airports have you traveled through?” No, it’s not in the math. It’s what’s behind the math: the faces, the events, the places, the people, the tight chest, the throat constricting. Goodbyes hurt.” P. 229

“I asked my family to help me write about “Saying goodbye.” I needed input that would satisfy those of us who have collectively said more goodbyes than can be counted. It was my sister-in-law, a woman who grew up in Kenya, lived in Massachusetts, Turkey, Kazakstan, and most recently Denver, and has said hundreds of goodbyes, who captured the moment. “I don’t do ‘good-bye’!” she said. “But I love you.” And that is how we say goodbye.” P. 229


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