I did not really say goodbye or even so long to Patagonia when we moved right before the end of 2020. It felt quite abrupt that my whole life was packed up in nine pieces of poorly organized luggage. I had been homesick before in countless big and small ways, but this time it was more than a passing feeling. It felt like a slow and painful death. Only by processing this grief of separation from my homeland did I find the courage to say goodbye to the dreams and hopes we had put into our life in Patagonia.
Yet still many nights before we moved, I couldn’t sleep, anxious about the future. I wondered how my family would fare in my childhood home of Karachi, a gargantuan monster of a city in the raw and wild place known as Pakistan. Many days leading up to the move I survived like a zombie, eating my feelings and gaining weight even though I was nursing a baby full-time.
The COVID schedule of my days in Patagonia was a dark hole. Some hope peeked in when the weather turned in the fall and the mosquitoes abated. But by then the upcoming elections and the hysterical news cycle was keeping me up all night. I did not like what I was seeing in others, but more importantly in myself. I was turning into a resentful, bitter and angry version of myself that I loathed.
There will be hundreds of thousands of stories like mine coming out of this bizarre and strange time of the pandemic. Stories of exhaustion, endings, beginnings, and transformations. Undeniably there will be stories of countless strange goodbyes. Perhaps the strangest one that will mark this time are those virtual goodbyes with loved ones in hospitals.
My strange goodbye to Patagonia has left it like a faraway dream in my consciousness. Even though I bared myself monthly in my PRT column I doubt people understand how equipped children of alcoholics are at putting a mask over their real feelings and how seeking approval dominates our unconscious intentions. I pretended it was okay to be so alien until I couldn’t, and it took the pandemic, again like it has for so many others, to bring the curtain down on my charade.
I have thought for months about the purpose of my time in Patagonia with its particular beauties and its particular challenges. Today I realized that the time I spent away allowed me to grow in ways that I never would have if I had stayed in Karachi. My longing to return to Pakistan has only made my reunion sweeter and my conviction stronger to trust my inner heart at all costs, even if it sacrifices what I am most attached to in this world.
There’s a tradition in South Asia of what a guest says to his or her host at the end of their stay. He or she says, “Please forgive me if I did anything to offend you during my stay. Thank you for your hospitality. I am very grateful. I will remember you in my prayers. Please remember me in yours.”
May the peace of God be with you all. Amen.