I lost my sunglasses.

There is a woman at the local Denver Farmer's Market who sells spicy kimchi at her booth on Sundays. I wait in line, taste each one over again (even though I have tried them all!) and pick a different flavor per week. She always recognizes me and says hi, asks how Chris and I have been? The pups? She is really lovely and has amazing skin. On a recent booth visit, she shared that she always recognizes me because of my sunglasses, they are always a statement piece. Big and loud. It is true, I have a large face. Thus, the sunglasses are usually extra large, somewhat audacious and paired with a trucker hat on Sundays.

I was thinking about this fashion choice in a chill yin yoga class. Because honestly, in yin yoga you hold poses for like three minutes and think and try not to think and then you think about how you are trying not to think. Oh, and you breathe.

Going through my mind were some of the outrageous types of shades I have worn in my youth. Grandma style glasses, aviator style, dip dyed looking frames, or baby blue ones in high school. And then I remembered the pair I took to Africa on my imagine1day trip, a large, oversized look with tortoise shell style frames. I thought they paired well with my REI adventure hat I had purchased pre-trip.

I had those sunglasses for the first 2 days on the 17 day trip. I lost them at our first stop of many stops. I must have left them at the breakfast table or they were hidden somewhere in my shared room. Neither here nor there, I lost them. And the sun is no joke in Africa.

For the first couple of days, I felt totally naked. Almost vulnerable. And super squinty. I had trained my eyes to be outdoors with provided shades of lenses and there was a transition there. Also to mention, we visited developing schools and I was joy-crying the first time we pulled up to the community, and in the school, and dancing with the community, and again when singing with the community.  Oh wait and again when we celebrated un-birthdays. Oh, you don't know what an un-birthday is? On the imagine1day trips to Ethiopia, you literally celebrate someone every single day and call it their un-birthday and send them love, share with them their gifts and you know, blessings. Oh my stars, I cried the entire time for my own un-birthday AND everyone else's. And, I realized I did not have my sunglasses to hide behind. Ever.

And for the rest of the trip, I experienced everything pure of form, pure of color, pure of interaction.

No blocks.

No hiding.

No shade.

When I think about my time there, I feel connection now, still. A deeper connection. I remember everyone's name. I have friendships that I schedule late night SKYPE conversations for and a local USA heartbeat I text on the regular. I check Facebook messages for cross country hello's and birthdays. I send email updates with my wedding pictures to my African friends to share in the joy and I intentionally ask about their kiddos and the organization.

The connection was really real.  Almost raw.

In coming home, especially from a big trip like Africa, you have to let the content, the people, and the experience truly marinate. I don't think I was super clear on all that I had gained from the trip when landing back to the USA and to be honest, I believe I will keep learning as time goes on.

What I do know now is that I had essentially removed the (physical and metaphorical) protection that hides my tears when people move me with joy or sadness. I let them see. I removed the shade (metaphorical darkness I will ever so gently call judgement) so I could truly experience the humanness of people, nature and myself. I made way more eye contact. I let myself be seen.

It all had to be ... because I lost my sunglasses.

Photo Cred: Curtiss Conrad