I have sat by the phone for boyfriends to call. I have sat by the phone waiting to hear about my nieces' births. I have sat and waited for many reasons. You would think by now I would be used to it. I'm not. I hate it.
This past week has been a waiting game. A call comes in and says "we'll know more tomorrow." Tomorrow arrives and no one calls. I feel like I'm seventeen again. The boy I like didn't call me. I mope. I pout. I get angry at the people I love. When the phone finally does ring it's only to tell me to wait some more. The latest call at 3pm today was to tell me I should know in 24 hours if I'm leaving for Japan to help with relief work. I will leave either on Sunday or next Saturday. I get to wait again.
I have been warned to expect the worse when I arrive in Iwate. I have been told it's worse than we think. That I don't see how that is possible is a testament to my lack of imagination. Or, so I'm told. I have been asked how I deal with grief. (How's that for a job interview question?) I have been told to prepare to have to control my emotions. I said I would try.
Which is total crap, of course. I cry at commercials. I cry when I watch movies where anyone dies. (Even the bad guys.) I cry when others cry. I am not very good at holding back my tears. This is even more true when there's a real reason for them. Watching the main character in a movie die is one thing. Hearing the grief people in Japan are suffering is as real as it gets. Through all this, I'm supposed to be calm, professional, objective, patient and hold back my tears. I don't know how to control the last part. I will no doubt figure it out. It's amazing to me how to body shuts down, goes into overdrive, runs on adrenaline and in general knows what to do and not to do when serious resolve is needed. There's something in me that says I will find a way to remain professional and non-emotional. Most of the time I believe this.
I've done it before. I tell myself this over and over. Interpreting for a family whose daughter was murdered, I was the picture of control. I wasn't sure before the assignment how I was going to get through the sentencing of the murderer without being affected by their pain and grief and tears. I did. I will figure out what part of me shut down that day and muster up that energy again.
Perhaps at the end of the day I will have to keep telling myself I need to ration my Kleenex and toilet paper. I'm afraid if I use it on my tears I won't have any leftover. This should keep my tear ducts dry. Right?
Amya Miller lives near Boston, Massachusetts and is the President and CEO of Lupine and Co., which offers Japanese interpretation, liaison services, business etiquette training, consultation on successful negotiation techniques and problem solving.
Amya also founded the Gaijin Group; a group for gaijins all over the world. She was born and raised in Japan and spent time in Tokyo and Hokkaido. She has worked as an Interpreter and behind-the-scenes liaison in Japan-US business for 20 years. You can reach Amya at firstname.lastname@example.org and find out more about at http://www.lupineandco.com/ and http://www.gaijingroup.com/.