This post is just streaming as it comes. It's not written for an audience and no thought is given as to how it will come across. It's an attempt to voice a few worries to the universe and clear my head before bed.
Last time I embarked on a journey to provide all that I could in a humanitarian effort, I was met with a lot of miracles and a lot of opportunities to serve. I was blessed (if one can use those words) in the wake of a disaster, to be put in a place where I could make a difference.
I was also met with a lot hurt and had no way to grieve. I’m sure that I appeared very cold (which is not uncommon for me to come across as I’m told, and can understand the misinterpretation) and, unfortunately maybe it even feels like I’m a little annoyed or angry to those around me.
As I’m again considering donating a significant amount of time (and money in the form of lost income and a few recurring bills that will continue while I’m gone), I find myself most conflicted over not wanting to come across this way again-as I’m sure it is confusing and hurtful to my counterparts and those I’m hoping to aide.
When the storm hit The Philippines last November I got there as soon as I could and did everything I could, to help as much as I could while there. My first sight of the destruction made me numb. Moments later it became so painful it hurt to breathe. Without an appropriate outlet, and using all my emotional resources to maintain my composure my interpersonal skills were left lacking. In my attempt to not show how broken my heart was I simply went to work. Avoiding getting to close to the people because I couldn’t bare to hear another story of loss and heart break, I poured myself into the little clinic we had built working as many hours as I could, seeing as many people as I could, helping as many people as I could....without getting too attached.
I’m sure there was more than one person I could have confided in while there, but I’m not really a talker and at the time my ankle was still so messed up that I couldn’t run it out (actually I was in a decent amount of pain/discomfort while I was there the entire time...later diagnosed as the funky autoimmune disorder that was also attacking all the connective tissue in my body, specifically my ankle and foot; my entire body was swollen, sore and tight for weeks. I found out when I got home that I had three ligaments that were completely ruptured, something that was also aggravated while working there). I wanted to just be alone and have an ugly, shameless, therapeutic cry. We were working quite a bit, and living in a chapel with several wonderful people who had lost their homes, and worse...family and friends. Plus is was not safe. There simply wasn’t a moment for solace, let alone space enough to be had in our close quarters, that would enable my release of emotions. I tried a few times to find some space and some quiet, only to be met by the smiling playfulness of children who wanted to make sure I had company :).
On top of that, it seems a little odd to be the one crying over a devastated country filled with millions of individual stories attached to millions of individual lives that were torn apart, when those who were devastated are smiling and doing all they can to ensure my comfort, happiness and inclusion.
It’s like at work, some times I start to get teary-eyed and more emotional than my incredibly strong, coping, dying patients. Or that time I felt awful for crying at a friend's father's funeral when my friend did not cry. It’s kind of rule, you can’t cry or be more than person who’s actual problem it is.
I worry that by going, despite my good intentions, my coldness may be counterproductive to my desire to bring love, light, and blessings to the lives of these people. And it gets in my way of being able to be a witness to such beautiful moments as I spend my time oppositionally guarded and hurting.
I promise you that many of these people, even with heartache, deformity, and injury are genuinely happier than you and me (generally speaking as a population, concerning satisfaction with life).
It reminds me of a sudden, startling moment of intense jealousy I felt while visiting Cambodia. While looking out my air-conditioned bus window, I saw a man working peacefully, joyfully, late into the evening. I wanted to be out there working. I wanted to be doing something necessary and rewarding. His life mattered, what he spent his time doing mattered.
The people in these places have smiles that are big from the inside out. I know that I will find the same thing if I were to go on this next adventure.
If I’m honest, (hoping this doesn’t sound too self-deprecating or like a self-esteem crisis), I worry about subjecting others to my close-mouthed emotions that when they do spill over, come out all wrong.
And, I guiltily worry about what I had planned to accomplish before this opportunity came up. I was planning on going to school this whole year. Hmm, go to school or change someone's life?
I am more than happy and excited to help. This opportunity would be huge. But I tend to be more realistic about situations the most. And the reality is, I like my alone time. It’s how I cope. It’s how I release. And I like space, and autonomy.
This would be six months. On a boat. In close quarters. No alone time. Lots of rules. Hmm. Rules. Yeah.....I think we just found the biggest problem of all right there.