Saturday, May 31, 2008

re-engaging with the clamor of the west while residing in the gap between misery and enlightenment

Could fulfillment ever be felt as deeply as loss? Romantically she decided that love must surely reside in the gap between desire and fulfillment, in the lack, not the contentment. Love was the ache, the anticipation, the retreat, everything around it but the emotion itself.
~ Sai – The Inheritance of Loss

Despite the fact that there are over 588,000 people live in Denver Colorado, I have been fluctuating from feeling shipwrecked and alone to re-energized and connected. And, although my re-entry experience has felt much easier than last time; in part, due to the what I now conceptualize as vicarious resilience **(or the internalization of all the amazing strength I witnessed with survivors of horrific war trauma in Liberia) I still find myself tripping over myself and when I trip I tend to bruise easy. So although many individuals have assumed I have moved on, moved back to my old life, there are still times I struggle and times that I feel the urge to put a message in a bottle.

My points of destabilization seem to creep up on me and take me by surprise and more often than not I end up in tears. But the tears are not the issue of concern because as a dear friend of mine pointed out – tears have always been easy for me. Whenever I start to feel something, anything really, I tend to cry. Rather than label the feeling or share it I simply cry and cry until the water dries up and then I move on. Tears are to me what love was to Sai: the ache, the anticipation, the retreat.

What I have realized is that traveling and working abroad in areas of need of humanitarian action makes one modest - you are forced to see what a tiny place you occupy in the world and what a crap-shoot it actually is that you just happened to be lucky enough to be born to a privileged family in a privileged country devoid of horrifying events in your immediate environment. Seeing the world also reminds you that the horrifying events – the poverty, and war and trauma is the real global REALITY and what we’ve got here is layers upon layers of denial and dissociation. How is it that we can be at war and I (nor any of my closest friends) have been immediately affected? And, how it is that things like genocide, torture, kidnapping, environmental degradation, violent repression of political rights, the release of toxins into pristine environments, discrimination and the conscription of child soldiers all over the globe occurs constantly and we don’t stand up and swallow up such brazenness in one gulp?

So I’m left feeling miserable. No, that’s not right. I don’t actually feel miserable. Maybe I am just feelings some sort of chronic level of mild unhappiness. Well not unhappiness exactly but more like the absence of the ecstasy that I would periodically feel when I was surrounded by people who had been enlightened by their experience. I also feel overwhelmed by the bullshit. I have to admit I have already started to worry about things that simply shouldn’t matter and am concerned I am chronically being underexposed to the things that truly do matter.
What I keep doing to check my misery is simple. I just keep reminding myself about the true mystery of the world. For me, the true mystery of the world is the visible. People carry grief and I am amazed by its weight. Young boys give me directions and I am awed by their innocent kindness. A woman holds the glass door open for me at the bank and waits patiently for my empty body to pass though.........all day long it continues, each kindness reaching toward another, strangers reaching out to strangers.........and I am thankful these things find me because they keep me from myself, and this is my faith: humanity.

** the concept of vicarious resiliance was developed by (HERNÁNDEZ, GANGSEI, ENGSTROM, ET. AL. 2008)

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