Wednesday, January 1, 2014


It is getting hard for me to write this blog. 

The numbers show people are still reading - who, I do not know.  And it is because of that that I keep trying to post things, keep trying to haphazardly keep this journey alive in the space I have created for it. 

But I feel like it isn't what I want it to be.  I am the only one that can make it better, do better, spend more time, write more often.  But the crux of the problem is that the writing I did in Africa was fervent.  It was passionate, words flew like raging mud from my fingers, everything was exotic, most things were hard, many were unconscionable.  I miss that raw flow of honesty, that exploration of a harsh and different world and how I tried to find my way in it.  I am missing that now.

I could be much more forthcoming here of course.  But I can't.  I have to find a balance, to try to write something that won't shock my grandmother and that the wildest of my friends can dig and identify with.  It seems like an impossible task.  I have thought many times about quitting it, frankly because I am tired of putting what I consider to be rubbish waxy plastic writing out into the universe. 

I guess right now I am taking a small jab at honesty. 

Within the next 6 months I will probably be some place hot again.  I will probably work long hours, feel entirely unequal to my tasks, will be in completely new environments and again be faced with situations that make it impossible to suppress what I have to say.  I will be exhausted and invigorated and will be able to document what it is really like. 

I think in some ways my blog has worked because I showed what it was like to take a risk.  I talk probably too much about this main theme of terror and loneliness, how I don't really want to do any of it, how I am so scared to go to new places, to start over, again and again.  And how I keep proving to myself over and over again that its the only way for me to live a vibrant life.  I don't make it rosy because I want that one person who is just as nervous and scared as I am for radical change to know that they can do it to.  That maybe they don't need comfort.  That there are always more choices.  But even this sounds like total bull**** to me at this point because really, what do I know about a hard life?  about discomfort?  honestly, not that much.

The new undisclosed chapter is exciting and sobering.  My life is about to change because I fought for something.  Now, facing everything I ever wanted, the initial excitement has worn off.  Of course I'm going to do it, I'm going to go.  But the weight of what I'm about to jump in to is weighing on me.  I am about to embark on a lifestyle from which there is no turning back from, at least for me.

It is the simple things that bother me the most, that hold the gravest personal consequences for me.  It's also things I whine about here ad nauseum.  It is hard to maintain close friendships when you are gone for 3-9 months out of every year. It is nearly impossible to find a life partner. That unknown person I wish on every pummeling star for just in case.  But I have decided to take the consequences with eyes wide open.  Life is bitter sweet.  You have to pick your poison.  I have picked mine, it is amber and liquid gold and I'll tip it back with the greatest of knowing, firmly cementing my place on the glorious fringes. 

I know, I KNOW  that MSF will be different than volunteering in Tchad.  Of course it will be. But I only have my first experience to draw on, so still I am asking, do you really want to get malaria again?  Do you really want to crawl around on the dust, puking up the lining of your stomach?  Do you really want the culture shock, the relationship forming with national staff, the leaving of the place you've come to love, the reverse culture shock and impossibility of true re-integration?  Do you really want to be sweating in 110 degree heat, do you really want to be the white minority? Do you really want to look into the living breathing human faces of injustice?    

not really.....

...... I guess


.....yes really, I do.  

but there will be ground rules this time.  I am different now, I have a radically different perspective.  I have completely flipped from caring about he individual to wanting to maximize the greater good.  I would rather bring my education to training national staff in a country and participating in research and data collection than having my own patient load.  I hope to be conscientious and careful of not having a negative impact. 

I don't want to make any promises to the people I meet.  Because I will not keep them. 

I don't want to form close relationships with kids, with women, with families.  Because I will not see them again. 

I don't want to go the hardest place I can possibly find on the earth anymore.  I want to go to any place where the capacity I have to make a difference with my particular skill set is maximized.

I don't want to spend time living out in the community anymore.  I want to be behind high walls in the evening, I want a gate to cross through, I want to be able to "get away."

When I went to Tchad it was with the explicit purpose of opening my eyes, my ears, my heart, my soul, my every fiber to the suffering and experiences and colors and beauty around me.  I wanted to live like that.  And you may find this horrible - but once was enough.  I still want empathy.  I still want passion.  I still want to be loving.  But it will not be at the price of myself. 

And I apologize to no one for the hardening of my heart.

 It is so I can still have one. 

But as always, I am ever grateful for the opportunity march this great path, to have this great journey, to walk in the footsteps of the great and stand on the shoulders of giants, to leave a few dust particles and ripples in my wake. 

I am just trying to figure out what it means to be human. 

to be human.  the awareness of a collective longing. 

longing for food, for success, for fame, for survival, for adventure, for wanderlust, for romance, for roots, for connection, for the sacred, for spirituality, for belonging, and most of all, for meaning. 

We all package our meaning in different wrapping.  We all climb in and out of different boxes, gaze up at different stained cathedral ceilings or towering redwoods, try on different crutches and shoes for size, kneel on numbed knees or position our after the great yogis or Buddhists to move from the carnal into a higher state of enlightenment or worship.   

at the end of this life, when we are wasted and waning, when tattoos and lips and cheeks have faded, when skin hangs loose and cells betray us, when the last touch we feel is from a stethoscope, we all want to look back and think that it mattered.  That the moments meant something.  That something, a love, a memory, a life, will survive us.  be it a spiritual, a written, a breathing legacy - we all want to leave something behind to make sense of why we were here. 

for some the answer lies clearly in an omnipotent, omnipresent, loving God.  For some, their legacy is not of the world but of the "next."  For others, the answer lies in connectedness in the now to other beings and to themselves, in awareness of individual impact on the collective.  There are millions of thoughts and prayers and paths and beliefs that surround the crux of this longing for meaning, that make try to make sense of the need to make sense of it all.  For some, simply being alive and returning to dust is all the beauty that they need to exist. 

For me, meaning lies in social justice.  Meaning lies in fighting to reduce suffering.  Meaning lies in human connection and global awareness.  Meaning lies in never forgetting tiny old man faces and fading heartbeats and the hope that maybe more children survived than died because of me.  I don't think for a second that this is unselfish.  It is the opposite.  But it is what it is.  It has taken the place of religion or G*d and become the sacred. 

And so in my little life I'm going to go out again.  I'm going to cement my feet to this path, I'm going to squinch my eyes and dive into this great river of knowing and serving and traveling and seeing and fighting from which there is no turning back.  I knew from the moment I worked my first solo shift in the pediatrics ward in Bere that I was eternally damned by the horrid need to be amidst great suffering, touch great evil, and wrap my arms around exquisite fragility. 

In Tchad I both found and lost humanity.  It was a dark and shadowy line.  And I need to walk it again.  I don't pretend this is healthy.  So I need a rigid structure and perspective and balance this time .  And so I'm going to work for MSF.  And it will be hard.  But I will be back in the primal grind of chaos and survival and a life that is stripped down to that which matters most.  And I can't wait to be back.  I'm ready.  I'm going. 

And no matter what happens or who I become may I always remember to cherish.  May I always try to love.  And may I never, ever forget the faces of the forgotten.  And may their memory fuel a knowledge and passion that results in one person, somewhere, living to see another day, another week, another year, or perhaps even a lifetime.

to live.  because it is lifenot my privileged quest for meaning, that matters most.

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