The Longer Journey

“Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” - Mary Oliver as mentioned by David Isay on the May 5, 2016 episode of DemocracyNow.

I have spoken of it often, but this volunteer experience has been such a blessing in my life. We came into this experience with personal hopes and altruistic aspirations. I wanted to live a simpler life, have space to reflect on my consumerism, American ideals, life and spirituality. I wanted to share my skill-set and knowledge with others, try to help improve their lives in quality or quantity, and more. We have lived these goals beyond my wildest dreams. 

As we cross the threshold of 9 months, new goals have been forming, how best to accomplish some of my original goals in a culturally sensitive and sustainable way, and the daily stresses of being enmeshed in this community have taken hold. I continue to learn every day. Strangely, about the time I started feeling interpersonal conflict was the same time I started understanding how I fit it.

As I reflect on where I am today, I see how small decisions could lead to me volunteering here in perpetuity. The easiest way to ensure that I will live the lifestyle that I have in part built and in part been forced into would be to stay.  I love our life here, but it comes at the painful price of friends and family. Honestly, I expect that even here my life would continue to creep back to complexity without serious work. So I find myself between places as I often do. Planning for how I will build a life more aligned with my personal values out of the life I was living. 

When Susan and I went on our mid-year retreat with Kimberly in February, we were feeling the clock. We were finally talking with people, but could hear the low hum of the jet engines warming up. We felt like positive contributors from the early going, but we had achieved a comfort level and could finally see the outline of a future we could help create. I felt pulled toward that picture, but felt it was even more fragile than some of our sicker patients.

We had been having conversations before Kimberly arrived about how fast time was going, the things we might accomplish with more time, and the life and plans we would sacrifice or delay. In my heart,  I just felt that there was so much good I could accomplish with a little extra time. At retreat, we made a list. What kinds of things do I want to accomplish, what will I regret not accomplishing, etc... 

And so it was that when Kimberly offered to bring us home for a few weeks in August if we decided to stay on for longer, I was pretty sure the decision was made. We both tried to discern our decision individually, but I was compelled. What amazed me was that despite my struggles with my ego, I knew this was not one of them. I want to help a few more people find hope, improve safety at the care center, and ease the stress of expansion. I am also ready for new ideas, new goals, and new challenges.

Leading up to informing Kimberly that we would agree to stay until February 2017, we were full of excitement and optimism. Of course, as soon as the decision was made we both went through our own periods of mourning. Saddened by the thoughts of not moving back home, of not having ample time to spend with our friends, and feeling a little lonely and homesick. We recovered quickly, but have briefly re-lived it each time we have informed someone we love and caused them pain.

So there it is. We are staying on. We will be in the Midwest from July 30 until August 12. We already know that it is not nearly enough time. We will be sharing the details of our stay soon. We love and miss you.

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