Programmed to take the path of least resistance, I often have great aspirations for the day. I muster energy and strength to venture down the more difficult path, but by the end of the day my will has dissipated. Sometimes the task is more difficult than I expect. They always say the first step is the hardest, but there have been days when the contacts are placed, running clothes are donned, shoes are laced, and several running strides are completed; yet I turned around and undid the previous steps in shame. On the other hand, the journey that found us volunteering in Thailand seemed to fall into place once we took the simple step of applying - at least that’s how I remember it.
Life here is much different from back home, but not for many of the reasons I expected. Yes, the culture is different, the language is different, and the food can be very different. But arriving here seems to have cut the cord to most of my habits of least resistance. Some of that was actually cutting the cord - no network and cable television, no internet, no streaming, and no phone at home. But much of it was getting out of the disengaged, coping, and escaping that had overtaken my increasingly work-centered life.
Well before we left, I was struggling with those feelings of “here I am working a job I love, next to co-workers I love, and literally saving people’s lives - but somehow I am not happy.” After 3 years of school and 3 years of work experience I was not ready to delve into some of the deeper questions. Truthfully, I was usually happy at work; when I was there I didn’t dream about the other things I could be doing. I like to think I was usually present and engaged; I felt I belonged. As discontent crept into my life I compounded the problem by working more. The decision to work overtime was easy because the money was good and I hated leaving my teammates short-handed. Outside of work I was usually escaping my life and loneliness through non-productive means like binge watching Netflix, eating too much, or general unhealthiness.
But I err in thinking on so many occasions. My common response to disillusionment or dissatisfaction is to ask “what is wrong with me?” I looked at everything I have - a very close family, good career, great friends, overall security, and would ask “why can’t I be satisfied?” or “why am I unhappy?” Even recently I have forced friends to suffer through this conversation.
Slowing down, engaging, and reflecting has helped me see that I tend to ask the wrong questions. I over-react and generalize problems. In truth, there are usually no more than 1 or 2 problems gnawing at me.
So now I look for balance, which is not my strength. As I get to know my values and priorities, I can look at my recent days or weeks and sometimes find the exact sources of discontent, disillusionment, or dissatisfaction.
- Have I been neglecting my health?
- Have I fostered community or connection with others, including my wife?
- Am I addressing conflict in my life?
- Am I reading for pleasure, knowledge, or escape?
I find it is best to be proactive, but when I start to feel off-kilter I am learning not to be so melodramatic about it. Making time for a quick inventory reveals the source, which is never as complex or difficult to correct as I imagined.
Today, the problem seems simple. Since I got here I have found a lot of new tools to use, but I slowly learn how to use them better. Hopefully, I can use them more regularly to chisel away at the resistance. On the other hand, I have more energy here. Some of this is due to working a schedule that agrees with my circadian rhythm, returning to a healthier weight, a shorter work day, and no work commute. Hopefully, I can continue to keep my goals and values in balance so that I have the daily strength to employ these new tools against my own... resistance.
- Last Tuesday we had the opening ceremony! It went well and we are so thankful to the Japanese Government for their funding and the kindness of the representatives who attended.
- Sister Mary was in rare form as she made her first trip out of the convent in over 4 months! She stayed longer than expected and enjoyed lunch with us as well.
- This Wednesday we will start moving patients into the new building, and a few additional patients will arrive to start filling our expanded space.
- We currently have a former volunteer Abby, and her Aunt Nancy visiting from the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. Every meal we have together, it seems we talk for at least an hour.
- We have scheduled a picnic for our visit home. It will be August 7. Contact us by email or message if you will be in the Chicago area and might like to attend.
- Many rice fields have been planted and the seedlings are sprouting, but it seems many of the fields are drying out. We are hoping for more rain soon!
Enjoy some sunset photos from the last week. The first few were very lightly processed - the colors and detail were real and breathtaking.