Part of being a GSV (Good Shepherd Volunteer) is that they ask you to participate in 1 community night and 1 spirituality night once per week. If you have read many of John’s blogs, you will know that GSV has 4 tenets: community, spirituality, simplicity, and social justice.
Due to our illness, we had re-scheduled our spirituality night several weeks in a row, but we finally made one happen this week. We have typically been listening to podcasts together and discussing our reflections afterward. We have been listening to a lot of On Being podcasts, a spiritually themed podcast from NPR.
This episode was especially interesting. It was about Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn, who are talented yet very different banjo players. It was about what brought them to music and each other and how they view their lives and their music, along with their spiritual upbringing. I thought it was intriguing when Abigail said that she wants everything she does in her life to be of service to others and that is her hope for current expression through music. I was also impressed by how they had both travelled (Bela to Africa, Abigail to China regularly). It made me grateful for our current experience in Thailand.
My other reflections connected with one of my intentions this year, which is to connect with the true desire(s) of my being/soul. I feel that I have found some of that in my massage therapy career and in playing music and in other moments of my life. I want to take that to a deeper and also more practical level.
I feel like I already appreciate my massage therapy skills at a deeper level in these short three months. I feel like I’m helping people who can significantly benefit from massage and who definitely cannot afford to get massages nor get regular access to them. It is obviously a much different experience than massaging clients in the hotel industry. I feel that I will need to incorporate some type of massage outreach upon our return to the U.S.
Part of what excited and still excites me about this volunteer year is having time and space for myself. Something that I have struggled with for years, addressing it regularly during my therapy sessions, is carving out “me” time in my life - with the understanding that I live a privileged life, in which I can spend energy on such intentions and afford tools like therapy.
Over the years, I have experienced my share of anxiety with some perfectionist thinking sprinkled in, which has not made it easy to procure this “me” time. I have struggled and still often do with how to distinguish between what I want and what I should be doing. It is hard to distinguish when there is a constant stream of (often negative) thoughts wondering if I’m doing things well and questioning what I have done and what I plan to do - and when you’re not good at taking time out for yourself to quiet or process the anxious stream of thoughts, it makes it all the harder.
Even though I am writing about my anxious thoughts, I want to be clear that I do not have as much anxiety as I once did, for many reasons. I have strived to create good habits to lessen my anxiety, through talk therapy, talking with dear friends and family (including my incredibly supportive husband), journaling, exercise, creative endeavors, etc. I have been working on this consciously since my college years.
But I have this urge to keep that going. I also recognize that you need to keep up good habits to maintain a positive view on life. And I want to blow away the anxious cobwebs in my mind, so my true self can continue to bubble forth instead.
When I feel like I am in touch with myself and my feelings and can hear myself think clearly, I feel like I am closest to my best self. And I would like to use this extravagant amount of personal time this year toward getting in touch with my innermost desires, so that I can live a more fulfilled life.
In one of my earliest blog posts, I wrote about how my life has been pretty alright so far. And it has. I have a husband to walk through this journey of life, who loves, supports, and complements me so well. I have an amazing group of family and friends. I have had some pretty awesome experiences, from my time in the band Swearwords to unique travel experiences to some great moments in nature.
Yet I still have this desire to use my time in this world to my fullest potential, and I don’t think I’m there yet. And it feels so luxurious to be able to listen to my soul and see what escapes the surface this year. I may not be able to peel all the layers of the onion, but I hope to pull a couple back. I hope to find some inspiration of what I’m supposed to do with my life.
During our spirituality night, John and I also talked about greatness and how idyllic it would be to live a life of greatness. Yet we both also accept that perhaps our typical definition of that may not be in the cards for us. And I’m reminded of a quote from Mother Theresa: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
I also hope to be accepting if, after a year of this luxurious amount of personal time, that my life is supposed to be a series of small, yet still vitally important actions and moments.
As a post-script, below are some photos from our experience of watching our fellow Thai friends harvesting rice (we did not assist because we were still recovering from our dengue fever symptoms last weekend).