Sunday Morning ~ Letting Go, Letting In
Citsime cakale ciphetsa ndi ludzu. ~ An old well kills you with thirst.
~ Chewa proverb
August 8, 2021
I just finished listening to a podcast about American imperialism, the history of all the lands we’ve colonized while billing ourselves as the defender of freedom and independence. I’ve known this, especially after living in Samoa. It doesn’t take long in Hawaii, either, to see what we’ve done there. The right to self-rule has been a clever ruse, working our way in, allowing access to resources. It’s fairly blatant like racism, and the history lessons are important, necessary. It tangles everything in my life to do this learning. I glibly went along, traveling, searching, wondering if there were exciting lands where I may offer some skill, feeling secure I was doing the right thing. Now it’s all complicated. How much of humanitarian work is about making ourselves feel better? But then, isn’t helping others a good thing? The question is, what is help? What’s the long term impact? And therein lies the problem. None of us know. So often we do more harm than good in the long haul. This may be self-preservation, but I still believe Peace Corps has the right idea, whether or not it’s inception was pure. I was so idealistic when I joined at twenty-two. My family made fun of my idealism. “Yea, yea, yea, you need to save the world.” my father would say, as if that was something to be mocked. It was always confusing to me. I’d respond, “That’s good, right? Wanting to save the world?” Even if Peace Corps was founded in response to Soviet’s idea of young people traveling to foreign lands, the goal of understanding and sharing is something I believe in. I’ve met so many professionals in my travels who’ve told me they are where they are because of a Peace Corps volunteer. Those words have always been affirming to me. So, for now, I’ll cling to that little tidbit of goodness while I sort through what to do with my next life chapter. Thank God the grandkids are coming so I can stop all this navel gazing.
In a few hours I’ll be distracted with grandchildren and put all the philosophical pondering to the side. They give me perspective and consume me completely. It’s such a treat and one I do not take for granted. I get to have three weeks with these bundles of love and am excited about every minute of it. I haven’t gone overboard with planning as they are old enough now to participate and I look forward to seeing what they come up with. It’s such a different world from my childhood and I think about the privilege of creating new norms over these two generations; compared with our ancestors, much less of our lives is focused on survival.
Not having had a grandmother I was close to, I’ve envied that relationship. I never felt listened to, or interested in as a kid. Most of my childhood memories of my mother are of her back, the apron knot at her waist while she stood at the sink or ironing board. Her life was much harder than mine. It seemed anything I said was an annoyance. In book group this week, women my age entertained the younger ones with childhood memories of what would now be considered abuse. Par for the course back then, we wouldn’t have dared complain. We described the torture of mercurochrome, a treatment worse than the injury. Nothing invoked terror like that little bottle coming out of the medicine cabinet. I described limping home crying after my foot got caught in the spokes of my brother’s bicycle and being scolded for ruining my shoe. An X-ray was never considered. The mangled foot healed eventually and I had to wear my old shoes the rest of the year. The comedian Bob Marley was in town last evening and he had the audience in hysterics describing childhood road trips of smoke filled cars, no seatbelt, and multi hour drives with no stops. He hilariously mimicked a contemporary parent packing snacks and entertainment for a twelve minute drive. As a kid, road trips for me were spent trying not to throw up. I wonder how many of these stories my own little audience will want to hear over the next few weeks. I could listen to them talk forever, and maybe, cuddled under our sleeping net, I can let them know what my life was like at their age and what I dreams I had of foreign lands.
Nothing makes me stay present like being with these two. Until September, purpose in life is very clear.
Love to all,