Monday, January 18, 2010

Taking Refuge from this wild life at the Wildlife Refuge


I typically have the art of living with the unacceptable completely mastered. I can read an article about children in India finding their food in the fly-infested garbage dumps, have a good cry, and then appallingly fret about my daily dilemma of cooking a well-balanced meal for my family that they won't hide in their napkins.

I rationalize my turning away from injustice and pain by arguing that the best thing I can do to change the world is by making my home a haven and volunteering in the schools. I simply move my thoughts to the shallow end of the pool, where I know they can't drowned me or leave me stranded in panicked paralysis between the hours of 10pm and 7am.....those hours in bed when I can't dull the anxiety buzz with busy work. During those hours, I can worry endlessly about the quality of my kitty litter. Imagine what happens to me when I start think about real issues.

I can rationalize my unhefty constitution by the declaration that I tend to be a person who is overly passionate. Rather than have an objective, coherent conversation about the abhorrent practice of sex trafficking, I could more easily start punching holes in a Humvee with my fist. I have written many letters to politicians, pleading for action. I have gone door to door for signatures in support of stricter sex offender legislation. And then I grow weary or numb or lazy or selfish or all of the above and forget my measly pushes for world evolution.

This week, I couldn't bear to paddle into the shallow water. It didn't seem fair. I couldn't stop watching the news coverage of Haiti. I felt guilty every time I turned away. I couldn't clean my bathrooms. I was disgusted by the fact that I have more than one bathroom. The kids were making me so angry with their petty fighting about who got to sit by the cat or who got the extra piece of gum. Ansel crossed into dangerous territory when he told me that I was a bad mother for letting all the batteries in his toys die (It sounds funny as I am writing this, but it was not amusing at the time). I wanted to shake them and yell, "Please, Please, Please just be grateful that you are not trapped under a concrete wall praying that someone will find you, or at least that you will be granted the mercy of a quicker, less painful death." This anger led to more guilt about me not being the one trying to find a suitable place to bury my children. I felt like such a jerk just for the mere fact I have a house and a healthy family. And then I felt like a jerk for not appreciating what I have. At the same time, I just wanted to build a fort and play checkers with the kids all day.

I was a mess and I think I freaked the kids out a few times.

I didn't know if I should let the kids see the things that I was seeing on the news...the broken bodies and the frantic mothers. And should I be protecting them from this atrocity? One minute I wanted them to feel what I was feeling, so that we could all be human together. The next minute, I wanted so desperately to protect them from this pain of feeling helpless and small. I just didn't know. I just don't know. What can I do? The only solace I had was that I felt that my suffering and sadness might in some way help those people in Haiti feel less alone and forsaken..that I can mourn with those that mourn.....even from thousands of miles away. But that sounds like a bit of a cop out as well. And the answer I keep hearing is to send money...that is all we can do right now....send money. OK. But there has got to be something we are missing....I don't want to ever teach my children that the click of a "donate now" button can wash our guilt away and banish our soul desire for inner and outer evolution.

I think about Josef Rilke who said that it's the questions that move us, not the answers. I need to stop fearing the questions.




I had to escape my emotional prison in which I was trapped. I packed up the kids, some snacks, binoculars, and notebooks, and we headed to the Turnbull Wildlife Refuge. Nature NEVER fails me.

I had them log any form or sign of animal life. Hiking is more bearable if we can make a game of it. They wanted to know if scat counted. I didn't see why not, as it is proof of a living thing in the vicinity. They tally a few birds, but the majority of the tallies are from poop. Sometimes life is just a pile of poop. Get used to it, kids.
Savanna found the beauty in the reindeer moss and began to gather it in handfuls. It is now in a bowl in our dining room.
Emmy, as usual, can't resist climbing anything climbable
Ansel wants to follow Emmy and realizes that it is a little high for him
Emmy ran over and allowed Ansel to wrap his arms around her eyes, mouth, and neck. She lovingly carried him to safety.

I love this world, in all its poop and beauty. I will try to be aware. I will try to not fear. I will continue to ask how I can help carry others....even if the questions don't have immediate answers.
I will try not to post after midnight when I am in an emotional state.
It isn't pretty.
Should I push Publish?
What the heck.

4 comments:

Emily Geddes said...

I've been feeling exactly the same way this week, Vanessa! I keep trying to figure out the most efficient way to get 100 or so Haitians off the streets and into my house - it's a small house, but at least it's got a roof not in danger of collapsing. And alternating between wanting to strangle my children when they turn up their nose at dinner the other night and wanting to hug them tight and never let go. And I start to cry every single time I read about it or talk about it or think about it. Including right now. Yes, money is the biggest need and the most helpful thing I can send right now and there's always prayer, but there's got to be something more, right?

Sometimes life is just a pile of poop. And when you have three boys, that leads to lots and lots of giggles. Which, as annoying as that can sometimes be, somehow makes the poop more bearable, ya know?

Love your blog.

Joal said...

Elizabeth and I were/are having similar feelings. We were annoyed about the car still being broken down. And then we realized, we still have a car. And a house. And safe drinking water. And lots of food. And excellent health insurance, and, and, and, and, and, and, and.

Your question, about what we can do, what we can really do, is a tough one that seems to be infinitely circular, and it leaves a person feeling helpless and overwhelmed. But it must be asked. And we have to try to answer it, even if the only workable answer at the moment is "donate a little money," or "teach your children to be kind and giving," or "make school a safe place."
It takes millions of people to cure the suffering of millions of people. You are one in a million.

Sijbrich said...

Way to leave me unsettled. I read your post several days ago and I've been thinking about it and I think there are some things that I would do if I had kids that were old enough to comprehend a natural disaster and it's effect on millions of people.
I've been touched by watching the miracles that have come from the tragedy. Maybe you could watch the video of the little boy that was rescued after being trapped for a week, or the old woman that was saved after 8 days of praying and singing in the rubble. I was just looking briefly at lds.org and they have lots of news about rescue efforts. It could be an opportunity to teach kids about the power of fasting (and that you don't have to fast just on the first Sunday of the week or for 2 meals) and what is really done with fast offerings, as well as how the church works with other organizations, regardless of religious beliefs, for the common good. It gives me goosebumps to know that the church has sent several planes full of supplies and are sending more. Maybe on one of those planes is a quilt that was made by your RS, or a hygiene kit that you put together.
I also saw stories of LDS doctors that were sent down there and the service they are rendering and the sacrifice they've made to leave their family and kids for a while...I know it's small, and it's not the clear cut answer to your question that I think we all wish we could find, but I think some little things can be done in some sort of an attempt to make sense of such horrible suffering and to expose kids to it in an appropriate way. I wish I was trained in emergency relief or something useful. Since I'm not, I figure I would just be getting in the way if I actually had the chance to go to Haiti right now, so the donate button and lots of prayer is realistically all that many of us can do right now.
I hope I make some sort of sense.:-/

Damaris said...

found your blog via your sis-in-law
beautiful post.

I've had similar thoughts. so many thoughts.