Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ready or Not, Here I Come

     I leave for Rwanda on Saturday.  Well, actually, I leave for Washington, DC on Saturday.  After a whirlwind tour of our nation's capital, including several gut-wrenching hours at the US Holocaust Memorial Saturday, we fly first to Ethiopia, then onto Rwanda on Easter Sunday.

     I. Am. Not. Ready.

I'm close.  I really am.  But not quite close enough.  The big stuff is done.  I think.
Done enough.  I guess.

     I have the airline tickets in hand. Our itinerary is set and the ground expenses paid for.  I checked in with my doctor and got my antimalarial drugs.  I've made sure our state Senator's people and the US State Department and the US Embassy in Rwanda know when we're arriving and where we'll be when and such.  I've answered as many of the parents' questions as I can.  I've collected donations and purchased gifts for the friends I've made over there.  I've sent my boss approximately 1,942 emails about what work I've done up ahead, what work can wait until I come back, and what to do about the work that is neither done nor can wait.  I've made piles of things to pack--which the dogs have knocked over on a daily basis.  I've re-piled things to pack.    I got a really nifty new backpack, because last year, Rwanda did my old backpack in.  I put together the super duper first aid kit that covers everything from a stomach ache to boy trouble. (True story, I packed hard candy and gum to help treat cases of the weepies. It's in between the triple antibiotic ointment and the pepto in my medical case.  This was a hard-learned lesson from traveling with NINETEEN teenage girls last year.)  I've rescheduled a dentist appointment.  I've paid for the Evil Genius' school lunches for the next month. And basically, I've been moving non-stop and talking in one never-ending run-on sentence for the past two weeks.


     Truth is, if our flight were leaving today, I'd be ready enough with the actual trip prep.  It's the mental preparation that I've fallen behind on.  When I say that Rwanda captured a bit of my soul last year, I'm not being melodramatic.  I absolutely cannot wait to get back there.  Except for the part of me that is dragging my feet. See, there is no separating the lush landscape and beautiful people of Rwanda from the ghastly, unspeakable horror of the genocide.  I expected the visits to the genocide memorials to be difficult.  I could not have imagined how deeply affected by it I would be.  It was impossible to process all of that emotion during the short time that I was there.  It has been a year, though, and I realize that I have actively avoided going back and working through it at all.  And now I'm returning.  During April.  The month that the Rwandan government has set aside for national days of remembrance. And I am not ready.

    It's selfish.  I know.  I don't want to allow myself to feel that pain, and I definitely don't want it to force me to address the almost meaningless comparisons that pain brings up for me.  I feel guilty about that.  Every Rwandan has their own story of enduring the absolutely unbearable during the genocide. And here I am avoiding even thinking about it in the abstract, because it will be painful?  That the closest experience I have in comparison is that I struggle to forgive my father for not being the kind of father I wanted to have?  I'm ashamed. 

     I've had a year to reflect.  I've had a year to deal with what I've experienced.  I've had a year to be a better woman.  And if I am being honest with myself, I've squandered that time.  But I'm getting on an airplane and going back there in just over three days.  I'm traveling with a group of some of the kindest,  most compassionate people I've ever known.  They are so young--still in high school--and they are going to look to me for support or at least an example.  So, today I stop stalling.  The first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one, right?  Well, then I guess I've taken a step in the right direction.  

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hiking Mt. Whelm

    Sometime a week or so ago, I went over the edge.  I'm overwhelmed.  Like every woman I know, I spend almost all of my time at the very edge of "whelm."  My toes dangle right there at the crest. Lately, I've found myself hanging over the rock face by one hand.  I've been sick.  I've been worried about my children.  There are inflexible deadlines at work coming at me and they seem to be speeding up. There's volunteer work I'm responsible for and not quite pulling off, it seems.  There's family stuff that is messy and complicated like everyone's family stuff is.  There's this cocker spaniel puppy that keeps forgetting he's housebroken.  I leave for Rwanda in three weeks.  I'm not even close to ready.  My house looks like a fraternity house on a Sunday morning after the big party.  It's all become too much for me.


     The view here is breathtaking.  It would have to be, otherwise, why would intelligent women spend so much time here?  It's all about the view.

     See, at the peak of Mt. Whelm is where we can see the possibilities of made beds, clean bathrooms, and all the laundry being folded and put away.  They are just over that next ridge.

We get a birds' eye view of those work projects totally rocked out.

Just across the valley we can see our children's successes--making the honor roll, hitting the curve ball, beasting that audition for the wind ensemble.  Here, above the tree line, our marriages are joyful and romantic and sexy.

     Of course, it's dangerous at the precipice.  The weather is unpredictable.  It gets really cold at night.  The snow remains year round.  There is always the threat of an avalanche.  The air is thinner, up here, too.  Sometimes, it's hard to breathe.  Sometimes, our packs are too heavy or our footing unsure and we go over the edge.

Photo courtesy of Bangor Daily News

But that view.