Wednesday, August 13, 2014

what i'm doing about iraq

Peace. Budanilkantha, Nepal, 2012

The news has been so rife with viscousness and evil lately. At night I find myself reverting to the 10-year-old girl that would cry herself silly because people were dying of AIDS and gorillas were being slaughtered, and I couldn't do anything to comprehend or stop it. How do you deal with a genocide from the other side of the world? Equipped with nothing but my very own self and surroundings, here is how I've been attempting to live that question lately.

1. Cuddling my own baby closer.

The love I have for Caleb is wider and deeper than anything I have ever known. And I believe in the power of that love. 

At the start of the year, I chose a word for 2014: Present. It's easy to stay present with Caleb as he quietly snuggles into me and drifts off to sleep, while I stroke his hair and breathe in his sweet baby scent. It's a little harder when all I want to do is finish a cup of coffee before it gets cold, and he WON'T STOP SCREAMING. Even after every basic need has, as far as I can tell, been fulfilled. This week I've recommitted to practicing calm and mindfulness through it all. At any given moment we are safe and surrounded by abundance. Love and gratitude--and practice, practice, practice. I have to believe it means something.

2. Delving deeper into my faith.

It would be easy to look at the news and decide that there is no God, religion is the root of all evil, and humankind is destined to completely lose its shit, Lord of the Flies-style. Maybe that's true. But as I believe in love, I also put a lot of stock in mercy, compassion, and hope. These are guideposts as I walk the path of Catholicism. It's a call to look beyond my own pain and ego, to both look for and be one of "the helpers". It has been incredible in recent weeks to discover potential cohorts on the journey here online.

3. Working towards wholeness and healing.

As with my faith, yoga helps me cultivate detachment from my mind and ego. In the past 9 days, I've gone to Bikram 7 times. Self-care is the first thing to go when I'm spiraling into a depression. But when yoga is on the calendar, I make sure to drink plenty of water and eat well so I'll have the energy for class. I ensure I have clean clothes to wear to, from, and during class. I shower. This may seem utterly basic, but if you've ever been depressed you know how impossible just climbing out of bed can feel. 

How on earth does this help dying people across the world? Honestly, I'm not entirely sure it does. As a starting point I turn to Ghandi's famous line: "Be the change you wish to see in the world." If I want a more compassionate, loving world, then I need to be compassionate and loving. This means towards myself, too. Not in a self-involved way, but in a way that says: "I'm strong enough to take care of myself so that I have the energy and focus to do more." Which brings me to my next step:

4. Helping those struggling in my own backyard.

Whenever I read about children suffering in the world, I want to book the next flight out and DO SOMETHING. As a teacher and mother, children are my life. In fact, my desire to help children is the reason this blog was started in the first place. I absolutely love the speech Amy Poehler gave on behalf of the Worldwide Orphans Foundation at the 2013 Power of Women Event, especially these lines: "We should teach children all over the world that they are beautiful and loved and deserve the simple, basic things in life...[The goal is] that what we're doing now lives on, that life continues, and that love wins." YES.

But the crazy, ridiculous thing people often overlook (or, at least, I do)? There are children that need us RIGHT WHERE WE ARE. I would love to have a superpower that allows me magically rescue scared children in every war zone everywhere, from Iraq to Gaza to Chicago. To hold frightened and abandoned little ones and tell them how loved and wanted and necessary they are. Since I don't anticipate boarding a flight any time soon, I called up an organization here in my neighborhood that provides shelter and care for children who have been subject to neglect, abuse, and trauma. Volunteer orientation is in a few weeks. In the meantime, it's breathe, step, breathe. Repeat. It's the only way I know to keep from falling apart.

Photos top to bottom: Oman, Spring 2012; South Africa, Fall 2007; Nepal, Summer 2012

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Related: My best prayers for peace, staying vulnerable, and an eleven-year-old's perspective on Rwanda.

Also: Poetry is often a coping mechanism for me when the world is too heavy. Here is the poem I shared after Newtown, and these are all the poems I've shared on the blog.