My own reading topic of the moment is a book called Trauma Stewardship by Laura Van Dernoot Lipsky, and it is what prompted this post.
“I went shopping last week for a pair of shoes, and I thought to myself, “What kind of person would go shopping for a pair of shoes right now?” Community activist, New Orleans, nine months after Hurricane Katrina
As I read the above quote, I was filled with flashbacks of the last few weeks. As I mentioned in this post, I have spent lots of time working with individuals (myself included) who struggle with “good fortune” and “privilege” particularly in light of the recent devastation in Haiti. A few days ago, I had virtually the same thought: How can I be going to Maui when people are buried under rubble in Haiti? Never mind that the trip was planned months before the recent earthquake. Our thoughts don’t always make sense do they?
Lipsky says it is a common experience of caregivers to feel guilt over the disparity between our lives and the lives of those we serve. I felt a twinge of this same guilt yesterday as my co-facilitator and I finished up our weekly session of Deepening Spirituality through SoulCollage® at the Recovery Café. Our class represents a variety of participants, many who live on the margins of poverty. So when my friend prompted me to tell the participants that I would be absent next week, I felt a slight twinge of guilt. I announced my absence and they quickly replied with “Where are you going??!?!” I hesitated a beat, breathed in and exhaled, “Maui.” “Maui?!? Are you kidding? Lucky you! We hate you. No fair. Teachers aren’t supposed to play hooky!” The good-natured barrage continued until I finally laughed, “Hey, sorry guys, I’m going and I’ll see you when I get back.” They responded playfully and I realized we were having an authentic encounter that brought us closer than ever in our humanity. It turned into a magically sweet moment and my resolve to not downplay my trip, but to send them a postcard and let them know I really was thinking of them.
Lipsky goes onto say when we downplay our own good fortune, we distance ourselves from others by not being genuine, and ultimately begin “to experience our own life with less abundance and joy than we truly feel.”
All of these moments fit into my primary pondering category of self-care leading to good care of others. My husband and I both declared a night or two ago that we are really tired. It’s been a stressful few months and we need to recharge. Yes, we are fortunate and can afford a plane ticket and a week in a nice condo – but in my heart I take along those with whom I work and know that I will be a better caregiver for this respite.
So, I’m curious – do you ever find yourself downplaying your good fortune? What is the impact for you? Do you feel better or worse? Does it bring you closer to others or increase the distance? And what of ‘authentic encounter’? How has it expanded your view of humanity?
Well, this may be the deepest (or only) thought you get out of me for a few days. Who knows? I’m off to recharge and setting aside my guilt for the time being. ☺
rainbow over honolulu © lucy 2.11.10
first glimpse of maui © lucy 2.11.10