actually though my life

Things are settling down internally. I am not constantly questioning my motives for being here. I more often, am just here.

Language training is hard as hell. We move incredibly quickly but I know we need to move at this pace because after our Tagalog test at the end of August, we will start learning a different language, the one used at our permanent site. It could be Tagalog, or Cebuano, or Ilocano…or like 5 other languages. Interesting fact: many smaller Filipino languages were incredibly well preserved throughout history, due to the horrid fact of the Spanish colonizers not wanting them to be able to speak to each other or internally mobilize large rebellions. But I think I’m learning Tagalog pretty well for only being a week in to CBT (community based training). Technical training is moving a little slower at the moment, but the Community Organizing workshops we’ve had the past two days have been amazing, and have made me extremely excited about getting to site. Which site? I have no idea. Could be northern Luzon, could be southern Visayas, it’s all in question until site placement announcements at the end of August (and changes often still occur after that).

I was asked about my days and nights so here is my typical day: I wake up at 5:15/5:30 and contemplate doing yoga in my bedroom while drifting in and out of sleep or reading until about 6:05- I have yet to practice since arriving at CBT. Then I have breakfast with my host Nanay (mother), sister, and sometimes Tita (aunt). I get ready for training and head out at 7:30 to the staff house about a 10 minute walk from my own. Language training all morning with my “cluster” of 5 other trainees and myself until lunch at noon. Then, technical training in the afternoon usually with all 30 CRM (coastal resource management) trainees in the Philippines. My language and technical trainers could not be more wonderful. Then, home at 5/6 to do homework or talk with my host family until dinner at 7/7:30 and right after, I’m so tired that I take my tabo (bucket and ladle) shower, read or listen to music and/or cry, and go to bed by 9:30/10. Right before sleep I think “maybe I’ll do yoga in the morning” and the process begins again.

Mom- yes, I am making wonderful friends. It does smell different: the air quality is worse, but I can smell the sea which is always worth it. The air is hot and humid and I am having trouble adjusting and not profusely sweating for hours at a time but I will adapt. I was able to borrow a book, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” by Nietzsche (thanks Jon).

Training is difficult. I get very sad. But I am getting enough sleep and eating delicious foods. Also, I hear the bullfrogs and cicadas at night and sometimes I pretend I’m home. Sometimes, I love that I’m not.

detached day 1

She looked out her window at the river. In a few hours they would tell her that it was actually a road, it had just rained a lot the previous day. The trees she identified as West Indian almond were actually cashew, and for the first time, the ocean lay closest to the west.

She lay down on her bed in front of the fan and spent 45 minutes thinking about taking him to the place where she was born. Then, she began to think about her fickle callousness in love, which made her upset, so she went downstairs.

Downstairs she smiled big. It tugged at her chest uncomfortably but she coaxed it up around her teeth to resemble something more genuine, which it became. She laughed and ate with a family that wasn’t hers, and casually swatted at the mosquitos when they did. Maybe she would get dengue and be sent home (to him). This didn’t feel like hoping for an illness. To him. Is that where she would go?

Never mind, she washed her body with the bucket and ladle. The slow movement of ritualistic rinsing let her mind be occupied with intention for awhile.

Maybe they would go to a French restaurant together, someday. Maybe she would wear something sophisticated to feel powerful, to pretend like she could hide from him what had already been shown. But he had seen everything, so she could hide nothing. Maybe it is better to be so far for so long; she would find things to hide so she would not feel so bare in his presence. The other option would be to find freedom in the nakedness, which she did not yet know how to do.

hka

I forgot how horrible being outside of your comfort zone is. It sounds fun and adventurous and important when you’re not actually doing it. The mosquitos, moisture, and heat are things I can handle (thanks Bahamas/TCI). Hand washing clothes? No problem. Food? Easy. I eat everything. Tabo? …this definitely takes some adjusting to. Tagalog? Just stamp dumbass on my forehead. I’ve never had more respect for the difficulties that come with language and culture barriers. At this point, I cannot even begin to envision myself able to do my CRM (coastal resource management) job remotely well, or at all. Adjusting and integrating will take all of my attention for at least the first year. Yes, I’ve heard other Volunteers say this is true, but I’m really starting to understand why it takes so long. And get this- I probably won’t even be speaking Tagalog. These first few days have been incredibly challenging and often lonely, but it only gets easier from here, right? (Right???)

I don’t know what’s more difficult: being so uncomfortable in this unfamiliar environment that I can’t think of anything else, or finally feeling a small sense of comfort and only thinking of you. I must keep myself distracted because the latter is too easy to lose entire nights of sleep over. I have to do what I can to put you out of my mind in the early morning because if not, she shouts “go to him! Go to him!” so loudly that I am distracted the rest of the day by your absence (or, I guess, mine).

off day

Our first day off was today. I’ve set a routine of going to bed early and waking up around 6:30 to eat breakfast, do yoga, and shower. Routines set my body and mind up for success for retaining the copious amounts of information thrown at us daily. Today, people seem unsure of what to do with all of the downtime. I know it’s important, but I’d rather not have it. Emotions are starting to settle. The initial reaction of excitement to be in a new place with new people is now accompanied by a general feeling of unease. This is going to be incredibly difficult. I’m still excited to learn new information each day and to go to my first host family in 3 days. I’m meditating on taking things slowly and not speculating too much about what my site will be like. I have to get through training first.

Downtime is where you live: just before sleep, and all of today. Why do I keep leaving the people I love? Will I ever stop asking this question? Or doing it? It gets harder and harder every time. I am more reluctant to leave and more excited to return.

Having rediscovered a beautiful balance between staying present and staying hopeful, I am ridiculously excited to throw myself into training and spend every ounce of my energy on integrating into the community, with you always existing on the edge of my thoughts. If not, all I will do is think of you.

For a long time now I’ve felt unsure of myself and my decisions. Maybe it’s from unresolved trauma or just general confusion of being in my 20s, but it feels good to be sure of something. It feels good to be sure of you. Hopefully, I can gain more of that unapologetic confidence that I had an abundance of some years ago- this is my personal goal.

slowing down

Things are better these days, I don’t feel like I’m losing my mind. 30+ hours of no sleep. 6 hours of sleep. Another 30 of anxious wide awake transit (how did I not bat an eye on our 12 hour flight??). Then 8 hours sleeping like a dead person. Now, the sun is shining bright on this beautiful afternoon in the Philippines and my mind and body think it’s 4am. The food is good, everyone is nice. The people that sign up for, go to, and work for the peace corps are an amazing crew of intelligent, kind, and intuitive humans from what I’ve seen so far. I feel incredibly grateful to be here and to be welcomed so warmly by people I’ve never met. I am excited to meet more of the local community. I’m excited to get into language training and meet my first host family. I’m excited to learn more about coastal resource management here. I’m trying to stay present (and awake).

The rush of emotion is finally slowing down. I honestly am not sure how I dealt with how strong my feelings were just before leaving and in transit. I guess I didn’t do a great job because I barely ate or slept for days. I felt like I was in the middle of a dire crossroads, one that had the power to potentially damage the most important relationship of my life (not dramatic at all) and I’m still trying to catch my breath. By not changing my trajectory, I made a decision. I think this was the right thing to do; I will be a more confident and resilient person upon my return. I will be kinder and more giving or at least, I will work my hardest to be more of these things. I will be less skittish about not “living” before getting a real job and apartment. I’m tired of moving out of the country. This is all painfully difficult to understand how to handle and I hope no one else ever has go through it, although it would be a sad life to never feel so passionately about another human. Now, I will continue to be grateful for how busy and exhausted I am. There’s no time to be sad or anxious. But I was right about the mornings and the nights being times where I can’t get you out of my head. I think it will be this way for a very long time. The level of internal devotion I feel towards you is freaking me out. I might be delusional . . . but the thought of you comforts me so much and I don’t have the energy to care if it’s crazy.

I’m leaving but don’t leave me

I’m glad I’m analyzing my fears instead of shoving them away. I’ve had to do a lot of it in the past year. There is one specific fear that disguises itself as fear of loneliness and only surfaces when I am at my most stressed, my most exhausted, my most “not me”: fear of abandonment.

I could bring this back to my anxiety from 7th grade when I found out my mom had breast cancer the night before being sent to 2 weeks of sleep away camp with no contact with my family.

I could rationalize it and say it’s just a fear of change: change that everything will be so different when I get back that my life will be unrecognizable, change of my loved ones lives so drastically that they won’t need me in them anymore. This is why I always need to feel needed and helpful to my loved ones. They can’t leave if they need you right? They have to keep you around if they depend on you.

At the end of the day, this is pure fear of abandonment. I’m recognizing it, but it didn’t seem to stop the anxiety attack, which was made worse by days of no sleep and accidental stress-fasting. Then the biggest SoCal earthquake in 25 years right after? I know I feel a deep connection to the earth but come on.

I used to deal with this fear by closing myself off. By saying “it doesn’t matter if everyone moves on and no one cares about you because you have yourself and you don’t need others”, and this worked for awhile. But I don’t want to be so protective that I learn not to care. I want to care, and care deeply. It’s terrifying to care this much about people, to care this much about my relationship with one man that I considered scrapping the whole thing and not going to the peace corps. I mean, fear of abandonment is the reason I always leave right? If I leave first they don’t get the chance to do it to me! Is this just another decision made out of fear? Are these undue anxieties?

I’ve never questioned myself this much. And then to hear the words “if you have any reservations, do not get on that bus” during our first training . . . that made me feel sick to my stomach.

But PC did probably the best and most important thing they could have done: they had us outline our reasoning for commitment. I thought back to when I really committed last October, when I wanted this more than anything, in the height of a depressive winter, during the peak of confusion and fear about my life to come.

I trust this Charlotte. Even thought she didn’t know what the hell was going on, she always chooses to better herself, her career, and do everything she can to help others when she feels directionless.

I will continuously bring myself back to my purpose of doing this: I want to serve in a community where I am needed and helpful, I want to push myself to learn new skills of resilience, I want job training and career opportunities, I want to form deep personal connections with my fellow volunteers and host communities, I want to learn and change and challenge myself.

I will come back to these reasons when I am sitting in bed at night and feared grips me that I am too late, that by doing this I am effectively destroying any chance I have to be with someone I know I want to be with. That there will be no room for me in his life when I get back. I will sit with this sickening fear and try to trust myself that whatever happens will be alright. I will fit in to his life however much he wants me to when I return, or however little. I will trust that this is not the end, no matter how many times my brain tries to convince me it is.

laughable

Do I only love you because you love me?

I need to make sure this is unwarranted worry.

Do I only feel comfort because you offer me safety?

Wait but then why, years before I came to this realization, did I feel a dire need to know you? To understand you? To be there for your darkness?

Why did I feel so sick to my stomach when I saw you engage in self destructive behaviors, and I didn’t know how to help?

Why did I always rush to you in the middle of a crowd to find solace? The way you spoke honestly to me was addictive. I so vividly remember pockets of conversation in which you looked at me and spoke the truth. I so vividly remember times where I felt only your presence in rooms that had people packed in like sardines.

Why did I feel unstoppable when we walked the streets of Columbus after bar close just to talk and flirt? I could flirt with you forever, I think. I know I’d like to try.

Why can I look back on birthdays, 4th of July’s, New Years, house warmings, going away parties, and see us together at so many of them? How did I not notice the life we have been building together?

Sometimes I get worried that I love you only because you have loved me so well. But when I think about your role in my life, I have to laugh at myself because it is so blatantly obvious that I have loved you for a very long time.