Interested in reading the details about our work in Zambia? We blogged at bchighzambia2014.blogspot.com.
(I’m aware that’s not the most noble thought, but I’ll take the points for honesty)
As I learned more about the project – sharing fundamentals of Ignatian Spirituality and pedagogy with school that recently became a Jesuit apostolate – I saw that this could be a place where my deepest desire meets a need. I have experience in retreats and faith sharing, teaching and Ignatian spirituality, international exchanges and workshop planning. I felt confident that I was a good fit.
My doctor was pretty pissed. I’ve been really sick this spring, and I kept thinking maybe it would go away before the trip. I tried gluten-free and nightshade-free, I switched meds (though I couldn’t switch to what the doctor recommended because I’d be too immunocompromised), I did lots of acupuncture and yoga and massage. I slept and rested.
We continued with our planning. I was assigned a witness talk and two “lightning round” sessions on Discernment and the First Principle and Foundation. I prepared with a colleague to host a roundtable on retreats and service opportunities. Spring crept into summer and I still had some terrible days of fatigue, collapsing on the couch, spending most of yoga in child’s pose, ignoring the handful of responsibilities that follow me into summer vacation. We went to Italy and I did OK, healthwise, but I wasn’t truly well.
How did I do with my travels? I puked in Boston’s Logan Airport, I puked on a layover in Dubai. I puked in Lusaka and Livingstone and Chilenje and Botswana, in restaurants and Jesuit residences and swank safari lodges. I got home and I puked at my apartment, my parents’ house, my sweetheart’s place.
But somewhere in the middle, while dining on the simple fare of Zambia and trying not to overeat, I had some time with very few symptoms. I had energy (perhaps because I was eating, which I haven’t always done the last few months). I stood on a dusty parking lot while 12 girls crowded around me and asked questions about the sports at our school. I explained to a 10th grader named Willa the difference between Manhattan and New York. I gave an ambitious 12th grader some advice on pursuing a music career.
We ran a retreat with the students, and spent three days in conference with their teachers. As far as I could tell the teachers walked away inspired. We got them started on drafts of some crucial documents that we hope will help them clarify their mission. We encouraged them to split into task groups like the cura personalis committee to continue the discussions we began.
There were a few times I had to skip lunch or tea time because my belly wasn’t up for it. There were a few times that my stomach made monstrous noises you could hear around the room. But overall I was feeling OK – and I was doing something.
Sometimes it takes refutation of an idea to make you realize you had that idea in the first place. I thought Maybe I am not a worthless, broken person? Maybe my dreams of being someone-who-does-great-things are not completely gone?
After months of being a hair too close to depression for my liking, these weeks of work did wonders for my morale. Again, I feel guilty for having such a selfish takeaway from spending time in service. But if it inspires me to continue striving and serving maybe it’s not all bad.
I spent my first night back in the States relaxing with my parents and brother. After our long journey back I was in pretty rough shape, unable to hide how sick I felt from them. I lay on the couch rubbing my abdomen, which often alleviates the pain when it is at it’s worst. My mom sat next to me and asked “how was it?”, as if she knew she could ask a vague question and I would give her whatever answer I needed to give.
“It made me feel like I can still do things. It made me feel like maybe my destiny isn’t just to lay on the couch for the rest of my life.”
She patted my ankle and her blue eyes got that look that reminds me that she might know me better than I know myself. “No, that’s not your destiny,” she said, laughing. “Not at all.”