Lessons come in all forms and for me this week it came in the form of a cold! I have been in bed for the last 4 days resting and giving my body the reassurance that I hear what it is saying and that I am listening. In Rwanda there is a very different way of seeing illness and I have been asked everyday, many times why I am not going to the hospital or taking any medicine. It is hard to explain all that I feel I know about my own body, how I feel about “medicine”, what I feel I need to do to for myself and to not come across as if I am “better” or more “advanced” than the people of Rwanda. There are many layers to it all and what I have found is that I am so much stronger and capable of just simply being me and not having to explain myself, just saying “Ouya, Murakoze” (No Thank you!) and continuing on with what is right for me. I was able to lock my door (to keep little ones out of my room), stay in bed, drink water, relax, write, read, watch movies and reflect without feeling too much guilt about it all. It is often difficult to be sick in someone else’s home and for me especially difficult to really do what I need to do which is nothing, be alone, not talk, and not feel bad about it. It’s not that I didn’t have moments of guilt or flashes of pressure to be better so I could show them that I can do more than just sleep but I choose to simply notice these thoughts, even sit with them for a while and then let them go.
So much can happen in the mind when we are left with just it as company and a body that is not functioning in a way that allows us to distract it from the thoughts that like to run wild. In this short period of time, I have gone from being homesick and totally freaked out with no idea what I was doing or how I was going to survive and totally ready to leave to feeling fully engulfed in the culture once again, hopeful and fearless. It is not because I am unsure of the journey I am on, it is simply the process revealing itself to me. Through this process I was able to see my strength and personal growth because I do not give into these emotions, feelings or thoughts that are based on fear – I get to the root of the fear and find ways to help myself. A lot of the time the root of the fear is something that is not a pure thought of mine and has been implanted there by some else, media, or as a societal norm. The mind is a sponge soaking up everything is sees, hears, tastes, feels, and touches. It is my job to be careful about what I expose myself to and also to decipher what is real for me in the moment and decide if that is what I want to think or feel, or if that is how I want to respond, react or interpret what is coming in. Like I said before, this is the practice of Yoga and it is through this constant practicing of being aware of how I act verses how I want to act that I learn about who I am and who I want to be. This is a practice of complete acceptance of my own imperfection and a knowing that I can change and be who I want to be. Along with this is a greater understanding that who I am in this very moment is perfect because it is the vehicle to me seeing what it is that I want to change.
Acceptance for me this week came in the form of hidden expectations. As much as I practice not having any expectations they are there, and they like other things can be ones that I have created for myself or ones that others have created for me. One of my biggest expectations comes in the form of not every being good enough. I put so much pressure on myself to “Do” and to do it perfectly or to be the best there ever was and if I am not doing it that way then I need to just give up. What this ultimately leads to in my life is a complete stop of almost all things and a physical sensation of being very heavy, so heavy that it is painful to even think about doing at all. I end up giving up before I start. I have done this with many things in my life and now see is as a kind of reverse perfectionism. I strive for perfection so much so that I don’t even want to attempt, which to me reflects the underlying self-worth and self-confidence issues that have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. At this point in the journey though I am moving out of that trap of not doing and beginning to do, although it feels thick and sludgy at times, it is so much better than not doing anything. As I further reveal who I am not only to the world but to myself, I see how necessary it is to take is slow and steady to catch those moments of fear that create the stagnation and make them manageable in the moment.
One thing in particular that came up very strongly for me over the last week was that I am not here to do anything and if I am very honest with my intentions for coming here it was a fantasy that my mind has built for which I am not ready for yet. I know, as I have said before that I am capable of great things (as we all are) but I have to surrender to what is real for me right now which is that I am not ready. I have not healed enough to begin giving to others in the way I know I want to and even then I cannot do it that way I did in the past as that was what depleted me in the first place. As an empath (someone who feels the emotions of others) I have been drawn to do many things in my life in order to take other people’s pain away from them and what I did was take it on and take it inside myself. I did this with many things, for example with my Mother by buying her gifts to make her feel special when I saw she was not happy. My work as an RN, in all areas but most damaging to me were the Abortion Clinic, Miscarriage and Fertility areas of work, because I was unconsciously attempting to save everyone from feeling the pain I had experienced around sexuality in general. I was trying to save the world by taking on everyone else’s pain, thinking I was capable of doing so if I was a good enough person. This is not my job, this is not anyone’s job, it is up to each one of us to manage our own emotions and deal with our own pain – no one can do it for us. That took me a few years to learn!
What I realized this week is that I need more healing. My heart is just learning to open again and I have to be more gentle and kind to it then I have ever been. I have to honor my needs, my wants and my hearts desire at this time. Some family members have referred to what I am doing as “following my dreams” which is really the furthest things from the reality. My dreams include: dancing, acting, horses, water, acrobatics, helping and as I slowly unravel the layers of hurt around my heart I see that I have always wanted to be a mother. My dream was not to get deathly ill, tear my relationships apart and have no home, no things or no money – that sounds ridiculous when I put it that way but that is what is happening in my life right now, to some it would be a nightmare! But it is the path I need to follow to get to my dreams and I will do it because I am aware that this is the work that will lead me to being able to live my dreams.
So how do I stay in Rwanda and move towards my dreams? When will I finally see that my dreams are important enough to give time and energy to? When will I truly embrace my worth and how can I do that knowing that there are people who don’t even have shoes or food to eat everyday without feeling selfish or guilty? For now I just stay. I stay here. I don’t run away, I don’t give into the fear or the comforts that I crave. I stay and trust. It may only mean I stay one more day but for now, I stay.