This is, as the title implies, Sunday’s free write.
I have this interminable feeling of hunger and anxiety today.
Yesterday marked the funeral of the third community member this week, and as the weather continues to shift into its rainy season pattern, malaria cases will rise, coupled with poorer nutrition due to hunger season. So will the death knells.
Hunger season, FYI is the time in the agricultural cycle when people are planting, and growing their food stuffs, and often as a result of commercial interests and poor planning, are running short of their last harvests bounty.
That means some families will switch from moderate to severe malnutrition – eating cassava and maize with very little protein or dark vegetables. Bad news for health and recovery from disease/sickness in the most dangerous time of year. Keep in mind it’s the best time of the year for a lot of simple disease transmission – a mouldy, consistently damp, warm environ, and inside thatch huts it’s even dark and not very well ventilated.
On the positive side, it should start raining or drizzling – well, some volume of water will fall from the skies – every day. That means sweet smells of the earth, dark fertile lands, and new growth. Coupled with mango season (sweet!) it makes part of the next few months quite satisfying and rewarding for the healthy and well nourished.
Back to those feelings of … something. Not discontent but… I just can’t describe it. A feeling of anxiety, possibly calling it a driving recognition of potential kinetic energy without a designated mode of actualization. Something like that anyway.
I’ve been snacking all day. It seems my discomfort is driving a nervous desire to eat – but nothing has been satisfying, if anything the hunger has increased. I should run, or exercise… That may help. Burn some energy instead of continuing to consume and store it.
I guess it mostly comes from an unease. A reticent memory from last rainy season. Knowing what’s coming and understanding the feelings of futility and hopelessness that accompany preventative and environmental based work instead of the highly tangible success and pitfalls of curative work.
That’s the nightmare of health work – you can never be doing enough. It’s easy to be overwhelmed, throw your hands up and surrender a part of your humanity or consciousness to let the difficult moments slip by nearly unregistered. Resign yourself to a bare minimum and distance.
I ‘spose my unconscious mind is sending me a message. Telling me to watch my back, take care of myself, stay focused and remake a binding geas to support my community. To care, have empathy, and do my utmost to educate and hope that it sticks and is realized this time around, or the next, or the next after that.
To be fair to myself I’ve spent the last year doing just that – educating, reacting, adapting, redeveloping approaches and trying to encourage self development and capacity building of community members. I’ve been faced with a lot of Pseudo failures – particularly that projects proposed by community members falter when I offer to stand by them but resolutely refuse to lead them.
Then someone dies… Is that personal responsibility I feel? If I had chosen to lead them blindly as sheep would they still be alive? No. I tell myself No. It is a complex nightmare of senseless guilt without cause. You can pull a man from a raging torrent back to shore, but if you don’t teach him to swim, or to wear a guide rope, the next time he mounts the broken bridge and tries to cross to a better future and falls in, he’ll drown without you.
But what do you do when he says,”swim for me?” Or when he holds out his hand and argues, pay me to learn to swim. Which sounds ridiculous given that he’s metaphorically drowning, but has actually happened.The level of frustration feeds into guilt months later when, predictably he drowns. Where does responsibility lay – with him? Seeking a better future and not seeing or understanding the ruthless and perilous situation he’s in, vision clouded by dependency, and racism?
Still, these frustrations driving toward resignation ring as nothing more than excuses echoing in my head. There’s a better way, I argue. There’s a different variation that will resonate. There’s a way to motivate and get them involved. There’s a way to help them see past your skin, and through the racial bias that you have money and status, that your cheating them and a liar if you explain your volunteerism, and motivate then to stand on their own and help themselves.
Try it again, thicken up your skin…
For a man who believes resolutely in the unalienable right to choice – I need to capture this unease, bind it into useful fuel, and jump off the apex, choosing to stand back up, and rejoin the fight.
After all, what feels most futile now, the angst and anxiety building and sitting cold and slimy in my gut, the knowledge that more friends and community members may not survive the next few months, is a gruesome motivator. It’s generating a place of choice, and of critical decision making. I can choose to give up and be overwhelmed by frustration and despair sinking into a jaded philosophy of I tried and you didn’t want it, or I can adapt, mobilize, and step forward to a fresh restart of programs and another experimental series of implementations until I really hit a sweet spot.
The choice is mine. What’s next is to make it.