This last week I found myself asking forgiveness from those closest to me, quite frequently.
Almost daily I was going to one of my co-workers apologizing for my curt comment, my brevity, my not listening fully, my being distracted....the list goes on. Usually I am a pretty kind and compassionate person, but these last two weeks I have been walking through a fog, and as I walked out of it I noticed that this was a trend.
It happens every time I visit a third world country. I return to the USA and I go from my typically people focused self to a very driven, distracted, steamroller task-oriented being. It is rather Jekyll and Hyde like and almost downright embarrassing. First, the task oriented self is in part because of the need to catch up, but towards the end of the week I realized there was something else that caused me to lean into the task oriented realm. It was safe. It wouldn't hurt my heart any further. It allowed me to feel like I was accomplishing a task, and I hated it.
It is hard for me to return to Cary, NC after spending a couple of weeks in Africa or Haiti. I love where I live, but I L.O.V.E walking among the poor. I know that I am where I am supposed to be, because now I get to teach and guide others as they venture in to walking beside the poor, but my favorite place any given day is the heart of a slum. Weird I know. When I am task focused, there becomes less risk for my heart to break, less risk of my soul being wounded, less danger. Because being people oriented is risky business. It causes my heart to love, to embrace, to mourn and it is such a vulnerable place. I am realizing that entering into task focused mode has become a way of coping with the ache I feel when I can process all that I see, hear, taste, experience when I return to the USA.
My heart simply doesn't know how to shift back to being in this place. It doesn't know what to do with the vision of the malnourished 4 month old that I held two weeks ago, or the look of desperation on the mama's faces when they were so weary from survival mode. I long to do more, and have a hard time returning to the grind. And somewhere between take-off in Port au Prince and landing in Raleigh, in those few hours of transition, my heart shuts off. Instead of aching, and wrestling, I am finding that I stop choosing people and start focusing on the task at hand.
Pretty nuts eh? All this to say that I am still learning and growing, and even though I do this several times a year, it is still as hard as it was the first time to walk away from it. I need someone to remind me when I land that it is ok to remain people focused, that I like that person much more than the steam-rolling task manager.