Sunday morning I heard the news that some Indiana missionaries in Haiti were ambushed in the compound where they were residing. Armed robbers broke in, shot four of the missionaries and grazed another with a flyaway bullet. Yet another was injured jumping out of a second story window as he ran to get help.
The men survived, and the mission was not at all like the work camp I'll be a part of, but...still. You can imagine that my morning was...shaky. This had never even occurred to me as something that could happen to me while I'm working in Haiti. I spent a long time with my stomach in a hard ball, wondering WTF am I doing? Because, quite frankly, I feel so ill equipped to handle this sort of thing. I'm not a fighter, people. Confrontations of any kind turn me into pudding. I am that person that when given the wrong food order, I rarely send it back. The first time I had to go through one of those body scans at the airport, I was so shaken I could barely walk away, but did I say a word? Weak, people. I'm weak.
But strangely enough, I never considered not going to Haiti.
Haiti is one of the poorest nations in the world, still suffering from the aftereffects of the earthquake and poverty that seems to have no end. Haiti is not in a position where it can fully help itself right now, and I have been given an opportunity to do something for them. So, just as I would never turn my back on a someone I thought was being abused or neglected, I cannot turn my back on Haiti. Some things are worth the risk.
Am I afraid? Hell yeah. But if I allow myself to be frightened away from something I am meant to do--something beautiful and rewarding--because of some selfish (violent) jackholes, I will never forgive myself. And something remarkable will be lost.
But we do this all the time, don't we? I know I have, allowing myself to be scared off from something important because someone was cruel or because things got too tough. Seriously, all the time growing up. And even in my adult life I find myself doing this sometimes, backing down when really I should be all up in your grill. There have been times in my writing life, too, when someone has done/said something to discourage me, sometimes on purpose, sometimes not. It doesn't take much, though, to shake a writer's confidence. We're fragile creatures, naturally, our sense of identity so often tied to our writing.
How many of us have considered closing down our blogs because we feel so discouraged? How many of us have thought about abandoning social media altogether because, while it can bring us a little closer to the world, can also make us feel so vulnerable and exposed? How many of us have thought about hanging up our laptops because of endless and/or nasty rejections? Or because of something some other writer said/did? Or because we have never ever felt good enough? Perhaps we are cruelest to ourselves.
I'm not a strong person, not really. Not for myself. I know when it comes to my own children, I could probably rip out an assailant's throat in order to defend them (yeah, I know, thanks for the visual, Carol), but for me? Not so much.
But I'm tired of running. A friend of mine recently told me that I needed to work on self-love. It was a profound moment for me, and strangely ironic, because I love like mad. Passionately, with every ounce of my being. But loving myself...hm. I think, maybe, if I did, fully, I would fight for myself. I would tell the server to please remake my order (hold the spit); and I would never again think that my writing wasn't and could never be good enough. Most of us wouldn't blink twice at the thought of going to battle for our children, our pets, our parents or friends or even a stranger in need of help. But how many of us would fight for ourselves?
You owe it to yourself to hang on to the things that mean the most.* Don't let some jackhole (even if it's you) scare you away from what you're meant to do. While making others a priority is important, it's okay to love yourself enough. To love yourself a lot. It's okay--and necessary--to fight for yourself (read: your dreams).
NOTE: We will take all precautions necessary and will not take any unnecessary risks when traveling to Haiti. Though there hasn't been any discussion of cancelling our work camp, we will take seriously any warnings from the US Department of State of an increased threat in Haiti. The incident described above was an attempted robbery, a freak incident that could have just as easily occurred in the US or anywhere.
*By this I do not mean hoarding. Or stalking. Or resentments. Or hostages. Or your grandma's fruit cake. Or Garbage Pail Kids.