Friday, February 10, 2012

Remember Normal

I tried to video blog the following. And then decided I don't like feeling so vulnerable on camera. So I've transcribed it for you.


Things have been strange since I got back from Haiti. Weirder than I thought it would be. Tough to explain.

Let me paint a picture for you.

It was our final clinic in Haiti. I was in the dental team, and it was really hard to take breaks--not because we weren't supposed to. But because we didn't want to really. We only had two primary dentists. Jeff and Lee...they had this amazing strength to just go go go. Ceaseless. So the rest of us, we just kept going too, eating when we could. But. I have issues with hypoglycemia. Sorry--tangent. It can get really severe sometimes if I'm not careful. So on this last clinic, I was pretty worn out, really hungry, and starting to fade pretty fast, kind of dizzy. We had this lull in patients, so I quickly snatched a granola bar from my hiking bag. Turned my back to the rest of the clinic in this large, one room church. I tried to eat fast. Got about halfway down and turned to see this little boy--

...

$%#& me. $%#&.... I'm sorry.

....

He stared at my granola bar, this boy.

....

....

Then there were three boys. Curious. Hungry, maybe. I don't...I don't know.

I wanted to crawl into a hole.

But I couldn't just hand him the thing. You know? There were other children, other people there. I didn't know if I could, if I was allowed, even. What was the right thing? That granola bar...it was equal parts gold and dust in my hands. I don't even know what I did with it. Did I put it away? Eat it? I don't remember. I just stood there, like...a...a...god, like a jackass. I panicked...I just panicked.

....

Then Lee said, calm, like always. "What are these kids doing here?" That's all I remember. And those boys...guiding them out of the dental area. I remember that.

....

That was also the same day we saw the two malnourished babies. Tiny babies.

....

The ride back to the compound really sucked. I probably cried most of the way and then on and off the rest of the day. Like...most of my time in Haiti--I swear I saw all the good we were doing--I did. But it hurt so much...knowing it was all just...just a drop...just a drop...Haiti's a really big bucket.

....

I feel too much, maybe.

....

And then I came home to Indianapolis. To the effing Super Bowl and buckets of beer and traffic and a zip line, for crying out loud. Like really? And grocery stores packed full of food and vitamins and medicine. And my Little Bean asking if we could go to Bob Evans. Crud, it's not that these things are bad. Just in needle-sharp contrast.

I found myself avoiding people. Hiding out, I guess. Not wanting to talk about it all. Finding myself unable to. Like all I want to do is go back to the person I was January 18.

But I don't. I don't. I want to hang on to that feeling I had in Haiti. As hard as it was to feel sometimes. Like my heart was so...big...pounding in my freaking skull and my throat and in my feet as I hiked up the mountain...hurting...every beat. But only because it was so...full.

....

I'm sorry.

It's hard to explain what it's like to go through something like this. There are few things quite so...rewarding. Giving birth, perhaps. But you don't exactly want to do that all the time. Not like this. In fact, day after I got back, I told my husband, "Don't forget, tomorrow's the soup kitchen," or something like that. And I would've gone if my husband hadn't said YOU JUST GOT HOME AND WE MISS YOU.

Most of the time, here, you can't go around holding people's heads, trying to comfort them, or reaching for people's babies or taking the hand of a perfect stranger.

You have to be normal.

But I'm kind of having a hard time remembering normal. And yet, the me I was in Haiti is starting to fade, too. And it's making me so sad.

....

I'm trying to remember.

I guess that's why I didn't know how to blog after Haiti. It's meaningful, you know. Our lives? Theirs, too. Me here. Me there. I'm trying to be both of me.

Last time I held Charlie


*********************


I swear. Next post, something totally random and ridiculous. You'll probably hear about Jared Leto, too. Shirtless Jared. It's been too long.

45 comments:

  1. I don't know how you feel, exactly, because I'm not you, and I've never been to Haiti. But I do know what it's like to feel something too big, too heartbreaking, too important to describe. It's like you can't describe how you feel. You can only describe the facts, little glimpses. And the glimpses that you shared . . . thank you.

    It's posts like this that make me want to read whatever novels you may have published someday. They're honest.

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  2. I've been to India and China so I do know what you mean. It was hard to go back to normal after seeing how people live and suffer so much more than us. And how much we spend and waste.

    But all you can do is be glad for what you could do that helped. And go back to normal. It will happen. Just takes time.

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  3. Mission trips and exposures to other more needy cultures do that. I think it's very normal what you are feeling. We are so spoiled here in America but at the same time very blessed. But with that blessing comes a lack of appreciation for what we have. Thanks for sharing!

    Superbowl is not the best time to return! Nor Thanksgiving!

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  4. Oh, love...*hugs*...it IS hard, even with our economy and our poor we are a very spoiled country. And sometimes shallow... with blinders on. And, the sharp contrast must be very painful right now.

    (It also makes me think of all the military men and women coming back from war. I think how shocking coming home is for them.)

    Thank you for sharing your feelings with us so honestly. <3

    You are still doing VERY important service work, right here. Right now.

    -Raising loving, responsible, caring, thoughtful children, our future adults in society.
    -Writing books that can touch the world, this has the power to give hope, escapism, words to feelings, imagination, joy.
    -Blogging about what you've seen raises awareness for Haiti (and other poor countries), and awareness of how well most of us have it.

    I could go on, but I won't here. Except to say:

    I love you. :)

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  5. Carol, you are an angel of compassion. You will never be the same, and yet you will always be the kind, giving, friendly, insightful you.

    I'm lucky I read this before everyone showed up today, because you had me crying. But it's okay. It's beautiful and ugly at the same time - what you're talking about, but it's important too. There is ugliness and beauty in the world in equal parts, and one could not exist without the other. We do what we can to change it, but it's okay to despair about how little difference we can make. Well, maybe not despair, but it's okay to be torn up about it.

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  6. Your honesty and emotion are completely humbling. Thank you for sharing your soul. It is a rare and priceless thing. You are a courageous, rare, and precious person.

    hugs
    bru

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  7. Carol - big big hugs.

    You cared and you care and you are raising a family who cares and will care a lot in the future. It's all one can do sometimes - apart from attend protest group marches and signing petitions and donating time and money and reading up on stuff and keeping up to date with current global affairs!

    Seriously though!! People matter to you - you did more than armchair people like me and now you're home with your loved ones. Treasure these times. Take care
    x

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  8. You weren't supposed to come back the same. Remember that. Gonna hug you so tight next week:) For now, EX-OH!

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  9. p.s. I called you Carol! I'm sorry! I meant Carolina!! Lovely lovely Carolina! Take care
    x

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  10. Wow. Teary-eyed now. You are very special. Let yourself feel what you need to feel. There's nothing wrong with this. Thinking of you. xoxo

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  11. Words can't describe the admiration I feel for you. It's difficult to see such things, I know. I've met many a youngster from Haiti who are very appreciative of being here now ( in south Florida).

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  12. I haven't visited your site before but found the link to this post through Matthew MacNish on FB.

    Having seen utter depravity while I worked in Mexico, I feel what you write of here. There's something so deep and digging and penetrating about being in that depravity--and then coming home. But even at home, there is utter depravity. Here it's just a depravity of spirit, a lack of understanding about what truly matters, which perhaps is even more heartbreaking than the depravity that is elsewhere.

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  13. I get what you mean. It makes you feel like a citizen of The Capitol and you've just seen what's really happening in District 12. I'm not trying to be funny. That's really how I feel.

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  14. This is beautiful--how could you NOT be changed forever?!?! ((((((hugs))))))

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  15. It's always hard to balance between two worlds, especially when the footing is treacherous.

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  16. Cherish your life and the good things in it, especially for those that don't get to live it. Suffering is universal and varies in degrees. It's taken me many years to learn that suffering and pain can't be compared. We all experience loss, heartbreak, and while many of us are lucky enough not to experience hunger, malnutrition and poverty, our pains are no less painful. I ache for the people in these countries who suffer so much, I ache for the people in our own country who suffer so much, and I ache for friends who thankfully do not know poverty or hunger, but know different types of pain.

    Don't lose yourself. You are the same person in Haiti as you are today. The world is just a bit different, but it is still a world that needs generosity, compassion, understanding and love. You can use all the things you learned in Haiti right here. It will just manifest in a different way.

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  17. You made a difference to those you cared for in Hatti.
    Write it all down, Carolina! Before the memories fade.

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  18. What an incredible experience, and always a gift when we can open our eyes that the blessings we have in this life, from food to a roof over our heads to all our teeth in our mouths, to love, should simply never be taken for granted. Sounds like beyond the obvious personal growth, there's a story here percolating, waiting to be told as only you can tell it. Hugs to you, I'm so proud of you! What a wonderful thing you've done, and I have no doubt you will carry that with you in all things you do for the rest of your life. You're awesome!

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  19. This brought tears to my eyes. Just living in France, I see the difference in how American consumer culture as opposed to european. But living in an environment where so many people are going without and suffering must make it all the more violent when you come back. Take your time. You'll never be the same, even if you transition back into the life you had before, a part of you is changed forever. What you did is truly inspiring and thank you so much for sharing your story.

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  20. Your experience sounds like mine the first time I went to a Romanian orphanage. Heart crushing. I fell so hard for one of the babies, leaving her behind felt like I abandoned one of my own children. It wrecked me for years.

    But I still go back. Somehow over time I've managed to put a protective shield around my heart. It can't be about me and my emotions. It has to be about them.

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  21. You just wrote a very special and touching post - thank you for sharing. You now have a new normal - your worldview has been greatly expanded. It also reminds me of the empathy we need to show for immigrants or veterans, for anyone attempting to transition to a new and vastly different environment.

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  22. I remember when I first went deaf that's all I wanted was to find normal again. I learned a few things along the way and one of those was normal wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

    As sad and I'm sure at time gratifying as Haiti was...keep it oh so close. That kind of compassion is a rare commodity in this day and age. A delicate reminder how very small the world is some days and every single little bit helps. I think it's all too easy to let go and embrace normal, but I don't think your heart will let you.

    We are the accumulation of moments that touch our lives. (Hugs)Indigo

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  23. Such an honest, full of heart post, Carol. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. No, I don't think the Carol in Haiti is fading. You have such a good heart...and it's in there. It will never fade.

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  24. The Carol in Haiti will never fade. She is with you every waking moment.

    Big ((hug)) sweetheart.

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  25. And then you find out....on a normal day, doing normal things, how powerfully, wonderfully, blessingly you are to the ones God shared you with in your normal world. You realize, just like giving birth, that your hear just gets bigger with every love added. And then you know that your place in the universe is to draw love and strength from "normal" to share where love and strength are needed. You are an amazing woman!

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  26. I've never experienced anything even close to what you went through--thank you so much for sharing this.

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  27. I think Carol, that you are one of those people who are blessed to feel things to the core; your additional blessing is that you are a person who wants and needs to feel that. Some of us, even if we have the capacity, are too afraid. You have a practice of giving of yourself in tremendous ways...which you demonstrated even before you went to Haiti. But Haiti was your internal proof, of how good, how strong, how giving you are. Trust yourself in that. You will, I am sure, be able to meld the world we live in, with the world you visited...and I have no question that every one who knows you will benefit from the result.

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  28. You're amazing. The people of Haiti, your family...they are lucky to have had/have someone as caring as you.

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  29. Oh, Carol. What a beautiful and honest post. I'm so glad you shared these thoughts with us.

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  30. I have friends who have gone on Mission trips, so I've had glimpses of what they have gone through when coming back. Your life has been forever changed by your experiences in Haiti. Thank you for sharing your posts about the trip and your thoughts on what your life has been like since coming back home.

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  31. the haiti you may fade from the forefront, but it'll never fade completely. It changed you, so don't worry about that change going away. It won't. You be back home is just another change, too.

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  32. Gosh, Carolina. I can't even imagine. Thank you for your giant heart. Even though it's a "drop in the bucket," it's still a drop. Something. You are a saint.

    And re-immerse yourself, but at your pace. Sounds like the adjustment is a necessary one.

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  33. You've left me wordless... I'm in awe that you went! You are now a personal hero of mine. You have great strength and I so proud that you were able to do this. Well done :) :)

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  34. Something like this changes you, it has to. Don't feel bad about that, embrace it. The world is a broken place. But there are those of us who work to fix it.

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  35. Thank you for sharing this. You're who we should be.

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  36. It's okay. It's a perfectly normal way to respond to this--and you're like the third person I've known, one a close friend, the other my mother-in-law, who had the hardest time getting over a mission trip abroad to places where people truly have NOTHING. You're so human for feeling this way. If you didn't, you wouldn't have a heart. Take it easy on yourself, and allow yourself time to readapt. Or not. To learn how to compartmentalize and cope. :o) ((squeeze)) <3

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  37. I felt all your emotions through this, even though I know I entirely can't since I haven't been to Haiti doing what you did. Give your feelings free reign. This is an experience that would change anyone.

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  38. Thank you for sharing that. I too have issues with hypoglycemia and there have been times I've forgotten to do what I needed in order to continue working. I kinda felt a little of your emotions as you wrote...... I think we all need a reality check like this sometimes to REALLY understand what's important..... to see the contrast in lifestyles.

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  39. Oh, hon. I can't even imagine. The world is bigger than us. Some of us go our entire lives and never see that, but you did. You saw the other side of the world and it changed you. What a blessing... and a curse. I wish there was something I could say to make you feel more normal, but I suspect in time it will come. As long as you remember what made you feel over there, I don't think you will lose Haiti in your heart.

    *Hugs* <3<3<3

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  40. I'm late to this post, but I wanted to just give you a virtual hug. I know transitioning to "normal" is hard. That said, I also believe it is so important. In that transition you can take the part of you that has such a deeper meaning to things now, and fuse that into your everyday life. So every moment - from the mundane to the profound to the just plain SILLY is fused with a compassion and connection to humanity that everything is simply more authentic. HUGS and more hugs for being everything that you are!

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  41. Thank you for sharing your feelings with us. It really is hard when you see people living in poverty. It feels like nothing is enough. But you made a difference, Carol. That is huge!

    If you are still struggling with getting back to normal, I would suggest talking to some of the people who were with you or talking to Red Cross volunteers who have gone in on disaster missions.

    I know we only virtually know each other, but I am so proud of you for being such a giving person and having so much courage.

    (hugs)

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  42. I didn't realize you were back from Haiti. I'll have to go back and read your update posts, but it sounds like it was quite the experience. Thank you for sharing your feelings. It must have been so weird to come back right in time for the extravagance of the Super Bowl, and I kind of get what you mean by the weird split you're talking about. Even if you feel like the you in Haiti is fading, it's really not. It's just integrating into the you here and now. :)

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  43. Good post Carol, as good as it can be. It is perfect (in my opinion) to not sum up Haiti in a pretty little package... because so much is left just hanging out there to sort out as we go on with our lives. And I still cry for both of those babies too, and wonder about them now. I feel though, each time God challenges me (such as he did in Haiti) I open my hands a tiny bit more, realizing I know and can comprehend so little... how could I possibly think I know how to run my own life? So, it's kind of refreshing to have that reminder... and to open up my clench fists a little more...
    Great post :)

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