Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The middle of the bridge

I have a childhood memory, or maybe just a strong memory from a dream, of standing on the middle of a bridge over a river that formed a state line, one foot in each state. I'm kind of like that now. I've been here for about four weeks, and I have about four weeks to go. "Here," by the way, is a Catholic Worker House in upstate NY. I'm living and spending most of my days serving here, in the somewhat odd position of a staff member without much authority or her own shifts.

It's been wonderful so far. I have learned so much here about so many things, including a lot of insights into myself. It's incredible. I'm journaling as much as I can so I won't miss anything, and I know that I'll also come to understand more stuff when I get home and have some time to reflect. There are ups and downs and big bundles of crises that make us think the house is just falling apart, but there are also a lot of ways to learn peace and patience. Most of the time, when thinking about the house, I just sit back and marvel. It's incredible (I know, I've already used this sentence once in this paragraph, but it is so true). I know I'm not getting into enough detail now to satisfy anyone, but I'm still in the middle of it and truly stepping back to analyze where I'm at is hard. Basically: nobody worry about me, my summer is beautiful.

The times that it's difficult to be here are not what I thought they would be. I was all worried about missing friends and family and special events back home. I was a little homesick at first, especially my first day when the prospect of eight weeks in a strange city where I didn't know a soul was just a lot to handle. But really, that wore off pretty fast. What's been hardest has been learning how to balance being compassionate with protecting myself. Everyone, during my first week, told me to remember to give myself free time away from the house or I would burn out. But it's also all to easy to isolate myself and not let myself be present with these women through their pain. How much easier it is to read a book at night than to listen with full attention to the difficulties our guests have faced during their days. At first I was writing letters, reading, and journaling every night. Now I try to make time for journaling before falling into bed. My time belongs to them while I'm here. I take my breaks when I know that I've become too self-centered on my own inner problems to be able to be fully attentive to them. It's a continual struggle to be passionately compassionate. To listen with all of my mind and heart is the greatest gift I can give these women who are so often sidelined and quietly ignored.

So that's where I am. I won't lie, I will enjoy being home in an environment that is much more secure and supporting than being here, but I wouldn't leave here until I have to for the world, and I will cry when it's time to say goodbye. I am home in such an irrevocable way. I hope everyone is doing well and taking care of themselves! Love you guys.

With Donna, the awesome/insane/brilliant lady who directs this place with the rest of the staff, at a hermitage near a Benedictine monastery about 2 hours away.