Sunday, December 18, 2016

Half Baked Reflections

"Look around you. Everything changes. Everything on this earth is in a continuous state of evolving, refining, improving, adapting, enhancing and changing. You were not put on this earth to remain stagnant." -Steve Maraboli

I have not written a blog post for a year.

It means two things:

1) I have been very busy and did not sit down and make the time to write.

2) It has been a very challenging year for reflection.  Both personally and contextually there has been a tremendous amount of really crazy stuff going on this year and to figure out what to publish about it takes time.  And I did not sit down and make the time to reflect.

That's not entirely true.  I did do an awful lot of reflection, but I feel like it is all half baked reflection, reflection I am still not sure how to share.  However, writing sometimes helps.  

First, a quick update on what I have been up to this past year: I came back to Colombia in January to continue accompanying communities with the organization Sembrandopaz.  From 2014-2015 I was a community liaison, but this year I shifted gears and have been coordinating the accompaniment processes with women, youth, and psycho-social support work.  I was not only working with the one community, but now with four, very different, very beautiful, and, at moments, very challenging, communities.

Women Accompaniment 

Youth  Ecological Accompaniment 
Youth Nonviolence Accompaniment

Psycho-social support work: practicing mindfulness

Now, here are five half baked reflections about this passed year:

1) Friendship: I place a lot of importance on relationships.  In fact, I would say I evaluate how I am doing in life based on my relationships.  I judge how my work is developing based on how the relationships are developing.  This year there were several moments that made me completely question my work and life.  Was I practicing solidarity in the way that I carried out my work?  Was I developing healthy relationships with people?  And the hardest one, did I really have any friends?  As a therapist, I learned the importance of maintaining a healthy client/therapist relationship.  As a community worker, in a country and context different from my own, where all of my time is spent with people in the communities... that professional relationship is difficult (and for me, I would go so far as to say impossible) to maintain.  I need deeper, personal friendships.  And where else can I get them?  But, how do they see me?  Am I a friend?  Or am I a support person?  I have had to reflect on this a lot this year.  It has been very trying at times, but also rewarding.  I am becoming a better professional, learning to protect my heart sometimes, and developing some deep, beautiful, mutual friendships with people.

2) Self-care: I promote self-care wholeheartedly... with everyone else.  I am quite the hypocrite in this area.  This year, I did a really awful job in this area.  It is the first year that I can remember in which I have not run regularly.  I finished zero books for fun.  I drank way too much coffee (that's a hard one though; I love the taste and the act of drinking coffee so that is a point for good self-care, but I drink too much of it, so that is a point for bad self-care).  I really threw myself into working.  I LOVE going to the communities, I love being a part of the processes that I get to accompany, and I love interacting with people as much as I get to do.  However, limits and rest are still important no matter how much one loves what they do.  I did not do a good job at putting limits and at resting this year.  I got exhausted.  I got extra emotional.  My body did not want to continue on and my mind was pretty close behind.  There is this paradox, where you know you have to rest, but there is so much to do and so much need for hope, that you want to do everything, make some things actually happen, be someone who doesn't let them down, be someone who is more than a part of just another organization but rather a friend (see friend reflection)... So you just don't rest.  And then you end up failing anyway because you are exhausted.  This paradox kicks me in the butt every time.  But I am taking active steps to confront it this next year.

3) Justice: I have always "known" that people go hungry.  It is something that is drilled into our heads as children when we do not finish the food on our plates.  But I hadn't actually personally known people who didn't have enough food on a regular basis.  These last couple of years have been marked by severe drought, and since many of the communities that we accompany are farmers, that had grave consequences for their economy and personal consumption.  It was the first time I knew that people I personally loved were going to bed without having a satisfactory meal sometimes.  It is something that touches my heart which then pleads with my head to find an answer to this injustice.  I don't have one.  I can share my food and resources with a very limited amount of people.  I personally cannot feed an entire town, much less region.  My head knows that is not my direct responsibility to buy everyone food, but my heart wants to know that the people I love have their basic needs met, that everyone has their needs met.  Which is why I am here, attempting to accompany processes that defy injustices such as this.  However, there are so many realities that still break my heart.

4) Peace: This year marked a huge (and complex) transition in Colombia from armed conflict to a signed peace deal.  It did not go as smoothly as most had hoped.  After four years of negotiations between the government and the armed group the FARC, a peace agreement was signed.  In October, they brought it to the people for an approval vote.  Everyone thought that the "yes vote" was going to win for sure.  Then the "no" won.  (Sounds like some other votes this year, huh?)  What broke my heart was that most parts of the country affected directly by the conflict voted "yes,"  whereas areas that don't directly live the violence, trauma, and fear voted "no."  There were manifestations and demands for peace by many groups (including the youth we accompany!) and the two sides renegotiated, addressing concerns brought to the table by people opposing the agreement.  The new agreement was signed and voted on again just two months later, this time by congress who approved it by a wide margin.  The current president of the country also won the Nobel Peace Prize this year for his work towards creating a deal with the FARC.  (Ironically he won it just days after the "no vote" had won, but it is a good reminder that peace is not "signed."  It is something that is cultivated, takes time, has setbacks, and requires resilience).  All of that happened in a span of 3 months.  It was an intense roller coaster for everyone, but we enter the new year with renewed hope for the process and ready to face the challenges of supporting the communities in the actual implementation of the accords.  

5) Hope: Which leads me to hope... I think most people would say I am an optimistic and hopeful person.  I tend to see the good in people, point out positives in tough situations, and am willing to sit in uncomfortable and difficult moments because I feel assured that it will be okay somehow, sometime.  I have not lost that, but I will admit I have questioned it this year.  For example, when the first round of peace accords were signed, a huge ceremony was elaborated to celebrate.  Many people attended, including officials from other countries and Ban Ki-moon (a personal hero), and the nation watched via television. At that moment, I was at the wake of the brother of a friend, who had been shot in his community.  The death wasn't related to the FARC directly, but the fact is that people do not feel safe in their communities.  How do those two events exist in the same reality?  So many people sacrifice so much to work towards a country in peace, a world in peace... yet the road is so long.  Reminding myself of those that have lived their lives walking towards a dream they hope they can help make real for their children and grandchildren, cultivating peace as they go in their own hearts, their relationships, the community processes, and their ways of influencing policy... reminding myself of those who have gone before me, who I have the honor to work beside, and who will come after to continue the dream, is what keeps me going, what keeps me maintaining hope.

I welcome and appreciate any help on continuing these reflections.  Happy Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

1 comment:

  1. Lani, your reflections strike me as well thought out (not half-baked). I like how you see the good, but still want more. More peace, more justice, more equity, more opportunity for others. Keep working towards peace (but yes, take care of yourself too). And as Jesse Jackson says, "Keep hope alive!"