Friday, September 08, 2006

Casualty Count: 0

I thought that maybe moving over here seemed a bit simple, so it was only natural that I have a rough week at some point! The last couple weeks have involved more than a few tears, a bit of realism, and an afternoon in the ER.
Vocab lessons to follow, but my "wee" lesson of the day was the discovery that the ER is referred to here as the "casualty." Excuse me? To me this word can only refer, in some way, to me not being alive anymore, and I wanted nothing to do with it! But I couldn't avoid it any longer after what I thought was a bruised rib turned into something that made every heartbeat and deep breath HURT! (Cut to me, sitting all alone in a massive Belfast hospital, thinking I am about to die- cue tears and me practicing my "big brave girl" face). But after cardiac tests and a failed blood exam (during which I almost passed out before the doctor could even get any blood), his best guess was an inflamed lung, and he sent me on my way. A whole depressing afternoon of watching babies with bonked heads, broken limbs, drugged up men and crying girls run through the hospital and all I got was a prescription for ibuprofen?
But the inflamed lung was only the clincher of the rough week I think of as my adjustment phase. Just three weeks into it and I think a lot of things hit me at once: how difficult my job actually is, how isolated and lonely I feel so much of the time, and the total lack of structure my year has. In a lot of ways I am starting everything from scratch. After so long in the Greek system/INN safety net, I have to be much more intentional with my relationships. I don't have 40 girls living on the same floor. I don't have church services with hundreds of people to talk to. I have to seek out and take advantage of every opportunity to meet people and spend time with them that I possibly can, and I am realizing that I just have a really hard time being alone for extended periods of time. On one hand I appreciate the fact that I can take lots of time for myself- to read, to study a bit, to think, to ask questions. On the other hand, I miss having people around constantly!
So I have been working really hard on creating my own community again. I met one of the elders at Crumlin Road, and when I found out his visitation schedule, I just invited myself along. Let me tell you, there is nothing I love more than sitting around drinking tea and eating shortbread while listening to old people tell stories, and somehow I have a job that EXPECTS me to do that. Anyway, I am quickly discovering how weighty the stories from this area can be. After a morning of hearing tales of talented girls who committed suicide, boys who get beat up for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and other sad stories collected after lifetimes in north Belfast, I came back to the Drennans on the verge of tears (not an unusual state for me lately). All my normal questions that I run past people failed me. All I could think of to ask Jack was, "Does it ever stop striking you as glaringly painful and unjust? When does someone stop seeing this entire situation as individual faces and stories that will break you down and start seeing the entire situation as a fact of life?" He told me that at some point, you have to harden yourself up to it. You just can't let your heart be torn open every time you see or hear something that really is heartbreaking-- you have to let it bounce off you, to some extent, for your own survival. And finding the balance between hardening yourself to the situation and still letting yourself be sensitive to it enough to change it is the struggle.
So I've been struggling. But I've been learning how to be satisfied with life as it comes at me, whether it's a day when the teenagers almost kill each other or a day when I get to hang out at Fisherwick with Yonkers, Eli, Malia and Peter and get some down time. There are plenty of things to be joyful about, it's whether or not I'm willing to look for them, and I am adjusting to living for the little pictures as well as the big one.

1 comment:

Gabriel said...

Laura!! Sorry about your rough week. I can imagine how scary that situation was for you, especially abroad. Next time just slap the doctor and yell "GIVE ME BETTER DRUGS BITCH". Or not, your choice.

I love reading your posts, I realized that I am going to live my European dreams through you ;)