Indecisive, fickle, on the fence, wavering, waffling, of two minds, vacillating, unclear, tentative….all words that describe my current state of mind. Yikes! The decisions later in life become more complex and burdened with pros and cons that can be examined from more than one point of view.
Faced with the decision of extending my service here in Malawi has become one of the most challenging choices in the last 10 years! Initially I believed that 1 year was more than enough to be away from home, family and friends. Now, there is a longing in the pit of my gut to stay for another year.
This seems like an insane proposition. I am in a country that is imploding. The Malawi kwacha (currency) is propelling itself towards outrageously low stakes against the dollar. The government continues to put more in its pocket than it gives to the people. Throughout the country, families are struggling daily to put food in their mouths. Theft, corruption, disease are rampant.
On a daily basis, someone comes to ask for food, a job, or money for school. I am approached in the parking lot, the hospital, my front door, on the street. I witness intense suffering in the hospital every minute I am there. Wounds are ghastly, infections are aggressive, poverty is everywhere. People are dirty, smelly and bugs crawl out of wounds.
Yet, living in this country opens my heart and inspires me to focus on something outside myself. I forget about the minutia of whether I will have a chai or a latte at Starbucks. Whether I will prepare the $20/pound swordfish or the tenderloin. Whether to buy the new shoes I have been coveting at Macy’s. Life becomes simple and beloved.
I believe it is this simplicity and tenderness that have embraced me here in Malawi. The people are gentle, uncomplicated, kind, warm and have completely opened their hearts to me. There is great humility here, in every positive sense of the word. Living in Africa is mysterious, challenging, alluring, and seductive and that appeals to my sense of adventure.
Returning to the US during the election process does not appeal to my apathetic political spirit. I would rather remain in the bush with the zebras. It is far more soothing to my soul than getting myself riled up over some political debate. AND OH BY THE WAY, it is -20 in Vermont tonight!
Severing my attachment to this environment would be difficult. My brain and spirit are like sponges now, sucking up every morsel of information and experience, incorporating them into my soul. There are days I cry, and days I am at such peace with the simplicity of my life here. I am leading a project at the hospital to improve pain management ie there is very little. The objective is less patient suffering. I would hate to leave with this unfinished. I adore my students. The teaching is invigorating, challenging but joyful.
Circumstances at home compel me to re-examine my choice. Mom is slowly failing, I haven’t seen her in 8 months. Carrie has moved to Austin, started an exciting new life, new job. Kate is returning home after 3 years in the PC herself, requiring tremendous adjustment. My precious 24 hour companion, Zoey, continues to search for me, but is in good health. They all evoke feelings of guilt, desire, responsibility, and a deep longing to come home. It feels highly indulgent and self-centered to stay.
Most days I am unwilling to let anyone in on the state of my decision. It is a moving target. I have approximately 10 days before it will be too late to change my mind. My decision must stand. In the meantime I have done Ben Franklins, prayed, meditated and sought the advice of friends, family and colleagues. I am still torn. In the end, it is up to me and I have to trust that there is no wrong decision; I will be supported in whatever I chose.