Predictably, I’m having trouble readjusting to “normal life.”
In the two weeks after I returned from the Gulf Coast, I battled ennui and lingering feelings of uselessness. Clichéd as it was, I caught myself wondering what the “point” of it all was. The obligations of normal life — work, parties, art openings, book signings, family — all seemed pointless and superficial. As I’ve gotten back into the swing of things, the feelings have dissipated a bit, but they’re definitely still there.
I don’t mean to sound self-righteous, but when I was in Mississippi, I was part of something real. I miss the adrenaline rush of arriving at the Kitchen each morning, knowing a 12-hour day lay ahead. I always wondered if I’d be able to get through each day, and somehow I always found the strength to do it. The work I was doing was simple and tangible: prepare and distribute meals, listen to the residents, clean the Cambros and the ERV. My ego didn’t matter — I didn’t have to worry about who liked my work, or invited me to what party, or returned which phone call.
Ironically, the work was incredibly satisfying to my ego, because the people of the community so appreciated what I was giving them, and they clearly enjoyed getting to know me. They missed me on my day off, asked about me when I wasn’t at the window, and gave me hugs & kisses (and email addresses!) when I left. The other Red Cross volunteers I worked with were amazing as well. By the end, I had found a group of pals to lean on and support. There was a sense of solidarity and pride in doing a job well.
To top it off, a Biloxi resident by the moniker of nexusnrg came across my LJ and spread the word to other hooked-in local residents. Since my return, I’ve been inundated with powerful messages of gratitude and goodwill from people in the actual area I served. It’s all a bit overwhelming.
What I’ve returned to seems less real. Once again, I’m ensconced in my apartment, sitting at my computer or drawing table. I find myself questioning my role as a “culture producer.” What real good are comic book stories, or editorial illustrations, or nicely designed brochures, when there’s still so much suffering? And when I have positive personal evidence that one person can make a difference? There’s no easy answer.
This is probably some sort of mid-life crisis. Silly me: I didn’t schedule mine like thamesrhodes! Ah well. As the Chinese say (is this apocryphal?), crisis is the same word as opportunity. I’ve always found it useful to question life, routine, what you take for granted.
Sure enough, the intensity of these feelings is already beginning to pass. For better or worse, I’ve got work to do, projects to get back to. And the holidays are coming up. I can barely contain my enthusiasm.
Plus, a friend just told me about a 6-month option with the Peace Corps. I gotta look into that.