When I was 19 and Sam and I had been married all of 6 months, a girlfriend and I took off to live in India for a month in the summer of 2003. Sam was overseas in the Marines at the time. We stayed with a missionary family my church supported and worked at an orphanage. We went to their shops, ate their food, traveled through the villages. We met people that were rich and the very poor.
I remember coming home and feeling so many emotions at being back in the US, but the one that hit me the hardest was the anger at the petty worries and annoyances everyone here had – that in India would have been welcome changes to a life of servanthood or poverty. I felt angry that we had so very much, that I got to pick from about 35 different kinds of cereal, that our clothes weren’t beaten on a rock to get clean, that with a flick of a switch on a wall our homes were cooler, that there was no chance of me ever having my head shaved because my mother made a bargain with a god and it worked in her favor.
I felt ashamed and bewildered at the life I’d known and so much of it now seemed so silly and petty. I’d watched a blind woman holding a nearly dead baby bang on our car window asking for money and I came home to a warm bed and food to feed an entire household for a week.
I recall this feeling so well – because I feel it so keenly right now.
I don’t know how to say all this without sounding incredibly angry or resentful, but it’s not about that. It’s about me, once again, seeing the world I knew change in a few hours because of what happened. I can’t go back. The innocence of what I used to hold dear and precious as a mother and a woman is gone, and with it goes some of the values and ideals I thought were so terribly important.
And it’s not that they aren’t. They just can’t be to me.
When life strips you down to the bare minimum and you hold your children in your arms with one gone and the other going, it changes you forever. I will never, ever be the same again. Never. There are moments in life that make you not only a different version of who you are, but make you a different human being. Maybe not for the better, or for the worse. Just different.
There are moments now that happen to me I would have let slip past unnoticed before. And now I feel them so vividly; partly in fear of missing them and partly because of what happened. I try to take time now to really do the things that matter, to live the life I wanted. I’m starting to.
I read and see things that make me upset, there are times I want to scream, “It doesn’t matter – how stupid! ‘FML’ doesn’t apply to the wrong hair color or that you gained 5 pounds. I would give anything to be exhausted because I was up all night with a baby. I’d kill for my biggest worry to be if I’d get to shower today. I’m SO sorry you got the wrong crib bedding set.” But then I have to remember that before this happened, it might have mattered to me. Everyone’s struggle and cares are relevant to what they’ve gone through.
But it’s so very hard. I see my life and others with new eyes and with the knowledge behind them of how incredibly fragile life is, and I’m trying to learn to balance that with being human, realizing that I too do and say things that others find unreasonable or insensitive because I’ve never walked in their shoes. I can still be petty, angry, say stupid things, focus on the small parts. So with that, I remember it’s my life and behavior that I can and want to change. No one else’s – everyone plays the hand they’re dealt.
I pray each night that the hand I got is one that changes me for the better. Changes me to be the person I always wanted to become. That the two lives I lost make the ones I’m still a part of more precious to me.
I hope it will do that. I hope I become better.