Shadow me with rocket launcher, Cheghcharan
What a great day! I feel lucky.
Today I've been reminded that we can welcome wonderful people into our lives and hearts whereever we are, we can find ways to keep connections close even when we are far apart and also that it is possible to make really special connections with people who live thousands of miles away.
I'm still coming to the themes that were on my mind this morning (this may be a long post) but first a little celebration of friendship in strangest places and across the miles
H is an Icelandic woman who lives and works in the army base here in Ghor. We just hit it off from the first time we met. There are cultural similarities between Iceland and New Zealand. But more than that, she's a woman after my own heart, a soul sister. Today she came over and we did an hour of yoga, talked about the challenges and achievements of our weeks and then agreed to form our own wee mini cluster to support and encourage each other through a 12 week creative nuturing process using Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way".
Does it seem strange for a human rights officer and a development advisor in the middle of Afghanistan to embark on the artist's way journey? Maybe, but H and I agree that nurturing our creative energy is the secret to continuing to find creative responses to the complex humanitarian, political, development and human rights challenges we face in our work each day. We also think that caring for our creative selves is a good project to embark on for its own sake, keeping alive the spark of electricity that makes everyday a little joy - even when it is filled with challenge.
So here, in the middle of the Hindu Kush, I found H, a soul friend. A friend with whom I can be entirely myself, with whom I can stop being the local diplomatic representative and instead be the excited girl who brags about her achievement of the day, or the naughty girl who admits losing her temper too quickly once too often this week.
Then there is J - we were stationed here together. Me, a single female human rights lawyer from New Zealand, he an ex-army married father of two from India. You might think we would be an odd couple.
But we are such great company for each other. We talk about yoga and meditation, and last night after I worked 12 hours straight on an emergency response committee J cooked me curry and we sat on the floor of his unit discussing Gandhi and non-violence and the pervasive popularity of Indian pop culture.
We share a desire to make friends with the wild kittens and we share a taste for incense and spicy vegetarian food and for gin and tonic. This is one of the special delights of my line of work - finding great friends in people who come from extremely different backgrounds and who have had very different experiences.
Then there is the wonder of the internet and the ways it helps me keep in touch with dear friends in far flung places. Today I was chatting on Skype with three really good friends. We all lived together in Wellington for a few spectacular years - now I was typing in Afghanistan, A from the Solomon Islands and husband and wife team L and J from different rooms in their home in Wellington. I was laughing so hard at points in the conversation that I forgot we were not all in the room together and could almost see the tables and walls of our favorite Wellington bar, the Matterhorn, all around. I told them funny and irreverant stories about my work - stories that anyone who didn't know me might be shocked by (like the way I made up a whole new religion on Monday night to answer questions from a woman in a village in Dowlatyar). My friends laughed and reminded me that as well as being an earnest campaigner for human rights I'm also a mischevious monkey.
The after H left I logged on and opened my email and found messages from a couple of very special new bloggy friends - Swirly and Susanna - both of whom I hope to meet in person before the end of this year. I'm also off on leave in a week and on my way for a week in Portugal (yup! Portugal! lucky huh?) I'll be passing through the UK and get to see a couple of really fantastic women for the second time, Susannah of Ink on My Fingers and S of Travels into the Unkown. This whole blog phenomenon is still a bit like magic to me. I type these words, then I click my mouse on "post" and they somehow get popped into a place on the world wide interweb and people find them. I never quite know how but they do - and some of the people who find (or whom I find myself) are people who I just know I was meant to find, or be found by. I wonder how it woulod have happened without the magic of the internet. But in this case that is how it happened and it is such a crazy, 'what-are-the-odds' phenomenon that I just have to smile and believe.
So - yeah - I'm feeling like a very lucky girl today. After a quiet reflective morning, which I'll come to now, my day turned into this joy of connections.
But back to the morning thoughts. This post is already kind of long so I'm going to pick just one of the threads of thought that I had going on this morning - the thread about anger.
This week and for a few weeks now I've found my anger bubbling up to the surface (and sometimes up and over the edge) more often that I'd say was 'normal' for me. After eight years of human rights work I've finally come to recognise the cycle of emotional responses that I have to the more extreme level of violence and injustice that I come across. Anger is one of the very healthy responses - so it doesn't bother me to feel it rising. The difficult part is figuring out what to do with it.
Sometimes it feels right to direct a little of my anger at the people most responsible for causing it - and I will sometimes speak with anger in my voice and with anger in my words directly to the people around me (whether they be warlord, politician or rude colleague). But more often than not my anger, though very legitimate, is not going to help progress the work. So what then?
I know that keeping it in, pressing it down, is bad news. I'm quite convinced that anger pushed inwards can become self-loathing or depression and so that's clearly not a good choice.
In NZ I used to exercise through my anger, a really hard run or a session of one-on-one boxing with my trainer would leave me anger free and, even better, filled with happy chemicals. But here my only really reliable exercise option is yoga and as much as I love it, I don't yet find it to be an easy way to release anger.
So I write it out in my journal, I use the words HATE and ANGRY quite often some mornings. Last weekend when I was mad as hell at three people who kept ignoring the boundaries I had put in place to protect my personal space and my personal time I spent an hour cutting and glueing and stamping a collage in my journal all about boundaries and how rude it is to violate them. Yeah! That's telling em.
I also have a special friend with whom I chat on Skype almost everyday and I say terrible things about other people in our chats. He knows that I spend so much of my time being diplomatic that it does me a world of good to write "stupid kid" in reference to a perfectly innocent but sometimes annoying colleague. He lets me release all that anger and laughs with me at my own pettiness, while letting me have this safe space to let it all out. Thank goodness for good friends.
Yes - this week I've been thinking about anger and how - when it comes from good and healthy places - to release it and even to use it.
So this morning when I opened my current read I was impressed to find this:
"Sometimes I think the fits of rage are like a huge creative urge gone into reverse, something dammed up that spills over ... The fierce tension in me, when it is properly channeled, creates the good tension for work. But when it becomes unbalanced I am destructive. ... I have sometimes wondered also whether in people like me who come to the boil fast ... the tantrum is not a built-in safety valve against madness or illness."
Mary Sarton, Journal of a Solitude.
More on decision making, trauma, healing and other topics tomorrow. I hope your weekend is as brilliant as mine was!