I saw the movie Whisky Tango Foxtrot over the weekend. (I only got the joke in the title three hours later. I'm slow.) The movie is based on Kim Barker's memoir of her time serving as a journalist in Afghanistan, and it stars Tina Fey. I rented the movie to see Tina Fey, but I came away from it with Barker's experience of Afghanistan etched on my consciousness.... It was an experience of horrendous violence, of deep poverty, and of an utterly other culture. It was an experience that the westerners in the movie could barely bear, but for Barker, it was an experience that was transformative.
Nonetheless, there was line near the end of the movie that jumped out at me. Barker was choosing to leave Afghanistan. She realized that she could bear no more of it. That it was distorting her the way it distorted the other westerners there. It was simply too much stress--the constant dance with death and violence. When her lover questioned her decision--"Why leave this place where we feel so alive?"--her response took me aback.
"This isn't real, you know," she told him.
I think she must have meant "for us--for those of us westerners for whom this way of living is so foreign--for those of us for whom all of this is simply a career option--it isn't real, it isn't authentic for us to stay here." That must have been what she meant, because in Afghanistan they found a surplus of reality. It was just a reality from which they'd been sheltered. This surplus, it could transform them. It could evoke in them a courage or a compassion that they never knew they had. It could open them to truths about themselves and their world of which they never dreamed. But they could only bear so much reality, and then it was too much, and they stopped being real.
Reality. It's what I find in Haiti, among other places. I don't know that I find much courage within myself through that reality--though I go because I believe in their courage. I know that the compassion I find is more their compassion than mine, but I'm learning. But spending time with them, offering them what I've learned because I think they can use it well--it does transform me. Or more it grounds me, being in touch with their reality.
I believe I can bring that grounding and transformation to my coaching here in the states. I can offer here the reality with which they gift me there.
That's what I believe.