I’m trying to write and I’m not sure why, because I’ve been feeling like I’ve lost all words. While others keep churning them out, I seem to be without. Haiyan barrelled through and claimed them all. It brought forth new ones, like “storm surge”, but I find myself unable to find the old reliables. My head is full of images, yet the words still escape me. I’m struggling for balance in a world that is permanently changed. My shopping list includes items I wouldn’t normally buy, in quantities my home never needs, some for the living, some for the dead.
Stories abound about the worst kind of destruction, but also the most incredible kind of global unity. The world has come together to cradle us in its palm and I am brought to my knees in gratitude. My Facebook page is full of updates on what people are doing, from big, bold, repeated announcements of accomplishments to more straightforward and subtle ones, each putting out a picture of what else is needed and where. Everyone is brimming with opinion and action, connecting like never before. But sometimes it feels like noise. All my personal screens are constantly beeping and sometimes I just have to close my eyes, shut off, and call it a day, ignoring the inevitable guilt. I can shut off. Others can’t.
I’ve huddled with friends over coffee, all of us shaking our heads at the luxury, enjoying our comfort and cursing it, laughing too loud to keep from doing the opposite, trying to figure out how best we can help beyond relief goods, beyond whatever drop-in-the-bucket assistance we’ve been able to give thus far. We try to volunteer but feel mostly that we are forcing ourselves on something that doesn’t necessarily need us and I keep checking on my motives: service or guilt? Does it matter?
This cannot be our fate forever. Relief work seems to be year round. It’s almost a lifestyle for some friends. I think of my kids and simply refuse to accept it. Is this the world we’ve created for them? We are called resilient, but it’s starting to smart. It feels like painful praise. I’d like our people to be known for more than that. We are resilient because we are constantly battered, even by our own people, so we don’t have a choice. Of course we are resilient. For us, it’s survival.
Then I tell myself to look in the mirror so that I can receive the sneer I so deserve. From myself.
I type on my Mac, sitting in my study, surrounded by my books and mess. Oh, the gift of all my personal mess!! A knot forms in my stomach at the image of a whole other reality a short plane ride away. Resilient? I think they don’t know me. Me and my Mac, on my lovely wooden desk, my butt resting too comfortably on a cushioned desk chair I can roll this way and that so I don’t have to get up if I don’t have to. What a hypocrite. I smart at a label that has nothing to do with me, even though I am Filipino. Who am I kidding? When they say the Filipino is so amazingly resilient, they are not talking about me. Me and my Mac and my room full of things.
Resilient. It’s just another word that eludes me.