After I moved to a different country, I experienced how hard it was (and it still is in some situations) to handle almost everything by myself. I really did go through tough times, but as I mentioned in a previous post “A Shift in Perspective” (https://apathoflight.wordpress.com/2011/03/20/a-shift-in-perspective/ ), I learned to settle with completing chores less than perfectly and found some ease in what I actually could do opposing to what was expected of me. Since then, I’ve been observing and being a good listener to friends (all women) going through the same issues. And even though that brought me some comfort, it also raised my compassion towards women in general, who have to juggle so much all the time. A question that does not seem to settle down is why does it have to be this way?
In the state where I grew up, you usually get help from family members, neighbors or friends unless you choose to be alone. I am not saying here one state or country is better than the other, every place has its pros and cons. Neither am I saying that there is no help in the country I currently live in; there is, but at another level, as in people raising money to help someone pay for a surgery or cooking to help someone who got sick all of a sudden. But my point here is taking care of the routine. And coming from a place where you can almost always count on help from others, there was a big impact, especially with the fact that I had a newborn when I moved. But life goes on, and apparently the hardship was not so bad, because my husband and I decided to have a second child! Well, a big reason for that was that I am an only child and know how it is living without siblings, especially when you get older and would prefer to share caring for a parent with a sibling.
To illustrate this, there is an episode I remember during my second pregnancy and how a regular visit to the grocery store opened up my eyes to the fact I needed to handle it by myself, because people simply choose to stay out of each other’s lives. I remember having a baby in my belly and carrying my first child on top of my expanded belly while with the other hand I held grocery bags… I used to wonder if someone would come to help, since my husband was at work at that time; perhaps a neighbor, who was sitting on the couch just watching TV, but nobody came. And one day, my toddler was asleep in the car, so I decided to take the groceries directly to my apartment while I let her sleep a little more in the car, just until I unloaded them. To my surprise, when I got back to the car, there was a neighbor looking at the window with a cell phone in his hand… Horrified, I asked him what he was doing, and he told me he had thought a baby had been abandoned in the parking lot. I guess he was looking behind the blinds on his window only to see that, but was not able to see someone carrying two babies and bags at the same time.
Until today I hear my friends talking about all they do to stand up for their kids in school matters, for example, or to handle birthday parties, sleepovers and team sports on the same night, and how I admire them! We are capable of so much, just because we love our kids so much! Imagine if the sense of community was present! I want to give a twist here by saying that even with all that we women need to handle – and I know there are some men who do that too – there was a woman candidate for president! That is amazing; now imagine the heights we could achieve if we were united as a village supporting each other!
Martin Prechtel talks about community in his book Long Life, Honey in the Heart. If you’ve been through at least some of what I am talking about, you can imagine what it feels to read these sentences: “Babies were not measured by how much they weighed but by how welcome they were made to feel.” Or “in the minds of the Tzutujil, having suckled from the breasts of women from every clan in the village, each baby would then be related to the whole village in the deepest way possible.” Wouldn’t you be happy someone is taking good care of your baby while you get at least half an hour sleep on those tough nights your baby just seems to be testing how long you will last?
This other part he wrote makes me dream about community: “Love is shown in a village so often in a nonverbal way. After hearing the news of a family’s new addition,” the paths around their house would be cleared by other villagers, who would “sacrifice an early start to their fields for food and firewood in honor of the child.” And when kids grow up and seem even more challenging to handle, here comes your friends to lend a hand again because “most parents become inspired geniuses when dealing with other people’s teenagers, but turn unto judgmental imbeciles with their own kids.” So true!
We need to get back to this community sense of living, also respecting and including elders, who have a lot to share. “Being heard by the elders and the village at large didn’t fix anything, but it made life bearable because we were together, in love with the adventure of our tiny collective relevance to the hungry universe.” I am not saying we should just throw computers away and get back to primitive living; I am trying to emphasize here it takes a village to help all that needs to be done – raise kids, do your job, help elders, feed the people, etc. – to finally get accomplished, and with sanity. As Martin observed tourists coming into their (now long-gone) village, he could notice their astonishment towards their ways of living. He summarized it in these sentences: Tourists came and “by taking pictures of themselves standing next to what their own culture had shunned and forgotten, [they] tried to fill their own hollowness.(…) Throwing away what they now tried to steal from us, the price paid for their tribeless unconnectedness and personal freedom was depression and neurosis.”
Martin and his Tzutujil Mayan fellows understood everything is connected and flows together, there is an interdependency in each other’s actions and choices, even nature, because of course we depend on it to live, and it depends on us to continue existing. “The knowledge that every animal, plant, person, wind, and season is indebted to the fruit of everything else is an adult knowledge.” So, even if it’s just carpool, carrying groceries for a neighbor, or standing by someone who needs support, it does take a village to help you live properly. May we all realize this soon enough!