8 Life Lessons I Learned in Haiti

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It's taken me a few months to put this post together because, as it turned out, my trip to Haiti for a trauma-informed yoga training with yogaHOPE this past April was the start of a new phase of life for me. Like the shedding of an old skin, within two weeks of returning I had given my notice at my full time job, ready to pursue a deeper calling. I've been in the shaky world of transition since then. It's not that any specific event happened in Haiti to cause me to take a new direction. I think it was the other way around.

I chose to go to Haiti because I needed to be inspired. Something was missing. I felt I had lost touch with a fundamental part of me, my passion for women's issues, and I longed to be a part of something that was making a difference for women, especially trauma survivors.

Prior to the trip, I was burnt out with the demands of working and teaching full time.  I didn't have much time or energy to pursue my creative interests, but I squeezed them in because they were important to me. What that amounted to was little time leftover for self-care (like sleep) and, oh yeah, my family.

My experience in Haiti helped me get unstuck. Since going back to teaching part-time, I've got time to write, play in the ocean, practice yoga, prepare healthy meals, to actually listen to my kids and my partner when they speak to me...  And I'm making just as much money as I was before!!

...JUST KIDDING!!!! My paycheck is a lot smaller than it used to be. I'm just going to make it work for now. ;)

LIFE LESSONS FROM MY TRIP TO HAITI

  • I learned to appreciate many "simple things" I'd been taking for granted.Food and water that is safe to eat and drink. A clean safe bed to sleep in. Toilets that flush. Education for my children past kindergarten. Paved roads. Warm showers.I never realized how fortunate I was to have all of these things. It's not that I've stopped having needless anxiety or falling back on old habits or complaints, but my eyes have certainly been opened, and I am so much more aware.
  • I learned what makes for a memorable evening...It's not a fancy meal, fine wine, or the right outfit. Sometimes the best moments can happen outdoors, on plastic chairs, among friends, where the only thing on the menu is hotdog casserole, and there is one type of beer, and it is great. Note to self: Have friends over more often. (And keep it simple.)
  • I learned that hugging, dancing, singing, yoga and massage are really awesome in any language.
  • I learned that making music with a group is one of my favorite things in the universe.Another note to self: Always travel with ukulele, because you never know.
  • I learned my favorite emotion.While in Haiti, I experienced a state where I was content to smile, observe and take in my surroundings. Where I didn't need to put in my two cents, because my words would not improve on the peaceful quality of silence. I called this feeling "quiet happiness."
  • I found out it's fun to ditch the iPhone.No cell service and WiFi only at the guest house, so I checked email/social media twice a day, around breakfast and dinner time.  This was hugely different from my usual routine of checking every 5 seconds. It felt AMAZING not to be zoned out on the iPhone, and it made those brief check-ins actually fun and exciting to see what messages I had waiting. This deserves a whole other post as I need to integrate this into life back at home.
  • I discovered my greatest fear. No big deal.Kidding of course -- this was big. One of the most powerful moments in the training was an exercise where we were all given a slip of paper and a pencil.  We were to write down what we fear most, fold the paper and place it in a basket. We then took turns pulling out a slip and reading someone else's fear to the group.  It was so moving to hear many of the same worries expressed in English and Kreyol. Things like "I am afraid I will grow old alone." "I am afraid of dying."It took me only a few seconds to write mine down. The thought that came up right away was, "I am not important." Interesting. Noticing and naming the fear has allowed me to ask myself, "What if I am not important??"Maybe I'm not! Maybe that's okay. This thought is freeing.I had to confront this fear when resigning my management role -- a job that gave me a feeling of status, importance.  In Haiti, no one knew the company I worked for, what my role was. I was just me.

I'll leave you with one final thanks to all those who changed lives, including mine, by donating their time and money to this cause.