Monday, February 12, 2007

Up, Up, Up

This weekend I went through three books in quick succession: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Painted Veil, and On the Road. Each quite different; all quite quite wonderful.

My final list of 20 bids is due on the 15th. Looking at it on Sunday night, I had a horrible panic attack. Earlier that morning I had awoke to discover that half of my right hand was not just numb, but actually lifeless. A wad of meat and bone that did not move and did not bend and did not respond to entreaties or caresses or starkly terrifying recollections of touching my grandmother's hand just before they buried her. After a few minutes the familiar tingly numbness returned, indolent and unapologetic, but the sense of loss of control -- however brief -- remained. I haven't heard from Med; my CDO has not answered a single question I've asked her; and pushing bids from one rank to another I suddenly felt like I was in a total vacuum. I started emailing friends and pressing for advice. Was I insane to think I could handle Baghdad? Could I really hold it together enough to do a GSO job? Was it worthwhile to even put a list together when I knew Med was going to butcher it anyways? Should I just get out of this career now? It was a long time before I could sleep.

Since Tuesday I've thought I had a touch of the flu. Now I realize the nausea's real cause is stress.

Something about that realization has been immensely calming. Sitting in the corner coffee shop immersed somewhere in the middle of Kerouac's journey from Denver to San Francisco, it occurred to me that I had enjoyed all of the books I've read this weekend, despite their differences. More than enjoyed them, in fact. Had actually felt enhanced and shaped by each one.

And I had this weird sort of mini-epiphany, 'road-to-Damascus' moment. That it doesn't matter where I'm posted; that I had meant it when I said I'd go anywhere; that I really did join because I want to serve, and I want to help, and I want to see for myself what America's policies are doing around the world and take responsibility for it.

And if it's consular work I will do it, and if it's PD work I will do it, and if it's tedious paper-pushing I will do it. And MS is not going to prevent me from handling any of those things.

And if they insist on sending me to The Hague when I'm asking to be sent to Hell, well, I will find something there to enjoy and study and grow from.

Sorry if this is overblown. I haven't been able to eat or drink much since Tuesday, so I'm a bit light-headed. But now I think I'll make myself a sandwich.


Anonymous said...

you might have forgotten that there are actually people in The Hague who care for you and who would be happy to look after you, especially when you start saying silly things!

and I am still of the opinion that ANY place in the world is interesting enough to work and live.

and furthermore: even when you are not living or working in a certain place, you can still help, from a distance.

it is not always necessary to actually BE somewhere.

you can be helpfull to people anywhere in the world FROM ANY PLACE in the world. things do not just happen in Bagdad or Jerusalem. many things actually happen in America, or Europe, in The Hague too.

what things are happening? there are changes in people's attitudes, changes in people's thinking, in how we look at one another. in how we look at/ treat animals! (we have a party for (the rights of) animals now, in The Netherlands)

you can be helpfull to people anywhere. especially when you write. look at your blog. it is read by people from all around the world.

look at the books you read - they were written in another place and time and STILL they made you THINK, they gave you a certain feeling about things, about the world, about life in general.

so stop worrying! you are who you are wherever you are, Katie.

if I were you, I would put The Hague on your list.


Katie said...

Hoi Lieve Esther!

Don't worry -- I just submitted my bid list, and The Hague is definitely on it.

I had a daydream of us riding our bikes along the beach in Scheveningen... Het was leuk.

Anonymous said...

of course it was leuk!

it is always leuk when you're around.

love, XXX