The past four days have been a distilled, highly concentrated cross section of my life: intensive international media to celebrate the premiere of Missing, a unique 10 episode show set all across europe, about a complex, deeply sentient, and physically empowered woman who will stop at nothing to protect her vulnerable son. I spent several hours at the United Nations talking about All That Is Bitter and Sweet to a crowd of diplomats and their advisors, NGO folks, the public, and students; I shared some of my first hand experiences sitting with sexually exploited men and women and other topics from my feminist social justice work, inkling my time at Harvard. I sat with President Clinton on on the opening plenary of the Clinton Global Initiative winter meeting, talking about how Population Services International is expanding an exciting new development in global public health, health franchising, and the usefulness of applying private sector strategies to increase the capacity of community health workers to integrate health services and products in rural and isolated areas in some of the poorest parts of the world, as well as how cross-sector partnerships are transforming community based health interventions for girls and women. Narrative enriched all these conversations; it is always about relationships, interdependence, and the sacredness of our individual and collective stories.
During it all, I was still reeling from being sick for three weeks, having been on multiple rounds of steroids to try to address the sinus inflammation. But I felt deeply blessed, albeit a little lost in the transitions. I didn’t sleep much. I cried little every day. I prayed a lot. It can all be so much! How does all this happen in the life of one person? Sometimes I am pretty sure god has me mixed up with someone else, because, in my heart, I long to stay home, be a country woman, barefoot in a soft cotton gown, walking the hills, admiring the swelling of spring creeks, and keeping a close eye on the daily miracles of late winter and early spring. One morning in my hotel when it was time to wake up, one of our kitty cats, an extra special one, was in the bed with me, nuzzling, purring, and grooming me. She cared for me so tenderly, and she woke me up gently, just before the alarm. Of course, when I opened my eyes, I was in New York City. But she is a catso she is magical, by definition. She had travelled here in my time of need to minister to me, and start my day softly, as I needed it to be started. Connected.
At the book signing after my talk at the UN, a beautiful nun thanked me for being “a good Benedictine.” It made me cry, and is one of the most important compliments I have ever received. nuns are some of the most principled, fierce, uncompromising social justice activists in the world. Such faith! Such goodness! I shared with her what I have been reading every day, several times. And on the day Missing comes out, and while my usual life is laden with such ripe, heavy, delicious fruit, I want to share it with you. It was written by the great trappist monk from kentucky, father thomas merton. The passage was given to me by a dear sorority sister, years ago; I cherish her handwritten note on the reverse, in faded pencil, that invites me to pray this with her every day:
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am
going. I do not see the road ahead
of me. I cannot know for certain
where it will end. Nor do I really
know myself, and the fact that I
think that I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually
doing so. But I believe that the desire
to please you does in fact
please you. And I hope I have that
desire in all that I am doing. I hope
that I will never do anything apart
from that desire. And I know that
if I do this you will lead me by the
right road though I may know nothing
about it. Therefore will I trust
you always though I may seem to
be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever
with me, and you will never leave
me to face my perils alone.
~Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude.
Thy will be done.
15 March 2012