I reached out to a girlfriend of mine who spent 2 volunteer stints in Haiti shortly after the last earthquake, for advice as I remembered her describing the disorientation she felt after her 2nd return.
It had been a real difference for her compared to the first time when she returned feeling pumped up and raring to go. Instead, she returned feeling ungrounded and down for at least a few months if my memory serves.
Felt what I think were similar sensations -- Numbness, mental detachment along with profound sadness during and after -- And gave it time to continue working through me once I returned home. Luckily the worse of it coincided with a non-crazy period at work, thus making my emotional return gentler.
I wonder if this is what I will need to work on next -- The mental-emotional preparation? Not exactly sure just how to do that, other than to gain more experience and ask others how they cope, which is why I want to talk to her about it.
Situations that lead to the "cleaving open" of oneself emotionally to reveal deep compassion (among other things) can be heart wrenching and uncomfortable. However, has served to reinforce my deepest foundations as a person. And this last experience continued to advance that.
And I've noticed how differently being immersed in discomfort play out in people. From becoming very quiet and literally running away to spend more time alone (me) to feeling the need to talk non stop to acting out negatively when it seems contrary to their persona. Adversity can be such a self discovery process.
My relationship with food shifted on this trip. I felt a low to low-moderate amount of hunger each day while working abroad. Coming from a country where I rarely get to feel any real hunger, it was a change.
The heat was certainly a factor but so was the depth of my sadness and guilt. My appetite during the day wasn't what it usually is, which for me has normally meant 2 meals a day.
For the majority of days, I ate one egg in the morning, not because I was hungry at 6 am, but because I needed something in my stomach before taking my malaria meds. Then later, would pick through lunch after rejecting any snacks and have 1/3rd of what my normal dinner serving would be.
Seriously, I felt quite good doing the above. I found eating vegetarian when I did eat lunch made me more physically productive afterwards in the heat compared to the days I would eat a small piece of chicken or fish, for example.
Having been home for a while, I initially continued the lower caloric intake out of habit but am missing the amount of physical activity. My workouts and paid work, despite them rating much harder in a number of ways, also doesn't seem enough. Am missing the slow burn. Maybe I need to start volunteering on a farm?
D and I discussed the number of food things we habitually do because we "can", because it is convenient, serves as a treat etc. when in reality those things don't necessarily rank very high in our experience scale to be worth putting in our mouth or spending any money on.
It's not a frugality move as much as a further questioning of our inner motives, including the habits of eating because it is a certain time, before any signs of hunger. D and I can have quite different eating cycles and for the sake of eating together, one or both of us may not be feeling any real need to eat but will because it is close enough or we are in a social setting or it has just been prepared.
At first, coming back from a place where true hunger is a reality of daily living, our seemingly benign habits at home literally turned my stomach and to be honest, disgusted me -- Even though I'd hardly describe our daily lifestyle as food indulgent.
So moving forward, we are committed to becoming more conscious of our decision making with respect to our relationship with food. If I am going to eat out, I want to feel a real hunger for it -- The experience, the type of food, not just because I'm feeling hungry. There is a difference.