ubuntu . . .

A few years ago I was admitted into the VA Hospital for a month stay in a lock-down unit on the Mental Ward for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The years following my return from a year in Iraq with the Marine Corps were challenging to put it mildly. It turned out I wasn’t equipped to find my way back from the war zone with all of its death & destruction on my own. Although I was very aware & educated on the subject, I still lacked the skills to manuever around triggers & keep myself safe. I think the biggest problem was that I was in denial about my skills, abilities & the depth of how depression & PTSD were truly affecting my life.

in the in-between

I was spiralling down fast when I finally admitted to myself that spending some time away from my life focusing on unravelling the meanings I made of everything witnessed & experienced in Iraq would be empowering. I knew I had to do something.

The program was for women only & they called it WISER (an acronym for something clever about women). I expected the other participants to be combat vets from Iraq & Afghanistan, but as it turned out during this session they were from the Vietnam era  & were mostly Military Sexual Trauma victims. In addition, they were all southern women from various backgrounds that didn’t look anything like mine. They were kind but I felt like an odd duck for numerous reasons having to do with education level, income level, interests, time in service, rank, & color of skin. They all seemed to share a common southern language that was spoken quickly & softly using words in contexts I had never heard before. I found myself saying, “huh?” a lot, or just laughing & nodding at everything they said. Most of what they said was usually cracking a joke so laughing was a safe bet. These women loved to laugh, to eat & to smoke.

the little girl within is angry

I spent the first week trying to figure out how I had ended up in a cohort of women who were nothing like me. What was the lesson here? Then one day while reading Brian Nepo’s The Book of Awakening, I stumbled upon a page that I had folded, penciled, underlined, & starred with little side notes. It was entitled, Ubuntu. Suddenly I got it!! They were not different from me. They were me & I them. I could not know myself without knowing them with compassion & love. My judgments were more about myself than them. If the women were similar to me, and had been in a combat zone, then perhaps I would have missed my opportunity to focus on myself. As it turned out, I was one of the youngest in the program, I think the oldest was 65 or so. This allowed me to take on a baby role, rather than having to nurture & mother those from the Iraq/Afghanistan era who are much younger. It was serendipitous to land in this pod of women.

the little girl inside is tired of holding it all in

The program was a very intense, life-changing four weeks where the life I had been living, the meanings I made of everything, even back to childhood, & the choices I made were all laid out before me & slowly unravelled to make sense or allow it to just not make sense.

I learned a lot during my stay but Ubuntu was one of the juicier lessons learned.

I wrote this poem below while in the hospital & read it to everyone at graduation.

the gathering

Ubuntu

by
 Katariina Fagering

I came here afraid, alone and lost. I
had forgotten who I was

Wandering
in the shadow lands of darkness, I questioned:

How did I
get here?

Who are
these women?

Do I
belong?

But then a
whisper filtered through my heart ~

 

Ubuntu

I am,
because you are.

Suddenly,
my sisters appeared and I found me in them.

Ubuntu

I am,
because you are.

Because she
is nurturing, motherly, love,

Hilarious

laughter filling the room,

Sunshine-sweet-southern drawl,

So am I.

Because
she is elegant, wise and brilliant,

Seeking,
searching and humble,

A courageous, proud, fierce protector,

So am I.

Connecting
with heart, I take you in my heart.

Because my
sister was raped, I was raped.

Because my
sister has HIV, I too have HIV.

Because my
sister went to war, I went to war.

Because my
sister is an alcoholic, I am an alcoholic.

Because my
sister’s mother died, my mother died.

Because my
sister has been beaten, raped, humiliated, lost, tossed and mistreated,

So have I.

Ubuntu

I am,
because you are.

Together
we are reaching out,

Connecting,

Finding
love, loving ourselves,

Being
Audacious enough. She is enough. I am enough.

All that I

witness in you, my sisters,

So am I.

 Because
you shared the gift of you,

 I now know the fullness
of me.

Marine with Iraqi Children, Karabyla, Iraq 2006

Advertisements

10 thoughts on “ubuntu . . .

  1. Katariina…we don’t know one another, but have quite a few mutual friends and “sisters”…but I have been following your creativity for a while and am always moved by your heart’s song. This post was particularly meaningful to me…thank you…with Love, kate

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s