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Born in the US, raised on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, lived in Italy, the US, and Canada. Lover of language, travel, colour, and the natural world.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The blessings of sacrifice

Day 1 of the Baha'i fast ended tonight at sunset, and although I had an amazing prayer time at dawn this morning and an extremely productive day, I was, nevertheless, very ready to eat come sunset. I find that the first few days of the 19 day fast are really tough, and today was no exception. By late morning I already had a headache despite having a good breakfast and four large glasses of water before sunrise (which, come to think of it, may be why I had a headache...)

Tonight we had a devotional gathering at our home. The topic was the blessings of sacrifice. I recall that when the woman in our group who came up with that theme suggested it when we were coming up with monthly themes many months ago, I felt myself physically recoil for some reason. So I have to admit that I was not sure how tonight was going to go.

As it turned out, there were only four of us at the devotional tonight (which meant we were left with most of a pie and almost an entire quiche in the fridge, in a household with three people who are not eating during daylight hours for the next 18 days....someone please come raid our fridge!) and my mom came up with a wonderful program with readings that approached sacrifice from many different perspectives. She then led a discussion about instances that we could recall in which we sacrificed something in the short term that ended up resulting in unforeseen blessings further down the road. The discussion was an interesting one, and the other two participants said that they probably do make sacrifices on a regular basis, but that they do not feel that they are making sacrifices at the time that they are making the decision to either do or not do something. 

Given that what is most present in my mind and heart at the moment is the decision of whether moving back to PEI, whether it be for a year to house sit for a friend, or beyond, is the right thing for me right now, I started reflecting on my six years on PEI, and how tough those years were for me socially. I met many fantastic people who are lifelong friends, but I did not not have the close circle of friends that were close to me in age that I had grown accustomed to having before moving to PEI. I was very conscious of this the entire time I lived on PEI. It meant that in the evenings I was usually home reading a book or writing. Not being a drinker, the bar scene was not for me, and I just never really found a group of like-minded folks my own age. I did not really mind, but of course it meant that I spent a lot of time alone over the six years that I was living on the island. I enjoy alone time, but I also really love the company of friends. I am generally quite social. So learning to adjust to so much time alone was definitely a challenge for me -- one which I am not entirely sure I ever fully conquered. Living on PEI, I felt as though my social life was definitely an area in which I had to make sacrifices.

There were other things on PEI that I loved though. Things that made it all worthwhile for me. The beautiful beaches and natural areas that I could get to easily in short periods of time. The farmer's market, which I adored. The trail right across from my house that I ran on regularly. The close proximity to farmland that I could spend full days on planting, weeding or harvesting crops. The community of amazing people who shared things with me that I would never have learned if I had been limiting my social life to my peers. People who had the skills to build their own homes, haul their own firewood out of the forest and chop it up themselves, and grow their own food. I really valued being surrounded by such skilled people, and I hope that some of their do-it-yourself mentality rubbed off on me, because Prince Edward Islanders are definitely empowered people. I also valued that the bank clerks knew me by voice, so that when I would call in they knew who was speaking. The tiny yet huge details of a small town that are lost in a large city.

I have been thinking a lot about whether I might take one of my best friends up on her offer to house-sit for the year that she is away working in France. Part of me is jumping with joy at this offer. The part that misses the natural environment on PEI like crazy, and that still gets tears in her eyes when she talks about pretty much anyone in my closely-knit community. It is amazing to me that although it has been over a year since I left the island, I still think of everyone there as my community and family, and miss their presence in my life deeply every day. I guess that is what happens when you open yourself to a place completely. It comes rushing in, and becomes an integral part of who you are.

I am not at all settled in California. I am constantly looking for work elsewhere, and hoping that I will find work that will enable me to relocate to the Mediterranean or Central America. But over the last few months I have been working really hard at my writing, and I am finally starting to make some progress. This week I sent off three article pitches to magazines, and I am now writing tea descriptions for a tea company that, interestingly, is back on PEI. I am also in the process of talking to a friend about interviewing her for an article about a very interesting project she is working on in Mali (which I will share with you once it is done!) I have a large group of friends that I socialize with regularly here. I am loving my regular runs in the park near our house and my yoga practice, which helps keep me grounded. I am heading off to the Dominican Republic to build a gravity-fed drinking water system for cocoa farmers in a few weeks. And I am hoping to be able to spend a week or two in Portugal this summer. Things are definitely looking up.

So when I got the news that this spring may be one of my last chances to move back to PEI and re-establish myself before my visa expires late this summer, it is understandable that I would feel conflicted. I left PEI for a social life and to pursue my own writing career. Now both of these things are taking off, but I am missing my closely knit small rural community. There has to be a balance somewhere, it seems. I have just not found it yet.

So when we were talking about sacrifice tonight, I found it ironic that back on PEI I consciously sacrificed a more active social life in order to live in a beautiful, small, rural community; and now that I have the social life, by choosing to remain here, I am also choosing, at least for the time-being, to live in a big, noisy city in which I have to worry about personal safety, rarely get to see the stars, and do not even know the names of the couple that live next door. The topic of sacrifice was chosen because of the Fast, but it has much further reaching relevance to my life as a while right now.

It is getting late, and I have to be up at dawn, so had better turn in. I am heading to bed thinking about sacrifices. The ones I make. The ones I am not willing to make. The ones I was willing to make in the past, but am not entirely sure I am still willing to make today. Reflecting on sacrifice brings priorities and dreams in life bubbling to the surface. Priorities and dreams that I know I have to be true to, even if it means I have to make painful sacrifices.

What are your thoughts on sacrifice? Are there any sacrifices that you have made (perhaps without realizing it at the time) that have resulted in blessings in the long-term?

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