Lately I've been going through a transition (which is a nice way to say that I'm going through a very difficult and emotional time in my life). I want to do good in the world, that is my purpose in life. But the way that I have been doing good has taken a huge toll on my well-being.
Sometimes I feel so much for someone else's pain, a pain that I judge to be worse than mine, and in return it covers up my pain and I can forget about it for a little bit longer.
It's hard working in Mozambique. It's hard raising money for a cause that I feel for empathetically, but have never truly experienced it even if I think I have. Yes, I've gone days without drinking water-- trying to find fruit to suck the juice out of it in hopes of my headache going away, and I've had anemia because of a lack of protein, and I've lost weight and been weak, but still. I always have a "life line"- my family, the US embassy, people in my network. Someone could help me if it got really really bad. So I kept pushing it further and further out there. I kept ignoring my self care . I kept promoting my non-profit and our cause even though I hate self-promotion. I am not a sales person-- I'm a customer service person. Very big difference.
Even though I felt resistance to sharing my stories from Mozambique and then skipping a line and adding a call-to-action like "donate here" or "shop now", I felt like I had to do that in order to be successful. I had the pressure of having to raise a certain amount of money each month to pay the women their salaries. If I didn't make enough in a month to pay them their salaries, I felt like this was my fault-- that I wasn't doing enough, so I took out of my personal money to pay them.
I did this for almost two years until I realized what I was doing. I did the one thing I said I would never do. I gave them a hand out. I made up reasons why I was giving them a salary, even if there wasn't any work to be done, so that I could feel good that they were "earning" the money-- do a budget here, take some photos there, visit these participants, etc. Why was I trying so hard to make this broken thing work?
So I told them that from now on, we're going to get the money in the US first, and then whatever money we have, we will do programs for that. If we raise $100, then we can help one person. If we raise $20,000 we can help hundreds of people. Instead of promising programs before the money is there, and then having to play catch up with a lack mentality racing through my head, this way felt freeing to me. But it also stirred up some negative beliefs.
Would the women still like me? Do they only like me because I give them a monthly salary? Will our relationship change? Will they even want me to come back to Mozambique? Am I not fulfilling my "role" as "rich white person"? Do they only see me as a "rich white person" who is put in their lives to help them financially? Do they even love me for me? But I have so much fun with them, and laugh and make jokes-- is it all fake? Are they just pretending to be nice to me so that I'm on their good side and so that I'll think of them first when the hunger crisis gets worse or when I hear of a job opportunity in the capital.
I once dated a professional basketball player who was constantly questioning our relationship and if I really loved him for him or if I just liked the lifestyle and wanted to be with him for his money. I couldn't understand why he would question me so much-- did I ever do anything to show him that? I didn't! But I realized that he had been with other girls who had, and now he is paranoid about everything. I'm the same way with Mozambicans.
In my heart I know that the truth is that some of them want to take advantage of our relationship and look at me with eyes of "what can she do for ME?" But I know that a lot of others look at me as a friend, colleague and family member like they would look at anyone else. But the thing is, I've lost my ability to decipher who is who, and what are their intentions with me. So it's much easier to generalize and assume that they are all not to be trusted.
But what kind of life is that?