The Last Day

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Three weeks ago I sat in my back yard reading The Power of Now as the sun began to sink behind the mountains. Buddy was blissfully asleep on my lap with four legs askew, Stella was swirling around my ankles meowing hopefully for another serve of fish. The two had reached an uneasy alliance, only occasionally broken when Buddy mistakenly assumed she would make a good play mate and Stella gave him a hiss and a swipe to remind him she is far to classy for his silly puppy games.

I remember wondering – quite against the book’s good counsel – what would become of us all, this little rag tag Jamaican family of mine? Would Buddy become starved and ferocious like all the other Jamaican dogs? And what of my beautiful Stelly Welly? My constant companion throughout this whole journey, one whose trust I had to earn carefully, who would soon have to protect and care for a litter of tiny helpless kittens all on her own? What about Tigger and Ninja, the other crazy cats? Would they too return to their neglected, distrusting former selves? And what would become of me? Once I returned home, would I have a clearer picture of what this had all been leading to, how it had changed me and what would come next?

But I knew even as I asked myself the questions that there were no quick and easy answers. If Jamaica has taught me anything at all it is that we cannot predict or control the next moment, let alone the next week or year of our lives. Before I left Australia, I felt like I was looking into an immense abyss of unknown ahead. That feeling has never really gone away, and nor should it – we are all constantly standing on the edge of that dark unknown, however much we like to convince ourselves otherwise. I had no power to make sure these animals were fed or protected or loved. I also could not possibly know for certain what the future held for myself. All I was sure of was that we were all on our own from here on in.

Fast forward to today, my very last day in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. And it comes with a truckload of mixed emotions. Relief is the biggest. However, there is also happiness: my Mum is here to experience a slice of this crazy experience with me. Excitement and gratitude that I will soon be travelling to Cuba and the Cayman Islands and Mexico. Pride in myself for all I have learned and achieved here. Sadness each time I say goodbye to one of the children and they ask me to please stay, please pack them in my suitcase, and when will I be coming back? Frustration that there is no one to carry on the work that I started, that the literacy program I created which saw 24 children go up a whole grade level in their reading skills in six months will most likely sit and gather dust now. Fear of that endless unknowable abyss called the future. Eagerness for all the joyful reunions with friends and family back home. Apprehension about returning to the first world when so much of the third world has become second nature to me.

So, in the face of this whirlwind going on inside me I will do what I have done for the past six months: I will keep calm and carry on. I will not seek certainty, because life without uncertainty it doesn’t exist. I will not strive to be fearless, because life without fear doesn’t exist. I will allow the unanswerable questions to sit with me as I pack my bags, say my goodbyes and make one last bumpy journey down through the windy mountain roads to Kingston. And as I get on that plane, I will remember that feeling every possible emotion all at once is probably a very good sign that I am living the width of life. And wasn’t that, after all, the whole point?

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14 thoughts on “The Last Day

  1. Cat, thank you for sharing your journey and wisdom with us… I deeply appreciate that you have done…and are doing…that… what a remarkable journey you are on!
    If you pause in the SanFrancisco/Berkeley area, please get in touch with me… I’d love to meet you…
    The “Irish Blessing” is by far the most viewed post on my own blog…and so I pass the wishes along to you…
    “May the road rise to meet you,
    May the wind be always at your back,
    May the sun shine warm upon your face,
    The rains fall soft upon your fields.
    And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.”

    I hope you have a wonderful, joyful and inspiring time in Cuba and the other destinations.
    What a blessing you have been to those 24 children, and others in the area…. that you have so generously and courageously offered your abundant energies, passion, inspiration and kindness to their own paths… such an astoundingly kind and generous offering you have made. You just never which of those many seeds you have planted will grow and ripen in beautiful ways… a true blessing to have planted them…
    Travel well, Cat… blessings to you…and to your Mum, too…she must be astoundingly proud of you…your kindness, courage and steadfastness. and I’m certain she’s incredibly happy to see what you’ve been doing…and now, to have the joy of your companionship in travels…

    Keep in mind… “you just never know……………….” ….. one of life’s miracles!

    Kathy

    • Kathy, thankyou so much for coming along on this journey with me! I cannot tell you how much I have appreciated your endless kindness, encouragement, insightfulness and positivity. I adore that Irish Blessing, and return the same wishes to you!

      I suppose you are right – my time in Jamaica is not all that dissimilar to the Year of Kindness in that even when it doesn’t seem like your actions have had much of a positive impact, you never really know what might ripple out from each and every interaction.

      I will certainly continue to check in with your blog whenever I feel in need of a little inspiration. 🙂

  2. Cat, Kathy has said it all..quite nicely. Life is to live and have experiences. We are all given the choices to give and extend love and kindness. You are a remarkable young lady and each place you step foot you bring sunshine to that part of the world to those that you encounter..

  3. I hope you still keep a blog even though you’re leaving Jamaica. It was wonderful and heartbreaking as I read through your adventure there. I feel as though we are kindred spirits in a way, even though we’re technically strangers. Good luck to you and best wishes for your future.

    • As usual I am weeping for you as you tackle life full heartedly! but yes you are so right and the experience emotion anguish and pride bound into your psyche forever is indeed fuel for the future!! go you good Cat dance love from Mary

    • I know what you mean, Erika – we seem to be on very similar paths with very similar perspectives. Its always wonderful to meet a kindred blogging spirit! I have written other blogs before this one (yearofkindness.wordpress.com and nextstoptanzania.wordpress.com) and I’m sure there will be another one in the future. All the best for your own adventures, I look forward to reading more of the insights and lessons they bring.

  4. I just came across your blog and read a few of your posts. I want to thank you for your year in Jamaica. It is always a little frustrating to know that however much we help people, it never really seems like enough. But it looks to me like you have had a significant impact on a great number of children. So I want to say thank you for sticking it out and for making the difference that you did.

    • Thankyou for stopping by TC and for sharing your very wise thoughts. Giving is a complicated business, that’s for sure. I am really enjoying your blog too – there is certainly much about Jamaica that I will miss.

  5. Cat, you write beautifully my dear. I can feel your emotions with each word I read. What I got from this post about uncertainty is your willingness to surrender to it wholeheartedly, something I have trouble doing, but, hopefully, will become more aware of it, and hopefully, as a result, more likely to surrender to what life brings my way.
    You are beautiful. Rock on. Lesh xx

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