I thought I’d let y’all know that I am back from Madagascar, safe and sound. I am firmly out of commission until tomorrow evening, but thought I’d send out a little update.

I am experiencing a level of jet lag that is making me want to crawl out of my own skin. I have already had a couple of lessons thrown my way since I got back, too. Yesterday I found out that, as is typical when I go away for any length of time,a couple of people were either in or threatening labour. My first reaction is always to say, “Oh, well, forget about that day off for recovery, I’ll just go to those births.” But when my beloved neighbour drove up beside me yesterday while I was talking to another neighbour on my street and said, “You’re back! I’m in labour,” I just knew I couldn’t do it. To agree would have been stupid. In fact, given that she will be in fantastic hands with any of the MotherWitties who back me up, it would have been an ego based-workaholic-prove to the world I can do anything-extreme endeavour. And who would that serve? Not my beloved neighbour. So I let it go and told her to call upon my backup. I also learned an expecting mother of twins, my third in 2 months who have gone way over their due dates, was being induced yesterday. My backup for that birth asked if I would be going in. Oh, man.

Let me explain. Sleeping in a tent in a surrounding far from any “civilization”, where all energy of the people of that area goes towards surviving with limited resources, you learn by observing that there is just no time to wallow in distractions. In Mahatsinjo, Madagascar, tending to the basics of one’s life in a focused manner is not just about creating a state of balance, which we First Worlders have the luxury of indulging in or not (if you don’t have groceries for supper one day, you can order out, if you don’t balance your cheque book, you have overdraft, if you run yourself ragged and become ill, you can get medical care and sick leave), but a matter of staying alive. If I learned anything, it is to tend carefully to my life. Birth attending is a huge part of my life…I adore it and feel it is a calling and a path. But if I were to attend a birth wasted by jet lag, with digestion that, while not exactly “runny”, is rather delicate at this moment, worried because one of my travelling companions called me with the report of having rapidly proliferating fleas, and 3 children and a husband who are feverish and coughing and desperately in need of my maternal nourishment, would this be tending to my life? Not really. And truly, it wouldn’t be heroically attending the woman either, as what good would I be to her with all this in my presence right now?

I find that whenever I come to an important decision about things, in this case a resolve to make a concerted effort to tend more deeply to what I have in my life rather than allowing work to justify the constant state of distraction and harriedness which has been impinging terribly upon my life, I am tested to put my money where my mouth is. Whatever that means. But there you go. Back to the neighbour pulling up beside me in the car. I had a choice. I know what Pre-Madagascar Lesley would have done. But this time, I took a deep breath, and I let it go. With love and best wishes. With the knowledge she will be better served by another. That she can, indeed, do this without me. With the knowledge that I can be here to help when she’s back home. That to allow myself to take proper time to rest and recuperate from an adventure I cannot even begin to describe at this point, is not the self-indulgence of a weakling who can’t heroically do whatever is asked of her without boundary, but a necessity….for myself and my family. Today I will tend to my home and my health. I WILL tread gently, depsite the pull, which I accept will always be there, to choose the more harried path which, while making me feel “accomplished” and even “heroic” in the moment, often has extremely depleting repercussions, leaving me in situations of such ungroundedness, that I do things like walk around without an updated Medicare card for literally years, or forget to get my son’s birth certificate in time for him to start school, or get shockingly behind in administrative duties, despite the tons of help I have. It is time to tend to my foundation with more focused attention, letting go of the shame over the cracks in it, that shame making the pull to harried distraction more magnetic, thus exacerbating the severity of the cracks. It is all a matter of choice, and this trip, along with the crazy Malaria pill dreams I had (I know Malarone is not supposed to have this side effect as much as Lariam, but I had CRAZY illuminating dreams all the same), showed me that “I just can’t manage it,” in reference to tending to the basics of my life is a huge freakin’ cop out.

I know you’re all dying for stories, and I have so many. Every night before I went to bed I jotted down notes so I would remember details. I will take a little time whenever I can to have this adventure unfold, photos included. I have decided this is not just another distraction, as blogging is wont to be on occasion, but an important way for me to process my experience as well as bring attention to the beauty, the ravages, the energy, and the spirit that is Madagascar.

Karen Samonds, the lady responsible for bringing me there, told me when I arrived in the capital city, before heading off to the forest, that this place changes you indelibly…that you don’t come back the same. And the tears brimming in my eyes writing that statement speaks to me of its truth. While I am still me, I feel a subtle shift of awareness, a greater capacity to be present without being drawn into the alluring buzz of the constant “business” which I now see clearly to be more about preferring distraction than tending to matters at hand. I have the power to make better choices.

My neighbour Kandy, the very lady who drove up to me in early labour, presented me the day before I left for Madagascar with a quilt she made for me during her many days on bed rest. It is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen, and she made it to thank me for guiding her towards a network of support during a time she and her husband Vince felt like they didn’t know how to manage navigating their birth experience through the challenging waters of our hospital system. They knew it would possibly be someone else attending their birth given I was going away, but their gratitude lay in my providing them with solid education and support, with or without me. On the back of the quilt, Kandy stitched a square which quotes Mahatma Gandhi, “If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it, even if I may not have it in the beginning.” So thanks to Kandy not only for the inspiration, but for the opportunity to exercise my power of wiser choice.

I am off to experience the sheer luxury of a hot shower. Then, I am going to tend to my home, grateful that I have one to tend to. Then, I am going to make a nice after school snack for my convalescing children, grateful to have the ability to do so, and grateful for well fed, strong immune systems which give them the ability to convalesce. We take these things for granted, yet where I have been lack of nourishment and ability to heal is a reality. I digress. One story at a time.