A friend of mine recently returned from a trip toThailand where she volunteered, for a week, at an elephant sanctuary, caring for elephants that had been rescued from the tourist and logging industries. I listened intently as she told her stories, her excitement was contagious. I felt my desire to plan my own trip; even my willingness to tolerate the 25 hour flight that she said was worse than horrendous. I wondered if Tom would be interested in going with me. I quickly knew the answer and began considering my list of traveling friends that might want to join me.
Marcie described the beauty of the location of the sanctuary, the plight of elephants, and the amazing 4’8” woman than conceived of, created and managed the place. Apparently this tiny woman also rescued 200 dogs from the flood in Bangkok in 2011. Marcie said the dogs followed this woman around like the Pied Piper, as did the elephants.
I was enthralled. I was also busy doing mental math, robbing Peter to pay Paul to finance my trip. I had to do this. Elephants have always brought me to tears with their giant tenderness and sense of family. They have been one of my animal teachers.
Marcie detailed the responsibilities of the volunteers. She talked about the ditches they dug in the sanctuary; about the 45 minute trips, standing in the back of a pickup truck driving to the corn fields where they cut and baled the corn for the elephants to eat; how, after baling the corn, they lifted the bales onto their shoulders and carried them to the waiting pickup, heaving them into the truck bed. At the end of the 8 hour day, in 100 degree heat, the group rode on top of the bales back to the sanctuary. Marcie described the scenery, from her place high atop the bales, as magnificent. I felt worried that she could have fallen off.
My excitement had begun to wane. I pictured myself there. With the elephants, in the corn fields, doing these chores. Just thinking about it made my back hurt. I questioned myself if I would have the strength to lift corn stalks to my shoulder, carry them to a pick up bed and throw them in? I doubted my stamina to do physical labor all day in the tropical heat. I imagined how sore I would be at the end of a day. I was already sweating.
I began to feel old. Very old. And weak. Maybe I wouldn’t go after all.
I comforted my wounded self image by reminding myself that I used to I lift and haul like an Amazon woman. If a washer needed to be moved, wood hauled and stacked, a room rearranged, a house built, a driveway shoveled, or a septic systems cleaned, I was your gal. I did it all. I took pride in my physical strength and my willingness to do-what-it-took to get a job done. It assured me I was not my mother’s daughter, who was a pampered princess. As a child, her mantra to me was, be careful you, you will hurt yourself.
I decided at an early age I would be strong.
Listening to Marcie I began to feel my physical vulnerability for the first time. Had I become my mom? I stewed on this for a few days. It occurred to me that I haven’t mowed a lawn in 4 years — and am really okay with this. How Tom insists on carrying the heaviest of the grocery bags into the house and I let him. How, sometimes, I even ask him to open the pickle jar because I don’t want to re-injure my hand.
OMG. Have I become a wimp?
I decided I would make myself go to Thailand. Maybe for two weeks. I would prove to myself I could still survive hard work…and misery.
Then it occurred to me, like a light bulb turning on as you open the refrigerator door — What if I didn’t want to do heavy lifting any more? What if the question was not, could I, but, did I want to?
My wattage increased with the brilliance of this question. I was so busy not being mom, that I never asked myself, Did I want to be an Amazonian? Perhaps sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.
Marcie assured me I would be physically able to do the work she described.
The question has now become, “Do I want to?”