I’ve just finished watching Mary and Martha, a movie on Netflix about two women brought together by tragedy. My GP recommended I watch it when I was debating whether or not to take anti malarial medication when I head back to Ghana this week.
After returning from Africa for the second time, Mary (played by Hilary Swank) is sitting amongst her friends, one of whom is annoyed about the fact that her husband decided which type of second car they buy, a Mercedes or a Lexus. She is unable to relate to anyone and they seem oblivious to her struggle. She stands up to leave and when asked why says “The honest answer is I’m not ready to feel this normal again. I’ve just seen some terrible things and I’m having a hard time getting worked up about one great big car versus another great big car.” A friend says “Mary, don’t go crazy on us.” Her reply “The way I see it now, you’re the crazy ones. we spend every minute of our lives obsessed or angry about things that don’t matter at all.”
She is shown experiencing the kind of existential angst I found myself feeling when I returned from Ghana and suggests to her husband they sell their large home to buy something smaller so they can make a difference in other people’s lives.
I get it, I really get it. It brought so many memories back.
While I didn’t suffer the type of terrible tragedy that her character did in the film, I absolutely know the feeling that goes with thinking that nobody around you can possibly fathom what you’ve seen, where you’ve been and what you are feeling.
This was me in July 2011, and this feeling lasted for about six months, maybe more and some aspects have never left, but they are the aspects that inspire me and give me the impetus to try to bring about change. I have tried to explain it to people and found it really difficult but in a nutshell it was like this.
I should have been happy to be home and yes I was, really super over the top happy in fact. It was so good to see my kids and family, my granddaughter was due at any moment and all of the wonderful things that I missed about home were so delicious. I wrote here about some of the things I vowed never to take for granted again and to this day I haven’t.
However I found some things to be a huge struggle. I mean how many types of milk, bread, cereal, coffee and every other consumable do we need? How many pairs of shoes does a person need in order to be happy? How many pairs of jeans, t-shirts, handbags, necklaces should one person have in their cupboard and must they change every season? Do we really need to change our phone every time a new one comes out and don’t get me started on how wasteful we are with food and every other single thing as a society.
I couldn’t give a damn about the latest fashion, when I’d lived amongst people who didn’t even know where their next meal was coming from. I couldn’t care less about a new pair of boots when I’d seen people die of curable and preventable illnesses. I had held my mother in law in my arms as she died in the most excruciating pain imaginable, due to grossly inadequate health care.
I couldn’t contemplate the fact that people at work were arguing about the new EBA that was in the negotiation process where I felt we were extremely well paid, I just could not engage myself in the conversation whatsoever. You cannot begin to imagine my feelings when our recently overhauled office was gutted again and renovated with a ridiculously expensive fit out, when I had just come from a place where children don’t even have a desk or chair to use in schools, not to mention toilets. Did you know that most schools in Ghana do not have toilets and girls, if they are lucky enough to be able to attend, can’t go when they’re menstruating? I could go on and on and on and on.
I never wanted to bring people down and still don’t, so I didn’t talk about it much. Most of my personal struggle was internal and unshared, even to this day, but the reality is that most of us never have the opportunity that I was blessed to have, which is to see life from a very different perspective and truly appreciate what we have and how much we have to be thankful for.
So, like Mary in the movie; I do what I can with what I’ve got and do my best to make a little bit of a difference, no matter how small it seems.
I haven’t written any more of my book about my year in Ghana since returning from Bali in June, I kind of lost my mojo for a while but now this movie and the fact that I’m heading back has me feeling inspired to get into it again, and I’m sure I will get more juicy goodness this next few weeks away.