Three Weeks of Stress, Worry and Work and We're All Still Here


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Asia » Philippines » Baguio
October 13th 2008
Published: October 20th 2008EDIT THIS ENTRY

It has been three weeks since James was disappeared.

A week after his abduction I felt ready to give up. I was so overwhelmed by the emotions and stress, and after days with no new information about his whereabouts or fate, I didn't know how to stay hopeful. There seemed to be no energy left in my body for hope.

In that first dark weekend after we started the Surfeace James Balao! Campaign I didn't feel capable of even thinking about starting to process the emotions James's abduction had brought up in me. Instead I was shutting down all of the synapses between my heart and my mind. But having no emotions leaves you with nothing but emptiness and hopelessness. And so I watched the world from the blackhole that was eating me from the inside out. At that time, as the Canadian election looked like it was going to produce a right wing majority, as the stockmarkets started to dive, as the fighting in Afghanistan increased I felt like there was nothing left in the whole world but hopelessness. The world seemed to be going to "hell in a hand basket" as my Dad would say, and I didn't know if I had the energy to fight the decent. My body and soul where tired already and I felt desperate to give up and move on from the James Balao campaign, and start something, anything, new.

But no body else was ready to give up. Thank God. Like a woman who has fainted, I feel like they, my coworkers and the Balao family, carried me through the first few weeks of this campaign, hands under my armpits, toes dragging in the dirt. They saved me from giving up when the situation seemed to difficut to face. And because of them, I have been able to get my feet back under me and to start moving forward on my own again. And now I can see that the campaign is moving forward. No, no new information on James's whereabouts, or his fate, but neither is the situation stagnant. We have spent the last three weeks putting pressure on the military, dialoguing with members of various levels of government, writing press releases, making statements, holding vigels. And now the Surface James Balao!Campaign is in the paper almost every day. The city, and the region, is listening to the story of James.

I got a call last week from my bosses in Canada. They had recieved our information about James's enforced disappearance and we worried about me. The call came just in time, as I was starting to melt down emotionally and did not know where or exactly to whom to melt down to. So I expressed to my bosses from the church how tired and hopeless I was feeling. And they told me something I probably would have known a few months ago, but that my soul had been too tired to remember - . I needed something to hold on to, and they were right the wrongness of this situation is the kind of understanding that can help give me strength as we continue the campaign to have James surfaced.

I have come to the conclusion that these difficult times are going to be a constant element of my career. This emotional stress, the physical exhaustion, the bruised spirit are going to come and go as I move forward in this field. But that can not be allowed to stop me from working, to slow me down. People who do human rights work don't ever become "used to" violence and abuse, they have tocontinue to find stength for their work through a deep conviction of the wrongness of what they are seeing. The reality is that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, and maybe trying to stop that, trying to change the course of things is an impossible task. But we can either fight and have hope are let things go on the way they are going and die ourselves, along with hope. I have decided, three weeks into my first experience with the horrifying reality of the state of the world, that I will fight and have hope.

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