love local: an extra-special message for anyone trying to save the world

Hello, my name is Danielle and I’m a recovering Savior of the World. I used to think that my self-worth depended on my vegetarianism, my activism, futurism, my pro-this and anti-that. Had halo, would preach. Had ‘isms, would teach.

I still wrestle with issues of spheres of influence (like one might wrestle a greased boa constrictor while wearing in a bikini – with great difficulty), but my circle of devotion has gotten decidedly more focused, or at least more proportioned. My a-ha on this came like a bolt of lighting, at a swanky event, in which I cried an ugly cry that I’ll never forget.

I was at a weekend retreat in the Catsklills for thinkers thinking global-size thoughts. We fancied ourselves as change agents. And we were. The group of us was made up of economists, UN officials, socially responsible CEOs, media personalities, and bonafide spiritual leaders. Conversations were deeply meaningful and our love for our individual and shared causes cohered into a whole lotta serious inspiration. One of the afternoons was allotted for individual silent time and we were encouraged to reflect in solitude and then reconvene.

I spent some of my time in a dilapidated tree house in the woods. I journaled. I laid on the grass and cloud-watched. I thought about my “causes” and how much I poured into saving the world from all the things I thought it needed to be saved from. And my thoughts brought me home. Literally.

A few weeks before, my man and I got engaged. I was deep into thought about what commitment to a life together meant. The enormity of it, the sweetness of it, the terror of it….I thought of all that was required to be poured into it. And something in me cracked open that overcast day: I realized that most of my love was being poured outward, not homeward. It felt more noble to help people in far off countries and in future generations than it did to – simply – love the one I was with and love him well – the way he deserved to be loved.

We reconvened, sat in our fancy chairs in a circle, preparing to discuss our world-enhancing thoughts that had surfaced in our silent solitude. I wasn’t aware of it for a few moments, but I was crying.

(Now, before I go any further with this story, it’s essential that I tell you that I’m not a public crier. I don’t even really like groups. I’ve done too many group workshops and those moments when sister gets up and bawls her eyes out about family of origin stuff or mister breaks down about his mean mother… well, I appreciate it. I feel deep compassion. Sometimes I admire those group-shared collapses. But I don’t do it. My snot-gobbing heaving cries are sacred and best had in my bathtub or day bed. Except on this day, in front of the dignitaries and laureates. On this day, I was about to lose my shit like no other.)

The facilitator noticed me quietly whimpering. “Danielle, clearly you’re moved. Would you like to share?” People were looking concerned and then I started to feel concerned because I noticed that I was really crying, like, my body was crying for me and there was no stopping it. For some reason, I grabbed the mic and I let ‘er rip: “I, I, I just realized…” I was sobbing now, “I’ve been so fixated on the global, that, that, that… I’ve missed the love in my own home. I’ve, you know… I’ve missed the…the center of my circle.” People nodded. I don’t know if they related or thought I was pathetic. The silence was deafening.

And then I blew my nose and whimpered, “We can move on now.” It was gross. And so we did. We talked about the layers of service and devotion and where we chose to put our energies. It was awkward and then beautiful and then powerful.

Everyone was really uncomfortably nice to me after that. I felt like they’d all seen my underpants, and I wasn’t wearing any.

Am I happy that I slobbered all over my white shirt and blew my cover as a cool cucumber in front of those agents of change? Nope, not really. I’m just not that ego-less and evolved. I could have done without the high-exposure blubber fest. But it happened. And it put the world crises into perspective for me. And I went home. And for probably the first time, I was really home when I got there.


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