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Rocky Mountain High

My time here in the mountains has been nothing short of epic. Six weeks, twelve hikes, live music, dancing, friends new and old, and lessons that continued to come my way. I wish I could say I have mixed feelings about leaving. I don’t. As in – I don’t want to leave. While Austin has been wonderful for the past three years, I feel like its time has come. That I’ve gotten from it what I needed.

What I’ve found in the mountains is balance. Here, amongst friends, family, and the wisdom that Mother Nature has shared, I got a glimpse of what it’s like to not live under the spell of an eating disorder or neurotic body consciousness. Let me be clear, I’m not ‘managing’ my issues or learning how to tolerate them. For the first time, I actually believe I can overcome a mental struggle that has plagued me my entire adult life. Up until recently, I’ve honestly believed positive body image and true health – both inside and out – would be a life long karma I’d have to tolerate. But here, I have a glimmer of hope that it’s a seed I can burn for good. At least get it nice and charred.

Since being here, I’m not attached to going to a gym or working out. I hike my ass off (literally) on a weekly basis yet can’t help but feel like walking amidst the trees, hearing the sounds of nature, and breathing fresh air every day does my soul more good than my body. I’m active without having to think about it and days I’m not, while sometimes my agitation or neurosis doesn’t hesitate to make itself known, for the most part, I feel like I just need the rest. Here in CO I eat fruit and drink beer with abandon. Because savoring a juicy, local CO peach in the middle of August after a 3,000 foot climb to a lake a color blue like you’ve never seen before surrounded by 14,000 feet of pure earth and sometimes snow is just right. And a beer once you descend well – there’s nothing more right than that. Especially if it’s a local draft. Yet as alluring as the mountains are, the thought of starting over in a new place, yet again, is not appealing in the least.

Not an unfamiliar feeling, what’s surfacing more than anything as I approach my final days here in CO is fear. I have no idea what’s next. I would love for this book to become a New York Times bestseller and put me on a new trajectory for the career and life I desire. But there is the reality of that not happening. And there’s also the reality of unemployment and travel for the past six months. It’s been an absolute blessing but now I’m faced with a question that, whether we are aware of it or not, we answer in every moment of our lives, with every decision we make – NOW WHAT?

Big picture, I know the answer to this question. I have dreams and goals and ideas I want to realize. Big ones, at that. I want to shape my new reality instead of being at the mercy of what my bank account or someone else in my life demands. However, what to do in the meantime? The ‘little picture’ demands things get taken care of. Things like rent, car insurance, and grocery shopping. There’s a lot of praying going on right now. For guidance, for the right opportunities, and yes, for a fat check. I want to continue moving forward and not backward and in between there is space. Space to create, space to play, and space to worry. In this space, faith gets challenged. So I do the things I can to bolster that faith as much as possible. I am forced to let go of control and continue to listen. Hard.

For now, there is a big question mark at the end of my personal sentence. I have no clue what the next months will bring. I feel like I am living an Ani DeFranco song – I’m thirty-two flavors and then some. A mixed bag of happy, sad, fearful, anxious, excited, nervous, clear, confused. I’ve stopped placing judgment on or identifying with my moods and instead, committed to simply witnessing them. And not just witnessing them – but using discernment about what they communicate to me. Often times, I’ll take a look at my P Diary app (this is an app that tells a woman where she is on her cycle) to see if my mood could simply be a function of hormones. Or I ask myself, what did I eat – or drink? Often times, if I’ve had one too many cocktails (which, for me can be one cocktail), I may feel depressed the next day. To understand that there are several factors that affect my mood means I am not at the mercy of emotion as I used to be. Once I get a sense of what’s really going on with my roller coaster ride, I can then assess what action to take to best alleviate or manage what I’m feeling. If anything. Truth be told, sometimes I’ll just turn on some weepy music, allow myself to stew in my own sadness and throw myself the proverbial pity party. Because maybe I just need a good cry gosh darnit.

In all my uncertainty, here is what I do know. I am vulnerable. I am resilient. I am empowered. Three words I never would have used to describe myself even a year ago.

Vulnerable no longer means weak or insecure or powerless to me. It means open and soft and willing to listen. Resilient no longer means powering through life, trying to make things happen the way I want them to. It means staying steady in the face of change – an unmovable force for good and an unshakeable example of faith. And empowered simply means that I, and I alone, am responsible for my thoughts, my actions, and ultimately, my life. I feel confident I will weather the storms ahead with more grace, strength, and, purpose than ever before. Sitting here, on my last day in the mountains, I am certain, I will never end this journey of self-discovery and growth

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Is The Shit Show Necessary?

I’ve been here in Ridgway, CO about two weeks now. I’ve spent most of that time adjusting – to the altitude, a slower pace of life, not having every convenience at my fingertip (except for Amazon Prime – thank you Amazon Prime), and a different way of life in general. I would say I’m acclimating quite nicely.

Now that I can somewhat breath again, I’ve been spending time hiking, writing, resting, exploring, and meeting new people. One random afternoon took me past a Pilates studio in town. I stared in the window salivating at barres, mirrors, wood floors, and Reformers. Somehow, I had to get in there. I could feel my hamstrings and core getting weaker by the day and knew I needed to get myself back into some sort of routine. While I certainly feel better when I look better, it’s also important for me to keep what tend to be my weaker muscles strong so I can do all the other activities I love without low back and knee pain. Such as hiking. In case you didn’t know, there’s a lot of hiking here in Colorado.

I looked up the studio on line and not five days later I was meeting with the studio’s owner. Somehow we completely skirted over any talk of Pilates and dove right in the deep end. We shared stories of body insecurities, negative self-talk, and guilt over feeling the way we did knowing we are blessed to have the bodies we do. I immediately felt connected to this woman. At one point in the conversation she questioned whether or not everything needed to fall apart for us to evolve and create anew. My answer? Yes. Absolutely.

It’s one of the first pieces of wisdom I learned from my teacher. We only change when it becomes too painful not to. Let’s face it. Change sucks. The human condition prefers to be comfortable. To live in the stable and the known as opposed to the nebulous and unfamiliar. With a handful of exceptions, humans are, by nature, risk averse. We don’t like to take chances unless we are confident our gamble will produce a successful outcome whether it’s in business, relationship, or life choices.

There are no shortage of quotes on the challenge of living outside your comfort zone and the great reward that can result. Life begins outside your comfort zone. Your life does not get better by chance – it gets better by change. If there is no struggle there is no progress. We know this. Our intellect understands that the only way to evolve is to change. Yet, most often, we prefer to stay the same even if it produces an undesirable outcome.

Most times, if we remain stagnant despite all signs pointing to a need to shake things up, something will come along to deliver a swift ass kicking. It can be anything from an emotionally painful break-up to a life threatening accident. Or it may simply be the persistent pain of living day in and day out under the same conditions of disappointment, abuse, or general malaise. One day we wake up and just can’t tolerate it anymore. We are done.

It’s a phrase I hear more and more. I’m done. What follows it varies – I’m done feeling badly about myself. I’m done with this relationship. I’m done playing small. And in its emphatic form such as I’m SOOOOO done with this job. The pain of staying the same MUST BE greater than the pain of change. Saying we’re DONE is our proclamation to the Universe that “what is” is no longer acceptable. Things must change.

It would be great if our lives didn’t need to fall to shit in order for us to shift. Usually, however, we need to be forced to alter our way of doing things or adjusting the lens through which we view the world. The good news is, like any other skill, navigating change can be developed. And the more adept we become at managing the discomfort of change, the more likely we are to take risks and, as one of my favorite authors, Brene Brown writes, dare greatly. Make no doubt about it – risk is a learned aptitude. The more you rehearse, the better you get.

Try to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for all the events in your life that seem devastating. I am a firm believer that God, Spirit, Allah, Universe – whatever you want to call it or believe in – does not hand out anything beyond our capacity to endure. You know, the whole what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger philosophy. Someone, somewhere, is trying to wake you up. Pay attention and use adversity as a path to growth, wisdom, and change. The more you accept change as inevitable and the more you work your capacity to handle adversity, turmoil, and discomfort, the easier and more fruitful your life will become. Shit show and all.

Staying Steady In The Wind

I haven’t been posting here much because most of my writing energy has been directed toward my book these days. However, to satiate your unyielding curiosity as to how I’ve been since my return from abroad and my subsequent journey, I offer you this blog. Truly it’s a self serving endeavor to check-in with myself and assess where I am so I can make honest and thoughtful choices for the second half of my summer.

I’ve been feeling like I need a respite from my constant motion of the past few weeks. It’s been a while since I’ve felt the peace and quiet of my family’s lakeside retreat. My friend’s home here, despite being in the city, offers a beautiful respite from the hustle and bustle of appointments, social engagements, and sitting in traffic. It is homey yet, clean and spacious and I’m always comfortable here. The energy of her space is zen and her kitchen fully stocked with everything I need to get all homebody and cook, instantly making me feel easy. She has a lovely pool in the backyard, which doesn’t hurt. I feel like I could stay here for days and not have to go anywhere. My definition of a true home.

I had a very L.A. kind of day today. It’s Sunday and I woke up on the first day of my cycle, feeling very internal and a need to protect and honor my feminine energy. I allowed myself to slip back into bed for a bit after my practice to linger and breath deep with one hand on my forehead and the other on my belly. Once out of bed I made my coffee and a very weekend breakfast for me – protein pancakes. I wrote some. I social media-d a bit. I took my time moving about, cleaning up and decided while a full on workout was not the right choice today, walking and some nature would do me some good. Here in LA, we like to call that a hike. There are no less than 50 other people ‘hiking’ with you but it did the trick and it’s close by.

I made a conscious decision that if I were to listen to any music on my jaunt up the hill that it would have to be mellow and introspective. Krishna Das was already pulled up in Spotify so that’s what began playing. Yup. I’ve become that girl. The one that listens to and sings music that most people only hear in yoga class. All the time. Mantras, kirtan, harmoniums, chanting. You name it. I play it.

Just before I reached the summit of Fryman Canyon, I was particularly moved. I’m sure it was the perfect storm of my weariness, the music, and hormones, but I needed to pause and sit to reflect. It didn’t take long for gentle tears to stream down my face. I’d had this feeling many times before, so now I knew what it was. It was not a gush of pain needing to find escape. It was simply feeling wanting to be known. Uncertainty. A deep longing to land somewhere but not yet knowing where that somewhere should be. Sure I had a sense that I belonged back here in LA or maybe even outside the city on the east coast, but I know that sometimes, my hopes and wishes may be shoved aside for a grander plan. One of which I am happy to resign myself to knowing if I do, that is where I’ll be happiest.

I noticed this little flower blowing in the wind. It was the only one around. It seems everything else had dried out and died as a result of the drought. It was a beautiful, albeit small, burst of brightness amongst dry desert dust. Although it was being tossed to and fro by the breeze, it was sturdy in its position. It was firmly rooted in the earth and come hell or high water, this little flower would not only survive, but flourish. It was nature’s perfect reminder – a representation of myself. Although I may be blowing about from coast to coast, home to home right now, I am not without purpose. Unlike my wanderings of the past, I am firmly rooted in my faith and supported by Divine guidance. I know I will withstand the torments of shuffling and uncertainty to continue to grow, flourish, and succeed. I stood up reassured of my path despite not knowing exactly what it might look like.

Upon rising from my seat, I felt my butt being poked with little spikes. I reached back to find I had sat on some sort of cactus like brush. Don’t think Mother Nature doesn’t have a sense of humor. She does. I smiled and shook my head. A gentle reminder to not take this stuff too seriously. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and remember to laugh every now and then. With that I continued my journey, tears dried, a smile on my face and determination to do whatever pleases me today. Tomorrow, I will continue my adventure the same way – step by step with awareness of what’s best for the next moment – as I board my plane to Colorado.

 

Am I Fun?

As I made my way out of the coffee shop this morning, the brief encounter with the slightly mad looking man with crazy disheveled black hair went something like this:

Crazy Man: Hello.
Me: Good morning.
Crazy: You look like you’re a fun person.
Me: I don’t know how fun I am right now.
Crazy: I think you’re fun.
Me: Thank you? Have a good day.

For the record, I don’t really think this man is crazy. I believe him to be one of those rare birds who is unafraid to call it like he sees it and enjoys offering kind, audible comments that make people smile. I love these people and actually believe they, not us hiding behind furtive glances and beneath silent comments, too afraid to tell someone they’re pretty or handsome or we like their style, are the sane ones. I also do not believe our meeting to be an accident.

There was power behind this slightly unusual interaction. I could feel it by the sadness that sprung in me immediately, like an almost dead plant that comes alive after receiving a fresh pour of water. The trickle of tears I knew would fall if I repeated our conversation aloud. This small exchange struck at the heart of something I’ve been wrestling with since my return to Austin and there are two people in this world that I wanted to talk to about it. These gems were the type of friends that would do exactly what I needed them to in that moment to help me get to the crux of my emotions – listen. They also happened to be the numbers that responded with voicemail. More often than not, an unavailable friend is always someone up there nudging and encouraging me to figure it out on my own. Get your ass in your chair and write about it.

For the past ten days or so, I’ve battled with a feeling that isn’t foreign to me. I felt it before I left Austin and was hoping, with eyes fresh from travel abroad and a new perspective, something would shift. But it seems it hasn’t. There’s a sense of sadness that I can’t shake when I’m back in Austin. I’m hesitating, but if I’m honest, I would classify it as a mild depression. Before I left I was convinced an unfulfilling job and inauthentic life was the source. It’s one of the main reasons I flew the coop.

I learned a lot about myself in my three-month sojourn. I experienced a lot of healing and found forgiveness and peace like I have never known. I returned to the States excited to make a fresh start and my first week back, I felt energetic, alive with enthusiasm despite a pretty much non-existent jet lag. Elated by the comforts of home, I was filled with gratitude for all the gifts of my life. I was up early, practicing deeply and sharing time with loved ones. Inspired and motivated by opportunities in front of me, I anticipated my life guided by love and authenticity. You would’ve had to scrub the smile off my face with steel wool and bleach.

Within 48 hours of being home in Austin a switch flipped. While the gratitude I feel for being back in my space, a seemingly endless array of clothing to chose from, and long mornings to write has not been lost, there it is again – what I can only describe as a quiet malaise. A small veil of heaviness has steadily begun to lay over the light, enthusiastic woman I experienced merely weeks ago. She seems time zones and almost worlds away.

To my logical mind, this doesn’t make any sense. There’s a part of me that loves Austin – biking down to the trail, walking in nature so close to the city. The space I’ve cultivated. My friends. I have a list of reasons to enjoy this town. So why, aside from the occasional moments likely prompted by a cocktail, does the joy filled girl – the one the crazy man seemed to discern beneath a slightly sullen exterior – seem so elusive in Austin?

As I’ve discussed with many friends here, some of who feel the same, I can’t quite put my finger on why I lack the same joie de vivre being back in Austin. Together we’ve mulled over potential culprits. (One being the absence of Uber and Lyft. Seriously. I have no car and am thus relegated to areas I can walk, bike or bum a ride off all too generous friends.) I have no need to rattle off a list, as it is not my objective to defile this city. On the contrary, I spent many an hour trying to convince my overseas friends to come visit because the city is so wonderful! And I still believe that. But something is preventing me from experiencing it.

Was the ‘newness’ of my first week back in the States the culprit of my perma-grin in Los Angeles? Was avocado every morning after a three-month depression enough to make me giddy? Or did time with my teacher contribute to my love of life? Did I still consider Los Angeles as time off – an extension of my travel abroad? A week more of carefree living despite being within the borders of my homeland?

Or is something deeper at play here? Did my unconscious response to the kind sir on the patio of Café Medici signal a certain unwillingness to have fun and be lighthearted? What is the weight my heart bears that seems to effortlessly disappear when I am in Los Angeles? While Austin is a great city, is it like an ex-boyfriend? Someone I love deeply yet ultimately, not right for me? Did Austin, like any good relationship, serve its purpose? Is it simply time for me to move on?

I don’t have the answer and so I will continue to adventure on, asking myself questions along the way. My job is to be brutally honest with what I’m feeling and continue to live authentically. Maybe that will land me back in Austin. Maybe Los Angeles. Maybe somewhere that hasn’t crossed the limited capacity of what I allow my mind to imagine. Wherever it is, I know it will be the right place, at the right time. And in that place, there will be fun. Lots of it.

My New Normal

It’s funny. It seemed like yesterday I was counting down the days until my departure for India. One week out. 5 days out. TOMORROW. Now, it’s reverse. I find myself thinking It’s been 10 days since I’ve been home.

I knew coming back to ambiguity was going to be a bigger challenge than leaving or being away. I was beyond ready to change the status quo, leave my job. There was a certainty about my decision that I didn’t question. Every bone in my body knew embarking on my adventure was the right thing to do. Now, my favorite answer to any given question on any given day is I don’t know.

What are you going to do? I don’t know. Are you going to stay in Austin? I don’t know. Are you moving back to L.A.? I don’t know. I think what some people really want to know is how are you going to support yourself? Good question. You know the answer.

While anxiety over the unknown is not an unfamiliar feeling, the fact of the matter is I’ve grown to be okay with simply being. It seems other people have more difficulty grasping the concept. I sense their discomfort when they realize I’m not rushing to the next job or just hanging out doing yoga. Maybe it challenges their status quo and prompts them to question how they are living their lives. My favorite response to my experience of leaving everything I knew to travel is (with a huge sigh) Ohhhhh, I WISH I could do that. Sometimes I say it aloud, sometimes not, but the response in my head is always You can. You choose not to. We all have limitations, challenges and responsibilities. Granted some are bigger than others. I would put raising children on top. (Hats off to all the parents out there.) However, I have a friend – a Mom – that took off for India and Sri Lanka for 3 weeks. She doesn’t have a nanny and she runs a business. My cousin takes her family all over the world to experience other cultures together. Point is anything is possible if you want it bad enough.

I keep myself to a schedule to maintain a sense of purpose and routine to my day. I try to retire no later than 10pm and wake by 6am. I give myself plenty of time to rouse and ease into my hour, sometimes longer, meditations. I no longer have my car so errands take a bit longer. I rode my bike to the post office yesterday. I walked to the store. I took a Pilates class in the middle of the afternoon. (I can feel the unease already…) I took one work call. I wrote a few work emails. I fixed my bike. I made breakfast, lunch and dinner. I did some laundry. I made plans to see friends. I practiced and meditated again before dinner. I just went along and my day seemed quite full.

Before, I used to have to check 25 things off my list to feel accomplished. Now, I’m okay with a few things and I don’t mind that I no longer wear the I’m soooo busy badge of honor. It’s easy to see that we create our own activity. And we create or own stress.

Right now, I’m praying for guidance. Every day I have a new idea, a thought on what to pursue, a spark of something new on the horizon. I remain committed to being open to possibility – even ones I haven’t imagined for myself. (A family? Moving to Iowa? Nahhhhhh . . . ) It’s probably the main reason I am devoting so much time to my practice. My practice doesn’t have room for fear, anxiety and worry. It’s where I find peace, quiet, and freedom. Space to listen. I find myself doing some of the old things I used to here in Austin. But now, I have time to step back and ask myself does this feel right? This place. This person. This activity. This habit. Does it feel good? Is it authentic and does it honor the person I am today? Because, happily, the woman typing this is not the same woman who wrote that first blog back in February. And that, my friends, feels good.

My Freak Flag

I imagine it’s different for everyone but if you gave me the choice between traversing up a steep mountain or wobbling back down, I’d take the ascent any day simply to avoid unpredictable rock and dirt or a rapid unexpected butt tumble. I may be digging a bit deep, but as I walked around Pai Canyon in Thailand I wondered if my hiking preferences in any way correlated to my approach in life. Does my eagerness to climb and effort and my corresponding hesitation to let go and put it on cruise control manifest off the mountain?

Associated or not, my answer is yes. Yes. And yes.

I’ve noticed this before and even joked about quite recently. The path of least resistance? I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Don’t get me wrong. My work ethic and discipline have served me well over the past three decades or so. But the toil and trouble philosophy I’ve become used to is a hard habit to break, even when it’s not welcome. My attraction to effort seems to unconsciously dictate my choices and often prevents me from enjoying the art of doing nothing.

On that mountain, it became very clear that it comes down to one thing plain and simple – fear.

Fear if I just relax things won’t get done. Fear if I don’t go sightseeing I’ll regret missing something. (I believe the kids these days call that “FOMO” or fear of missing out.) Fear if I don’t write today I’ll forget about the profound realizations or blog that so eloquently flashed across the screen of my mind. Fear if I don’t get a quieter room I won’t sleep well and be cranky. Fear if I eat one more piece of bread, my tummy will lose its flat physique uncovered during my Ayurvedic cleanse. Yup. That fear still has its grimy grip on my consciousness. And, last but not least, that indomitable fear that resides deep inside each and every one of us whether we’re conscious of it or not – the fear of dying. Trust me, it’s there.

I do not advocate being fearless altogether. That’s just dumb. Fear has a purpose. It warned me not to take the unchartered descent down the canyon with bad knees. The scar on my right leg served as a fresh reminder of the consequences of being fearless. Fear also cautions you not to go down a dark alley in India alone. It warns you to leave an abusive relationship.

But when fear begins to involuntarily dictate life decisions, quite frankly, it sucks.

There’s a title reserved for those who are so fearful they dominate every situation in an attempt to ensure things go their way. They are stubborn and unable to understand other points of view or respect differing opinions. They’re called control freaks. You may know one.

My freak flag flies high as I approach the end of my travel journey. I am clear on the force pulling on the cords, raising the flag. It’s my fear of the unknown – the road that lies ahead of me when I return. I’m not sure what it looks like. Or how I’ll manage it. Even before I get home I am on the computer scheduling, contacting, and creating work for myself. If I don’t, what will I do? I can’t just return home and laze around, idyllically dreaming my days away. Or can I? Maybe, just maybe, my days will look completely different than they used to.

To combat control, I’ve been calling up surrender and faith in my morning meditations. Yesterday I attended a yoga class here in Chiang Mai whose focus was 2nd chakra – the energetic center that rules fluidity, adaptability as well as joy and pleasure. It is represented by the element of water. A smile crawled across my face knowing this was not a coincidence. As if I needed a reminder, I was reassured I will always find what I need on my mat.

 

 

 

 

 

The Greatest Lesson Of All

I’ve done my fair share of bitching and moaning these past couple weeks. It’s right time I share some sunshine.

Through all of my frustrations and inner messy dialogues, it’s evident the biggest treasure of Sri Lanka is its people.

One moment I’m cursing the taxi driver for not knowing what, to me, should be a well known destination in the city. Not seconds later, the very same misdirected guide turns to me to thank me, tells me I’ve given him too much money, and places change in my palm. In that moment my hard “city girl” exterior melts and I continue to let this country soften me. And my expectations. (On that note, however, do not take your NYC and other metropolitan city cab drivers for granted – they may seem grumpy and disenchanted at times, but they know where to go and how to get you there. STAT.)

Once we finally arrive at my destination, the Sri Lankan post office, it seems no one is willing to help me send my package home. (For those of you who advised me to leave with an all but empty suitcase, you win. Lesson learned.) I get shuffled to another building down the road and then from there another office. And another. And another. Part of this is due to the language barrier and inability to communicate explicit directions making multiple questioning and directing attempts necessary. I am told the office closes at 3:30pm. It’s pushing 3:26 and the tough girl exterior returns, my impatience surges and I am, once again, exasperated.

Once I arrive at the right desk, a gentleman steps up and communicates very clearly the steps I need to relieve myself of this 10 pound load. Since I’m in no hurry to receive yet another pair of elephant plants and multiple sarongs I’ve collected in the past 7 weeks,to save $50, I decide to send my package via “sea mail” relinquishing any expectation of its return in Austin. At least in one piece. Until my mate starts securing this flimsy box of cardboard. He goes to town with some industrial packing tape and with every crisp tear of tape, my faith in the safe arrival of my contents blossoms. My trinkets and treasures are as secure as if they’d been locked in Fort Knox. The only reason I won’t see my treasured elephant pants again is if this box gets thrown overboard.

The kind sir doesn’t charge me a dime for tape, using a pen, or his explicit direction. The box itself was about $1.00. Try finding a USPS office that will offer free tape, much less that kind of service and assistance.

And then there’s the driver from the hotel to the train station this morning. I revert to my all to familiar panicked rushed travel behavior and am concerned about making it to Colombo Fort in time for a 7am departure. This guy asks me if I mind if he goes fast. Now we’re talking my language! As his foot accumulates lead and he weaves in and out of motor bikes, tut-tuts, and  busses, even the NYC girl in me gets a little concerned. I tell him to be safe above all and he assures me he is a great driver. He gets me there in less than 5 minutes and in that short time shares his dreams of coming to the US to open a restaurant. He tells me he is a great chef. I surprise myself and encourage him to establish a Sri Lankan eatery in the States. This after complaining about the food. My smile is proof I’m embracing this new culture. I hope his dreams become a reality.

I could go on and on with stories of generosity and graciousness during my almost three weeks in this country. But I trust any of my beneficiaries during my time in Sri Lanka know who they are if they read this. To you, I bow with gratitude. I need no visits to temples or shrines or tours to prove to me the divine resides in all of your hearts and to experience the best part of your country.

While I may not have experienced deep epiphanies here in Sri Lanka, I have seen the kindness and compassion of the human spirit.

There is no greater teaching than that.

Oh, Fear.

Today in the cab the fear set in. I believe it took its familiar seat in my heart in the morning but during my cab ride into town, sans connectivity to the electronic world to distract me, it made itself known and continued to expand like a ferocious virus. Inside the solitary confinement of a vehicle fear gripped my mind and ran with it. The cycle of thoughts that have been plaguing me since my arrival in Sri Lanka dominated any faith I had in the future to the point of tears. I couldn’t sit in traffic another moment. For ten minutes which seemed like 10 days, that cab was my personal prison.

A kind soul had granted me access to an amazing hotel to sit poolside and stare at the ocean, swim in the lap worthy salt pool and relax. That’s where I was headed. Instead of feeling giddy with excitement at this generous invitation, I was sad. What was wrong with me?

Almost eight weeks after I departed Austin, this trip can no longer be considered an escape or vacation. While I didn’t feel like I was running from anything in particular back home, maybe I was. From my fear of the unknown. The answer to “what’s next”?

Coming to a pool and chilling by the Indian Ocean felt like a luxury I couldn’t afford. Figuratively and literally. I have no job right now. No consistent source of income. And yet I know I can’t go back to doing the same thing I was doing.

While I can see what lies before me, as I mentioned in my last post, I have no clue how to get there. Or, like a mirage in the middle of the desert, if it’s even a real.

I don’t want to struggle any more. Even though I know these past three months will be remembered as nothing less than priceless treasures and, logistically, everything has gone relatively smoothly (i.e. No major medical catastrophes other than a minor tooth procedure) I’ve wrestled with enough struggle in the past 7 weeks to last me a while. Both internally and externally.

While money may not buy happiness it sure can make a bumpy ride a bit more comfortable. It can buy conveniences. Things like air conditioning. A nice hotel. Taking a cab wherever, whenever I feel like it no matter the cost. Good clean healthy food. Turns out, not unlike the States, vegetables are more expensive than rice and carbs here but to such an extent that they are not found on any menu in abundance. A premise I have that is confirmed when I receive lunch. I order ceviche – a “Tower of avocado, fresh seafood ceviche, micro greens, mango and pineapple”. It arrives and I see no “tower”. Just a tiny scoop of some sort of tasteless fish with mayo and an inch of diced avocado. All to the tune of $12. Not a grand sum of money I understand but considering it would have required I eat no less than five of them to fill the tank, it could have been considered a $50 meal. I request cucumber and carrot sticks, something even a local bar in the states can accommodate for relatively cheap and I get handful of cabbage with small slivers of carrot and cuke. I’m starved so I gobble my seafood sampler and resort to something I’ve gotten used to taking more than I’d like – bread and butter.

I re-read this well aware I sound like a whiney five year old stomping her feet because she wanted chocolate and all they had was vanilla. But when you are wrestling with fear and worry and anxiety and hunger and constipation, the struggles feel real. You crave ease, comfort and access to a small trust fund.

The crashing waves offered a small respite from my mind –  assurance that everything will be just fine.

But as I pay my bill, the saltwater pouring from my eyes is a not too subtle reminder that no amount of external comfort or beauty will offer me peace today. It is something I have to find for myself.

Money may buy comfort and assurance. However, usually, such ease comes at the sacrifice of growth and learning. I try to remember this today and every day here on the road.

Days In Pondicherry

For the past few days, I’ve had thoughts I couldn’t wait to document in my journal. Now, here I sit at breakfast pen in hand with little desire to write. I rather sit and enjoy my cappuccino, eggs and toast. Soak it all in. Record the memories in my heart rather than on paper. As if talking about them or writing about them would somehow rob the moments of their magic. While I can offer details of what I did and the things I saw, undoubtedly my explanations would never equate to what yogis call bhav – feeling or sentiment. Words would undoubtedly fail to describe what I smelled when I walked past fragrant jasmine and garbage simultaneously. Or what I tasted when I took that first bite of homemade local bread from Auroville with fresh melted butter. Or the colors and emotions that exuded from an artist’s music and dance performance in the intimate setting of his own salon. No. Words would not suffice.

I don’t want to describe in detail what transpired during my time inside the Matrimandir or all the divine circumstances that led me there without the compensatory orientation. I protect those moments and sensations in my heart, like a momma clutches her baby to her breast.

In a world of incessant sharing of every detail of our lives on social media and Did it really happen if it wasn’t posted on Instagram? it’s tempting to share all the events of my time here in Pondicherry. Normally, I enjoy doing it. Offering a glimpse into the wonders of parts of the world you may otherwise not see or experience. But something inside me restrains me. Prevents me from over-share. Besides, as any of my friends who have journeyed alongside or before me will attest, words would be a miserable substitute for true knowingness.

All I know is somehow, a force greater than my own will has guided my time here. The people I’ve met, conversations we’ve shared over coffee and meals, the serendipitous moments – cataloguing them all is unnecessary. Memories of the heart will remain there and, like flowers nurtured by the sun and water, continue to bloom as I bring them to the forefront of my mind. Whether or not I tweet them.

 

 

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