August 04, 2004
Nothing Stays The Same
During my six weeks in Kashmir I experienced the coming and going of the season of ripeness for cantaloupes and crunchy apples, only to be replaced by that of pears and pomegranates. Every week there was a new type of vegetable to try that was not ready for picking a few days prior. The beautiful yellow water lilies that could be found joyfully decorating the periphery of almost every field, island and houseboat on the lake had become few and far between, certain to be completely absent in a week or two.
During my time there I received an e-mail announcing the birth of by best friend Carma's first child. This was a bittersweet communication in many ways for me. I am overjoyed for Carma and her family as I know how much happiness Oren (her new son) will bring to their lives. I am also sad that I was not by Carma's side during the pregnancy nor will I be there to witness Oren's first year of life. These facts also confirm what I have known but refused to acknowledge for some time now -- that Carma and I have chosen very divergent paths for our lives.
When I called to ask about the play-by-play of the delivery and to wish her all the best, I realized I could no longer relate to her experiences and emotions as I did back in college when we were both single, bi-racial women with crazy curly hair taking on the world of social injustice. Back in the good old days we would masquerade as sisters, with me being the oldest. Today I look comparatively at our lives and feel as though my little sis has not only grown up but also matured beyond me in many ways. The commitments of love, marriage and bringing a child into the world are still simply aspirations for me. Yet they are achievements she has taken on with courage and grace that are both so becoming to her.
My insecure inner child misses and feels dependent on the regularity of communication we used to share to remind me of how much I mean to her and how much she loves me. And then I look at the photo of perfect little Oren and realize she now has a child of her own and a husband that warrant that time and attention. The nature of change has taken its course and there is nothing I can do to turn it back. Nor do I want to - really.
The birth of my journey (which really began back in September 2003 when I first began planning this trip) coincided with that of my brother's new life as a married man. Knowing the physical distance that was going to be between us in the coming months and years (Trevor has recently purchased a home in the U.S. Virgin Islands where he will be spending the better part of his time) I began observing him more closely in order to imbed sweet images in my heart so that I may keep him close no matter where either of us may be. What I have come to notice is that my brother has been and continues to be on a journey as life changing as the one I am on. I am sure evidence of his evolution has been apparent for some time, but I have only just begun to notice the many subtle yet profound changes that Trevor has undergone. In assuming responsibility for the happiness of his wife, and moving beyond the familiar confines of New York to the U.S.V.I. where he has begun creating a life defined purely by his own terms, my brother has filled out the suit of manhood with great heart and courage. As he stated in his wedding vows, his relationship with Debi, his wife, has made him a better person, as he has begun to develop a gentler and kinder side with an enhanced facility to wear his love for others on his sleeve. For the better part of my adult life I have felt emotionally distant from Trevor as our life priorities were so different. Our present physical distance has ironically enabled me to feel closer and more connected to him than ever before.
I have noticed similar changes in the lives and relationships I have with so many of the people I am closest to. Having babies, buying homes, quitting jobs, moving away, sacrificing independence for partnership, entrusting loved ones to make choices on their own, pursuing dreams . . . I am inspired by all of those people who are pursuing life with the same spirit as I am this journey. I only wonder if these people are as aware of their great strides forward as I am without the luxury of time and space to quietly reflect and observe.
As much growth as I have noticed in others and myself, I am ever aware of the areas where change is slow to come. I have noticed my stagnation when exchanging with certain friends by e-mail, as these communications are riddled with clichÈs and absent of emotional calm and clarity. The physical pains that I am still enduring in my neck and the grinding of my teeth that continue to go unremedied and unexplained remind me daily of the fears and pains of the past I am still yet to identify or heal. My solitude throughout this journey (specifically referring to the absence of male companionship) informs me of the emotional development that I still need to undergo.
The lotus flower is referenced often in Buddhists texts, as a symbol of the perfection of nature. Thus I am familiar with its form despite the fact that I have never seen a real one in bloom. When I first arrived in Kashmir I noticed a field of green plants growing in the water just in front of the house where I was staying. I was informed that it was a field of lotus flowers that would bloom sometime in July. For lack of any other schedule to adhere to I declared that I would stay in Kashmir until the lotus flowers blossomed. Well just last week I noticed a large pink and white flower, shaped like a bowl with perfectly formed pointed petals reaching for the sky -- my first lotus. It was simple, elegant and peaceful -- well worth the six-week wait.
Just as I waited patiently for the beauty of these flowers to reveal themselves, I must wait for my own inner beauty to immerge. Pressuring this process will be as effective as watching grass grow. Thus I will simply continue my travels and let life take me where it may. It looks like my next destination is Leh, Ladahk, a.k.a. "little Tibet." I will let you know what I find when I get there.
March 10, 2004
The big 30
March 5, 2004
Today, on my thirtieth birthday, I wake up in Katmandu, Nepal. I flew into the cloud covered valley last night from Delhi.
I always anticipated feeling a sense of stress or sadness on my thirtieth b-day as I was certain that I would feel there were things I would have wanted to accomplish by this point in my life that I had not done. However, today I have a profound sense of calm and contentness with where I am in my life -- which is smack dab in the middle of the moment.
It is amusing to look back on past birthdays and recall all of the effort I put forth to make sure my birthday was celebrated -- throwing myself parties, rallying friends to join me for dinner, drinks and dancing, making sure people knew it was my birthday as I was so afraid that they would forget and I would end up alone and feeling unloved (one of my deepest insecurities).
Interestingly, I never felt the celebration with my family really counted as they were expected to love me. As I sit in this distant country where I only know the people I met on the plane and the friends of friends who have generously offered to let me stay with them, I realize how special those family celebrations have been. My immediate family would gather for dinner (which is always best when mom cooks); my father would make a toast in my honor; my mother would disseminates a series of very amusing photographs from my childhood; my brother and I would reminisce about "the good old days"; my father would lead the family in singing a passionate yet highly off-key rendition of happy birthday; and we all (including the family dog) would devour a delicious cake compliments of my sister-in-law Deb. As I look back I can think of nothing more comforting and loving than the simplicity of this family tradition.
The absence of many gifts and lots of fanfare has also allowed me to notice the love of friends that I am constantly surrounded by even when they are thousands of miles away. For instance, I have been traveling for almost 40 days now and only spent my first two nights in a hotel. The rest of the time I have been generously hosted by friends, either those I have made during this trip or those I have made thanks to introductions of many of you from home. I can think of no better example of the nurturing care and love of the many wonderful people in my life than this extension of hospitality.
I can also think of no finer gift than finally being able to realize that everything I have always been looking for has been right under my noise, only I have been to busy searching for it to notice. What an amazing and profound happy birthday!!!