Sweet Nectar

Memoirs of a Downward Facing Dog

As the crow flies, Edmonton to Calgary seemed like a straight shot.  2.5 hours south on Route 2 straight through the prairies on flatter than flat terrain.  How bad could it be?

Well, crows are smarter-than-average in the bird kingdom and certainly the lucky ones cause flying is definitely the better way to go.  Route 2 from Edmonton to Calgary after a snowstorm was one of the meanest, iciest, nastiest sumnabitches I’ve ever driven on….in my life.

I’d headed out of Edmonton with clear roads, thinking a yoga practice and a meal was in my not-too-distant Calgary future.  Within minutes outside of Edmonton, I’d realized that was a drastic misconception.  The road soon became a solid sheet of ice, and the only thing that kept my tires connected to the road was the occasional pockmark of asphalt that provided the smallest amount of traction.  In addition, those bumpy, icy conditions made the windows in the van and my teeth rattle in equal measures.

What I hadn’t realized when I’d left Edmonton was that my windshield wiper fluid in the van was either empty or non-functional.  Truck after truck passed me in a flurry of snow, ice, mud, gravel and salt and before long I could see absolutely nothing out my front window.  If I got lucky, a truck would pass and spray enough moisture onto the windshield that I could use the wiper blades to clean off the sludge.  Most of the time, this wasn’t the case.

Remembering the advice of my friend in Kentucky, it dawned on me that I had my water bottle and could therefore roll the window down to throw the water on the windshield.  A voice in my head had reminded me to fill up said water bottle before I left town.  But did I listen?  Nope.  There was about half a cup of water left in the bottom, which was just enough to clean the windshield exactly twice.

My feet were freezing, my fingers were numb, the blanket was in the back of the van which I couldn’t reach, there was no gas station nor an exit in sight (not that I could see it anyways), the road conditions were disastrous and I was truly, truly scared.   Meanwhile, my mom is texting me on my phone excitedly telling me she’d gotten Nutcracker tickets, and I thought I’d just let her entertain herself with those visions of sugarplums dancing in her head because if she only knew.

Finally, I pulled off onto an exit ramp to pause, wipe the windshield and collect myself so I didn’t cry.  Crying only makes vision blurrier.  Then I had a thought….if I could collect enough snow in the empty jug in the back, I could rest the jug on the dashboard in hopes that the defrost would melt the snow into water which I could use to clean the windshield.  Well, if you have any knowledge of old VW’s, you’ll know that they are notorious for the shittiest of heating systems.  Snow stayed snow, and I stayed scared.

Finally I got the nerve to pull back onto the highway….figuring that forward motion towards a gas station or help was a better bet than sitting on a remote exit ramp in the middle of snowhereland.  And it was at that moment that the REAL lightbulb went off in my head.

Though I hadn’t filled the water bottle before leaving, I had grabbed a can of coconut water.  A rescue squad can come in the most unexpected of forms.  And that can of coconut water was my burly white knight in gleaming shining armor, providing just enough sweet nectar to guide me to the exit.

I made it to a gas station.  Filled the windshield wiper tank.  And still no juice.

But I’d filled up the water bottles at the gas station, grabbed the blanket from the back, and in slow, frazzled motion, while periodically rolling down the window to toss water on the windshield, I somehow rolled my truck into Calgary.

Nobody said adventure was easy.

Memoirs of a Downward Facing Dog

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Orchestral Joy Rides

The quintessential Los Angeles experiences have been checked off.  Hike up the Runyon Train to see the Hollywood sign:  check.  Sunset from the Santa Monica Beach Pier:  check.  Roller-coasters at Magic Mountain:  check.  Needless to say, it has been a crazy ride.  And I am ready to go home.  And as I started to whine, complain and throw a pity-party for the fact that I don’t really have a home to go home to, I received an email.

My landlord, in my temporary Charlottetown apartment, was bit by my dog and I have 2 weeks to find a new place to live.  Though it is disconcerting that my dog bit someone, guessing she is tired of instability, felt protective of her home and an “intruder” mid-day was too much for her to handle, I am smirking with the irony of the Universe.  Now I REALLY don’t have a home to go to.  You see, my dog doesn’t have the tools to handle this like I do:  breathe, trust, and smile.  The curve ball gets thrown and I am laughing as it whizzes by.  Alright, Miss Universe.  I can rise up.  I can deal.  What ‘choo got?

I was teaching a Flow class the other day and was reminded of a lesson I learned from the sea last year, somewhere between El Salvador and Nicaragua.  The ocean is a twice daily reminder that to everything there is an ebb and a flow, and strangely enough, even though I did my practice on the sand next to the Santa Monica Pier, right smack dab next to the waves of the Pacific Ocean, it was actually the sounds an L.A. traffic jam that brought it all back into focus.

Sometime between 7:30 and 8:30 am, after returning back to bed from dropping my parents off at the airport at 5 am, the traffic began to flow and commence its upward audial crescendo.

The whooshing of cars passing by at an ever-increasing rate, gave way to an occasional, almost friendly “beep-beep” interjected.  The whispery whoosh of traffic gave rise to a full-fledged humming; a deep vibration of gas and oil and pistons and breaks.  An automotive orchestra.  A cacophony of onomatopoeias.  Cue the sirens; the string section, if you will.  Deafening electronic wails and shrieks: “Eeee-merrrr-gen-ceeeeee, Eeee-merrr-gen-ceeee.”   Like a well sound-tracked film, drama was added to the scene with the rumbling of the timpani section:  “thwock-thwock-thwock-thwock” started the rhythmic bass of helicopter blades as they sliced through the sky-blue sky.  The horn section now laying it on thick, and this time there was nothing friendly about it.  As if the whole of Los Angeles had decided to drape their bodies across their steering wheels simultaneously.  Thwock.  Hummmmm.  Whoosh.  AR-OOO-GAH!!!  Crescendo fortissimo.

And then silence:  pianissimo

9:30 rolls around and time cards have been punched, coffees consumed, parking meters paid.  And the traffic retreats.  The streets practically empty save for the waitresses whose shifts don’t start for another 6 hours, the unemployed, and the actors clawing their way to yet another audition.  Flow and ebb.  Ebb and flow.

You see, the shit is going to hit the fan whether we want it to or not.  It is how we act or react that defines us.  That gives us grace.  You can fight the flow, you can clench and resist and complain.  Or you can soften into it, relax and realize that if you just allow a little space for the drift, you might end up exactly where you need to be.

Consequently, I found a new place to call home.  A large home actually, with a proper yard and a lovely roommate and oh-so-much space in which to drift and nest and settle.  Overnight, nonetheless.  And without any drama.

And as I waited in line for my last roller coaster on my last night in Los Angeles, I thought, it might twist, it might turn, it might drop unexpectedly or pause in mid-air, or loop-de-loop or climb for minutes in agonizing suspense, but one thing is for sure:  roller coasters are better with arms up!

Between Two Lungs

It’s starting to back up.  I can’t write fast enough or convert the experiences into stories.  My brain is trying to capture, retain, recode.  My senses are overloaded.  Flooded.  Too much is coming in too fast.

Jiquillio came and went and the highlight was the fire-spinning on the beach.  Or was it the fact that I taught my first ever yoga class to six traveling strangers who, lo and behold, came back the next day with three friends and a ten-dollar donation?  Or perhaps it was the house for rent that mysteriously fell into our laps the day we were to depart for Playa Assaradores with no place to stay.

In a dusty trailer ride bumping through a small and simple agricultural village, I am blown away by the the road; the unplanned and the coincidental.

Nicaragua is poor.  If there is a short end of the stick, the Nicaraguans are picking their teeth with it.  Costa Rica has the all-inclusives and the tourists, El Salvador has the American dollar and a recent visit from Barack Obama and Mexico has the drug pipe-line into the States.  Nicaragua, hay nada.  And it is just stunning in its simplicity.

What more do you need when you have a couple of thatched palapas on a large piece of beach-front property next to an estuary where the salt flats are full and the fish are always biting?  There’s time to cruise around on bikes, play in the waves and take a snooze in a hammock.  Perpetual summertime and man, the livin’s easy.  The people are happy.  Even the cows look sleek and shiny, free to roam; cruising the beach all day, munching on sea grass.  Definitely not the gluttonous, over-fed beasts we’re used to.

I have to admit there is a part of me that feels like I should be seeing more of the “sights”, speaking more Spanish and following the circuit instead of hugging the coastline, following the waves and traveling with a group that consists of two Germans, one Swede, one Oregonian and one and a half Canadians.  But how much more local can you get?  We just ordered organic food grown on a farm down the road to be delivered in the morning because that’s when the milk is freshest.  The tortilla cart came ’round at dawn and for $2.00 we bought fifty hand-made corn tortillas.  Our fish we buy from a man’s house, waiting in his living room with his kids, while we weigh out our bounty.

A typical house here consists of an open-aired shack enclosed or partially enclosed by corrugated metal or palm fronds.  It sits on a packed-dirt floor in a packed-dirt yard and I can only imagine what a slippery and muddy ordeal the rainy season brings.  Each morning you rise to the sun and you sweep your dirt.  Even the dirt roads get swept.  Sworls of dust clouds caress the ankles of women hunched over the brooms in the golden first-day light.  So much pride taken into even a dirt floor.  Every yard and field is enclosed in crooked and broken barbed-wire fences.  They give the illusion of security and property delineation, but mostly work great for hanging laundry.  Two forked logs support the cross-beam onto which is looped the pulley system that hand-over-sweaty-hand draws water up from a cement well.  A well that causes much sickness and death in the rainy season.

Upwards of 5-8 people live under one corrugated metal roof, the men often sleeping outside in their hammocks, their machetes lightly resting across their breasts.  During peak sun the family, the cows, the dogs and their puppies, the chickens, the horses and the occasional goat loll about in the shade lazily playing, talking, swinging, dozing, munching, mooing, wrestling, washing, rolling, smiling and pecking the afternoon away.

And as it all whizzes by, the waves and the villages in startling moments of clarity and simultaneously, blurred impressions of beauty, I realize that the countdown has begun.  The end is near.  And as I lay in bed last night listening to the rhythmic crash of the ocean, I am aware of how much I have learned from the sea in these last three months.

I have seen three full-moons and will tally up a fourth by the time I leave.  I have seen too many stunning sunsets to keep counting or to even choose a favourite.  I have become so intuned with tide charts and swell patterns I feel as though perhaps my breath now inflates to the sound of the seas’ frothy sighs.

They say that the trees are the lungs of the Earth, but surely it is the ocean.  The waves a soulful exhalation with a cleansing power that leaves me breathless.  A giant, watery mystery that dances with the moon and in gasping whispers, speaks the language of the stars.  The secrets of the universe must be tucked away in the depths of her trenches, hidden in the folds of her abyss.  She harbors no attachments and truly knows that to all things there is a rise and a fall, an ebb and a flow, a wax and a wane.  An inhale and an exhale.  It is flexible in its fluidity and powerful beyond comprehension.

The ocean has taught me to let go.  Because sooner or later, everything gets washed away.  Nature’s Law.  Undeniable and without question.  The ocean always wins and the current is always stronger.

I have been tossed around in a spin-cycle of whitewater and learned the importance of remaining calm.  In turbulent waters, it is always best to take a deep breath, dive deep and stay loose.

In my life I have always tried to one-up change.  Beat it to the punchline.  Whenever I sensed a shifting of gears I would move, change cities….escape.  I would change my surroundings so that I was distracted enough to drown out the whispers of my heart, the lessons of the Universe, the Grand-Master plan (or whatever you want to call it).  And if I didn’t cross the finish line first, I’d feel downright sore, rejected and hurt when change happened around me.

When I feel scared to go home, when I realize that all of my best and oldest friends have moved away, fallen in love, had babies.  When even the concept of “home” for me is hard to define, I am calmed by the sound of the sea.

For this is life.  And change happens.

And all of those friends that have moved away, fallen in love and had babies are just splinters in a grand, gaping wooden door open wide for more friends, more love and more babies.  (Although, for population control, let’s keep the numbers down to 2.5 per househould, k?)

You can no more staunch the flow of change than you can stem the tides.

Looking out onto a horizon that extends past the realm of my peripheral vision, I realize that I am so small.  A droplet of water in the world’s largest aquarium.  But the ocean is massive and fierce so I am also so much a part of enormous space and movement.  My life on the shore has taught me that.

And now, as I start to make my way back inland, back home, I am taking with me my lessons in fluidity.  And though I know now that I won’t try to fight a strong current or swim upstream, I will say that I hope one day this mighty river might take me back out to sea.

S-T-R-E-T-C-H THIS!!!

I want to quit yoga camp.

Send my mom a letter and tell her to come pick me up right away.  The food sucks, the bugs are terrible and my roommate snores.

Actually, all of that is a lie.  The food is amazing, full of fiber, tropical fruits and roughage.  I finally went poo.  Everyone talks about poo here, and I love it.  And when everyone else is dealing with spiders the size of salad plates, mice and/or rats in their food stores, crabs, giant moths, mosquitoes and lizards in their cabins, my new friend and roommate are blissfully removed from it all in our beach hut.  We wake to the sun rising up from the sea, peeking out between the palm fronds, gauzy light filtering in through our mosquito nets.  The ocean breeze ensures there are no bugs and all of the really scary critters seem inclined to haunt the more densely populated areas of the camp.

She doesn’t snore and a group of us spent our day off on Tuesday walking for AN HOUR on a deserted beach, without seeing a single other person, to get to the nearby town, where we gorged ourselves on pizza, french-fries, fish with mango sauce and frozen acai berry slush topped with mangos, bananas, granola and pineapple.

I want to quit yoga camp because it’s fucking hard.  I am terrified of teaching and have convinced myself I’m gonna suck, although they made us promise not to say a single bad thing about ourselves for the entire month so technically, I’m not allowed to say that.

Shhhhhh…just between you and me.

Do you know how hard that is?  Do you realize how many times a day we berate, belittle and beat the shit out of ourselves?…a constant monkey-brain full of runny, brown poo chatter!

They just threw us into teaching and no matter how many classes I’ve taken, how well I thought I knew the poses, getting the muscle memory into words and out of my mouth is like asking a midget to take down the cookie jar.

On top of asking us to verbalize the poses, they want us to speak with confidence, to use intonation. To make our words sound like the motions: “Str-e-t-c-h your arms towards the sky, LIFT your heart, and reee-ach over your legs and touch your toes.”

—Honey, I know that I’m lookin’ down at my leg. I know that that is, in fact, a leg.   But my mouth seems to call it an elbow, so F*** your confidence and your rolling, breathy yoga voice.

Inhale.

AAAaannd….

Exhale.

To top that off. To add to the already terrifying notion of actually being a yoga instructor, the main guy, the head honcho and founder of the Moksha series, informed me that most studios see around 150 students per day.  The Montreal studio: OVER 400 PER DAY!!!

Inhale, inhale, inhale, hyperventilate, inhale.

AAaannnd…..

Exhale.

It’s just so hard to exude peace and confidence when my whole inner world seems to be transforming, rearranging….magnetically seeking North.  Magnetically seeking truth.

Who am I? Am I the person I want to be inside? Am I who I’ve been in the past? Am I a happy person, a dark person, light, funny, serious, deep, shallow, interesting?  Why don’t I know this yet and why do I seek definition?  Can I embody all of those things at once? Does identifying with those descriptions quantify good or bad?  Can I be a kind and open person who sometimes gets jealous?  A shy person who also likes to make others laugh? A generous person who sometimes gets possesive over “things”?

A very dear person to me once said that before you can be compassionate with others, you must first be compassionate with yourself.  And when the shit-storm of negative thought starts swirling around inside, I find this one of the hardest things to remember. Even harder to put into practice.

So I’m working on it. Taking it easy on myself as these questions rise up, as the frustrations bubble beneath the surface, as I wail on my inner punching-bag.

I am still learning.  I AM still learning.

So as I strive for authenticity, as I lean into truth, you might catch me speaking to palm trees; practicing teaching, telling them to re-e-e-each for the sky, teaching them yoga and trying to call my leg……..a goddamn leg!

Namaste, though.

The Reef-Raff of Brazil

 

Despite having my luggage lost in Detroit, with still no guarantees as to when it will arrive, I was fortunate enough to have met up with one of my fellow trainees the first night of my arrival in Brazil.  This having been my first stint at travelling, I was thankful that, as it turned out, her hostel was just across the street from mine.

After all was said and done in the morning, we decided to make our way across the street to The Beach.

Now, every coast has its own definition of the beach.  Seattle has rocky beaches where people bundled up in sweaters and raincoats skip the smooth, grey stones into the frigid Puget Sound.  Southern California sees silicone Baywatch babes bouncing around with plastic Ken dolls, pretending that the water is actually warm and their boobs are actually real.

But never, NEVER have I seen anything like the organism which is The Beach of Salvador.

From up on the boardwalk, the beach looks like a cartoon.  Every possible inch of sand is hidden by yellow and red umbrellas.  All you see is a sea of yellow and red; a field of poppies that curve along the edge of the surf, a veritable garden of umbrellas bordered by a rich row of brown bodies playing in the waves before finally leading out to deeper waters, canoes, fishing boats, sailboats and eventually freight ships.  A Brazilian parfait of vivid.

A beautiful backdrop to behold, but the true magic of The Beach takes place beneath this seamless canopy.

The sun was scorching hot and since I had already acquired a sunburn from an 8:00 am meditation on the rocks, we decided to join the throng, rent umbrellas, take a deep breath and submerge our bodies beneath the surface.

A Brazilian woman found a clearing for us, shouted to a young man in Portugese to bring our gear.  He brought over two low-rider beach chairs, planted the base of the umbrella in the sand, positioned it over our bodies to provide shade and then walked away.  No exhange of money, nothing.

And quite suddenly, we were in the midst of such a thriving, bustling organism, (look out Nemo)  it rivals that of the great coral reefs.

Hundreds of vendors navigated the sands, ducking their heads between umbrellas and shouting out the names of their goods.  Their announcements were speckled with the thick “thh” and “zzhh” sounds which color the Portugese language.  They battled the hot sun selling everything you could possibly want or desire without ever having to leave your beach chair.

Candy, gum, peanuts, cashews, cigarettes, ice cream,  coconuts cut open with machetes with straws stuck inside (tastes like sweet, sweaty feet), ceviche, skewers of shrimp, skewers of beef, skewers of chicken, blow-up water toys, sunscreen, sunglasses, sunhats, hammocks, jewelery, saris, beer, capirhinias, dresses, tube tops, rice, grilled meats, bean cakes and coconut cakes, salad, grilled fish, soup served out of a giant thermos by this huge Brazilian mama with the most pendulous breasts.  Young vendors walked around with buckets of hot coals, a fan, and Quiejo (cheese) on a stick that they would grill and fan over their coals until it was brown and gooey and delicious.  (Their buckets, I later noticed, were made of old paint cans, and I couldn’t help but question the toxicity of the Queso.)  The ice cream man after serving your ice cream topped with chocolate sauce would walk around the beach with a squeeze bottle, putting extra sauce on your cone after you were half-way finished……I mean, imagine if someone took your bag of popcorn half-way through a movie just to add more butter.  Boys would walk around with watering cans filled with sea-water, rinsing the sand from your feet and cooling you off….FOR FREE.  (Sorry, my American-born, feet-squeamish-self has a hard time wrapping my brain around why someone in their right mind might do this.)

In every direction, this organism was teeming and pulsing with life and activity.  To my left, an eight-ish year old Brazilian boy started playing with the hair of a nearby woman, a stranger, combing it with his fingers and styling it repeatedly….seemingly just for fun.  A gaggle of Brazilian girls gathered to my right, swarming a group of Japanese tourists, originally asking for money, but finally befriending them, when an on-looking tourist from Sao Paulo started feeding the Brazilian girls English words to say to the Japanese girls.  Eventually, complete with a Brazilian flag and “peace fingers”, the Japanese girls lined up in front of the surf, surrounded by the ten or twelve ecstatic ninas for a photo.

And this beach, on a MONDAY, was not crowded with lobster-like tourists (like me), but jammed packed full of locals, kids, families, and some of the skimpiest bathing suits I have ever seen on both the beautiful and the rotund.

And like any efficient organism, this well-oiled machine was completely self-sustaining.  The Brazilians sampled the wares from the vendors while casually, but attentively, watching their children play in the surf.  Their children picked up garbage bags and water bottles and turned them into beach toys.  The homeless and the thrifty walked through picking up the beer cans and recyclables, and during our evening walk along the beach, there was practically no evidence of the melee that had taken place there just hours before sunset.

When we finally finished our beers and started to pack up, our umbrella lady folded up our chairs, collapsed our umbrella and asked for 8 REALS (about 5 dollars) for an entire sunny day of quite possibly the most amazing people watching I have EVER had the chance to participate in.

And THAT is the organism which is The Beach.

Get Out of the Looking Glass…

It’s a good day to go to Brazil.  On the day of my departure, winter finally hit.

It only started snowing around 11 am, but by the time I was on my teeny-tiny tin plane to Detroit, the world was a blanket of white.  A shroud of fog and snow enveloped the airport lights until they misted out into oblivion.  Beautiful, yes, but not looking so good for visibility.  Patches of the white stuff scaled across the tarmac like psoriasis on an albino.  I watched with focused and rapt attention as the horde of yellow de-icing trucks descended  upon my air-planes’ toy wings.

Just in case they missed a spot.

Our wings sufficiently coated with what looked like Lime Gatorade, I white-knuckled my seat rests as we hoisted into the sky.  With probably only just enough horse-power to clear the clouds, I surfed on a sea of cumulus, left behind a winter-wonderland, and stared out a tiny window at the horizon-line of a pale, pink winter sunset.

I think that I am finally experiencing an emotion that resembles excitement.  Or else I’ve mistaken that for nervous energy.  At the airport and on the plane, I wanted to eat EVERYTHING.  Devouring all those micro-waved plastic pouches of well,….probably chemically scented, preserved and infused plastic, as if it was a Kobe beef filet-mignon.  Constantly inserting peanuts, pretzels and granola bars into my mouth…to smother and placate the frenetic butterflies in my stomach.

On the way to the airport, I couldn’t stop talking.  And when I said goodbye to my friend, I couldn’t tell if I was laughing or crying.

I am really doing this.  I really just said goodbye to all of my stuff, to my friends, my dog, to a new love….to everything which makes me feel grounded and provides me with a point of reference.  A circus of memories, experience, juggling acts and clown-like impersonations.  A veritable fun-house of mirrors, with so many reflections and perspectives of myself.

But it’s all illusion, isn’t it?

I mean, obviously those things exist, but are their reflections accurate?  Does looking into one mirror give me enormous skinny legs and a stretched-out bobble head?  Does one reduce me down to midget size to become one in the land of the Munchkins?  And why, why do we pay so much attention to these reflections of others??

Have you ever balanced on one leg while looking in the mirror?  Found calm and stability within the throes of your own gaze?

Now close your eyes.

Me, I always fall.

So that is the goal: to balance on one leg with my eyes closed.  To know exactly where I exist in space, to balance there, internally, without relying on ANY reflections.

Because isn’t that the only perspective that matters??

“Finding balance is not letting anyone love you less than you love yourself.”

Cliff-Notes to Life: the abridged version.

T-minus 15 days.

I am no longer a coffee drinker.  Now I drink green tea….A LOT of green tea.  Consequently, I have become an incredibly proficient and prolific pee-er.

I got a travelling back-pack for Christmas and I was surprised by how little fits into it.  Packing light is a skill that is usually not in my repertoire—shoes, belts and accessories, however, are.  But I will replace those items with a few other Christmas gifts:  a cool little chamois towel that is like those little pills you put into the bath and turns into a giant dinosaur sponge.  ABSORBS EIGHT TIMES ITS SIZE IN WATER!!!  A flashlight, a pocket-knife and Hallelujah-thank-Mother-Mary-Son-of-God-His-Great-Uncle-and his pet lizard (or whatever pet a good Christian man might have kept in those times….sheep?)–a sleeping bag liner that protects you from my phobically feared bed-bugs.  And, since moms will be moms, a stocking stuffed with enough anti-bacterial EVERYTHING that I could ward off the plague for all of Europe, should it decide to rear its ancient midieval head.

“Baggage” is interesting, isn’t it?  I wonder what else is going to fit into that metaphorical back-pack?  What am I taking with me?  What will I gladly throw into the sea?  What precious souvenirs will I find along this adventure that will replace items lost or tossed?

As I rode the plane to visit my family in Portland, though it wasn’t the “big” trip, it still felt like a launch, a taking-off, a journey.  Or was it merely a continuation of a journey that has been taking place all along?  A journey that has been taking place since the dawn of time?

In my world, I see my journey beginning around the age of fourteen or fifteen.  A sense, that amidst the hormones and the breast buds, “it” was much bigger than you and me, bigger than high school, bigger than my town (which most things are), bigger than the edge of the stars.  And as I look back, I see periods in my life that were disconnected from that sense of wonder.  Times when that curiosity that comes with the innate naivete of  youth was as dull as the grate in a fireplace.  A tiny flame…not even a flame, really.  An ember that was buried beneath layers of ash, soot and dirt.    But nevertheless, still burning.

I oftentimes regard those periods as if it was a fork in the road, a diversion off of my path, a disorientation or a way to excuse that shitty choice of a boyfriend or another escapist reason to move to a new city.

***Slap on the forehead***  “Silly me, there I go chasing trails of bread crumbs again.”

But I am slowly beginning to realize that all of those “diversions”, those separate realities that I so readily disassociate from mySELF are actually all very connected and part of my path.

There are times when I can’t help but wonder (usually post-break-up and loaded full of cocktails)” WHY did that person get put in my path??”  Was it really necessary to take five years to see myself out of a bad relationship?  I mean, aren’t there Cliff Notes or a weekend intensive course I could have taken to cut the time down to say….two years?  But there are no short-cuts are there?  There are no quick-fixes for pain or loss or grief.  And the reason why they say hindsight is twenty-twenty, is because only with hindsight can we see the connections….the way things came to be.  The way I came to be.

The hard part is trust.   If we look back and see that those connections have meaning and importance in who we are now, then it should be easy to embrace the people, places and events that will shape us in the future.   Trust that the dots will connect as they have always connected.  But it’s not easy, is it?  For me, trust is one of the hardest.

Airplanes rides are one of the best excuses for indulging in Hollywood movies; without shame I dial up flicks that I would normally not deem even suitable rental material.  So with a six-dollar bag of cheese and crackers in-hand, I cozied up into my tiny seat, plugged in my earbuds and ordered Eat, Pray, Love; curious to see how the movie version compared to the book.  Hollywood it was, but there was one part I really enjoyed:

‘The Physics of the Quest’–a force of nature governed by laws as real as the laws of gravity or momentum.  And the rule of ‘Quest Physics’ maybe goes like this:  ‘If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting (which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments) and set out on a truth-seeking journey (either externally or internally), and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and, if you are prepared-most of all-to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself…then truth will not be withheld from you.’

Pay attention.

I keep getting asked if I am just “SOOO” excited for my trip.  To be honest, I am blank.  Emotionless.  Maybe scared.  I don’t know what is going to change, or how, or when…or if at all.  Which I think is good.  My experiences will not be foreshadowed with expectation or preconceived notions.  Contrarily, after two conversations with my neighbors on both of my flights, I started to see the importance of openness and receptivity.

A man in his seventies starting chatting to me about his love for gambling and casinos and introduced his wife, sitting one row in front of us.  When I offered to switch seats so they could sit together he said, “Nah.  I see her everyday.”  He spoke of growing up as one of twelve siblings and how he lost his three-year old daughter to Leukemia.  My other neighbor mentioned that she had just started up Moksha Yoga in Hamilton, Ontario.  (connections??)  And then continued on to tell me that her husband died last year only to be followed by the death of her mother two months later.  She escapes for the holidays with her daughter to avoid sadness and memories and confessed her new interests and travels are a way to “get my life back”.  I asked her if it got any easier, and with damp, brown eyes, she softly shook her head from side to side.   “No”, she said.  She smiled and added that she was pretty good at hiding the sadness, though.  I gently reminded her that sadness and grief are important emotions and that all-too often we shelve those feelings because they are uncomfortable…to us, or to others.  We put on our smiley-face, emoticon masks and pretend they don’t exist until they turn into hard spots in our hearts and distant memories in our minds.

And these were real conversations, soul conversations with perfect strangers and they taught me the potential and the power of what you can let in when you are open.

So maybe blank and emotionless isn’t so bad.

Go ahead, Universe.  I am your canvas.  Paint me.

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