Sunday, July 9, 2017

20 Reasons I'm Still Single...according to everyone else

Page from my 2016-2017 planner 
1. I'm too tall
2. I'm too smart
3. I'm too intimidating
4. I'm too picky
5. I'm too liberal
6. I still want to get married in the Temple
7. I'm considering a PhD program
8. I'm not social enough
9. I spend too much time with my family and friends
10. I'm too independent
11. I act like I'm already married
12. I don't play hard to get
13. My type tends to land somewhere between 1 and 2 on the Kinsey Scale
14. I don't stay put long enough
15. I am too busy
16. I don't give guys a chance
17. I am afraid of getting hurt
18. I am afraid of having a relationship actually work
19. My body isn't symmetrical
20. Boys are stupid

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Everything I never Wanted to Be

I flew to India in late January to attend the wedding of one of my dearest friends. Before arriving, I had been told to prepare for an assault to the senses. I thought I was prepared for the smells, the colors, the sounds, the tastes, etc. However, what I wasn't prepared for was the way India would show me my own inhumanity.

The wedding was spectacular! Truly, it was a once in a lifetime experience being part of an Indian wedding. I will likely never again attend a wedding ceremony in the middle of the night, nor feel as glamorous as I did wearing my Sarees. During this time, we were showed endless hospitality and generosity by the bride's family. It is something I will never forget.

I will also never forget the people of India, especially the children. The first day we arrived in Hyderabad, we ventured out to one of the famous forts. While there, fifteen people asked to take my picture (and I'm certain many took a picture without asking). Even though I was wearing typical Indian clothing (lent to me by my friend), as a 5 foot 8 inch tall, blonde, curly haired, blue-eyed, extremely pale, american female, I was conspicuous--to say the least.

As someone who doesn't typically turn heads in a room, the attention was flattering. Women wanted their children to be in photos with me, calling me beautiful. I imagined what would happen to these photos--"here, look at this american I saw today!" I hoped none of them ended up in scrapbooks or framed on walls because I don't feel that I deserve that kind of attention as a complete stranger. Still, feeling like a movie star was flattering. Though, it also quickly became tiring. I couldn't go on tours without being stopped by someone. While I began the trip eagerly accepting to take photos with these strangers, I ended it coarsely and curtly answering, "No."

India's overstimulation wore me down and closed me up over the 10 days. On the streets, especially in the markets, I could not walk without being prodded. If it wasn't someone wanting a photo, it's someone begging me to look at their wares, step into their shop, take their tour, buy their trinkets, feed their child, etc. The thing is, I know it isn't with mal intent, it's just business. They need money, and I might have it. Even if I say, "No, I am not interested," maybe I could be persuaded, or worn down enough to give in. I understand. But, there was little let-up and it soon took a toll on me.

I was worn down, but not in the way they wanted. I wasn't warming up, I was just turning off. I soon mastered the art of putting my sunglasses on, looking straight ahead, and walking. (If I don't acknowledge them, maybe they'll go away?) I became coarse, hard, admonishing men for heckling me and hiding my face from children in need. I, literally, turned my back on humanity.

I wasn't ignorant of it. I noticed this creeping coarseness and attempted to combat it early on. Maybe if I never have cash on me, then I can tell these kids I don't have any money, and they will move on to someone better? (This sometimes worked....most of the time they didn't believe me. It was "No" = "try harder.")

OR if I can't offer them money, maybe I could at least offer them a smile, some human connection to remind them that they matter and are still a someone sharing this planet with me? I tried.

One little girl followed me for about 7 minutes asking me to buy an elephant keychain. I told her I wasn't going to buy anything. (didn't work). I told her I didn't have any money. (didn't work). So, I asked her what her name was. She answered while still pushing these keychains at me, telling me they were a good price. I agreed with her and told her my name. I said I was from America and that I was a teacher. I asked her if she went to school. She said she did--a bit defensively--and then lowered her price. But, as I tried to keep talking with her, it became apparent that she did not want to converse with me. She wanted me to buy these keychains, that is all.

You've maybe heard about the slumdogs in India, and you might know about how the money they earn rarely goes to helping the actual kids. I knew about this too, and while I wanted to help them, desperately wanted to save each one--I knew that nothing I did was going to be enough. Even my money wouldn't help these people.

When our car was parked--or stalled at an intersection--women and children would tap on the windows to get us to look at them. I will never forget the toddler's face covered in flies and the woman carrying her. They'd motion their hands toward their mouths, begging us for money, food...human kindness. Instead, I had to look away. Once, or twice, I even ducked in my seat, knowing that if they couldn't see me, they wouldn't tap on the window. I didn't know what else to do. I just couldn't keep looking at them and not helping them, so I ran away.

Humanity's ever present need just pulled at me. It made me tired. It made me numb. It made me realize that it would be easier and less emotionally taxing if I just didn't engage. And that realization, scared me to death. I was becoming everything I never wanted to be.

As I rested my head on the back seat of the car, wondering if the young boy would disappear, Ingrid Michaelson's lyrics popped into my head:

"People are dying, I close my blinds. All that I know is I'm breathing now. I want to change the world, instead I sleep. I want to believe in more than you and me. But, all that I know is I'm breathing. All I can do is keep breathing." 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Ring out Wild Bells

I’ve never been good with goodbyes. It seems to be something I resist, or at least something that is foreign to my essence. I think I said too many goodbyes in 2016.

Now, before I jump into yet another wail against 2016, I want to preface by admitting that a lot of beautiful and lovely experiences happened in 2016. It began pretty hopeful, as I recall. I have always liked the number 16 and I thought that maybe this year would be my lucky one. For a while, it really did feel lucky. I received the teaching internship I’d always wanted, I received good news after good news regarding funding for my upcoming trip to London, and everything seemed to be moving in my favor.

London was lovely as always. I found treasures in theatres, archives, and gardens. I went back to the Lake District where my soul expands and every doubt flies away on the wind. I hiked Arthur’s seat in full yellow bloom. I was in my absolute favorite place with one of my absolute favorite people. My thesis seemed to be taking shape, the prospectus would pass easily, and I felt confident in what I did and who I was becoming.

Like I said, there were many wonderful experiences in 2016. I went camping, horseback riding, skiing, hiking, running, dancing, and sledding. I wrote a lot and read a lot. But, the truth is, 2016 left me rubbed raw.

In July of 2016, I said goodbye to my Dad, or more accurately, I didn’t say goodbye. After my father was diagnosed with ALS, I always made an effort to tell him “goodbye” and “I love you” when I left the house. Though, on the 4th of July, I was so caught up in getting everyone out the door on time to see the fireworks, and my father was in such a state of sleepy unconsciousness, that I don’t think I even said goodbye. I don’t feel unsettled about that though. I know my Dad knew how much I loved him, and I’d made sure to tell him everything I wanted to long before that fateful night. I guess it’s ok because as I mentioned, I’m not very good with goodbyes anyhow.

A few months later, I said goodbye to the only guy I’ve ever truly loved. While I didn’t feel the absence of my father too often, I felt this absence unceasingly. I discovered that both of these men were anchors, pillars, and constants in my life. Having them there everyday and then suddenly gone the next was unsettling and unsteadying. Everything felt wrong and completely unexplainable. Finally, I watched the world turn upside down on November 8th  and the continuing slaughter in Syria, and realized I’d said goodbye to something / someone else, another anchor—my childlike self.

I used to radiate hopefulness, optimism, exuberance, wonder, trust, and a belief that everything was going to be ok. I lived by the mantra that humans were inherently good and that when you try your best to be your best, your efforts are met with abundant miracles and blessings. I laughed a lot. I was playful. I got excited about little things like chalk drawings and peaches on trees. 2016 forced me to grow up.

I don’t mean to sound so dramatic. Frankly, dramatic requires far more energy and vigor than I feel capable of right now. It’s just that I’ve never felt so rocked by a year before, and I’m trying to figure that out. So, here I am, saying goodbye to 2016 and a hesitant hello to 2017.

2017, I’m coming to you unsteady and unraveled. I’d like to say I’m coming with an open heart, but last time I went to chat with my heart, I discovered that she’s retreated, leaving a “closed for repairs” sign up on the door. (I don’t blame her for resenting me. I coaxed her to risk sticking her neck out so far and so vulnerably. So, if she just wants to lay on the floor and trace her fingers through the carpet for a while, I don’t blame her). I’ll just wait and plow forward into this year of unknown and uncertainty with or without her. Still, here’s hoping for a new year of lovely, beautiful experiences and growing up. 2017, be good to us please.