When I arrived in New Delhi, I knew no one. I had no real plan, other than to see the Baha’i Lotus Temple, visit Gandhi’s grave, and eat in hole in the wall restaurants alongside the locals. I was only in India because I got kicked out of the home I had made for myself months ago in China after renewing my visa one too many times, and I stumbled upon the Indian Consulate while wandering the streets of Hong Kong, homeless but strangely content – and I thought: well, why not.
I am suddenly struck tonight by the realization of how much courage I had then, but was utterly unaware of – an inner fearlessness that dwelt within me but was almost completely imperceptible to me at the time. I didn’t realize then that it was a very brave thing to be in a foreign land without a single ally, a tour guide, a safely etched map of where and when and how.
I find myself, in this moment, oddly missing myself, as if I am not that girl at all, but rather, she is the heroine I admired in a novel I once read.
I had this sudden memory this morning. I am sitting in the basement of my childhood home, and my only light is a full moon I can see through the small window at the top of the cement wall. I hear screaming. I am in the basement hiding because violence has again erupted in the house, my stepfather and mother are yelling, and things are being thrown across the room, and she is telling him to get off of her. I can feel my heart beating heavily in my chest. I am drawing a heart on a sketchpad in the moonlight to distract myself from my fear. But it isn’t a symbol heart like the colorful emojis we have today. It’s a detailed sketch of a human heart, that I am drawing with great precision with a ball point bic pen with black ink. Above the heart I draw the moon, and a fishing line from the moon with a hook on the end that has pierced through and captured the heart. And strands of black ink blood are dripping from the place where the moon’s hook has lodged into the aorta.
And just as suddenly, as I looked up to take in the morning light now spilling liberally onto the couch, cradling a cup of coffee under my chin, I remembered a poem I read in college that moved me called The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop, a grotesque and absurdist poem about fishing, that ends in an unexpected reverie as the poet finds beauty in an oil spill.
It is an art, I’ve decided, to love even the darkness. To see the darkness in all the beauty of who you are today. In Buddhism we’d call this equanimity, one of the Four Immeasurables. The radical love of things, just as they are.
Studying for the EPPP on what I would normally categorize as a gorgeously perfect fall day, except it’s January and I live in L.A. now, so it’s actually winter, but every draft of crisp air that sweeps through this room as the door swings open and shut brings back momentary visions of maple and oak trees. And I am drinking a soy chai latte and my notebooks are sprawled across the table, the way I used to do in that cafe I liked so much in college in the Village that sold those peanut butter fudge squares that were the constant companion to my quirky introversion and perpetual English literature essay writing. And the theme song from The Leftovers has come on my Spotify playlist, and I am standing in the kitchen now and you begin to play that piano version of Where Is My Mind from the same soundtrack, and I am standing behind you with tears welling in my eyes watching your fingers float over the keys so effortlessly and I am falling flat on my face in love with you all over again.
I was watching the steam rise from the lavender salt water, stretching my aching thigh, taking in the way the hot air mingled with the flame coming from the vanilla candle I placed on the side of the bathtub. Then, over the sound of the ambient meditation music, I heard helicopters roaring overhead. At first I ignored them, returning my attention to my breath, to my body, but the helicopters were relentless. Confused, anxious, I stepped gingerly out of the water, drying my skin and pulling on leggings and a hooded sweater. I grabbed the next bottle of my juice cleanse and hobbled outside, my weak leg still reeling from the sprain I got while exercising. I followed the sound of the helicopters around the block to the park, then followed the crowd of shadows shrouded in black and the blazing sirens and flashing lights of fire trucks and police cars towards the ocean. And then, where the land met the sea, I found them, chanting, crying, holding up signs, countless cars driving by honking in solidarity. Not my president. Love trumps hate. Black lives matter. I stood amongst them, taking a swig of my celery kale cold pressed juice, my skin still sweating from the steam bath, feeling the weight of my privilege, realizing that I have the choice to escape my sorrow with a hot bath and a juice cleanse. That my life is not at imminent risk on this day. That I am white. A wave of fear and empathy and horror rose inside me, and I stumbled back against a tree and burst into tears.
The day after the election, I decided what I needed was to go for a short hard run. I had spent the day in a fugue, after having unsettling dreams throughout the night, and spent my lunch sobbing in my office while watching the concession speech. I was, and am, terrified, devastated, and in a state of shock. So I decided to go for a run to get out of my mind and into my body, the only way I knew how. Since daylight savings occurred this weekend, I found myself adorning my body with blinky lights and neon clothing and dashing down the street in the night, feeling everything and also nothing at all. I was at that place between passion and apathy that feels a lot like going insane. And then I tripped over a small pothole, gloriously, obnoxiously, dramatically. I found myself sitting in my apartment soon after, my cat pacing around me meowing with hunger and anxiety, covered in sweat and blood and pain. It was as if my body sensed a state of disconnection from my mental state, and wanted to find some sort of concordance with my mind. I was now, quite frankly, engulfed in every sort of pain imaginable: emotional, physical, spiritual.
“This program is perfect. It’s everything I want,” I sighed into the phone, as the sun set gloriously over Santa Monica Pier. The sight of the sun sitting on the ocean at dusk felt disorienting. I was so, so far from the shores of coastal Maine where my body originated.
“And you know, this place is perfect. It’s all perfect. I see myself being very happy here. And very, very, very lonely.”