Sundays in Mysore are, in the truest sense of the word, a day of rest. They’re my only day off from Yoga, and serve as a way to keep me from completely losing track of what day it is, what month it is, or where in the world
is Carmen Sandiego I am. Not that that would be a bad thing. So today, I got myself up, headed to church (I’m always the lone foreigner there; I love it), and came back to enjoy a lovely little Sunday brunch with friends. (In case anyone was wondering, Mysore’s tendency to cater to western yogis means that my oatmeal habit is alive and well. Only here, it’s a porridge habit.)
This morning, in very non-yogi fashion, someone stole Mariel’s flip flops while we sipped on seemingly endless coffee and chatted with some new friends. She had to run home for a phone date with her mother, so I lent her mine.
You know you’ve achieved full-on hippie-dom when you’re walking through the street in India barefoot and loving every second of it. The way the gravelly pavement felt on my feet, the closeness to the earth, the sun shining through the palm trees…I couldn’t have been happier. After taking a few days to adjust to the pace of life here — relaxed and full of languorous enjoyment — I am finally at the point where I can fully appreciate a leisurely walk through town by myself, an afternoon spend reading and writing on our balcony, or a few hours at a cafe with new acquaintances.
Simple enjoyment hasn’t always come easy to me. Although I’ve always been able to find joy in the little things — smiles exchanged with strangers or the smell of toast or a quiet afternoon surrounded by family — it has taken me a while to learn to appreciate pure relaxation.
Blame it on my ADD, an overactive mind, or the self-imposed feeling of obligation to make EVERY SECOND count, but over the past year I have had to teach myself to just let go and enjoy those times where nothing is required of me but to soak it all in. Over a delicious lunch with friends the other day, I was remembering a week I spent in Maine with my parents this past summer. Away from work for a whole ten days, I wanted to make the most of my vacation. I wanted to feel as relaxed as humanly possible. I HAD to take advantage of my time off. I needed every vacation day to be perfect. And it was up to me to figure out how.
Well, that was insane. I would stress myself out every morning figuring out how to craft the perfect day. I didn’t exactly realize that when you’re on the coast and surrounded by family and ocean and rocks and mountains and sunsets, it’s kind of hard to have a shitty day. By the end of the week I finally felt the vacation mode setting in, but only as I was gearing up to leave. It’s the catch-22 of taking time off from work: only when you are ready to leave, are you truly ready to stay. Of course my memories from the week are cherished and full of happiness, but looking back now, I laugh at myself for the self-imposed need to become the happiest person alive in a matter of days.
2011 was a big year for me. I went off on my own in a lot of different ways, and I had to learn to spend — and appreciate — a good deal of “me time”. Relaxing breakfasts at home, Friday nights spent cooking dinner for one, strolls through the farmers’ market, the daily pilgrimage to yoga class in the dark of morning. I knew that this time spent alone with my thoughts would be good, helpful, cathartic, formative. But it took me months to relieve myself of the pressure to feel perfectly blissful and appreciative at times when these emotions were expected. Sitting out on my porch and eating a salad was frustrating because my happiness was only an 8, rather than a 10. God didn’t speak directly to me at Church and I therefore wasn’t experiencing it fully enough. Quiet time with my thoughts was frustrating rather than therapeutic. The expectations I put on myself were suffocating.
Slowly, and I’m not sure how, I learned how to just
chill the fuck out relax. Without the pressure to feel like a shining orb of gratitude and peace 24/7, I was able to simply experience my emotions as they passed through me. Happiness and loneliness and frustration and pure appreciation. And, finally, the quiet of my mind. The pause it took to say thank you, to appreciate, to look up and realize my surroundings or look down and find the earth beneath my (currently bare) feet. I don’t know how I did it; I just know that I wanted it. I prayed for it. I needed it.
I’m not trying to get all The Secret on here. I don’t think I buy into that. But I think in order to make a change in the way I experienced the world, I had to want it first. And wait. Days and weeks and months until I found myself here, in India, in complete vacation mode. Happy to sit and smile and write and read and observe my emotions and whisper a quiet thank you to God for letting this happen.
I don’t mean to say that the key to happiness is to run off half way around the world — or that I am even close to knowing the key to happiness at all. Or that one even exists. But I am thankful for the past year. I am thankful for alone time. I am thankful for loneliness. I never knew what was ahead, or what I was preparing myself for, or that I was preparing myself at all. At times I didn’t even know if I was doing anything right. But here, now, the wind is blowing through my room and I’m considering having a coconut for lunch and oh, also, I am in MF-ing India. Along the way, something went terribly right.
I hope I’m not getting repetitive — sometimes I feel like all I can write about is how grateful I feel and, conversely, how shitty I’ve felt at times over the past two years — but I think it’s important to share. To realize that it’s okay to want something different. To reflect and remember our struggles. So that’s that. I promise some more light-hearted posts are coming soon. I’ve been taking lots of pictures of food and cows (to clarify: those are not the same thing) and other beautiful sights around Mysore and I need to get around to sharing them and I need to stop writing exclusively in run-on sentences.