I am returning to civilization today and I am a changed woman.
Wow. Really? How can this be? You remark, “At first glance you look no different from when you left. Well, maybe you do have a tan. Did you gain or lose weight? I just don’t see what you might be inferring. Oh, I get it, maybe you’ve changed your mind about something….your opinions, like about politics, relationships or religion. Could that be it?”
Yes. Sort of. Let’s just say for now, before you get to know the newer, model of the me you once thought you knew, I’m changed. We are all, always, like terms on your credit card agreement, subject to change, without notice. Are we not? Why would I be making this announcement? Think about it. Does anything, ever, stay the same, really?
Take my face, or yours. When I was quite young, I would look at the lines on my grandmother’s forehead and maybe once or twice out loud, until I was reminded it was rude to comment on someone’s appearance unless it was obviously a compliment, state, “Nana! How come your face isn’t smooth like mine? What makes it so wrinkly and your cheeks and neck so floppy?” To which she had calmly responded to a soon to be shocked and awe-filled me, “Oh, my dear, this is something that happens to us all. When you live as many years as I, you too will have wrinkles, loose skin and even age spots too.” Obviously I was, at that age, looking at the surface of most things…my grandmother was just one of them.
Before you start jumping to conclusions…number one, because I am not finished with this post…and number, two because “vanity” has rarely been my middle name, or at least not for very long periods in my life. I am going to interrupt your over-taxed mind right now. I have not had surgery or Botox, except the rhinoplasty at aged fifteen when I was so much more impressed by the pages of seventeen magazine or vogue, than I am now. I guess even I shouldn’t jump to any assumptions …yet, while my neck still allows me to wear a V-neck sweater and my jowls have still time before they could make me look as a marionette.
Honestly, I quite like those little bird feet at the edges of my eyes, which crinkle nicely when I smile… the lines of my forehead denote the depth of experiences in my life, some sad, some happy, some exclamatory, and so much more than I could have imagined as I sat looking and listening incredulously towards my grandmother those decades ago.
Could it be my eyes are cataract laden and cannot see the severity of the life roadmap now covering my body? Or is my focus, except for this moment as I write, elsewhere, as for instance, on the olive trees dotting the landscape, appearing before me phht, phht, phht as the bus whirls around curve after nauseating curve.
Yes, I do look in the mirror, but whatever do I see? Certainly not the twenty-something who wore string bikinis to the beach without a care, never considering a copper toned tan, even if it was advertised everywhere. I see now, well maybe not exactly this precise moment, (as I am on a bus winding and bumping its way to the airport at Heraklion on the isle of Crete), a woman who has the energy of a twenty year old – without the attitude except of extreme gratitude, the mind of a sixty year old – a wise ass to be sure, the heart of a fifteen year old – sure I’ve felt hurt, but hell, what are we here for but to love, again and again) and the body of, well, I’m not exactly certain, because when I look around me at many others of my chronological age – I am happily surprised at my vitality, give or take the wear and tear of the sun, cellulite and the belly of a woman who had children thirty years ago practicing Pilates a few times a week and walks daily, even when traveling. I know too the immense power of daily meditation, how it calms my over-active mind, bringing me close to my soul, my center and my heart.
As I peer inside me, I think of the beliefs, ideas and feelings I embraced and let go of through my years, each seeming appropriate at the moment and yet those moments only momentary in the passage of time and space. Of course, deep feelings for my children haven’t changed, or have they? Why yes, how could they not? For they are now more complex with each memory of an event adding to the richness of my emotions. Yes, I do love them more, daily.
I have learned to now ask when people complain if they are choosing a solution or if they just want my ear, and even more I am quite ready to walk away if they want me to share in the illusion of their misery, of which I will neither condone nor participate.
Yes, feelings change. Even anger softens and transforms over time…if fed it grows stronger, with love it often disappears completely. The emotions are in some ways both the easiest and most difficult in which to embrace change, yet in this change we discover the most satisfaction and peace.
At this moment it is possible the change in me is too subtle to the naked eye or busy mind of the beholder, which is perfectly okay, since it is I who have noticed the difference, this being the most important. And time passes.
I am now aboard the Air Berlin flight to Basel, Switzerland, I find myself seated next to the window, viewing the earth, sea and clouds below. With each moment there comes another scene before my eyes, my vision of the earth and sky changing…and so it is with me. Seated next to me is a young Swiss father and his 3 year old son. He apologizes ahead of time for the disruption which may occur in an otherwise “normal” flight. I assure him I quite like children and that I will enjoy our trip together. Normally when I travel internationally I bring a few finger puppets just for these instances, however this time I did not. However, I never travel without a drawing pad and implements and so after takeoff I have whipped these out and proceeded to ask questions of the tyke… drawing and then handing the markers for him to make his own scribbly marks. My creative contagion spreads to his elder sister, who sits across the aisle with “mom”…soon sister and brother are drawing masterpieces; time flying faster than the plane in which we are riding. In no time flat we are now in Basel. But where am I, as now the scene has changed…ah yes, so do I, change, as does the attitude of the young dad who has relaxed and is laughing upon arrival having enjoyed our travels in friendly skies.
Do I trust I can maintain my enthusiasm? I feel now I am supported by an unseen but benevolent force, whose name is not relevant to anyone but myself, though even with this invisible “back-up” I question if once home I will be tempted to repeat old patterns. This new space in which I embrace the unknown is both scary and comforting.
I am learning to swim with the ebb and flow of my life rather than attempt to swim wildly, fighting the tides of change to be possibly sucked into the whirlpool of possible eventual inertia. I now recognize the monsters who can lurk beneath my sea of emotions, some of whom I have not only tamed but have transformed into friendly helpers; this has afforded me new strengths and abilities, especially in understanding better my motivations or temptation.
And change continues. I have now been staying several days in the greenest regions of southern Germany. Today as I depart the comfort of my teacher’s home it is almost wintery. It has been raining here for most of the summer – a strange juxtaposition to the warm waters and weather of Greece or drought-riddled California. This is my TRUE home away from my California home – it is here I have spent many years learning to connect to my own source of being.
I learn as I go, whether it be within, in meditation, from room to room in my home, city to city, state to state, country to country. I see this as my main purpose – to learn, to listen and share when asked to do so.
For now, these days after I began this post, I am on a train bound for Frankfurt airport. I am facing new experiences with a changed heart, ready to embrace life, knowing I will never be the same.