It’s Wednesday, which means we should be showcasing a woman who rocks. But, I want to do something a little different today. We will pick back up with introducing you to amazing women next week.
Let’s call today Wonderful Wednesday. Yesterday, I sat down to write my Travel Tuesday post. Now, I have my blog posts scheduled out for a year, and I know that every Tuesday will be a travel post. I know that I should be putting up a photograph and telling you the story behind that adventure, what I thought of that country, or what that photo means to me. What actually happened yesterday was I found an old thumb drive, popped it in, and was taken down a beautiful journey through my first year of independent and international travel.
The thumb drive started in May of 2011 when I left Indiana on a three week, 28 state, no GPS, barely planned road trip. To look at those long lost photographs was bliss. I could see the pink roads glittering in eastern South Dakota, the hungry burrows in Custer State Park that drooled all over our car window with what must have been superglue spit, and the beautiful spires unlike anything I had ever seen on Needles Highway leading to Mount Rushmore. I remembered getting lost and having to take a massive detour through the back roads of Montana due to flooding, seeing the most beautiful countryside I thought I had ever seen (each state proved me wrong), pulling into Red Lodge at 10 PM and setting up our tents, and pulling out early the next morning only to almost get caught in a late blizzard on Bear Tooth Pass. There was the full day, three state, close to 1,000 mile series of detours trying to get in to Yellowstone, and I could almost smell that beautiful, crisp, cool, snowy air.
That journey continued through to Seattle, down Highway One to San Diego, and back up Route 66 until we said our goodbyes. My companion was off to Brazil. I was off to spend three months in India, two months in Uganda, a supposed month in the UK, and then return to the states.
I thought my photo journey was over, but it kept going right into India.
As a child, I was borderline obsessed with three things: Books, Egypt, and India. My first magazine subscription was to National Geographic Kids. I spent every waking hour at the library, reading anything I could on ancient civilizations, and for the longest time, I wanted to be a history teacher. Go figure, I now own a publishing company, I write books, and I’m married to an Egyptian who I met in India – where we still live. I may have been an unknowing overachiever or a psychic in denial!
My first photos in India took my breath away. I’ve been living here for five years and I have started to take so much for granted. This first series of images were so intricate, so detailed, so obsessed with catching unseen nuances. It made me remember how that felt – to be amazed at the corn vendor who pushed his cart through the narrow streets, calling for popcorn nightly. I took shots of saris hanging over the balcony rails, drying in the monsoon mist. I woke every morning, made chai the India way and watched the brick street below as my neighbors woke up and did their morning routines. I fell in love with the sculpture artist who worked out of his kitchen next door to the small sundries store owned by our landlord, Santosh. I found images of my visit to the oldest rock carved caves in the WORLD, roadtrips through the foggy Western Ghats, festivals, and of the kids that I worked with in an education center for untouchables, located in a slum.
I could go on and on about that first trip, but one thing was for certain, I saw things through a different set of eyes than I see them now. I remember driving down the street and being amazed at the beauty of every sari a woman wore while side saddle on a motorbike or scooter – you never saw the same one twice. I remember falling in love with the milk delivery man who brought fresh dhood (buffalo milk) on his motorbike in large silver containers, scooping it out for each household.
Now, it’s just life. I forget the small things, I forget the beautiful things, I forget to just breath and enjoy everything while I’m trying to navigate the chaos. I decided to go out this morning – something I rarely do because it seems that nothing really opens until 11 (I went for coffee and a sandwich at noon, and was asked what I wanted for breakfast), our salad delivery comes around 12-12.30, my husband comes home at 1 p.m. until 2 p.m., and our maid comes at 3:30 (don’t judge until you have lived with air pollution so bad you have to wipe your house down top to bottom twice a day). He leaves at 5, my husband comes home at 6:30, and in between there, we have deliveries or repairs (something is always broken in an Indian house), and somewhere in there, I work on my publishing company’s books, take freelance contracts, write my blogs, and occasionally pour a glass of water or remember to breath.
Life becomes mundane. Your creativity slips away. Beauty becomes grey. And while that happens, this nagging voice in the back of your mind tells you that you aren’t good enough, your work isn’t perfect enough, your mind isn’t fresh enough, you just can’t compete, and you shouldn’t try to push yourself.
Seeing those photos yesterday was like a bomb of energy. I bucked my traditional schedule, made arrangements for my deliveries to go to the neighbor’s house, and took the morning to myself. I had my coffee and an omelet (it was breakfast at noon, after all), worked in the sunshine, paid attention to what was around me, dropped by the art supply for watercolor paper, and had an insanely productive day.
As I was driving home, I noticed sari colors, the tropical flowers blooming in the roadside nurseries, subtle changes in my city, the way the ancient banyan trees formed umbrellas over the roads, and thought about driving through my old neighborhood. I decided against it, the lanes are older and weren’t really designed for cars!
I was reminded of a passage in a book that I’m not afraid to admit I loved – Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. I am not a fan of Eat, Pray, Love, and I really only picked this one up because the cover is beautiful and the title was intriguing. I ALMOST set it back down simply because it was by Elizabeth Gilbert (sorry, Elizabeth. I’m sure you’re great!). I am so glad I didn’t.
I read Big Magic in an hour and a half, and hung to every word. I was in a hospital bed, about to have surgery, and I needed something to calm my mind. This really did the trick and I am so thankful that I had this book to read. I felt alive and ready to conquer the world.
The passage that spoke to me the most was about giving yourself permission. I made notes, but, I forgot all about those – until today. For some reason, as I marveled at life around me again, I reminded myself that I need to give myself permission to live my life fearlessly, freely, without self judgement, without self-doubt, and to feed my inner happy. Sometimes, we get so lost in being the architect of our lives that we forget to be the interior designer (oh, so cheesy, but it works – no?).
I decided it wasn’t enough to remember this, I needed to see it. And, I know some of you probably feel the same. If you do, I made us something today. It’s my permission slip to yourself – permission to feed your inner happy, and to feel good about choosing to put yourself first.
You can download your own permission slip by clicking here.
Go ahead – feed your happy regardless of what it’s hungry for. You’re worth it!
Also published on Medium.