Sunday, November 21, 2010

It was for freedom, from myself and from the land.

I believe there is a reason for time-outs.  Isolation and solitude can be like meditation for the soul.  When you are alone in your surroundings, you are forced to connect with them and to connect with yourself.
“None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.”
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

One-way tickets are keys to unlocking secret corridors in your heart.
Enter accountability.  All of a sudden, there is no one else to blame.  There are no character flaws that are not your own.  There is no one to watch your bag, no one to take a picture of you, and no one to lend you a jacket.  You become the sole person to blame for anything you do wrong.  And by traveling alone, you learn to accept responsibility for your thoughts, words and actions.  So to speak, you begin to design your own life.

Enter independence.  You are no longer the sum of your possessions, accomplishments and friends.  You are just you.  You learn to embrace the solitude you are given and learn how to direct your own life's coming and going as only you see fit.

Enter self-analysis.  Our generation adores the idea of 'finding oneself'.  But until you see how the world sees you outside of your own little bubble, you never can.  But when you're alone -- truly alone -- you become able to see yourself through new eyes.  Your old scars become exposed to new light.  Your character flaws begin to come to light.  You are able to learn who you are.

Enter self-understanding.  When you are alone, away from all the familiar sights, smells, tastes and relationships, you are no longer an actor portraying who you have become.  You are stripped bare of the expectations of your family and friends and you can finally learn how you see yourself.  You can finally learn what makes you happy and what simply does not. 

Enter hope.  When you have analyzed, understood, been independent and held yourself accountable, the next step seems to always be looking to the future.  Suddenly, the world stops getting in your way and you can look at the future for its everythingness and nothingness all at once.

Enter love.  When you are alone, you must learn to love yourself, in spite of or even because of all your quirks and faults and flaws.  And once you learn to love yourself, you become suddenly capable of loving others.  And loving love itself.
“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”
--Mary Anne Radmacher Hershey
By being alone, you finally discover that you were what you were searching for.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Don't Let Your Soul Get Lonely

Lonliness sucks.

It doesn't matter that every day I am surrounded by people. Right now I am writing so furiously that my elbow is bumping the wrist of the lady next to me. It doesn't matter that I have things in common with people here. In fact, this poor lady is attempting to enjoy the same drink that I've let turn cold beside me on the window sill. It doesn't matter that I've made enough acquaintances that I'm never without someone to say hello by name.

What matters right here, right now, is that these people are not my friends. They are not the people I know inside and out. They are not the people I stay up to talk to all night. They are not the people I can make pancakes for to persuade them to wake up and watch cartoons with me. They are not the people who made me embrace nerdy card games.  And I don't want to let them become that to me, because in 7 months I'll have to leave them behind.

And while I'm forced to be here, my friends are all back home, together. Still staying up and eating pancakes and playing cards. And it only gets harder. Because back home, alongside my friends are other people who are doing these things with them who don't know them or love them like I do. And because back home, my friends have too much on their plates to be able to hold contact. And because back home, my world is going on perfectly happily without me.

Tout et depuis toujours, nous rêvons le même rêve. Et ce que nous pensons être la vie – et que nous considérons comme étant « notre vie » -- n'est rien de plus qu'un roman écrit par personne. Mais si personne n'est l'auteur de notre rêve commun, pourquoi le rêvons-nous? Et, surtout, pourquoi le rêvons-nous ensemble?
-- Edgar Kosma

Yet, there is a collectivity to my loneliness, as paradoxical as that sounds. Because at times, this lady gets lonely, even with the comfort of her Grande Latte Caramel Noisette. (Ok pause: This drink is seriously really good). And at times, people with my friends are feeling lonely.

Sometimes someone steps back and sees how short life is and realizes that they don't know themselves and that they don't know anyone else or anything at all, and they feel lonely.

So yeah, loneliness sucks.  And no, it doesn't get better. It doesn't get easier. But at the very least, it gets accepted.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Western Man's Need to Cry

This weekend I had the privilege to travel to Ypres and Brussels for Jour de l'Armistice (Remembrance Day).
Ypres was more than an eye-opener. Now I've seen war, I've seen hatred, and I've seen pain. But I don't think I've ever connected with the reality of their existence in life before.
The most moving things I saw in Ypres were the stories printed on the Christmas cards sent from the front over 90 years ago...
 ...And the horrifying count of how many armed conflicts Red Cross has been a part of since the 'War to end all Wars'.

How have we still managed not to learn to love?
After Ypres we headed to Brussels. Since Belgium only seems to believe in rain, we spent most of our time inside, at the national Art and History Museums. Luckily, we managed to score a great weekend to be there. The World Photography Exhibit was being displayed here.
Many of the pictures once again reminded me of all the hatred in our world and all the pain that exists. But the first place photos in the Arts and Entertainment category (the photographer, Kitra Cahana, was Canadian!) reminded me of something else: even though our world is rough, and we feel helpless, and we hate and cheat and lie and steal and kill, there is still joy.

That's one reason there have been so many armed conflicts since the war to end all wars. Because we have to protect our joys when they are threatened.
Do I agree with war? No. Do I want it to exist? No. But I understand that there are some times where talking no longer suffices as a way to work things out. I just have to pray that those times are few and far between.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Carpe Diem

Ripe -- Ben Lee

The moon sheds light across the end of the bed.
You made me wait but now I'm touching your leg.
And i remember all the little things you said,
"quesadillas, made with cheese" and "a rock band who were Japanese."
So for once in my life, I saw what I wanted and took a bite.
I picked the fruit from the tree and it was ripe.

Your love got big, your jokes got worse each afternoon.
Like bacon at a bah mitzvah, like a lead balloon.
And who's to say what really happened in that room each day?
I was looking for a bride, you were looking for a groom.
So for once in your life, you saw what you wanted and you took a bite.
You picked the fruit from the tree and it was ripe.

And all you people are the heroes I've known.
We're staring off the edge into the unknown.
We are not there yet but we cannot go home.
So we cry, and we sing.
Yeah, I remember everything.
For once in our lives, we saw what we wanted and took a bite.
We picked the fruit from the tree.
And it was ripe.

Carpe diem. Seize the day. Live your life to it's full potential.
It's certainly getting me through.
It takes on a different shape each time.
Sometimes it entails going for a run and getting horribly lost in my own arrondissement.
Sometimes it entails hopping on a plane for a weekend in Madrid.
Sometimes it's having the balls to take up an offer for a date.
Regardless, it makes living life feel good.
And best of all, it keeps me from missing these people too much.